The Kimura lock is one of the staple techniques that any Brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner should have at their disposal with just a few classes into their journey; it is a high percentage submission in most competitions and it is a versatile move to land from a lot of different positions, or to use in order to get out of a pickle.
To master the Kimura Lock may take a long time, especially since it’s versatility allows practitioners to find it and alter setups from tons of possitions and angles, making it a great option to focus on if you need a reliable jack of all trades move.
We are going to dive into a lot of details regarding it’s story and creation, how it works and the proper way to set it up, and multiple variants that you can work with as you start to master this tecnique so you can land it on your rolling partners.
Origins of The Kimura Lock
The Kimura lock is a staple of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in this day and age, and it has been used and popularized in mixed martial arts, submission wrestling, freestyle wrestling and even catch wrestling matches.
The origin of this tecnique goes back to Judo, where it was known as a Gyaku ude garami; but was also seen back in 1924, when the freestyle wrestler Robin Reed used to achieve the gold medal in the Paris Summer Olimpics.
The move has been linked to Judo, catch wrestling, and professional wrestling, as both american wrestlers and the japanese school system adopted the move and made it popular in pro wrestling matches and demonstration matches, but without a proper name for the move.
The origin of the “Kimura lock” as we know it goes back to a fight that took place back in October 23rd in 1951, shortly after World War II, and it was a fight between Masahiko Kimura, who is now considered the greatest judoka of all time, going against Helio Gracie.
The story behind this match comes from a trip of three Judokas, who traveled to Brazil to challenge the Gracie family… including Yukio Kato, who wanted a rematch against Helio Gracie from a previous encounter, and another famous judoka, known as Masahiko Kimura.
After Helio Gracie defeated Kato, and Masahiko Kimura, who was a professional wrestling promoter and competitor, defeated Pedro Hemeterio on a first match, the super fight was set for the Jiu Jitsu legend and the Famous judoka to meet.
This fight took place on Rio de Janeiro, and it was interesting, the Masahiko Kimura vs Helio Gracie fight was such a great event and the legacy of what took place in the match trascended time, as we now pull a move originally created in the match on our everyday training basis.
The Masahiko Kimura vs Helio Gracie fight had a gyaku ude garami being applied from the Japanese fighter to the Brazilian, and it ended up breaking the arm not only once but twice.
The towel had to be thrown before said arm lock was pulled once more and would basically destroy Helio Gracie’s arm; which meant that Masahiko Kimura had defeated Gracie on the match.
That move was eventually called the “Kimuriana”, which was later shortened and became what we know as the kimura lock, and is widely known in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, catch wrestling, vale tudo, and most grappling martial arts in general.
How Does The Kimura Lock Work
Going into simplicity, the Kimura Lock is a basic lever system, where immense pressure is put on the opponent’s shoulder and elbow joint.
Using the closed guard variant as our basic position for the Kimura lock, the person who is going to apply the Kimura Lock will want to keep the opponent’s body in position with his guard.
With one hand, they will want to grab the closest wrist, in order to keep the opponent’s arm trapped. Once in position, they will want to lift their body and send their own opposite arm over the opponent’s trapped arm in order to lock what is called a figure four grip. This grip is also called a double wristlock, and it is achieved by grabbing hold of the opponent’s hand and grabbing your own wrist with the other arm, after it goes under your opponent’s triceps.
At this point, one of the attackers homoplat should be off from the ground, it is time to lay back down and bring the opponent’s arm back behind his head and to the opposite side of his head. Somewhere along the way, this painful pressure will be enough to achieve a tap.
This submission puts the opponent’s arm through what some call the “Chicken wing” position, and others call the Kimura hold, which is a good way to sweep from the full guard into the mount position with a hip escape towards the same side of the hand you are holding, and then maintain control as you transition into side control position to finish the Kimura Lock from the top, and either get a tap or grant the opponent a broken arm.
Where Can I Set Up A Kimura Lock From
When we talk about the evolution of the Kimura, BJJ took the time to turn the one technique that broke Helio’s Arm once into a reliable submission that you now can see prominently in Judo, BJJ and pretty much any other grappling martial art, and even self defense, as you can see police officers using a Kimura variant in order to control an aggresive civilian from the standing position all the way down to the ground.
In a grappling match, you can see the Kimura Lock being used from multiple positions, as it is a really versatile move which can be used from the closed guard, from mount position and side control, it can be used from standing position in order to go down as a takedown, being dangerous for any shoulder and elbow joints during any single grappling match.
BJJ Kimura Trap System
The Kimura Lock has been turned into a reliable tool for most Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, and has evolved to the point of having it’s own Kimura Trap System, in which the double wristlock hold that usually sets up a Kimura Lock is used to counter multiple positions, like the half guard, the turtle guard, and as we previously mentioned, take down players with brutal efficiency.
The Closed Guard
The closed guard variant of the kimura submission is my favorite one, as it is simple and reliable, but the problem is that the opponent’s body is on top, which means that with a little help of gravity, they can defend by pushing the trapped arm down towards the floor or grabbing their own hip/belt.
In case this happens, you can use this moment to, as we previously mentioned, hip escape sweep the opponent to get into mount in order to continue your kimura and have the top mount or just get some tournament points.
If you want to master the Kimura from closed guard, definitely check out this BJJ Fanatics instructional from Rafael Lovato:
From the mount, you can grab your opponent’s upper arm tight in a figure four and force it towards their hip, as you lean sideways and put some pressure in the opponent’s shoulder. This pressure will likely force the opponent into trying to escape and possibly give you the chance to shift into another submission or switch to side control.
It should be noted that top mount usually doesn’t let you put the required pressure to finish the kimura, but it is a good position to transition from.
The Judo, BJJ and general grappling go to set up for this joint lock is the Side Control, which is the position in which Helio Gracie was caught in this submission all those years ago.
The Top side control is a jiu jitsu staple, as it usually leaves one of the opponent’s arms available to grab on to and get ready to set the Kimura up, with either a thumbless grip or your go to grip, while the other hand pins the opponent’s head.
To get the submission ready, you need to put some pressure by lifting the opponent’s elbow, and pressure is a BJJ specialty, so you will just have to bring the hand out of the opponent’s neck and put it under his bicep to lift it up as you keep his wrist on the floor, just like it was once achieved on the Gracie family.
This is the most common type of Kimura that you can expect to see when two fighters are in a grappling match, or during MMA matches if one of them practices BJJ.
Speaking of, the Kimura is absolutely an effective submission in MMA – not just Jiu Jitsu! Check out this highlight real of the top Kimura Finishes in UFC history:
From Triangle Choke
This kimura attempt is a good way to surprise your opponent and showcase how versatile jiu jitsu can be; once you attempt to finish a triangle choke, your opponent may try to pull his arm out from under his neck in order to break it, if that happens, you can take advantage of it by pushing his arm outwards so your opponent’s elbow bends and then you can grab the double wristlock to finish your Kimura.
Setting Up other submissions
Jiu Jitsu has a ton of submissions available and the kimura is not only a great option to pull from everywhere, but the kimura trap system is a great method to set up multiple different submission entries to catch your opponent in.
The regular closed guard kimura is a great way to guide your opponent into a omoplata submission, and if you want to do something a little more advanced and showcase your BJJ skillset, you can always go to the side control kimura, pull your opponent close to your chest to set up the monoplata possition, and, if you want to be creative, instead of continuing your kimura, you can transition into a Tariko-plata from there.
Details To Troubleshoot and Fix For Your Kimura Lock
The Kimura has quite simple principles that you need to follow, and all you have to worry about when you apply it is how close or how far you keep your opponent’s wrist from their body.
It shouldn’t be too much of an issue if your opponent has regular flexibility, but you’ll likely want to find the “right” distance from the body if your opponent has double joints (which I do, and I can assure you, it get’s me out of most kimura attempts if they do not properly adjust).
If you are having issues with those pesky double joints ruining your kimura attacks, you might want to keep their hand around 6 inches away from their body, but not much farther out, as the double joint reduces pressure if the kimura attempt is either too far or too close to the body.
The next thing to do to keep your Kimura dangerous is to learn how to set it up from multiple different positions, but that is something that you’ll eventually learn to do through your BJJ journey
Getting Comfortable with a Versatile Submission
Getting comfortable with the Kimura is one of the required steps in order to progress into mastering all the set-ups and possibilities that you can get from all the Kimura trap system. This submission is excellent in both gi and no-gi Jiu Jitsu.
It is such a good tool for a any BJJ practitioner as using elbows and knees to strike can be for any muay thai practitioner, so give it a go and try not to fall in love with this little submission’s versatility.
We encourage all practitioners out there to give the good ‘ol Kimura some extra love and put in the time to improve your set ups for it, as it is a reliable tool. If this article was interesting to you, please share it with other BJJ enthusiasts that may also find it helpful. As always, we expect you to have good days and fun rolls, and hope to see you on the mats real soon!