The americana lock, also known as the bent armlock, keylock, top wristlock and figure four armlock in catch wrestling, or ude garami in judo, is a common grappling submission consisting of the attacker controlling his opponent’s arm (bent in an “L” shape), by using a clever double wrist control which leaves the adversary’s elbow and shoulder joints vulnerable to the submission. The position is commonly associated with the side mount (side control), being applied by the grappler on top, although it can be successfully utilized from many other positions. The difference between the americana and the kimura lock relies on which way the forearm is pointing, if the forearm is pointing downwards (towards the hip) the position is called a kimura, when the forearm is pointing up it is called an americana.
This lock was utilized in Brazilian jiu jitsu before the birth of Bob Anderson. The terminology “americana” was also used in Rio de Janeiro for the “figure four” type submissions (ude garami) since the early beginnings of the martial art. In fact the name is mentioned in 1951 to describe Masahiko Kimura’s victory over Helio Gracie. The newspaper Diário de Noticias wrote at the time:
He [Kimura] inflicted severe punishment, even drawing blood. The decisive technique was the Americana Lock (…) – Diário de Noticias 24-10-1951
The technique utilized was in fact the reverse americana, now called kimura. But it perfectly illustrates that the term “americana” already circulated within the Rio de Janeiro jiu jitsu community during the 1950s.
The History of the Americana Lock in Jiu Jitsu
BJJ Heroes tried to ascertain the origin of the americana submission, however, the senior masters interviewed for this piece could not provide any information regarding this matter, only that the position was already part of the jiu jitsu curriculum during the 1950s and 1960s. Much like the kimura lock, the americana seems to have originated from either judo or catch as catch can wrestling in the early 20th century, making it’s way to jiu jitsu in Brazil by way of japanese judoka’s and foreign catch wrestlers who traveled through the country in pro wrestling tours. The latter could prove to be at the origin of the name, since a few of these touring pro-wrestlers were american, and could have very well taught the locals the technique, which was common practice at the time. The point that this particular position was passed on by Americans to the jiu jitsu community is mere speculation at this moment, as there is no concrete evidence to accredit our statement.
Frederico de Almeida Americana position (by BJJ Club)
Jeff Monson vs Sergey Shemetov
Gabrielle Garcia vs Venla Luukkonen