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How to Master Kimura in BJJ

June 6, 2024

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the kimura (also known as the double wristlock) is a submission technique that involves controlling an opponent’s arm by gripping the wrist and securing it behind their back while applying pressure to the shoulder joint. It’s incredibly versatile, and fighters can use it from the bottom, top, or side. This lock is so powerful that it has also become popular within the mixed martial arts (MMA) community. 

There are so many different setups for the Kimura that it can actually take a while to learn. If you are looking for a technique you can use from many different positions, you should devote some time to mastering kimura.

History and Origins of the Kimura Technique

Masahiko Kimura was a judo master in the 20th century and one of the best judoka of his generation. In 1951, he was in Brazil hosting judo demonstrations and exhibition matches when the Gracie Brothers, the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, heard he was in town. Helio Gracie challenged Kimura to a match.

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The fight is now the stuff of legends. It was held in front of an audience of 20,000 at the Maracana stadium. It was bitterly fought and only ended after Kimura, who was bigger and stronger than Gracie, executed the armlock, broke his opponent’s arm, and won the fight. The submission was named Kimura in honor of his victory.

Mechanics of the Kimura Technique

The kimura lock is one of the first moves BJJ students learn because it very useful in a bunch of different situations. To perform the kimura, fighters isolate the elbow and shoulder joints using a figure-four grip on the wrist. Using this grip, you control your opponent’s body and crank their arm away from you, putting pressure on the shoulder (and sometimes elbow) joint. When done right, a kimura lock can heavily damage the shoulder, so it’s important to know when to tap out if you’re struggling to escape the lock.

Here are common ways BJJ fighters use the kimura: 

Kimura From the Mount

  • Use both hands to break your opponent’s grip
  • Put your knee on the mat to pin their arm
  • Step your opposite side leg behind your opponent’s head
  • Use one hand to control their elbow and the other to control the wrist of their free arm
  • Bend your opponent’s arm and apply the kimura. 

From Side Control

  • Pass your arm over the head of your opponent and extend the leg close to their head
  • Slide your arm under their elbow and grab the collar
  • Pass the other arm to the opposite side 
  • Move your body to the north-south position by using your body weight to apply pressure to your opponent
  • Put your forehead on the floor to defend against sweeps
  • Apply pressure to the arm and secure a figure-four grip on the wrist.
  • Secure the double wrist lock and pass the opponent’s hand behind their back
  • Extend your back leg to change your base and apply maximum pressure to the shoulder. 

From Full Guard

  • Break the opponent’s posture so their hands are on the mat. You can either come up or pull them in and grab the wrist of the arm you want to attack. 
  • Put your opposite foot on the floor and come up over the shoulder of the trapped arm. Reach with your other hand behind the triceps and grab your wrist in the figure four grip.
  • Return to your back, pulling his trapped arm towards your chest and keeping it tight to your body. 
  • If you can, recross your feet to maintain control. Use your body to rotate the targeted arm towards his back and apply pressure. 

Kimura Trap

One of the important things about the kimura is that there are a number of counters to it. But if you’re knowledgeable and skillful, you can predict these counters to manipulate your opponent’s movement and set up various submissions and sweeps. Once you have locked the kimura, your opponent’s only option is to go toward the threatened arm. You then use this predictability to transition to other dominant positions or submissions. This is the kimura trap. 

The kimura trap was developed by David Avellan to turn the kimura lock into an entire combat system that includes transitions, sweeps, passes, submissions, takedowns, and takedown counters. As your opponents attempt to escape kimura, you can transition into different positions, scoring points with sweeps and back takes and threatening with other submissions.

Reactions and Counters to the Kimura

The main consideration when defending kimura locks is avoiding letting your hands go behind your back by rotating toward the endangered arm. For starters, don’t let your hands go to the mat because that opens an opportunity for your opponent to attack. Of course, that’s not always possible, and the kimura is popular, so you should know a few reliable defenses. These include:

Grip Break: Once your opponent has the figure four grip in place, use your free arm to wedge your fingers underneath the thumb of the hand that is holding your wrist to pry that grip open.

Back Take: If your opponent applies the kimura grip from closed guard, use your free hand to control the opponent’s far arm by grabbing their forearm. Whenever the opponent tries to pull you down on the mat, back away and place your head behind their near shoulder to prevent them from creating the angle they needed to finish the kimura. Place your head on the opponent’s right rear shoulder and you pin their farm arm to the floor. Take your toes off the mat, lift your hips, and weave your legs over theirs. Then you can slip behind them and finish the back take.

Training Drills and Tips to Enhance Kimura Technique

Like every move in BJJ, honing your technique and building grip strength are essential for becoming successful in the kimura. 

Exercise to Strengthen Grip and Control

  • Farmer’s walks: Hold heavy dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand and walk for a distance or a set amount of time.
  • Grip strengtheners, such as grip trainers, hand grippers, or grip balls, target specific muscles in your hands and forearms.
  • Towel Pull-Ups: Hang a towel over a pull-up bar and perform pull-ups to challenge your grip improve strength.

Drill Kimura Setups and Transitions

Nothing will help you get better at any BJJ technique than drilling. You have to consistently practice kimura setups and transitions from different positions for several reasons:

Muscle Memory: Repetition builds muscle memory, making it easier for you to execute the techniques smoothly during live rolling or competition.

Versatility: Learning setups and transitions from each position will help you attack with the Kimura from different scenarios, whether you’re on top, bottom, in guard, side control, or back control.

Understanding Connections: Drilling helps you understand the connections between different positions and techniques so you can chain submissions, sweeps, and positional advances together.

The Importance of Kimura

Mastering the Kimura technique in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu equips fighters with an entire combat system. As you learn to anticipate opponents’ reactions and seamlessly transition between submissions, sweeps, and positional advancements, you can wield the Kimura as a cornerstone of your grappling arsenal. Like all aspects of BJJ, you won’t learn Kimura overnight. You need to be dedicated to drilling so it becomes second nature and develop a deep understanding of connections between techniques.