The Americana Lock

Table of Contents

The americana is one of the first submissions you learn as a white belt in Jiu Jitsu. Even though it’s a basic submission, the americana lock is one of the most effective submissions in all of grappling.

Below is a full breakdown of how to properly execute the americana armlock. Complete with a short history of the submission and important details to remember when going for an americana.

The History of The Americana Lock

The americana has been used within various forms of grappling for centuries. It is also known by different names within different grappling arts.

In Judo, the submission is known as the Ude Garami and in catch wrestling it is a figure 4 wrist lock.(Also top wrist lock) Another popular name for the americana in submission grappling is the keylock.

There are two different stories of how the shoulder lock got the name americana. One that has been proven false is Rolls Gracie’s claim that American wrestler Bob Anderson created the americana lock in the 1970s.

The term Americana was actually used in a Brazilian newspaper in 1951 detailing the Kimura vs Gracie grappling match.

Diário de Notícias 24-10-1951: “He [Kimura] inflicted severe punishment, even drawing blood. The decisive technique was the Americana Lock.”

Kimura actually used a Gyaku Ude-Garami that would then be referred to by BJJ practitioners as kimura out of respect. But this was one of the earliest mentions of the word americana when describing a joint lock.

Americana Armlock
Americana Armlock

How Does The Americana Lock Work?

The americana works by isolating your opponent’s arm and turning it into a lever. You make their arm a lever by planting it on the mat at a right angle next to their head.

When you grab your own wrist and slightly lift up on their shoulder this creates tension on their shoulder. When the americana is done correctly, your opponent will be forced to tap quickly or get their shoulder ligaments damaged.

In What Positions can you do The Americana Lock?

The americana is normally done from top side-control or the mount. It can also work in top half guard against a less experienced opponent.

Why the americana is only effective from top positions is because you need the opponent’s arm on the mat. When your opponent’s arm is on the mat, you can limit their movement, isolate it, and attack the shoulder.

If you try an americana on an opponent when they’re in a top position, the americana won’t work. Your opponent doesn’t have their arm isolated and can easily turn out of the submission.

Americana From Side-Control

Here is a step by step breakdown for how to properly execute an americana from side-control. Before you go into setting up the submission, you need to secure the position.

Make sure you’re holding a good side-control with your chest on your opponent’s, knees in close, and no space given.

If your opponent has good defense, they will keep their hands in and force you to isolate their far arm. But a less experienced opponent will make the mistake of extending their arm and allowing you to control it.

Either way, you’re going to have to establish control of their arm and pin it to the mat. You can push the arm with both your arms or even use your head.

Grab control of your opponent’s wrist with a five finger grip to have the best control over their wrist.

Then you’re going to place your elbow right next to your opponent’s head. This is an important detail, because it closes space and prevents your opponent from turning their head.

Next, slide your other hand under your opponent’s arm and grab your own wrist with a five finger grip.

Before you go to finish the americana, be sure to pull the arm closer to their body. This will make your americana tighter. 

Now for the finish, turn your wrist down and slightly lift up on your opponent’s elbow to get the tap.

Americana from The Mount

An americana from the mount is just as easy as from side-control. Your opponent will normally have their arms tucked protecting their neck.

Choose which arm you want to attack and use your hands to pin it to the ground.

The next steps are the same as the americana from side-control. Use a 5 finger grip to control your opponent’s wrist and place your elbow next to their head.

Next slide your hand under your opponent’s arm and grab your own wrist. Then for the finish, pull your opponent’s arm in and slightly lift up on their elbow for the finish.

Important Details for The Americana Lock

The americana is quite easy to pull off, but to make it perfect, you must remember the details. Here are the most important details for finishing the americana.

  • Arm Placement: When you isolate your opponent’s arm, remember it needs to be placed at a right angle next to their head. If you place their arm angled down, that is a set up for a kimura and not an americana.
  • Your Grip: To fully control your opponent’s arm, make sure you use a five finger grip on both their wrist and your wrist.
  • Elbow Placement: After locking in your grip, remember to place your elbow next to your opponent’s head. Doing this closes off space and makes and stops them from being able to turn their head to start defending.
  • Pull In: Remember to pull your opponent’s arm in before you go for the finish to make the americana tighter.
  • Turn & Lift: As you pull your opponent’s arm in, remember to turn your wrists down and lift up to finish the submission.

In Conclusion

The americana lock is extremely effective and a submission you must know in order to advance in rank. If you follow all of the details listed above, you will no doubt develop a great americana armlock. Everyone you roll with will know that they will have to watch out for your americana.


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