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Joint locks in judo must nominally be on the elbow joint only. Ude garami, translated as the entangled arm lock and with variants are known as the Kimura or Americana in BJJ, often affects the shoulder joint. This also seems to depend upon the flexibility of the person on the receiving end. Ude garami is a legal technique even if it affects only the shoulder because referees cannot tell which joint is being affected.

Is there a way to perform ude garami against a bent arm such that it reliably affects only the elbow joint and not the shoulder?

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While "reliably" may be disputable, the main means to make the bent-arm variant (from mune-gatame, i.e. not the classic kimura with uke's wrist behind her back, although the principles mostly apply) work on the elbow is torque:

First, pull the arm (elbow and wrist) as close to yourself (uke's hip and shoulder respectively) as possible. This indeed is the "locking" part.

Secondly, twist uke's forearm by bending your wrist "away" from you as far as possible.

At this point, many people will already have tapped because the tendons in the elbow are overextended due to the combination of maximally bending uke's elbow plus twisting the bones of her forearm against each other.

Only if these two steps do not suffice, slowly changing the angle so that the elbow gradually moves towards the (center of the) hip should be done.

Caveat: Depending on individual flexibility, this still might result in straining the shoulder before anything else. But the point is that you are securing the shoulder joint so that you will not pop it out of its socket if uke is a bit slow with her tap.

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Yes, there is.

Ude garami is a commonly misunderstood technique. Mainly because most people in western countries get taught that it has to be performed with uke's arm being bent. There is even a mistranslation in German where its called Armbeugehebel ("arm bend lever"), making this even more confusing. This is likely the case in other languages as well. In English it is thankfully called "entangled arm lock" which is closer to the actual meaning of garami.

Characteristic of ude garami is the way tori's arms are placed, not the way uke's arm is bent. This video shows a variety of ways to perform ude garami. I want to point out that at 1:10 the arm of uke is fully straight, however tori is still able to perform the joint-lock. This kind of ude garami will not put pressure on the shoulder and only affects the elbow.

That being said all the other variants are definitely not wrong but just other viable ways of performing this technique. Focusing on pulling uke's arm really close to his body can in my experience ease the stress on the shoulder.

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    Count me among those misunderstanding the classification. However, I intended the question with the understanding of ude garami against the bent arm. I'll amend the question. +1 – mattm Apr 18 at 22:28
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While these are not technically ude-garami according to Kodokan classification (since they do not use a figure-four grip), similar techniques in Judo can be applied to cause pain to a bent elbow-joint more directly than the kata forms of ude-garami.1

The mechanics of these kansetsu-waza is to "lock" the upper arm in a fixed position against your own body (preventing rotation of the shoulder), and applying pressure to the wrist, abduct or adduct the elbow joint, causing it to bend perpendicular to the normal direction of elbow flexion.2

They can be applied from a variety of positions:

Hara-gatame Sankaku-gatame


1. Note, as with most bent armlocks, these may also cause pain to the shoulder joint depending on the specific angle of application and flexibility of uke.
2. As opposed to the usual mechanics of ude-garami, where the elbow is lifted/rotated in either direction to rotate the shoulder.

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