Understanding Shoulder Locks 2: Americana’s & More

Americana’s and Americana variations are quite common in Brazilian jiu jitsu and MMA. In this post I explain how these shoulder lock submissions work and how we can discover more variations.

External shoulder locks: a systematic overview

External shoulder locks are all the Americana-style submissions (but not the Kimura-style submissions, which rotate the shoulder internally). What these submissions have in common is that they lift the elbow while pushing down on the wrist and the shoulder. But, they do so in different ways.

This table gives a systematic overview of what each external shoulder lock uses to push on the wrist, elbow and shoulder of the opponent.

(If you don’t know some of these submissions, check out my list of all BJJ submissions; they’re all in there.)

Shoulder lockWristElbowShoulder
Americanahandelbowmat
Scorpion death lockarmpitbellyleg
Mir lockarmpitelbowleg
Standing Americanaarmpitelbow(nothing)
Monoplata variationribsfront hipfoot
Judo Americanaknee pithiptorso

This table helps you understand how the external shoulder locks work. This can help us to discover new submissions (more on this later). But, it can also help us come up with new escapes to this kind of submissions (because now we know you can always try to break the control on the wrist, elbow or shoulder). And it can help you troubleshoot when your submissions isn’t working.

Discovering more Americana variations?

Using this systematic overview we can think about filling in the table further. Can we fit other things behind our opponent’s wrist, elbow and shoulder to create a new Americana-style submission?

Especially, can we draw inspiration from the table of external shoulder locks (Kimura’s and more)? There we see that we use our inner thighs and knee pits much more often to control our opponent.

For example, would any of these new submissions work?

Shoulder lockWristElbowShoulder
Barato-canainner thighforearmmat
Tariko-canahamstringforearmmat

Take-away: How to shoulder lock in BJJ?

This systematic overview of Americana variations helps us to understand how external shoulder locks work. This can help us to invent new submissions and escapes.

If nothing else, it should have helped you to understand that an external shoulder lock requires control of the wrist, elbow and shoulder, and that you can use your body in many different ways to do this.