Armdrag – The Ultimate Research Guide For BJJ, MMA & Wrestling


In my training, I have noticed the prevalence of the armdrag in bjj, wrestling or mma used in setting up various techniques.

Rarely, though, have I received detailed instruction on the armdrag (or arm drag) itself. I got curious about its details and did some research.

Then, I asked myself,

  • How, exactly, is it done, and what does it accomplish?
  • Are there exercises to improve my armdrag?
  • What do I do after the armdrag?

Therefore, these questions guided my research.

After that, I decided to share it with you, the reader, here because I figure other people may have similar questions.

Read more:

What is the ArmDrag In BJJ & MMA?

First at all, The armdrag puts your opponent in a vulnerable position.

Remember: This creates a wide variety of options for you to use as follow up.

Besides, the armdrag is a simple technique that puts you in a strong position and neutralizes a lot of your opponent’s options for attacking you.

The Importance of armdrag In BJJ & mma

In detail, the arm drag accomplishes three major objectives:

  • First, unbalances your opponent.
  • Second, gives you axis control.
  • Third, gives you access to your opponent’s back.

Key Takeaway: Balance is vital. If your opponent is fighting for balance, they aren’t fighting you.

Power generation depends on a solid base.

Without good balance, your opponent doesn’t have a solid base and can’t generate much power.

If you control your opponent’s axis, you can neutralize the effectiveness of their upper body tools. In order to strike you, your opponent must orient to you with good structure.

By controlling your opponent’s axis, you prevent that orientation and, coupled with the diminished power they have from being unbalanced, the armdrag neutralizes a lot of your opponent’s tools and minimizes the risk you face.

If you get behind your opponent, you have a significant positional advantage. You have a wealth of good targets, any of which might quickly shut down your opponent.

How To Do the Basic Arm Drag In BJJ & MMA

1 . Gain Control of Your Opponent’s Wrist:

Mostly, you can gain control of your opponent’s wrist either by grabbing it, or allowing your opponent to grab your wrist. Either way, it places his arm into a position from which you can perform the arm drag.

  • Pro Tip: rather than hunting your opponent’s wrist, which might put you in a vulnerable position, try extending your arm enough to tempt your opponent to grab your wrist.


Let’s me explain.

If your opponent has your wrist, you might still be able to move your arm.

If so, your opponent may follow your motion, in which case you can achieve the armdrag without grabbing your opponent’s wrist at all.

Often, though, you need to get control of your opponent’s wrist.

From their grab, you can use a wrist roll to reverse the situation so you end up grabbing their wrist.

2 . Pu
ll Your Opponent’s Arm Down:


Pull your opponent’s wrist down to isolate their arm and unbalance them.

This also straightens their arm and creates an opening through which you can reach to acquire the grip necessary to accomplish the armdrag.

People often overlook this step and have problems getting their hand into position for a successful arm drag.

3 . Grab Your Opponent’s Triceps:

Armdrag BJJ - Triceps BrachiiArmdrag BJJ - Triceps Brachii

Triceps Brachii

Hook your free hand behind the triceps muscle on your opponent’s isolated arm.

Don’t grab the arm or use grip strength. Instead, form a hook with your hand, thumb tucked against your index finger, and place the hook behind your opponent’s triceps.

  • Pro Tip: reach deep into the armpit to secure a grip high on their triceps. This minimizes their ability to slip free. You might also strike into their armpit, which is painful and might create an even larger opening or open other opportunities.

4 . Drag Your Opponent’s Arm Across Your Body

Drag the arm down and across your body.

If you’re dragging their right arm, for instance, your right hand will grip their right triceps, and you’ll pull it across your body past your right hip.

As you do this, sink your weight into your right leg so you add your mass to the pull rather than just using your arm muscles.

Also, rotate your body rather than pulling your arm back.

Again, this adds mass to the motion.

Pulling with your arm can also cause you to violate your own structure and unbalance yourself.

This could create an opportunity for your opponent to close on you and neutralize, if not overcome, the advantage you sought through the use of the arm drag.

4 Exercises For ArmDrag

  1. Pummeling to arm drag
  2. Reversal to Armdrag
  3. Hand-Fighting to Armdrag
  4. Filipino Higot Hubad Lubad to Arm Drag

1. Pummeling to arm drag

In wrestling, the term “pummeling” applies to the use of your arms and upper body to achieve an advantageous position on your opponent, see the definition here.

A simple exercise is to work the arm drag from the pummeling drill.

In the midst of pummeling, slide your overhooked arm down to gain control of your training partner’s wrist, pull down to unbalance your partner and prevent them from performing their next pummel.

This creates an opening in the timing and an opening in your partner’s structure where you can bring your underhooking arm across to catch the tricep on the arm you have controlled.

Perform the armdrag, unbalance your partner, then reset and begin pummeling again so your training partner can work the arm drag.

See the advanced Judo & Bjj technique here:

2. Reversal to Armdrag

You can expand the previous pummeling drill to include reversals.

  1. When your partner catches your wrist, use that connection to pull their arm down and unbalance them.
  2. Release your overhook, shoot across your body, and acquire the armdrag position on your partner.

This turns the basic pummeling to armdrag drill into a controlled spar where you try to get the armdrag before your partner can reverse it.

And this will inevitably lead to “hand-fighting.”

3. Hand-Fighting to Armdrag

Hand-fighting a free-form sparring game used in wrestling to develop skills useful for getting past your opponent’s upper body defenses and get to an advantageous position.

Use free-form hand-fighting as a platform to find the arm drag. This allows you to work a variety of tools while still focusing on developing your armdrag.

Pro Tip: in wrestling, hand-fighting is a way to gain an advantageous position, but in the Filipino arts, the same hand-fighting play can be used to train weapon retention. You can use hand-fighting techniques to prevent an opponent from getting control of your weapon.​

4. Filipino Higot Hubad Lubad to Arm Drag

In the Filipino martial arts, “higot hubad lubad” is a common set of drills. Commonly, it is referred to simply as “hubad lubad” or just “hubad.”

There are quite a few variations including forehand, backhand, straight punch, elbows, uppercuts, and the lower body tools like knees and kicks can also be incorporated.

Since this isn’t an article about hubad, we won’t go into detail on all those variations.

We’ll use the forehand hubad as shown in the linked video. It has 3 basic elements:

  • Stop their incoming attack
  • Raise their arm so it passes over your head
  • Trap their arm down and fire your own attack

Assuming you’re doing hubad on the right side, as shown in the linked video, you can do these steps:

  1. After you raise their arm, you can continue the motion with your right hand to bring their arm down,
  2. Catch their wrist with your left hand,
  3. Pull their arm down to unbalance them,
  4. And shoot your right hand into position for the armdrag.
  5. Perform the arm drag,
  6. Pivot to fol
    low their motion, Shift your left hand to their elbow,
  7. Resume the hubad exercise.

5. A Common Question

Armdrag in BJJArmdrag in BJJ

A common question is,

When you bring their right down to your left, what if they hit you with their left hand?

This is a valid question but here are things to consider.

  • This arm drag exercises allows you to practice the arm drag in wrestling, bjj and mma from a more dynamic platform than starting from stationary.
  • Even in a sparring or fighting situation, your opponent will be committed to the strike for a moment.
    You’re just redirecting the energy they’re giving. As such, their window of opportunity to strike with their left is small.
  • In spite of the small window, they might be able to fire the left. Knowing the hole is there means you can keep an eye on it.
    If they throw the left, you can intercept it with your right instead of shooting your right under their right arm.
    If you have already shot your right hand under their arm, you can move in tight and tuck your head against their right shoulder so their left strike either passes behind you, or hits something less vital than your face.

What Next? 9 Follow Up Options

  1. Hyperextension
  2. Forward Sweep
  3. Double Leg Takedown
  4. Inside Trip (Kouchi Gake)
  5. D’Arce Choke
  6. Sweep from Guard
  7. Striking Targets from the Back
  8. Use Opponent as a Shield

1. Hyperextension

One of the first things to notice is, when you pull your opponent’s right arm across you, extend your left hand to hyperextend the isolated arm. This can injure your opponent’s arm, and it can cause a minor whiplash effect on your opponent’s neck.

If your opponent has a weapon, such as a knife, in their right hand the hyperextension might cause them to drop the weapon. It’s not guaranteed, but it is a high probability. While this might not be the best option as a knife defense, it is a valid one.

Pro Tip: the tricep tendon, which connects the tricep muscle to the elbow joint, is a sweet spot for hyperextension. Make sure to cut into this tendon with your hooking hand.

2. Forward Sweep

In Silat, this sweep is called a “sapu dalam.”

  • After unbalancing the opponent with the arm drag, sink your weight into your hooking hand to place an “anchor”.
  • The anchor directs where your opponent goes when you sweep their leg.

Pro Tip: send your anchor down, not out. There may be situational reasons to direct your opponent in some direction other than down but, generally, the reason you sweep is to put your opponent on the ground.

  • Once you have unbalanced your opponent and anchored their arm, kick their leg out from under them. This will likely cause your opponent to fall face-first toward the ground.
  • At the very least, it will send your opponent stumbling and provide you with the opportunity to launch other followup attacks, deal with another aggressor, draw a weapon, or exit the situation entirely.

3. Double Leg Takedown

The arm drag exposes the opponent’s side to you and provides a great set up for a double leg takedown. You can see a example here

  • After the armdrag, drop low, put your lead foot between your opponent’s feet, and push off with your rear foot to drive deeply into your opponent’s structure.
  • Wrap your arms around your opponent’s legs and place your hands below your opponent’s knees.

Pro Tip: place your head hard against your opponent’s hip to give yourself good leverage and minimize your opponent’s ability to catch your head in a choke or neck crank.

  • Bring your rear foot up to the outside of your opponent’s lead leg and drive through your opponent.
  • Your hands on the back of your opponent’s legs will prevent them from stepping back to catch their balance, and they will hit the ground pretty quickly.

4. Inside Trip (Kouchi Gake)

This armdrag takedown works well against bigger, stronger opponents because it incorporates a low, strong base with a lot of mass, moved by large muscle groups, directly against your opponent’s leg.

  • After the armdrag, step between your opponent’s legs with your lead leg.
  • Step deep and place your lead knee on the ground with your shin and top of your foot flat. In yoga, this position is part of the “Pigeon Pose”.
  • Place your chest against your opponent’s lead leg and drive through.

This arm drag takedown puts you into a strong position, from which you can often gain mount.

5. D’Arce Choke

D’Arce choke, named after Joe D’Arce, a third-degree black belt under Renzo Gracie, is done by shooting your arm under your opponent’s arm and neck.

The armdrag is a great set up for this choke because it provides the opening under your opponent’s arm you need to shoot through for the choke.

  • Let’s say you hook your opponent’s left arm with your left hand and pull the arm drag across your body to your left.
  • Shoot your right hand through your opponent’s left armpit, all the way past your opponent’s neck, and up.
  • From there, extend your left arm behind your opponent’s head and clasp your left bicep with your right hand and cinch down.

Pro Tip: as you shoot your arm behind your opponent’s head, bear down with it to firmly seat their neck into the crook of your arm.

To apply the choke, either pull your opponent into you and squeeze, or drive the opponent to his left, where they have no arm to base.

Drive forward to put your body weight onto them and finish the choke.

6. Sweep from Guard

The armdrag, done slightly differently in the video below, can also unbalance your opponent when they’re in your guard.

  • This balance disruption can be used to initiate a sweep to put you into the mount position.
  • Assuming you hooked your opponent’s right arm and dragged it across your chest, reach behind your opponent with your left hand as far as you can, ideally into your opponent’s left armpit.
  • Set your left foot on the ground outside your opponent’s legs and use it as a lever to roll to your left while pressing up with your right leg.

This rolls your opponent to his back, brings you to a mounted position. This also pins your opponent’s right arm between your chest and theirs.

The armdrag provides ready access to your opponent’s back.

  • Getting to your opponent’s back opens a lot of targets for you. One of the big options from your opponent’s back is the rear naked choke.
  • If you have dragged your opponent’s right arm, slide behind and wrap your left around your opponent’s neck.
  • Make sure to get the crook of your elbow beneath your opponent’s chin.
  • Place your left hand on your right bicep and slide your right hand behind your opponent’s head to complete the choke.

Pro Tip: if you clench your right hand into a fist behind your opponent’s head, you minimize the risk of your opponent getting hold of your fingers, and the fist increases the pressure on the choke.

8. Striking Targets from the Back

Other options once you reach your opponent’s back include striking the base of the occipital bone, known as Gall Bladder 20 in Chinese medicine and martial arts.

A sharp strike to this area has a high probability to cause a knock out.

The kidney is another prime target once you get to your opponent’s back.

A good punch to the kidney will cause your opponent’s lower back muscles to clench in an effort to protect the kidney.

This will put your opponent in a very vulnerable position and usually expose your opponent’s neck, which can be a good set up to get to the rear naked choke.

9. Use Opponent as a Shield

A useful strategy when dealing with multiple opponents is to get one opponent between you and the other opponents.

You can use an armdrag to get to one opponent’s back then catch the opponent in, for instance, a rear naked choke and use the opponent as a shield against incoming attacks from other opponents.

You might also use the opponent’s vulnerable structure and lack of balance to shove them toward other opponents.

Key Takeaway: This tactic can create an opening to improve your own situation by getting to an exit, getting to a weapon, or buying time until your own reinforcements can arrive to help you.

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I hope you have enjoyed this post.

The armdrag is beautiful in its simplicity.

As discussed, it creates vulnerabilities in your opponent’s structure that you can exploit in a variety of ways.

The arm drag can give you the opportunity for sweeps, locks, chokes, strikes, and more. It can be a powerful tool in your kit. Work it slow and ingrain the feeling of it through high repetition so it will serve you when you need it.

You should find the armdrag useful in your own training or even self-defense, regardless of your background.

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