Riz's Martial Arts Training

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Americana from Closed Guard

Also known as ude garami in Judo; Sometimes called a Key lock, Figure-Four Armlock or Chicken Wing (which incidentally was the nickname of a good friend of mine when we were in school…nothing to do with martial arts, everything to do with the way he used to run).

The Americana is a basic submission where the arm is bent at around 90 degrees and twisted towards the head cranking the shoulder as well as applying a large amount of pressure to the elbow. 

Americana from Side ControlThis high percentage submission is most commonly performed from Side Control (usually, 'Four Point' Side Control) or from Mount; some practitioners are also very successful at applying the technique from the Top Half Guard position. It is also commonly used by many traditional Stand-Up systems as a basic lock/takedown against an incoming punch or downward 'stab' (a la Psycho).

The link below (they wouldn’t allow me to embed the video – sorry!) takes you to Gene Simco (whose name appears to be synonymous with controversy in the BJJ universe) explaining how to apply the Americana from the Closed Guard (with and without a Gogoplata variation – but if you already have a Gogoplata locked into place, why wrestle for an Americana as well? That's just greedy Mr Simco!):

Gene Simco Gogoplata/Americana from Guard Double Attack

The Americana was the first submission I worked on in a BJJ class. I had never been a fan of its Stand Up application as was taught to me in Karate and to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the submission's application on the ground either! I just feel that that to really effectively use the submission, you need to be able to pin down your opponent's arm – given that many of my training partners are able to more or less bench press me with a single arm (no joke!), the technique for me just feels unstable/risky, more so from the Mounted position.

Even when on the receiving end, I find that the Americana is relatively easy to defend or counter against. I tend to notice that when it does work, it is more a case of brute force than technical expertise (I mean in general, not just with me) – it's bizarro twin, the Kimura, is a lot more threatening.

So why have I posted this article? Well, just because I can't work the technique as well as I'd like doesn’t mean it’s a 'bad' technique – it's one of the simplest and most commonly used submissions from Beginner to Black Belt level (or so I've been led to understand!). Furthermore, its application from Guard (which has a lower success rate) works well if you use it as a Sweep (its works wonderfully if you combine it with a Butterfly Hook).


The Truth About Self Defence

Knowing is not enough,

We must apply.

Willing is not enough,

We must do.

 ~ Bruce Lee

A few weeks ago, out of curiosity, I signed up for a free trial of what claimed to be a 'no-nonsense guide to effective and easy self defence'. And sure enough, every few days for the past couple of weeks, I have received a new video tutorial 'teaching' me what are allegedly battle-tested, highly effective self defence techniques.

Now, here's the sad truth – it's mostly just a lot of nonsense; there is no easy fix to self defence. It's not something that can be learnt through watching ten videos online, nor is it something you can learn by attending a trendy two hour seminar. Here's why:  

Fight, flight or freeze

The 'fight or flight' syndrome is our body's natural response preparing us to either 'confront' or 'flee' from a perceived threat. Physiologically, this is a result of our body's sympathetic nervous system inducing nerve cell firing and chemical releases (casually referred to as an 'adrenaline dump') that boosts the body’s ability to run away or fight. Typically as a result, the respiratory rates increase; blood is shunted away from the digestive tract and directed into muscles and limbs (i.e. more energy/strength); pupils dilate and impulses quicken (resulting in a 'slowing' of time and more focused line of sight); the immune system intensifies, and our ability to feel pain diminishes.

As wonderfully super heroic as the above sounds, an adrenaline dump is also accompanied by a severe decline in our fine motor skills (small, precise movements like using your car keys to unlock your door) as well as impairing our ability to make rational judgments – this is often what leads to a 'freeze'. Tunnel vision can sometimes also occur.

Since conscious judgement and fine motor skills are impaired, self defence responses must be instinctive, primarily relying on your gross motor skills (less precise movements such as pushing a swinging door open).

Self defence / martial arts are essentially training a Pavlovian response to situations of threat. Following extensive training fine motor skills can be used (mainly because of training techniques into 'muscle memory') and rational judgements can be made in the midst of an adrenaline dump to a certain extent however, there will always be a certain level of impairment by nature of our physiology.

As such many of the movements in 'quick-fix' self defence courses become inapplicable due to the requirement of fine motor skills (Exercise: Find a small spot on the wall and try to very quickly poke it 25 times returning your hands to your sides after each attempt…fidgety, right? Now imagine you were trying to do the same to someone's eye while disoriented, feeling the effects of an adrenaline dump, and while he viciously attacked you…). Furthermore for those techniques that are effective, a two hour course (even a two day course!) is simply not enough time to train an instinctive response.

Monkey Steals the Peach, Deity Picks the Grapes

Most self defence programmes promise something other than what is available in the general mainstream. Often these techniques have been lost in the annals of time or have been hidden from you by the government (or another such illuminati-esque organisation). However, there's no such thing as a secret technique (even if you believe in ki, classes are commonly accessible!). As humans we are all pretty much identical in an anatomical sense (the only difference is that between sexes) – that is, everyone (of the same gender) possesses more or less the same vulnerabilities.

True, different arts focus on different methods to target these vulnerabilities but ultimately, a punch is a punch – the important thing is finding something that complements you as an individual; something that you feel works for you (as well as something you enjoy – cause if you hate it, chances are you won't stick with it!). 

Battle of the Sexes

No doubt this final point has the potential to generate a fiery backlash but it does need to be mentioned. In general, men are naturally bigger and stronger than women. And in most self defence cases involving women, men tend to be the attackers (this doesn't include street fights though). Simply put, defending yourself against a bigger and stronger assailant is hard; it takes a significant amount of earnest training to handle someone who is much stronger than you (even if he/she has no clue about martial arts), especially if they are seriously trying to hurt you.

Size matters. Don't expect to be able to easily handle an attacker after two months of training. Size matters…but only so much. With regular training over a long period of time you will be able to handle bigger, stronger (untrained) attackers. For example, I'm usually one of the smallest, physically weaker fighters wherever I go – this doesn't mean that I'm constantly losing but, it does mean that I have to make sure to constantly train harder than people who are more naturally athletic.  

The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

The best form of self defence is no self defence at all. Just as it is safer to move completely out of a punch's trajectory, it is safer to avoid situations where you will need to defend yourself. You don't need to be a hermit to do this, just follow some simple safety tips (that said, nothing is for certain – be prepared!). Have a look at this Personal Protection website:


The website is tailored to female university students but the information available is applicable to most people (should you browse the 'Past Instructors' section, please do excuse the horrible photograph of me; I don't usually look like I've been pulled out of a cartoon).


The Achilles Ankle Lock & The Knee Bar

I had initially planned to write a post regarding both the 'Achilles Ankle Lock' and the 'Knee Bar' but then I remembered Stephen Kesting's GrappleArts website already has a fantastic article dedicated to each of these techniques.

I'd be depriving you if I tried to explain the techniques myself when there is already a much better resource available. So here are the links:



Personally, I find that the Achilles Lock is far too easily countered for me to go for it. The Knee Bar is an effective move but quite a difficult one to apply in my opinion. 

Previous Leg Lock: Toe Hold Ankle Lock