The Kneebar Blueprint: Building Expertise with Elite Tips and Tricks

The kneebar is a highly effective submission technique in various grappling disciplines, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission wrestling. It targets the knee joint, applying pressure to create discomfort and potential injury if the opponent fails to defend or tap out. 

The kneebar involves isolating the opponent’s leg, securing control, and applying leverage to hyperextend the knee joint, forcing them to submit. A solid understanding of the kneebar allows grapplers to diversify their submission arsenal and adapt to different situations during training and competitions.

  1. Control the leg: Begin by controlling your opponent’s leg, securing a firm grip on their foot or ankle. This grip will prevent them from retracting their leg and escaping the submission.
  2. Isolate the leg: Create separation between the targeted leg and your opponent’s other leg by using your body and positioning. This isolation is crucial for maximizing the effectiveness of the kneebar.
  3. Establish proper body positioning: Position yourself perpendicular to your opponent’s leg, with your hips aligned with their knee joint. This alignment allows you to apply leverage more effectively and increases the pressure on your knee.
  4. Create the angle: While maintaining control of the leg, shift your body to the opposite side of the targeted leg. This angle enhances your ability to apply torque on the knee joint.
  5. Apply the kneebar: With the established angle, use both hands to secure a grip on your wrist or forearm, forming a figure-four configuration. Apply pressure by extending your hips and squeezing your legs together, gradually hyperextending the knee joint. Communicate with your training partner and ensure they tap out or verbally submit to prevent injury.

Proper body positioning and grip placement for maximum effectiveness

Proper body positioning and grip placement are vital for maximizing the effectiveness of the kneebar technique. Consider the following guidelines:


  1. Body positioning: Maintain a perpendicular alignment to your opponent’s leg, ensuring your hips align with their knee joint. This positioning allows you to generate leverage and apply pressure in a way that targets the knee effectively.
  2. Grip placement: Secure a strong grip on your opponent’s foot or ankle, preventing them from escaping or retracting their leg. Also, establish a firm grip on your wrist or forearm to create the figure-four configuration. This grip provides stability and control during the execution of the kneebar.

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

  1. Insufficient control: Failing to establish and maintain control of your opponent’s leg can lead to escapes or the loss of the submission. Ensure a firm grip on the foot or ankle throughout the execution of the kneebar.
  2. Poor body positioning: Incorrect alignment or misplacement of your body in relation to your opponent’s leg can reduce the effectiveness of the kneebar. Stay perpendicular to the leg and align your hips with the knee joint for optimal leverage and pressure.
  3. Lack of communication: Clear communication with your training partner is essential during the execution of the kneebar. Ensure they understand the submission and are prepared to tap out or verbally submit when they feel discomfort or pressure on their knee joint.
  4. Overly aggressive pressure: Applying excessive force or pressure without proper control or technique can lead to injury. Gradually increase pressure and be mindful of your training partner’s comfort and safety.

Applications of the Kneebar

  1. Guard Passing Defense: When an opponent attempts to pass your guard, you can capitalize on their leg positioning and secure a kneebar submission. This can occur when they expose their leg while transitioning or apply pressure with their hips, leaving their knee vulnerable to attack.
  2. Scrambles and Transitions: During fast-paced scrambles or transitions, opponents may inadvertently expose their legs, allowing them to catch them in a kneebar. You can swiftly secure the submission by capitalizing on their movements and timing.
  3. Opponent’s Failed Takedown Attempts: When an opponent initiates a takedown but fails to execute it successfully, their leg can be susceptible to a kneebar. You can turn their failed takedown into a submission opportunity by reacting quickly and securing control of their leg.

Using the kneebar as a control and sweeping technique

The kneebar can be utilized as both a submission and a control technique, allowing you to maintain dominance over your opponent and set up sweeps. Here are a few ways you can use the kneebar as a control and sweeping technique:


  1. Leg Control: Even if you cannot secure the submission, applying the kneebar can enable you to control your opponent’s leg effectively. Maintaining control of their leg limits their mobility and restricts their options, giving them an advantage in the grappling exchange.
  2. Transition to Mount or Back Control: The kneebar can be a gateway to superior positions such as a mount or back control. By transitioning smoothly from the kneebar, you can capitalize on your opponent’s defensive reactions and quickly secure a dominant position.
  3. Sweeps: While attempting a kneebar, your opponent may counter or defend by posture or leaning back. You can exploit this by transitioning into a sweep, using their reaction to destabilize them and reverse the position.

Kneebar Setups from Takedowns and Transitions

The kneebar can be set up effectively from various takedowns and transitions, providing grapplers opportunities to catch their opponents off guard. Here are a few common setups for the kneebar:

  1. Single-Leg Takedown: As you initiate a single-leg takedown on your opponent, their defense or attempted escape can create an opening for a kneebar. By quickly adjusting your grip and transitioning to their leg, you can capitalize on their movements and secure the submission.
  2. Ankle Pick: You can anticipate your opponent’s response when executing an ankle pick takedown. If they defend by extending their leg, it can create an opportunity for a kneebar setup. Maintain control of their leg and smoothly transition to secure the submission.
  3. Guard Pass: While attempting to pass your opponent’s guard, their reactions and movements can lead to kneebar setups. You can transition into a kneebar position and secure the submission by capitalizing on their attempts to defend or counter your guard pass.

Similar Articles


The kneebar is a versatile submission that can be executed from various positions, such as guard, transitions, and takedowns. Its effectiveness lies in its ability to target the knee joint, applying pressure and potentially leading to a submission or control advantage. 

By understanding the mechanics and proper execution of the kneebar, practitioners can enhance their ability to secure submissions and control their opponents.

Mastering the kneebar is valuable for grapplers looking to expand their submission arsenal and increase their effectiveness on the mat. This article explores the kneebar technique’s variations, applications, and defense strategies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Are kneebar submissions dangerous?

A. The kneebar can be dangerous if applied incorrectly or resisted by the person caught in the submission. When executed with excessive force or without proper control, the kneebar can cause serious injuries to the knee joint. Training and applying the kneebar responsibly is crucial, as respecting your training partner’s safety and tapping early to prevent damage.

Q. Can I learn the kneebar as a beginner grappler?

A. The kneebar can be an advanced submission technique. Still, learning and practicing it as a beginner grappler is possible. However, receiving proper instruction from experienced instructors and gradually progressing in complexity and intensity is important. Focus on mastering fundamental techniques and building a strong foundation before delving into more advanced submissions like the kneebar.

Q. How can I improve my defense against kneebar submissions?

A. Improving your defense against kneebar submissions requires a combination of technical knowledge and situational awareness. Some key tips for improving your defense include understanding proper leg positioning, grip fighting to prevent your opponent from securing control and recognizing the signs of a kneebar setup. Regular drilling, sparring, and seeking guidance from experienced instructors can help you develop effective defense strategies.

Q. Can I use the kneebar in self-defense situations?

A. The kneebar is an effective submission technique in grappling competitions. Still, its applicability in self-defense situations may be limited. In a self-defense scenario, the primary focus should be escaping and neutralizing the threat rather than seeking to apply submissions. It is important to remember that self-defense should prioritize avoiding harm and protecting yourself rather than attempting complex techniques.

Q. Are there any common mistakes to avoid when executing the kneebar?

A. Yes, there are common mistakes that grapplers should avoid when executing the kneebar. These include using excessive force, neglecting proper control and alignment, relying solely on strength rather than technique, and failing to secure appropriate grips and positioning. It is crucial to receive adequate instruction and practice with control and precision to minimize the risk of injury and maximize the effectiveness of the kneebar.

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