Power and versatility are two perfect words to describe the omoplata. This Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu technique truly highlights the idea of constant submission threats along with smooth, fluid motions.
Similar to the history of the triangle choke, omoplata in BJJ has strong judo influences. The technique first came to light in Brazil as early as the 1930s by way of the aforementioned judo and even catch-style wrestling.
In its infant stages, many saw the omoplata as an ineffective move and was just there as a mere part of most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academies’ curriculum. In hindsight, it was just there for it being there: as a submission, neither a sweep, nor a setup.
According to Otavio Peixotinho, one of the great Carlson Gracie’s students in the 1970s, “the omoplata existed, but it lacked effectiveness. It was something you would try in training but not in comps.” He added: “I saw Rickson and Rolls competing plenty of times, even they wouldn’t put it to use.”
Fast forward to the mid-1990s, when the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Confederation (CBJJ) revised the rules of competition and allowed points for this situation. Many practitioners, most notably Antonio “Nino” Schembri, began developing the omoplata as a legitimate submission and a sweep rather than a plain shoulder lock.
Omoplata means scapula, or shoulder blade, in Portuguese. From the word itself, the technique applies pressure on the large triangular-shaped bone in the upper back by extending an adversary’s shoulder joint past its normal range of motion.
Arguably, the most common and most popular application of the omoplata is from the guard. The aggressor places a leg under his or her opponent’s armpit and rotates 180 degrees backwards, around his or her arm, exerting pressure by pushing it perpendicularly away from the back.
To further ensure a tap, the offense should also put a premium on controlling his or her rival’s body, often putting an arm around his or her waist, which ultimately prevents him or her from rolling and reversing the move. Also, practitioners began to effectively use the omoplata as a set up for sweeps, locks, and chokes among others from the bottom position.
Most of the time, an opponent’s first line of defense against a triangle choke is to hide his or her arm. This makes it a perfect set up for an omoplata finish.
From the triangle position, the offense pushes the defender’s head towards the opposite direction of his or her hidden arm. Remember to also use the palm of the hand, as well as the hips, to make space.
The attacker then places a foot in front of his rival’s face, if it is not there, he or she can use the foot on the same side as the hidden arm. Once secured, the offense should start rotating 180 degrees while controlling his or her opponent’s waist with the free arm.
In addition, the person doing the omoplata should point the knees towards his or her opponent, before lifting the hips off the ground to finish the submission. When all else fails, this technique will frequently present the opportunity for a sweep.
As with every trick in the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu book, locking in the omoplata requires proper knowledge, regular practice, and fluid execution. The idea is to always think one, two, three, maybe even four steps ahead of the defense to secure the W.