Join Date: May 2006
Location: New York City, New York
Grappling for MMA: Hammerlock
I meant to do this a while ago, but I've been slow. This term "Hammerlock" is actually based on the use of the term provided by Ken Shamrock in Inside the Lion's Den in the techniques section. I recommend the book to anyone interested in the history and the techniques of the old guard of MMA.
There are no hyperlinks in this one. If people need clarification, I'm happy to give it.
The Hammer Lock (different in MMA than the oldschool wresting) is one of the least utilized grips for setting up the armbar. Itís well known for being used to set up the kimura shoulderlock, but the actual control position, beyond just the attempt of the kimura, is only used by those who feel the need for a great deal of control. You donít need the control of the body required to finish a kimura to make use of the Hammer Lock, as it can be used to feed into armbars and triangles from lots of angles.
So itís worth walking through a couple of positions where we can get use out of the Hammer Lock as a way of controlling the armbar.
NOTE: The Hammerlock is just my name for the kimura hand grip. I use it because when I'm coaching and I shout "kimura" the fighter thinks of the technique. Hammerlocks can be utilized from dozens of different positions and, as a result, I don't want to confuse the fighter by making them attempt a technique or think they should, when that's not what I'm saying at all.
Let's start with attacking the kimura from side control.
I find that a lot of people get very frustrated when their opponent grabs the belt and they canít get the shoulder lock in. There are others who donít really like the kimura from that position, as they find the armbar setup that comes from the control works a lot better.
To secure a Hammer Lock and establish control of the arm, itís necessary to let your opponent have some room so that they can let their far shoulder (which you are controlling) up off of the mat. Without letting go of the kimura grip, from the chest-to-chest position, come back to the knees to give your opponent enough space to pop up.
When they start to roll into you, keep the hips low and step over the head with the top leg. This is the leg that will be over the chest if you choose to finish a standard armbar (though, itís not necessary, and itís possible to finish with the knee in armbar, if you want to end it quickly).
Now, with the leg of the head, it becomes a lot easier to crank the kimura with the lock in, but the armbar can be set up easily from here by turning the chest towards the elbow of your opponent and turning that back leg over so that the knee is facing the ceiling instead of the floor.
You can choose to swing the bottom leg over or not, to finish the armbar. If you are going full speed, you may not have the time, but if you can, it will give you more control to prevent your opponent from rolling over.
Your opponent is definitely going to fight the submission, but if you keep the Hammer Lock tight, there are various ways you can pop the arm free and finish. You have substantial control of the arm from here and if you choose to slow the pace down upon securing the armbar/Hammer Lock position, thatís a good way to make sure you maintain the position and eventually get the tapout.
The setup from a traditional over-under back control is simple. Secure the underhook tightly underneath your opponentís arm before giving up the overhook. Reach the overhook to the other side of your opponentís head and secure their wrist. Then put the underhooking hand on the wrist of your gripping hand. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is.
Thereís a perpetual worry of losing control of the back from this position, thatís why itís important to make sure youíve developed really strong hooks. Learning to use the legs to control the back position is incredibly important. Clinging to the back is a great way to win a jiu-jitsu match, but in MMA itís not great. You might win a decision, but you just look like a guy who canít finish, and nobody liked that guy.
Itís actually alright to lose the legs from this position, so donít be too worried. If they do shake you off, keep control of the hammerlock and lock your legs in guard. Having good leg mobility makes this easy, just make sure they donít pass your guard and youíve already got a kimura locked up.
That said, when youíve got the grip on the arm, swing the leg on the same side as the arm youíre attacking across your opponentís waste. If youíre on the bottom while controlling the back (which is to say, if you opponent is on top of you, as opposed to being on top of a turtled opponent), then they should fall back on the floor and you can quickly slip your leg over the head to secure the Hammer Lock position, if theyíre gripping their hand or their gi, or the armbar if theyíve forgotten.
Securing that lock on the arm beforehand makes it much, much easier to control the arm, especially if youíre trying to attack a turtled opponent. Obviously, this is much riskier, but I recommend using the top foot as a hook to attempt to roll your opponent over, if youíre athletic.
If youíre not, then secure control of the arm, use that same-side hook (which you would have shot across had this been a more controlled position) to lift their leg by hooking inside of the kneecap with your foot and roll towards the side of the arm that you are not attacking. This should open up the arm.
Have your top leg ready if you are rolling back, as they will almost certainly try to get on top. Put the top leg over the face and secure the armbar.
NOTE: When securing the armbar, part of what makes the Hammer Lock so effective is that it requires you to keep your hips above the elbow, which makes the armbar incredibly easy to finish, and it keeps your opponent from pulling the elbow out, which makes it much more dangerous.
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