Imanari Roll

In Jiu Jitsu, leg locks are more prevalent than ever. Many grapplers are becoming experts at leg locks usings various entries into the submissions.

One of the most unorthodox of these entries is the Imanari roll. It doesn’t seem like it would work, but when done right it’ll put you right into position for a leg lock.

Here is our guide for the Imanari roll. We’ll go through how it was developed, it’s mechanics, and list important details in tips for doing it correctly.

When was the Imanari roll developed?

The Imanari roll is still a rather new technique that was developed by leg lock master Japanese MMA legend Masakazu Imanari.

Since he started fighting over 20 years ago, Imanari has gained immense respect in the MMA and grappling world. He is a master technician on the ground with numerous submission wins to his credit.

Always one to play to the crowd, Masakazu did pro wrestling training before moving to MMA. With his flair for the dramatic, Imanari crafted his fighting style to get crowds into his fights. 

Attempting unorthodox techniques like flying submissions to surprise his opponents and get crowds to their feet.

What Imanari is most known for is his patented Imanari roll that he developed in the early 2000s. It was a way to go right into a leg lock without having to do a takedown or pull guard.

For years, Imanari was the only one that would use his roll. Today now that leg locks have become popular, there are numerous grapplers that have learned the Imanari roll. 

Just recently, the first successful Imanari roll was landed by Ryan Hall, who finished BJ Penn by heel hook.

Don’t be surprised if you see more grapplers go for the Imanari roll in the future.

The mechanics of the Imanari roll

If you were to explain the Imanari roll to someone that has never seen it, they would think it’s ridiculous. Although it’s unorthodox it has been shown to be quite effective on unsuspecting opponents.

Traditionally to get in position for a leg lock, you will have to get your opponent down to the ground. Either by getting a takedown or pulling guard.

With the Imanari roll, you go right into your leg entanglement from a roll on your feet.

 As you step to the side and level  change, your opponent assumes you’re faking for a takedown. But what you’re actually doing is misdirecting your opponent before doing a back roll at them.

During your roll, you torque your body to entangle your opponent’s legs. This entanglement compromises their balance and you finish the technique by tripping your opponent to the ground.

You land right into position with your opponent’s leg trapped and ready to be put in a leg lock.

Imanari roll for beginners

Before you attempt the Imanari roll, there are a few basic movements that you must know. The Imanari roll is composed of these basic movements detailed below.

The first part of the technique is a back roll. All an Imanari roll is a back roll from your feet mixed with berimbolo.

To learn the Imanari roll from scratch, start by drilling back rolls and granby rolls from your knees. Then once you get the hang of those, drill those movements from standing.

Next, be sure to drill berimbolo rolls with a partner. The turning motion, where you hook your opponent’s legs are very similar.

It allows you to get the feel of being able to lace your legs between your opponent’s legs.

Once you get good at these moments, then you’re ready for the Imanari roll.

Imanari roll

The Imanari roll begins from your feet against your opponent. Start the technique by taking an initial step to the side with your lead leg.

This step works as a misdirection, while also giving you the space and angle you need to do your roll. Without doing this step, you will most likely not roll anywhere close to your opponent.

Once you take your step, you go right into your back roll. Be sure to roll over your shoulder and not your neck to avoid injury.

As soon as your back hits the mat, your inside arm hooks behind your opponent’s knee. You use this grip to pull yourself into your opponent’s legs.

Next your outside leg goes in between your opponent’s legs and hooks behind their far leg. Then your other leg hooks behind their inside leg. 

When you complete the roll, you use the hooks to trip your opponent to the ground. From here, you have your opponent’s legs controlled and can go into whichever leg lock you want to do.

Snap down to Imanari roll

An Imanari roll was created to avoid tying up with your opponent, but you hit it from a clinch. When you and your opponent lock up, snap them down to break their posture. 

At this moment, your opponent will quickly try to get back their posture and be open for the move. Take a small step to the side to make space and go into your Imanari roll.

Ankle pick to Imanari roll

If you like to do ankle picks, they can actually put you in range to do an Imanari roll. To set up your roll, first fake like you’re going for an ankle pick.

After a fake or two, your opponent will start stepping their foot back. Doing this gives you an open angle to their other foot.

Go right into your Imanari roll and take your opponent down.

Finishes to the Imanari roll

When the Imanari roll was first developed, it was initially to set up a heel hook. Although as grapplers have continued to develop the technique, they’ve come up with other finishes. Here are a few of them.

The kneebar is an easy second option you can go to if you’re at a tournament that doesn’t allow heel hooks. Set up your Imanari roll like normal to get your opponent to the ground.

When you get to the ground, control your opponent’s heel with both arms and turn a little more. This will put your opponent’s knee between your leg and you’ll have the angle for the kneebar.

An ankle lock is another good option you can go to. Once you get into position, you will pull your opponent’s other leg to you, putting them into the 411 position. 

From there, grab your ankle lock grip and finish.

Details and tips for doing the Imanari roll

The Imanari roll is a technique you really need to frequently drill to get right. Here are important tips and details for doing the Imanari roll.

  • The set up: More than likely, the Imanari roll won’t work without setting it up. Act like you’re going for takedowns or guard pulls before going for it to catch your opponent off guard.
  • Initial step: Your first step to the side may be the most important detail of the technique. This step gives you the space and angle you need to do your roll.
  • The roll: Be sure to roll over your shoulder and not your head when you go for it.
  • Leg grab: As you’re midway through your roll, you have to grab your opponent’s leg and pull yourself into them. If you don’t grab their leg, you’ll just roll right past them.
  • Your catch leg: When you turn, your leg needs to go in between your opponent’s legs and catch behind their back leg. Without lacing your leg between your opponent’s, you won’t go into a leg entanglement.
  • Your outside leg: After your first leg goes between your opponent’s legs, your other leg needs to hook behind their outside leg. You need both of your legs hooked around your opponent’s legs to take them to the ground.
  • Control above their knee: Once you have your opponent on the ground, you need to establish control of their leg above their knee. From here, you can go into your leg lock.
  • Go for it: This is a move that you just have to go for. If you don’t fully commit to this move, you will not get it.