Americana BJJ Submission: How To & Escapes

July 28, 2023

Like the Kimura, an Americana is an armlock suspected to have originated historically from Wrestling or Judo.

The Americana is a shoulder lock that, when applied, creates rotational pressure through a very short plane of motion. As a result, a small amount of movement and pressure can create considerable damage when the move is applied correctly!

In this article, we will discuss the mechanics of the Americana from both side control & the mount position, as well as how to escape the submission.

How To Execute The Americana

Step 1: Side Control Position

americana lock bjj

When attempting the Americana, we first want to establish top-side control. From here, you can see I’ve taken a far-side underhook to control my opponent’s shoulder. This will allow me to isolate the far arm and start setting up the Americana.

Step 2: Collect The Arm

americana bjj move

I take my cross-face arm and use it to collect my opponent’s far wrist. I’m going to use this grip to pin their hand to the mat. This grip is crucial and will dictate the technique’s success, so don’t compromise on this!

Step 3: Pin The Arm

americana bjj injury

Pin the arm to the mat with your wrist control. From here, that underhook I established at the start will move up and under his arm as I look to connect my hand to the wrist of my other controlling hand. This will create the ‘figure four’ grip configuration you will need to generate the torque required for this armlock.

Step 4: Figure Four

americana bjj step by step

Connect your hand to your wrist and create the ‘figure four’ configuration. This will secure their arm for the impending torque. The elbow of your controlling hand should also be wedged in next to your opponent’s ear. This will prevent them from turning and alleviating the pressure of the lock.

Step 5: Finish!

bjj americana from mount

Now that everything is in place, it’s time to apply the breaking pressure. We do this by lifting their elbow while ‘painting’ the back of their trapped hand across the mat. Imagine you’re painting the mat, and their hand is the brush.

I throttle my wrists like I’m accelerating on a motorbike to take out any slack in the figure four. From here, it’s simply a case of rotating the arm until you’ve taken your opponent’s shoulder through the range of motion it can tolerate, and you elicit the tap!

Americana Escape

Step 1: Go Early!

americana escape bjj

The key to escaping the Americana is anticipating the attack and not letting the submission (or the control) develop too much. If your opponent can secure your wrist and lock a figure four, you’ll have a very tough time getting out.

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Two things to notice here: the first is that I have extended my arm away from my body. This forces my opponent to overcommit his weight as he reaches over my body to try and trap the hand. The second thing you can notice is that I have placed my nearside hand in his armpit. I will use this to frame and create the distance I need to escape.

Step 2: Making Space

americana defense bjj

As my opponent reaches over me and overcommits his weight, I use the hand in his armpit to create a frame. Because his weight is no longer sprawled on me, I can press him off, escaping my hips out the back as I push him away.

Notice that I have also built up to an elbow to start to build height. I don’t want to go to all this effort just to end up pinned underneath again!

Step 3: Get Up And Consolidate

Americana Escape

Now that I’m out from underneath the pin, I want to get my hips up off the mat and above my opponent. Only now am I safe, and I can start my own attack sequence.

Americana Lock Variations

Americana From Mount

Due to the nature of the Americana, the mount is a much better position for you to execute this move from. You don’t have to overcommit your weight as you had to do from side control. This means that your opponent’s options for escape are much slimmer.

Once again, go about your setup by pinning a hand to the mat. Establish a cross grip to do this. Once you pin a hand to the mat, use your free arm to lock in a figure four and then apply braking pressure.

It’s important to remember that because you aren’t overcommitted to the attempt as you might be from side control, you can bail out or transition off to other techniques when trying this move from the mount.

The back take is there, S mount sits, arm bars are available, and even triangle attempts are all exposed for you to capitalize on. The value of the mount can’t be overstated, but adding a technique like an Americana to your repertoire of attacks can open a range of opportunities for you to build from.

Frequently Asked Americana Submission Questions

Americana BJJ Submission

What Does The Americana Break?

The Americana is primarily a shoulder lock and will dislocate the shoulder with enough pressure, tearing ligaments & tendons as well. It’s not uncommon to see the Americana also dislocate the elbow joint.

The rotational pressure it creates can also be enough to snap the radius and ulna in the forearm. However, this is less common.

Can You Americana From Guard?

You can Americana from guard, but this is one of the least optimal places to try to execute the technique. Due to the nature of the guard, you are not entirely in control of your opponent.

A good guard player will be able to move themselves (or you) in such a way that they can not only limit the threat of the Americana but counter it too.

Where Does The Americana Hurt?

When the Americana is applied, you’ll likely feel pressure and pain in your forearm, elbow, and shoulder. It’s safe to say that the deeper you let the submission get, the worse that pain will be!

Is An Americana A Wrist Lock?

The Americana isn’t primarily a wrist lock, as we target the shoulder with the submission. However, if the hand becomes trapped against the mat as the lock is applied, it can certainly create a wristlock by proxy.

Anywhere where you can trap or block an elbow, you can create a wristlock, so allow that to inform your practice as it may.


In summary, the Americana is a close relative to the Kimura lock. Whereas both shoulder locks are effective in their own right, some would argue that the Kimura is the far more effective move. It creates more dynamic control, which is often at a premium in no gi grappling.

This is reflected in the statistics, where the kimura is heavily represented in MMA, BJJ, and even Professional Wrestling. The Americana, in comparison, features far less often.

This is not to say, however, that the Americana is ineffective. It has its place in the pantheon of submissions, but we need to understand where it fits in and what utility it has as a means to an end as well as an end within itself.

It’s never bad to threaten your opponent with submissions, as you now force them to play the defensive role, and you continue to control the offensive tempo, leading the dance.

But understand the extent to which the move can be applied successfully, and don’t over-extend yourself to finish it lest you expose yourself.

About the author 

Jahred Dell

As an accomplished Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athlete, Jahred has achieved significant success in international competitions in Australia, Asia and America, such as the ADCC Trials and Vegas Open. He is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and national champion, with a deep passion for the sport and a talent for coaching others to achieve their full potential.


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