Shoulder locks: Understand the Kimura, Omoplata & more

The Kimura, Omoplata, Tarikoplata, Baratoplata, Monoplata and Reverse Omoplata are all bjj shoulder locks that internally rotate the shoulder. In this post I explain what they have in common and how they differ.

BJJ shoulder locks: systematic overview

All shoulder locks in jiu jitsu that internally rotate the shoulder (so the Kimura and the Omoplata, but not the Americana, which rotates the shoulder externally), have in common that they push the opponent’s wrist towards his back and pull his elbow in the opposite direction. Because that’s how you internally rotate a shoulder. But how they do so is different for each lock.

The table below illustrates what the different shoulder locks in Brazilian jiu jitsu use to push at the opponent’s wrist and elbow.

Shoulder locksWristElbow
Kimurahandforearm
Omoplatafront hiphamstring
Tarikoplatahamstringforearm
Baratoplatainner thighforearm
Monoplataribsinner thigh
Huizinga roll /
Reverse omoplata
knee pitfront hip

What I like about this overview is that it shows that all these shoulder locks are very similar, despite looking very different. The same similarities can probably be found for all submissions in Brazilian jiu jitsu.

Discovering new submissions?

I’m a firm believer that not all bjj submissions have been discovered yet, and I think tables like the one above give us a systematic way of looking for the undiscovered submissions.

For example, could we try to make the shoulder locks in the following table work?

Shoulder locksWristElbow
Shallow omoplata (this one works)calfankle
Knee slide platakneeforearm
Shallow reverse omoplataheelknee
Reverse monoplata
(facing legs)
armpithip

Further, there’s many different kinds of Americana’s, and some of these are very different from the Kimura-family. Can we draw inspiration from our systematic table of all Americana variations and get the following submissions to work?

Shoulder locksWristElbow
Judo Kimura (from
reverse kesa gatame)
kneepithip
Reverse scorpion death
lock (from back)
armpitbelly
Headplataarmpithead

Obviously, many theoretical candidates for shoulder locks will not work in real life. But, some of them might. For example, the reverse monoplata and Judo Kimura look promising enough that I will give them a try.

More importantly, trying new submissions fosters creative thinking, which I think is underutilized and under practiced in Brazilian jiu jitsu. So even if none of the moves you come up with work, I think you’ll be a better jiu jitsuka for having experimented with them.

Take away: how do shoulder locks work?

So the point of this exercise is not only to discovering new submissions (although I really think it can lead to that). It’s also a useful exercise to understand what makes submissions work, and what makes jiu jitsu work in general.

If nothing else, you learned from this post that you can internally rotate your opponent’s shoulder by pushing his wrist backwards and pulling his elbow in the opposite direction. And you learned that you can use your body in a many different ways to do this.