Arwen Sheridan: A Brief History of the Kimura technique

As I recovered from the adrenaline hangover induced by Clan Wars 33, I found myself eager to continue my MMA education.  This week I took the opportunity to take a closer look at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and specifically Kimura.

Of course, in my initial search I mis-spelled it as Kimora which yielded some peculiar results (more BJ than BJJ and definitely NSFW!)

Kimura, a double joint arm lock, is used in many martial arts where it might also be called a hammerlock, a chickenwing, or ude-garami.  Although iterations of it can be traced back to the 12th Century, Kimura, as it is known today, was first seen in 1951. When Masahiko Kimura, who it is named after, used the move to defeat Helio Gracie.

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In lay man’s terms, Kimura involves looping your arm under your opponent’s arm so that his bicep rests in your elbow.  You then hook the outside of your opponent’s wrist with the opposite hand, and hook your own wrist with your other hand, essentially crossing your arms at the wrist.

The closer you can bring your opponents wrist to their shoulder the more effective the trap will be.  From here you can use the Kimura to dislocate your opponent’s shoulder, tear his rotator cuff or even break his arm.

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The Kimura is an extremely painful and effective man-oeuvre, so I was surprised to discover that it is one of the least common submissions in the UFC.

One notable exception to this occurred in UFC 140, when Frank Mir used it to defeat Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, 3 minutes and 38 seconds into the first round.  The submission was against the run of play. In fact, Joe Rogan said in commentary “Frank is out.”

Coming into this 2011 fight Nogueira had won a staggering 20 fights via submission, and both men had been described as the “premier heavyweight submission specialists.”  This time it was Nogueira who tapped, but not before his humerus was fractured. Something I could have done without seeing.

I had the pleasure of seeing another horrific injury by Kimura when I watched Kazushi Sakuraba take on Renzo Gracie in Pride 10.  Sakuraba defeated Gracie well into the last minute of the fight, when he dislocated his opponent’s elbow using kimura. This time Gracie did not tap, and the fight was ended when the referee noticed the injury to his arm.

As I watched video after video of Kimura submissions, especially from full guard, it struck me that this is exactly the position a woman would find herself if she was unlucky enough to be the victim of a sexual assault.

I am all of 5’1” and 130lbs, so I am in no doubt that most men would have a size and strength advantage over me (just one of the reasons I rarely leave home without my German shepherd.)  It occurred to me when researching this piece that learning the kimura would definitely help tip the scales in my favour!

This has really inspired me to find a BJJ gym and go and do some training!  I am not a violent person by nature, in fact I joined a karate club in my early 30’s only to leave because they wanted me to hit people.  However, as I take this journey into the world of MMA, I am gaining a new respect and appreciation for the level of skill these athletes possess.

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Kimura is only one of dozens of submissions MMA athletes have in their wheel house.  While it is one thing to learn these techniques and be able to execute them in training, it is quite another to be able to implement them under the lights of the Octagon.  When you consider it takes practicing a movement 500 times for muscle memory be established, you can imagine how many hours of training must be required.

My closing thoughts on Kimura are thus.  If you are in the cage and your opponent executes this submission, for the love of God tap, BEFORE you end up in A&E.  If on the other hand you are called upon to use Kimura in the real world, break his fucking arm.

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