Few submissions are as versatile as the kimura lock in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Its uses from the bottom, top, and side make it very common at levels, and it’s a favorite tool of creative grapplers in the form of the kimura trap system.
Also known as the double wrist lock, the kimura lock is a shoulder lock submission hold utilizing a figure four grip on the opponent’s wrist. This grip allows control over the forearm and elbow and the ability to place a lot of rotational power on the shoulder, forcing a submission. The powerful grip is also commonly used to control and advance positions.
Many details go into the kimura and its use in all positions. The sheer versatility and popularity of the kimura make it a mandatory addition to every BJJ player’s repertoire.
How To Apply A Kimura Lock
With the history lesson out of the way, let’s look at how to execute and finish the kimura lock.
As I’ve said, you can do the kimura in multiple positions, and we will look at a few of them, starting from the most common- the full guard.
From Full Guard
- First, you must break the opponent’s posture and force him to put his hands on the mat. You can do this in multiple ways, the easiest of which is pulling him towards you with the legs.
- Grab the wrist of the arm you want to attack. Aim to keep your arm fully extended to prevent him from escaping.
- Open the guard, post your legs on the mat, and sit up. You can use the opponent to pick you up if you get the timing right.
- Reach with your other hand behind the trapped arms triceps and grab your wrist in the figure four grip.
- Return to your back, pulling his trapped arm towards your chest. For the finish, scoot out, turn towards the opponent, lock your legs on his back, and rotate the targeted arm towards his back. Aid the rotation with your whole body, not just your arms.
From Side Control
Kumuras are very common from side control because isolating the arm you want to attack is much easier. The first part of the submission is grabbing hold of the figure-four grip on the wrist.
There are multiple ways to set this up. You will need to assume north-side control, but this can be done before you have the grip or after, with most people doing it after holding the wrist.
Once you have the grip, you need to place the shoulder under extreme tension, which is not as simple as it looks because the shoulder is a very mobile joint. One of your legs must be behind his back, preventing him from getting a better posture and immobilizing the neck.
The full mount is another excellent position offering a few ways to finish a kimura:
Standing Kimuras also exist but are a bit more complicated to do. Nevertheless, fighters like Kazushi Sakuraba manage to specialize in it. Sakuraba’s mastery of the kimura as a whole deserves detailed study:
The most important principle for finishing a kimura is getting the right angles. The shoulder is very mobile, and enough pressure can be applied only if the angle is correct. This is true for almost everything in jiu-jitsu, but for this submission is even more significant.
Defending and Escaping the Kimura
To know how to defend any submission, you must know the dangers and mechanics. We already covered how the kimura targets the shoulder by immobilizing the elbow and neck. The power for the finish comes from the rotational power applied to the bent arm behind the back.
The main principle for defending kimura locks is not to let your hands go behind your back by rotating toward the endangered arm. Since the kimura is so popular, it’s good to have a few reliable defenses against the common attack positions, namely guard and side control.
If you are in full guard, you first need to ensure not to let your hands go to the mat because this is where the opponent will attack. This is, of course, not always possible, so you must familiarize yourself with the few possible defenses. Here are some of them:
Not only can you get out of a kimura, but you can also use the situation to your advantage with a counter kimura. This is especially nasty because the opponent cannot even let go of his own grip, which got him in the bad spot.
What Is A Kimura Lock
The kimura lock is one of the most versatile submission moves, and one of the first every BJJ student learns. Its mechanics work by isolating the elbow and shoulder joints through a figure-four grip on the wrist.
This is done by grabbing the opponent’s wrist with one hand and your own wrist from behind his triceps. The kimura aims at the shoulder, meaning you must control the two neighboring joints, the elbow, and neck, following the core principles of all joint locks.
The figure four grip gives you complete control over his elbow. If you isolate the neck, you can place a lot of rotational force on the shoulder, leading to a tap or serious damage.
Control over the neck depends on the position you are in. For instance, this can be the legs in side control or the ground in full guard.
A successful kimura lock can heavily damage your shoulder, and this is not something you can brush off easily. Even if the degree of injury is not so severe, not tapping in time to a kimura may lead to nagging problems and weeks off the mats.
There are also many well-documented instances of broken arms, so be aware of the point of no return when you defend against kimuras.
What makes the kimura so popular is its amazing versatility and utility. First, it can be applied as a submission from closed guard, mount, side control, or standing.
Finishing the kimura is tricky, but the control over the forearm and elbow makes the double wrist lock grip very good for flowing between positions. This is commonly known as the kimura trap system.
History Of The Kimura
The Kimura lock is a popular submission hold in many grappling martial arts. It’s known as gyaku ude-garami in Judo and the double wrist lock in catch wrestling. The move was named Kimura in Jiu-Jitsu after the famous Judoka Masahiko Kimura.
Masahiko Kimura was considered the best Judoka on the planet, and in 1951 he was in Brazil to hold demonstrations and grapple in challenge matches. Helio Gracie found out he was there and challenged the Judoka.
Kimura first refused and instead proposed that Gracie fight the second-best judo player, Yukio Kato. After Helio went to a draw with Kato the first time they met, he managed to strangle him in the second, and Kimura had no choice but to accept the challenge.
The legendary match was held in front of 20,000 spectators at the Maracana stadium. The Judoka was much heavier and stronger but couldn’t finish Gracie up until, in the second round, he caught the shoulder lock and broke Helio Gracie’s arm.
The Brazilian refused to surrender, but his brother threw in the towel to spare him further damage. The submission was named Kimura in honor of the great victory of the Japanese fighter.
The Kimura Trap System
As dangerous as the kimura lock is, it’s hard to finish due to the many possible defenses and counters. This led to the creation of the kimura trap system, which turns the double wrist grip into a full system of potential attacks and transitions.
The main point of the kimura trap is that once a grappler has his hand locked in the double wrist lock, he has no other options for movement but to go toward the threatened arm. You then use this predictability to transition to other dominant positions or submissions.
A key detail to being good with the kimura trap is having a secure grip. Initially, you would want to grab the wrist with the thumb, but once you have both hands in place, transition into a no-thumb grip, also called the monkey grip. This grip provides much more power and control.
After you get the figure four nice and tight, you can go for the finish of the kimura, but most people are more than capable of defending, which is where you can spring the kimura trap. Using the grip, you can transition into different positions, scoring points with sweeps and back takes and threatening with other submissions.
Here is a full overview of the possibilities and options in the kimura trap system:
Can The Kimura Lock Break The Arm?
The kimura lock can break an arm; there are countless instances of this in BJJ and MMA. The damage is done to the humerus, the bone between the shoulder and elbow joints.
Usually, a kimura targets the shoulder ligaments and muscles, and most pain is felt there. Sprains to the ligaments and joint capsule are also the most common injuries resulting from kimura locks.
But it is possible to break the humerus with a kimura, an extremely nasty injury requiring surgery. This has happened many times in jiu-jitsu matches and MMA fights, so if you feel you can’t get out, tap as quickly as possible.
There is absolutely no reason to satisfy your ego and suffer damage that would require surgical procedures and months of recovery.
Here are a couple of graphic examples to remind you what the dangers of a kimura are:
The Kimura, or the double wrist lock, is an extremely powerful move part of most submission-based grappling martial arts arsenal. As such, you will become familiar with it from the first days you spend on the mats. It is a submission hold, a means to sweep or transition into other submissions.
The number of positions and variations means you can never be fully prepared for every possible scenario. Still, knowing how to use it to your advantage, how to escape control and negate the power of the grip, you will spare yourself a few taps and earn a few along the way.