Photo via Sherdog
Shinya Aoki's use of a modified hammerlock to break the arm of Mizuto Hirota at Dynamite!! 2009 was much discussed, mostly because of the controversy that arose from Aoki's decision to taunt the injured Hirota after breaking his arm.
But the discussion of the technique that Aoki applied has been utterly neglected. I'm going to rectify that here.
First let's see what Aoki himself had to say about the move. From Sherdog:
"Let's name it 'Keichi Sasahara 2010.' Because Sasahara told me to take him out, so I went and did just that, and that's why I figure I should name it after him." -- Shinya Aoki, christening his hammerlock submission after his "boss."
And what is a hammerlock exactly and why don't we see more of them in MMA?
A hammerlock is a shoulder lock similar to the kimura lock where the opponent's arm is held bent against their back, and their hand forced upwards towards the neck, thereby applying pressure to the shoulder joint. The hammerlock is well-known as a pain compliance hold in law-enforcement where it is typically used from a stand-up position to control an aggressor, and is also utilized in the application of handcuffs. It is also sometimes seen used as a submission hold in submission wrestling arts.In the full entry, we'll look at some gifs and hear from some of the old school catch wrestlers who used the hammerlock as a key part of their submission arsenal.
Aoki's innovative use of a technique more often associated with police brutality than modern day submission grappling shows why so many consider him the most creative grappler in MMA today.
Gifs by Chris Nelson
On the right we see the moment that began Hirota's down fall. Aoki has taken him down and has his right leg wrapped around both of Hirota's legs around the knees and his left leg wrapped around Hirota's ankles like a brightly colored python climbing towards the head of its prey. Then he grabs Hirota's right wrist with his left hand. Hirota's wrist won't be free again until after the end of the fight.
I'd love to hear from people who have ideas for how Hirota should've escaped from here. If escape was even possible at this point.
On the right we see Aoki use that control he's got over Hirota's right arm to climb past Hirota's knees and into full mount. Once Aoki has positional dominance plus his opponent's arm trapped behind his back, Hirota is truly in deep waters.
From here Hirota has literally zero options. I'm curious as to whether Aoki could've finished the submission from this position by reaching down with his left hand and grabbing the wrist to apply the hammerlock.
He's throwing a nasty elbow to the shoulderblade of Hirota and was mixing in punches to the face as well. This is consistent with the philosophy of fighting that Aoki articulated in a recent Kamipro article he wrote, translated by Gryphon, via Head Kick Legend:
it is united technic of submission, sweep,and stand.....We need groud technic to stand again. Do you know it?..........Sorry I can not explain it perfectly,,,it....I want to say "MMA IS MMA."MMA is not "striking + Ground"...so , it is called as MMA!!
On the left is the moment that Hirota, tired of being battered to the face, decides to give up his back. That's never a happy decision to have to make and it won't end well. Note that Aoki almost immediately works to lock in a figure four body lock with his legs.
To learn more about the old days of catch wrestling -- back when submissions were a key part of professional wrestling and the bouts were actually sporting contests, I highly recommend tracking down Mark Hewitt’s Catch Wrestling an excellent history of the glory days of the sport -- with several chapters discussion Japanese grappling pioneers who brought their judo and jiu jitsu games to the U.S. and competed with the wrestlers here.
Look at the pictures while we hear from some of the legends of old time catch wrestling talking about their approaches to the hammerlock.
There are several varieties of the hammerlock. The hold is usually secured when working over an opponent on the mat. The aggressor reaches inside the left arm of his opponent and grasps his hand with his own right hand if working on the left side. The attacker also grasps his opponent`s fingers with his left hand. He works the imprisoned hand up and back, using the leverage thus obtained to accomplish his purpose. When the imprisoned member is pulled back, the grip may be retained with one of the attacker`s hands and a waistlock added to force the hand towards the shoulder blades.
The hammerlock is usually secured in conjunction with some other hold. A hammerlock and grapevine or a hammerlock and crotch (hold) are very effective combinations, but not easy to secure on strong opponents.
Note that Gotch mentions nothing about using the legs to wrap around the opponents hips. That kind of positional control using the legs really originates with Helio Gracie as far as I can tell. It was certainly alien to catch-wrestling.
The Hammerlock, pure and simple, is nothing more nor less than a punishing hold, and if applied "with the bar on, i.e. with the interposition of an arm, over which the locked mans arm is bent, the man so attacked must either turn over on to his shoulders, or incur the risk of a broken or dislocated arm, supposing him to be unable to extricate his arm.
Here's a photo of Hackenschmidt applying the hammerlock and using what he calls a Further Shoulder Hold and Arm Across the Back to control the opponent.
Here's Hackenschmidt showing off a version of the hammerlock Itthat is really a nasty twist. It was banned in catch wrestling matches in those days because of the potential for injury.
Note how he's using his right leg to control the opponent with a grapevine.
This is some very effective grappling, but you can see why Helio Gracie's creation of a system of grappling based around use of both legs wrapped around the opponent's waist to establish and maintain positional control was such a big innovation.
The guard/mount position that is the basis of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu wasn't appealing to wrestlers because of the importance of pin falls in wrestling matches. It's too easy to get rolled over from mount and if you're in guard you're basically pinned and the match is over.
In the comments, BE reader Mr Pants points out that Aoki's hammerlock from back mount wouldn't be out of place in folk style wrestling: