It’s the Fourth of July in America, which means Americans will be celebrating by blowing things up, eating hot dogs and drinking domestic beer. I am personally celebrating by submitting my training partners with the most patriotic of all submissions – the Americana! To help spread freedom, I want to share some Americana setups with you!
The Americana (or “Keylock”) is a classic BJJ technique. Every BJJ white belt with one stripe has seen the basic Americana submission. Many will learn it during their first BJJ class. It is a powerful submission that can seriously damage an elbow or shoulder.
The general setup is fairly straightforward. From side control or mount, push your opponent’s forearm down to the mat, lock up the figure four, tighten the hold, and lift the elbow. Easy, right? In fact, the Americana is often the first submission we learn because it’s so easy to teach.
Why Does the Americana Disappear?
The Americana is simple to learn, and eager white belts look to apply it right away. But as a BJJ player goes further in their journey, they are less and less likely to use the Americana. On this exact topic, John Danaher posed a question on his Instagram:
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The great under performer among the submission holds of jiu jitsu: There are around fifteen to twenty families of submission holds, each with many many variations in technique and entry. These core submission holds are seen all the time in competition. Arm bars, triangles rear naked strangles etc. are constantly seen successfully applied in all levels of competition. There is however, one well known and foundational submission hold that has a truly miserable success rate. In fact, in twenty five years I cannot think of even a single example of it working successfully in black belt competition at the world championship level gi or no gi. This must make it the single worst performing submission hold among the various foundational submissions in our sport. Most of the other submissions perform brilliantly, but the success rate of this one is utterly feeble – can you guess what it is? It is the Americana lock (ude garami). The only example of it being used successfully that I can recall is by Jon Jones on a badly battered and exhausted Vitor Belfort in an MMA fight. This is very unusual – most core moves of the sport have excellent success rates. The American lock is unquestionably a core lock of the sport. Often it is the first lock we learn and a staple of beginner classes everywhere, yet it scores so few victories that I would understand if an instructor simply stopped teaching it above white belt level. Interestingly the American lock is actually very strong and potentially devastating once it is applied. The failure is not MECHANICAL, an American lock will break an arm just as surely as a kimura or juji gatame or any other (in fact I would argue that the breaking potential of a well applied American lock is superior to most other joint locks) So why the failure to be successfully applied in competition? If it’s not mechanical, the failure must reside in SET UPS/ENTRY and in ability to COPE WITH RESISTANCE/COUNTERS. Do you think this great failure of the submission family can be rehabilitated? Can we improve our set ups to make this lock work in competition? Or is it destined to be forever the under performer of jiu jitsu? Let me know your thoughts!
I have several theories as to why the Americana disappears at higher levels:
- At higher levels of BJJ, it is not a simple thing to isolate an opponent’s arm in an exposed Americana position.
- The defense against the Americana is relatively easy.
- The Americana can only normally be applied from a top position, so it is not very versatile. For example, an armbar, kimura, or guillotine choke can all be applied from top or bottom positions.
So should you completely abandon the Americana? Surely, Uncle Sam would say “No!” There are in fact some very sneaky and unorthodox methods to setup this submission. Below are 5 unique Americana setups.
The Americana Setups
1. The Americana Trap – Gustavo Gasperin
First in our Americana setup techniques, Gustavo demonstrates a method of “trapping” the bottom side player into giving up an Americana.
2. Funky Americana Setup by Stan Beck
Next up, we have this Americana setup from Stan Beck. This technique should surprise an opponent.
3. Americana Setup from Back Mount by “Chewy”
In an early Chewy video, he shares a tricky way to hit the Americana from back mount by “letting” the opponent slightly escape:
4. Back Step Americana by Dennis Asche
Dennis Asche gives my favorite technique of the bunch. This is a really slick move and the video gives some great details. Notice the similarities to the North-South Kimura:
5. Americana from Bottom Side Control by Mark Stefanc
Lastly we have the Americana from bottom side control. This is perhaps a low percentage finish, but I think it’s a decent sweeping technique. In any case, you should be aware of this version of the Americana:
Looking for more unorthodox ways of getting the submission? Check out our article on 5 Ways To Annoy and Distract Your Opponents As You Hunt For the Kill!