Arm Attack (Armbar) from Active Knees and Climbing Guard Method

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By Thiago Willems Scalco


In this article, Tiago introduces us to a step-by-step guard setup he has developed. Used to control and attack opponents effectively, the method begins with the safe pulling of an opponent into the closed guard. The closed guard consists of interlacing the legs and closing a “lock” with the feet on the opponent’s waist. He also demonstrates how to pull an opponent into closedguard from a standing position; which is useful for most MMA and championship fights as they tend to begin with combatants standing up.

Employing this methodology, the match can begin with the “bottom player” controlling the opponent with his legs. The method of “Active Knees” is different from traditional guards in that the legs and feet are positioned in unique ways.

There are 3 steps: 

(1) Pull or jump guard from a standing position

(2) Adjust to the Active Knees method

(3) Climb the Guard and make the arm attack to finish the opponent.Jumping Guard From a Standing Position.

Jumping Guard From a Standing Position:

  1. The fight starts with both players standing up.
  2. Grab the opponent with your arms parallel to each other, with one hand on the lapel (lapela in Portuguese) and the other hand gripping the opponent’s kimono sleeve.
  3. Jump and interlace the legs at the opponent’s waist, crossing the feet to close the traditional guard.
  4. The jump causes the opponent to become imbalanced as he is trapped in the guard, leading him to sit with both knees on the floor sitting on his heels.
  5. Keep the “lock” closed with the feet crossed, working the traditional closed guard.
  6. Keep your grip firm.

Leg Movement and Active Knees Concept:

  1. The bottom player is positioned on his back in closed guard. The bottom player uncrosses the feet, releases the “lock” and moves his left foot to the opponent’s hip, with the knee of that same leg pressed against the opponent’s body.
  2. The bottom player places his right calf on the opponent’s back, creating pressure with the leg to control the opponent’s posture, starting the “Active Knees” technique.
  3. With the bottom player’s legs correctly positioned, his grip change. His left hand makes a parallel grip on the opponent’s kimono collar. This grip should be done with the thumb in and deep towards the back of your opponent’s neck and the elbow closing in. The right hand controls the opponent’s arm by making a cross-grip and grabbing the kimono with 4 fingers inward, with the grip on his elbow line.
  4. This method provides more effective control of the opponent to limit his balance and ability to sweep the bottom player. This “Active Knees” technique opens several possibilities to submit the opponent.

Submit the Opponent from the “Climbing Guard”:

  1. The next step is to “Climb the Guard” with the “active knees” control. The bottom player moves his hip to the left side, towards the opponent’s arm being controlled. To further limit the opponent’s balance, the legs apply pressure to make it easier to move the next step.
  2. After breaking the opponent’s posture, place the left leg over his shoulder by pressing the thigh down. The right leg continues to wrap around the opponent’s waist but adjusts a bit higher on the opponent’s upper back and intertwine your legs, locking your feet. These leg movements must occur simultaneously.
  3. With the legs locked on the opponent, use the legs to apply pressure (one leg over the shoulder and the other toward the opponent’s armpit).
  4. This leaves the opponent with his whole trunk and both arms trapped inside the bottom player’s legs (guard), leaving him more exposed and facilitating the submission.
  5. Pass the left leg over the opponent’s head and keep the hips high so that he cannot gain side control and apply top pressure or otherwise escape the guard.
  6. The legs apply downward pressure as the hips lift and are thrown up to pull the opponent’s arm down to make the lever and submit him by armbar.

Traditional Closed Guard:

Traditional closed guard consists of keeping the legs locked and the feet interlaced at all times.

Active Knees and Climbing Guard Method:

With this method of leg positioning, the bottom player can achieve far more mobility and effectiveness for submitting opponents or gaining dominant positions.


Tiago Willems Scalco, born in Guaíba, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, is a renowned Jiu Jitsu Black Belt. He has carved his name as a legend within the sport, having won some of the most

important titles in the international landscape. He is also acclaimed for his coaching skills, having produced top talent, as an instructor of the first Guetho Jiu Jitsu affiliate in his hometown of Guaíba.

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