In grappling, sometimes a submission can be more than just a submission.
Let me explain…
There is no shortage of different submission attacks from the bottom position. Most typically you’d attack from the closed guard, open guard or half guard position, but you can also use submissions if you’re turtled under your opponent, or even pinned in side mount.
Of course if you finish a submission from the bottom and your opponent taps out, that’s great! End of story. Move along folks, nothing to see here…
But have you ever burned yourself out trying to finish a a choke or a jointlock? It happens to everyone, and it’s especially common from the bottom!
Here’s what typically happens…
You see a good submission opportunity and lock in your grips, but try as you might your opponent just won’t tap out.
You strain and strain and strain, trying to finish the submission, but you just can’t finalize it. Maybe your grips are just a little out of position, or you don’t have the right angle, or maybe your opponent is freakishly strong, or flexible, or stubborn, or whatever…
The bottom line is that if you keep on straining and don’t submit him, then before long you’ll be exhausted, your arms will turn into jello and your fingers into useless collections of limp sausages, unable to grip to grip anything at all…
(I’ve made this mistake lots of times and it sucks.)
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Instead of ending up like this, sometimes it’s better to cut your losses!
Let’s say that you’re trying to apply a submission but you realize that you probably WON’T be able to finish it from the bottom.
Before you abandon the technique entirely, consider whether you can convert the submission attack into a sweep.
Sometimes you can use the leverage generated by your attacking position to power your opponent from the top to the bottom. And sometimes you can trick your opponent by letting him roll out and partially ‘escape.’ If you anticipate his frantic rolling then you can follow him to the top and then promptly take away his mobility, locking him down and solidifying your top position.
If you use your submission as a ‘persuader’ in this way, then the best case scenario is that you end up on top and finish the submission from there. And what’s great is that many submissions are actually more powerful if you’re on top, which then makes it easier to tap your opponent out!
But even if your opponent manages to slither out of the attack and avoids getting submitted, you’ll still often end up on top. That’s kind of beginning to look like a guard sweep, isn’t it? You might not have finished the submission, but that’s a pretty good worst-case scenario!
There are lots of specific examples of what I’m talking about…
The Arm Triangle Choke (aka “Kata Gatame”) from the closed guard is a submission that can be very useful if an opponent decides to play the bully and grind into your throat with one of his forearms. It’s relatively easy to slap on the Arm Triangle Choke from there, but the sad truth is that sometimes this choke can be hard to finish from the bottom unless you’ve got strong, muscular arms.
Even if you can’t make him tap out, however, the good news is that in this position you’ve tied up one of his arms. If he’s caught in the Arm Triangle Choke it’s physically impossible for him to post with the arm that’s trapped , so rolling him towards that side becomes a very powerful option for you.
And once on top you end up in a great position to finish the match with the very same choke, except it’s now a LOT more effective than when using it from the bottom!
Using the Kimura Armlock position as a lever to ‘encourage’ your opponent to roll to his back is another very effective way to use a submission as a sweep. This is a strategy that works from the closed guard, half guard, or even from the bottom of side mount.
A great example of this is the Kimura that was used by Frank Mir at UFC 140. At one point Frank was completely sidemounted, but he maintained the grip on Nogueira’s arm, used it to lever himself to the top, and then finished the armlock with devastating effectiveness.
The Omo Plata Armlock is a very versatile attack that leads into a lot of sweeps and other submissions. The funny thing about this sweep is that as you face more and more advanced opponents you often start using it MORE as a sweep, and LESS as an actual submission…
One of my favorite sweep followups to an initial Omo Plata attack involves underhooking the near leg and rolling your opponent over top of you. I call this the “Log Roll” Sweep, and if you have faith in it you can use it on significantly larger opponents.
I use the Log Roll Sweep all the time in actual rolling, and it’s featured in my first, somewhat-dated-but-still informative instructional DVD called ‘Omo Plata and the Dynamic Guard.’
Finally let’s talk about the Rolling Kneebar Submission from the turtle position. This is a really good technique to add to your toolkit because it presents a constant submission threat to your opponent when you’re in a bad position (i.e. turtled).
Once again, even if you don’t end up in a successful knee bar, this rolling attack often lands you on top and in a great position to pass the guard.
Interestingly, there are number of advanced sweeps from the half guard and inverted guard that don’t typically finish with kneebars, but use very similar mechanics to the rolling kneebar.
So the rolling kneebar is definitely a good attack to learn – check out this link and take a look at the technique #3 of the comic format introduction to the kneebar!
Don’t let me put you off of submissions from the bottom. By all means, go for them with conviction!
But also remember that not all attacks starting from under your opponent require your opponent to tap out in order to be successful. Sometimes getting to the top is enough!!
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