The Flying Armbar: High Risk, High Reward

Let’s admit that basics work. However, theatricality and deception can have its moments especially when your opponent least expects it. There are instances when your opponent can be caught off guard simply because you tried to pull off a curveball that they usually don’t see in training.

Take a moment to look for flying submissions on Instagram and YouTube and you’ll be surprised how many jiujitsu practitioners managed to make Hail Mary moves work when no one thought it’s coming.

Flying armbar is one of those Hail Mary moves that you rarely see on actual competition. Hitting this on competition could easily give you a good number of hits on different social media platforms. There’s a reason why not a lot of people do this. First, you have to account for the fact that you could knock yourself out. Though you can still get viral, however, you’ll get viral for the wrong reason.

Another reason why you don’t see a lot of people do flying armbars is the fact that not a lot of people fight for standup in the lower weight classes. You usually see flying armbars done by smaller competitors. But since you have double guard pull as an option, you rarely get to see people have the small window of opportunity to sink in flying armbars.

What Makes a Good Armbar?

Before you even attempt a flying armbar, it is important to understand the mechanics of an armbar. This will give you an idea of whether or not you have the chance to threaten a flying armbar on your opponent. Armbar is a move that hyperextends the opponent’s arm.

The mechanics of an armbar remains the same for every position. It can be simplified by having a fulcrum right on the person’s elbow. Next, there should be something that would trap the wrist to maintain pressure on the arm.

So why is this concept important to improve your flying armbar finishes? This concept is important to not put yourself in a compromising situation wherein you have someone already stacking and even passing you for attempting a Hail Mary armbar.

Ways to get the flying armbar

Stand up

One of the most popular setups for a flying armbar is when both of you are standing. Here, as both people are fighting for grips, you can take advantage of the chance to hit a flying armbar when the opponent grabs your collar. Here, you want to make sure that the arm stays where the opponent decided to grip.

How do you get the arm to stay in place? It’s common to see people grab by the lat or by the tricep to keep the arm away from the opponent’s body.

Next, your leg positioning is also important to finish this kind of flying armbar. Which leg should be forward? The lead leg should be the same side as the arm you are trying to trap. This allows you to throw the back leg as close as possible to the armpit. Next, the last move is to get your lead leg over the opponent’s head.

Against Opponent Who’s Sitting Guard 

Another way to hit a flying armbar is when the opponent is on a sitting guard position. It’s a common scenario in actual competition when both top and bottom players have no grips. Usually, the person on the bottom will resort to sitting guard either waiting for the timing to do a technical stand up or get a grip to establish an actual guard.

Opening for a flying armbar usually happens when the person on the bottom makes the mistake of extending the arm.

Davi Ramos was able to catch Lucas Lepri with this setup in the ADCC finals. He was able to make Lucas Lepri extend his arm by attempting to bring Lepri on his back to play guard. In nogi, since you have minimal grips, fighting off your back is oftentimes seen as an inferior position.

Davi Ramos was able to set up his armbar by first circling to his right and kept on attempting to flip Lepri to get to his back. Lepri scrambled to get his feet back on the mat to maintain his base. At that moment, Davi Ramos was able to snag Lepri’s extended arm for the armbar.

However, though it looked fast and simple, Davi Ramos mentioned that he studied Lucas Lepri’s movements. He understood how he prefers to play sitting guard similar to what Marcelo Garcia does. He then formulated a way for him to take the leg and force Lepri to go to his back.

Counters to a Flying Armbar

Just like any armbar, it isn’t exactly fail-proof. You will have to anticipate typical reactions coming from your opponent. If you are doing a flying armbar when both competitors are standing, a common counter is to stack the armbar. It’s a common mistake even for high-level competitors to pull out an armbar hoping to wiggle out the elbow out of its fulcrum. In reality, this can be a dangerous proposition considering how you are helping the other person to extend the arm.

By stacking the arm first, you will be able to get the arm out while doing a bicep curl. You can also use the other arm by grabbing the other bicep and getting rid of the leg in front of your face to make it easier to yank out your arm safely.

High Risk, High Reward

Flying armbar is considered a high risk, high reward move that can give you an instant submission victory. In case your opponent escapes your attack, it can potentially rattle them and hesitate on gripping again considering how you can snag their arm.

Unlike the regular armbar that you can set up more efficiently, you have to consider the small window of opportunity that you have when it comes to doing a flying armbar. You will also have to assess your gas tank and your explosiveness to be able to get the arm in the right spot at the right time.

There’s a reason why it is a low percentage move. But is it effective? Yes. It can even catch some of the all-time greats. However, don’t expect to get it every time.

About the author

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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!