Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches us how to solve problems by the application of previously gained knowledge. True knowledge is not reflected by the number of facts we know, but rather by the way we manage so string them together. This statement applies perfectly to BJJ. As long as we know how to connect different positions and moves, we can build an adaptable game. Despite having an endless maze of techniques and concepts, Jiu Jitsu has but a few moves that transcend technical categories. One such diverse move is the omoplata.
The omoplata is a technique that pretty much embodies the idea of constant threats during fluid movement. It’s much more than just as shoulder lock (which is what the term ‘Omoplata’ means in Portugese). It has the ability to work as a submission, a sweep or a transition towards other positions or submissions. It is a complete system placed in a single technique. As such, the omoplata is an invaluable tool in any grappler’s toolbox.
Origins of the Omoplata
Although now famous as one of the very basic BJJ techniques, the omoplata has far deeper roots. Originally, it was known as Ashi Sankaku Garami (meaning triangle entanglement) among the judokas of Japan. In Judo, the omoplata was a follow up move when a judoka failed a Tomoe Nage throw. It can also be traced back to Catch Wrestling whose practitioners refereed to the move as The Coil Lock.
Originally, the omoplata was shunned by the pioneers of BJJ in favor of “simpler” moves like chokes and straight armlocks. The move’s popularity in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is mostly due to the efforts of Nino Schembri during the 1990’s. A proponent of an unorthodox guard game, Schembri had great success in competition with the omoplata. Since, it has become a staple of many successful competitors like Clark Gracie, Ryan Hall, Zack Maxwell etc.
The omoplata game
In essence, just like its name suggests, the omoplata is, first and foremost, a shoulder lock. It has a similar principle as other bent arm shoulder locks like the kimura and americana, apart from one distinctive difference. The omoplata uses the legs to form a tight entanglement, as opposed to the arms in other such locks. Despite an immense shoulder pressure, the omoplata also attacks the elbow joint as well.
As a submission, the omoplata is notoriously hard to defend against due to the many possible variations. The most basic way to finish is by forcing the opponent’s arm into a chicken wing position with your legs.
Whenever and omoplata fails as a submission, it just opens up new possibilities. For example, when an opponent is posturing up, it just opens up a triangle choke. The best thing is that if the opponent defends the triangle it’ll just lead back to the omoplata. In another scenario, when an opponent rolls out of the omoplata you’ve just been handed a sweep. Now you’ve got two points and top position with the entanglement still on and full mount just a step away. That is without mentioning that you can still go all the way back to the original attacking position.
Finally, if you’re bored of your opponent thrashing around in the omoplata, you can look to transition out. As mentioned, it’s easy to get a triangle or full mount, but you could also go for a leg lock or obtain back control. The toe hold is readily available, as is while a transition to ashi garami. For a rear naked choke you don’t even have to transition – check out Mackenzie Dern’s special sub.
Key points of execution
So what is the principle behind this diverse position? Well, first of all, it’s the fact that you can reach it from a variety of different positions. The closed guard is the most basic route in, but it is also accessible from half guard, open guard, rubber guard, etc.
With the omoplata, it is all about the hips. Basically, the hips offer both an anchor point for control as well as a power source for sweeping, finishing or transitioning. In terms of structure, the legs need to be triangled with the knees pinched tightly together. This configuration brings about the best control of the position. You can improve control by implementing correct grips, especially on the near leg, which prevents rollovers.
In order to break the opponent’s posture, though, you’ll have to straighten your legs. This is where hip pressure and timing come into play. In order to obtain the optimal position for a lock the opponent need to be flat out on their belly. The straightening of the legs results in the formation of a strong lever that leads the opponent into the desired position. From there, it’s smooth sailing to the finish.
The omoplata is a highly effective position that will improve your game in many aspects. Whether you’re looking for a submission, a way to top position or just tight control, the omoplata is the way to go. Although you might never look as good as Clark Gracie while doing it, you’ll undoubtedly be effective.