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Artechoke in a Can: Troubleshooting the Arm Drag

Matt Kirtley of makes a special appearance in this edition of Artechoke in a Can!

As I continue to have my students drill finishing the rear naked choke from the back, paying particular attention to winning the hand fight that leads to the finish, we are resuming our exploration of paths to the back. Before we leave the arm drag behind, I wanted to cover some re-counters for common defenses to the arm drag from the butt scoot position, which is where most jiu-jiteiros will probably find themselves using the arm drag.

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we have to assume that our opponent will defend, so it would be a disservice for me to teach the arm drag without reviewing tactics for troubleshooting road blocks. Some of these back-up plans still lead to a successful back take, while others have you changing course and pursuing a different position. Which path you can take is dictated by your hip position.

If you have gotten to your side and started making the transition to back control, chances are good that you can use your opponent’s attempt to flatten you out to shrimp him into a back take (demonstrated in the first video). If your hips are flat, however, you should transition to one of the later techniques.

When you find yourself flattened out beneath an attempted arm drag, hip escaping to the point that the back take is a viable option will be very difficult. Your opponent is likely to escape his arm and put you on the bottom of half guard before you ever create enough space to improve your position. With his weight and pressure bearing into you, you simply can’t move fast enough.

But all is not lost. The leg between his legs, the one that would become your first back hook if the arm drag was successful, can turn into a butterfly hook with little effort. Matt Kirtley calls this a stupid little sweep that is surprisingly effect. After I show my application of the move, Kirtley adds some powerful details and shares some insight into how he learned to use this particular sweep.

Lastly, we look at what to do if your opponent shuts down your arm drag very early into its application. In this technique, your opponent hops his foot forward to brace himself instead of pulling you back into the squatting arm drag position. This set up can feel weird to drill, but it happens very frequently during live rolls, and I have had significant success with countering with this sweep.

I learned this sweep from Marcelo Garcia’s book on the x-guard, and it’s been very high-percentage for me. Two details are key: sweep straight backward, not side to side, and hug your opponent’s leg tightly to your chest until his weight is starting to travel over your head. You may also find it helpful to post and push off of your non-hooking foot for additional momentum.

Next week, we will begin exploring taking the back with the switch. The switch will achieve the same advance in position as the arm drag, just in a different way.

Artechoke in a Can is the online version of Marshal D. Carper’s weekly no-gi class. Marshal is a purple belt under Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he is the author of The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques.

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