Wrestling For BJJ – How To Master The Arm Drag

Master the Arm Drag

Wrestling has always played a huge role in the development of BJJ. Much of the stand-up game is based on takedown systems that have been borrowed from wrestling. There are also a lot of the weight distribution principles that allow Jiu-Jitsu athletes to be so dominant on the ground. Technically speaking, no other grappling martial art, except for maybe Judo, has had such a big impact on BJJ as wrestling. The Arm Drag is a position and a takedown. it is a control and a pivot point for many transitions. All in all, it is a very versatile move that has successfully found fertile ground in the Gentle Art. Let’s look at how BJJ not only borrowed this move from wrestling but took it into completely new directions along the way.

Perhaps the most difficult but important aspect of the arm drag is understanding that as much as your goal is to quite literally drag your opponent in the direction in which you are pulling their arm is important, moving around that arm is equally crucial. It is a question of understanding how your weight moves the other person and remembering Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Bearing this in mind one needs to remember that in pulling the opponent down they are potentially able to pull themselves up, and around.

Mechanics of The Arm Drag

There are many great competitors who have made use of this technique in their competition successes. Perhaps best known for this is Marcelo Garcia who used arm drags in many of his matches with fantastic effect. There are, of course, many others who use it successfully.

Part of what makes the arm drag so effective is that people are generally weak behind the elbow. That is to say if you grab someone behind their elbow and pull their arm forward their ability to stop you is likely to be less than the force you can apply. More importantly, the arm drag relies on the dragger’s ability to force the person being dragged to bear their weight for a short time, thus forcing them to fall forward. People who get really good at arm drags are able to manipulate opponents much larger than them by forcing them to use one of the weaker areas of their bodies to carry their weight.

The concept is relatively simple: Pulling even a relatively strong practitioner away from their center of gravity will likely force them to compensate. Add to that the fact that the opponent is off balance due to the mechanics of the position and you’ve got the upper hand for sure. During that compensation, whether or not it results in them falling, the arm-dragger can easily move around their opponent.

A crucial element of the arm drag is getting out of the opponent’s way.  Very often the rookie mistake is to drag an opponent down but to then be trapped under their weight rather than to move around them.  When hitting an arm drag, the most important part of the move is escaping one’s hips to the side of the arm being dragged.

Arm Drag Takedowns

Arm drags lead to various opportunities for positional improvement.  Even a failed arm drag can put the person attempting it in position for a takedown or another position change in their favor.  Resisting the arm drag requires a certain degree of off-balanced force by the resister.

On the feet, the arm drag sets up a variety of takedowns and trips. While on the ground, it sets up back takes sweeps and submissions. Since all matches start standing, let’s talk about how it sets up takedowns. One particularly effective takedown of an arm drag is the double leg. Though why does the arm drag work so well here? The first reason is that it gets rid of a possible frame (the opponent’s arm) of defense and the second reason is that it will put you at a subtle angle that will make the takedown work. Check out how Marcelo Garcia, master of the drag, uses it to set it up.

Arm Dragging From Guard

When on the ground, the arm drag can be used with great effect from the half guard. In half guard one can initiate back takes with relative ease using an intelligently placed grip. The half guard pairs nicely with butterfly, making the arm drag extra potent from either position.

From the closed guard, the arm drag provides a great path to the back as well as entries to various submissions, depending on how an opponent reacts to the back take attempt. The more you play the arm drag game the more openings and opportunities you will find to use it.

Arm Drag To The Back

Last, but certainly not least, is the ability to take the back from an arm drag. Taking the back from the drag can be done standing, off of your back and from a seated position just to name a few. From there, you can hit any technique that you like from your opponent’s back. In gi, you have plenty of gi chokes and in no gi, the rear naked choke is still king.

Hunting For Leg Locks

Since the arm drag works so well, it is a valuable tool to experiment with in training. If you find yourself in any of these spots, try it out. It could very well become one of your favorite techniques in Jiu Jitsu.

Long Island MMA fighter Rob Diggle shows how to enter into a leg lock position from an arm drag:

The more you play with the arm drag the more you’ll see opportunities to use it.  The more you understand it, the better you’ll be able to use it to further your own Jiu-Jitsu game.  The key to this move is to drill it.  No one wants to be dragged to the ground and choked, so grip placement is key to success with the move. Drilling aids in innately understanding grip placement.  The more you drill the move the better you’ll understand it.

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