The Imanari roll is absolutely one of the coolest submission attacks out there.
It’s unorthodox, it’s fancy, but unlike many other flashy moves it’s it’s also quite high percentage.
If you do it correctly you get straight into the 411 leglock position, which is the most powerful leglocking position we have. So there’s definitely a huge upside if you land it.
This move has been used repeatedly at high levels in MMA and submission grappling by quite a few different competitors including Masakazu Imanari (who popularised it), Ryan Hall, Rory MacDonald and others.
Here’s Imanari himself using a variation of the roll in MMA…
Here’s Imanari teaching his signature move at a seminar…
Other people use this move too! Here’s Jonathan Quiroz hitting the same move and going directly into the heel hook at CXF 6…
And finally here’s a CGI Rory MacDonald hitting the Imanari Roll in EA’s UFC video game (you know a move has gone semi-mainstream when it’s in a video game…):
So it’s definitely a legit move!
Now I’ve never taught the Imanari roll before, and so when a friend who was relatively new to leglocks recently asked me to break it down for them I really had to stop and think about it.
What’s the easiest and simplest way to help someone get this move? My friend isn’t super flexible and isn’t very experienced with leglocks, which made the whole thing even more challenging.
But after a bit of trial and error I think I found the easiest way to teach and learn this move. This method revolves around using the ‘side roll’, which is one of the three basic ways to roll on the ground (the others are the forward roll and the backwards roll).
If you start by drilling the side roll a few times and then stick an opponent in front of you then it actually becomes pretty simple. Plus it requires less flexibility than you might think.
Check out the solo drill and the full Imanari Roll technique in the video below:
Once you’ve drilled my ‘side roll’ method of getting the Imanari Roll then it immediately becomes easier to see what’s going on in the mad spinning tangle of arms and legs when it’s done full speed!
Hope this was useful,
P.S. If you’re interested in leglocks and haven’t done so already then make sure to download my free PDF about the major leglocking positions.
Modern leglocking is all about achieving, maintaining, and improving your leg entanglement positions.
Interestingly the emphasis on position over submission also allows you to train leglocks fairly safely – you fight like mad for the position and then apply the submission (typically a heel hook) very, very slowly so that your partner has tons of time to tap out.