The Omoplata is a shoulder lock performed by isolating the shoulder and arm using our legs. In Portuguese, ‘Omoplata’ translates as ‘Shoulder Blade,’ specifically referring to the Scapula or flat wide bone in the shoulder. The Omoplata, by extending the shoulder beyond its range of motion, causes subluxation in the joint and can lead to both shoulder dislocations and arm breaks.
The submission has its roots in Judo or Catch Wrestling and has proven effective in both gi and no gi grappling arts. Despite not seeing wide use in MMA (with only a couple ever being recorded in the UFC), the move is still a classic that presents many opportunities and pathways.
We’ll look at the Omoplata from the closed guard and a less common escape strategy I originally saw Renzo Gracie using in old rolling tapes.
Step 1: Control The Wrists
Step 2: Ground Their Hands
Notice how I’ve pulled my knees forward to break his posture and bring his hands to the mat. This will allow us to isolate a shoulder, which is now closer to us than when our opponent is sitting upright.
Step 3: Make An Angle
I use a hand as a frame on my opponent’s neck and shift my hips to create an angle. Notice that at this stage, we must open our guard and bring our leg high over their shoulder.
Step 4: Isolate The Shoulder And Arm
I use my high leg to break their posture and my arm to wrap theirs. I need to fully isolate their trapped arm and shoulder here to begin to rotate out and apply the shoulder lock.
Step 5: Shoot The High Leg
From this angle, you can see how I have taken my high leg up and over his shoulder.
Step 6: Build Height
I immediately sit up, reach over their hip, and break their posture down completely. I also reach up and over their back to capture their far hip.
Step 7: Breaking Posture
Sometimes, if they are still on their knees, I will shuffle my hips away from theirs to break them down to a prone position. From here, it’s very difficult for them to escape or defend the lock effectively.
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Step 8: ‘S’ Sit
Now that I have his arm and shoulder isolated by my primary leg, I want to start applying pressure for the submission. To do this, I want to ‘S’ Sit, bringing the heel of my primary leg towards my body so I can start projecting my hips up and over that leg for the finish.
Step 9: Finish
After I ‘S’ Sit, I can now project my hips off the mat and torque his arm, applying pressure to the shoulder. I like to try and bring my forehead over the back of his head and continue raising my hips until they tap.
Step 1: Danger
So we allowed our opponent to get to start setting up an omoplata. For time’s sake, I will show the latest possible stage escape. Most defense will be ineffective after an opponent breaks you down beyond this stage.
Anything earlier than this is also undoubtedly preferable, as we never want an opponent to develop control over us. As always, the best defense is never letting them get there in the first place. Easier said than done, I know.
Step 2: Far Side Shoulder roll
Because his legs trap my right shoulder, I will execute a shoulder roll under with my left shoulder to the mat. My primary aim here is to get my head under his knee. This will allow me to ‘unwind’ the loop he has over my shoulder.
Step 3: Roll Through
I roll through now, allowing my hips to come high and my head to spin through from under his legs to the outside of his hip. You know the roll is finished when you have visual confirmation of the trapped arm’s hand in front of your face.
Step 4: Sit Up
Use the momentum of your roll to start sitting up. At this stage, your trapped arm elbow will be free to slip out below his leg. Pull it free as soon as you can.
We’re not done yet! Don’t just accept that you’ve escaped the submission. Capitalize on your opponent’s anchored hips and start getting up.
Step 5: Consolidate
Now that you’re out, get up!
One of the trade-offs your opponent is making by attempting the omoplata is that they need to try and anchor their hips to the mat.
By using our escape, we have momentum that we can use to ride ours up and above theirs, essentially creating a wrestle-up or hip heist situation. Now I have height on my side, and I can begin to move back towards building a pass or offense.
The Omoplata creates breaking force across the forearm, elbow, upper arm, and shoulder. Any of these areas can experience a break or dislocation from the pressure of an Omoplata.
In most cases, victims will experience the tearing of ligaments or tendons in the elbow or shoulder, but bone breaks are not impossible due to the direction or amount of pressure.
No, the Omoplata is a joint lock, specifically a shoulder/ arm lock. There are uncommon variations where practitioners have applied chokes in combination with the Omoplata. On its own, it will not cause strangulation.
In conclusion, the Omoplata can be considered one of the ‘classic’ moves from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. With the innovation of the closed guard by the Gracies and early Brazilian pioneers, the Omoplata became a staple move in the gi.
Despite not seeing the same level of use in no gi, the move is no less effective. Competitors like Clark Gracie, Bernardo Faria, and Andre Galvao leaned heavily on the technique throughout their competition careers.
Personally, I’ve been a big fan of the Omoplata since my early days of training, finding that I can recruit my strong, stocky legs to trap the arm & shoulder to great effect.
Consider adding this move to your submission arsenal and enjoy the transitions and opportunities that branch off!