Helicopter Armbar

The element of surprise can catch opponents off guard. There are instances when a move looks flashy simply because opponents never expected it. The helicopter armbar is one of these moves that can wow spectators or even your opponent.

For starters, you shouldn’t be doing helicopter armbars if you aren’t that confident with your basic moves. This sequence requires that you know two basic moves namely: the balloon sweep and the basic armbar.

The helicopter sweep is a plan B for Tomoe Nage sweeps. You rarely get to see this move simply because it is a risky move as well. Unlike an armbar from closed guard, you are leaving slack and creating scramble positions for the opponent to take advantage of these moments.

How to do a helicopter armbar?

A common set up for the helicopter armbar can be done by playing Dela Riva from an open guard. As for the grips, you want to have one collar and one sleeve.  First, you want to push forward to get the opponent to react. The normal reaction is to push back. The moment you feel your opponent pushing back, you want to pull the collar grip to break the posture and get your non-Dela Riva leg on the hip. 

You can now pull the posting leg as well and start lifting the hip of your opponent similar to how you are going to do a Tomoe Nage or a balloon sweep. But unlike the balloon sweep where you roll to the side where you have control of the sleeve, you will then attack the same arm where you have control of the sleeve.

Here, you want the arm you are controlling to be on your center line once you start lifting the opponent’s body. Next, the Dela Riva leg will start swinging right in front of your opponent’s head as you swivel your body to become perpendicular to your opponent. Remember to bite down your leg on your opponent’s head mid-air to prevent him or her from stacking you once you try to complete the helicopter armbar.

Next, you want to remove the foot on the hip and have it across the body. This will cause the opponent to crash down on the mat as you have the arm. Remember to have a good grip on the arm that you are trying to finish. At the same time, just like a regular armbar, you want to yank towards the pinky to create pressure by the elbow of your opponent.

Creating Opportunities for a Helicopter Armbar

If you’ve been trying to hit a helicopter armbar and you feel that you aren’t getting it right, maybe, you can do some of these common adjustments.

For instance, if you feel that everything happens so fast that you end up with a loose armbar in the end, maybe, you are releasing your foot on the hip prematurely. At times, a lot of practitioners release their posting foot without turning perpendicular against the opponent. It is also important that you squeeze your legs whenever you are finishing the armbar.

To hit the helicopter armbar often, you need to practice your timing when it comes to doing balloon sweeps. Baloon sweeps require sensitivity whenever your opponent makes the wrong move by leaning forward or pushing forward too much.

You can also bait your opponent to post towards the other arm that you don’t have control of. You make them think that you made a mistake throwing him or her to the wrong side of a balloon sweep. The good thing about this scenario is that it slows things down. It gives you time to swivel your leg, be perpendicular against your opponent, and then release the posting leg on his or her hip to finish the armbar.

Helicopter armbar with Double Sleeve Control

Apart from Dela Riva collar and sleeve set up, it is also possible to have the Helicopter Armbar from double sleeve control such as a spider guard. However, you will eventually have to switch your legs and post one or two feet on the hips to elevate the opponent.

What makes double sleeve control better than collar sleeve is the fact that you can always back roll on either side and you don’t have to worry about any posting hand from your opponent. But if you are committed to finishing the helicopter armbar with double sleeve control, you can cross both arms and go either left or right. Just like the initial setup of the helicopter armbar coming from collar sleeve Dela Riva, you need to be perpendicular to your opponent and swivel your leg across the face. The last step is to remove the posting leg on the hip and finish the armbar. Once you have the arm, you can now remove the grip on the arm that you are not attacking and switch to two on one on the other arm.

How to Make Your Opponent Commit

To be able to hit the helicopter armbar during training, it is important to know how to make your opponent commit forward. There are small adjustments that you can do to make this happen. Whenever you are doing a collar sleeve Dela Riva, you might want to grab near the clavicle of your opponent. Grabbing low won’t be enough to break the posture of your opponent and therefore making the hip heavy.

Next, there are other setups form Dela Riva or from spider guard to make them commit forward. With either double sleeve or collar sleeve grips, you can kick towards the thigh as if you are doing a sit-up guard. There is always that chance that the opponent is going to resist to base out his or her leg. Instead, he or she could push back to regain his or her base. This can be a good opportunity to bring your knees to your chest and start elevating the opponent. You can do the helicopter armbar from here or opt to finish a balloon sweep.

The helicopter armbar is one of those submissions that rarely happen especially when dealing with someone who has equal skills as you. However, if you have a good balloon sweep, there is a window of opportunity that allows you to finish this kind of armbar.

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Richard Presley

A purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Richard is the owner and primary writer of Attack The back. Check out my About Me Page to learn more!