With grapplers training leg locks more than ever in this era of Jiu Jitsu more entries are being innovated. Everyone that likes attacking the legs is looking for the easiest path to attack them.

There is one especially flashy, yet effective entry that leg lockers are finding success. The Imanari roll.

When someone is able to pull it off, the Imanari roll is one of the coolest techniques to witness. A crowd absolutely loses their minds when they see a fighter or grappler hit an Imanari roll.

Some might think the Imanari roll is a flashy, low percentage move, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many elite grapplers have adopted the Imanari roll in their games with great success.

Let’s take a deep dive into the highly technical Imanari roll. We’re going to give you a bio on the creator, how it works, and a few different Imanari roll techniques.

Who created the Imanari roll?

The technique was named after its creator Masakazu Imanari. If you don’t know who Imanari is, he is a MMA and grappling legend.

Imanari has been one of the most dynamic competitors in MMA and grappling for the last 20 years. He is a master of leg locks and has numerous highlight videos showing his expertise. Not only in leg locks, but his Jiu Jitsu game as a whole.

Before Masakazu started competing professionally in fighting, he was also a professional wrestler. Which is how he got his flair for the dramatic doing flashy moves to get the crowd into his fights. 

Flying across the ring at the opponent locking in numerous jaw dropping submissions. His style has given him incredible respect from the grappling community and inspired many young grapplers.

Although by far what Imanari is most known for is the technique he created and named after. The Imanari roll.

He created this technique over 20 years ago as a way to surprise his opponent and attack their legs. This unorthodox technique has been incredibly successful for not only Imanari, but many other elite grapplers.

Including most recently by Ryan Hall against former champion BJ Penn. The first ever successful Imanari roll in the UFC.

Without a doubt Imanari has influenced the grappling world with the Imanari roll. Grapplers today are continuing to revolutionize the move Imanari created, which is the highest respect you can give him.

How does the Imanari roll work?

The Imanari roll works as a bypass to traditional leg lock entries. With traditional entries, you have to either set them up from takedowns or a position on the ground. 

You fake like you’re going for a takedown and do a back roll mixed with a berimbolo roll. Taking the opponent by surprise, taking them down and ending up in a leg entanglement. Once you hit the ground, you can work to take the leg lock of your choice.

Imanari Roll

The basic Imanari roll starts from standing, but before you go for it, you must set it up. If you’re doing Jiu Jitsu set it up with fake shots before rolling. If you’re doing MMA it would be ideal to set the Imanari roll with punches and kicks before going for it.

You start the Imanari roll with a penetration step. This step is everything as it gets you in range for your roll. Without it, you’ve won’t even get close to getting the move.

After making your penetration step, you fall to your back and grab behind the opponent’s knee. This step is very important as that grip guides your around the opponent’s legs.

When you get your grip, you start your roll and hook your inside leg between the opponent’s legs. Immediately after, your other leg goes behind and underneath their outside leg.

You hook the opponent’s far leg with both of your feet as you use your momentum to take them down. Landing you right into a leg entanglement ready to lock in a submission.

How can beginners learn the Imanari roll

For beginners, the Imanari roll might seem too complex for them. Although in reality, they just need to break the technique down in segents before practicing it.

The core movement of an Imanari roll is a sideways roll, so beginners can drill the solo drill. Start by sitting on a line, keep your hands in and roll back and forth on your shoulders. Keep doing it until you’re able to continually in a straight line.

After you get the hang of the sideways rolls, you can go into the partner drill variation. Start from sitting with your leg between your partner’s legs similar to a berimbolo partner drill.

As you go for your shoulder roll, your inside leg catches on your partner’s leg. At the same time, you put your hand in between their legs and grab behind their know.

Doing this movement will naturally wrap you around the opponent just like in a normal Imanari roll.

Imanari roll from tie up/snap down

Like we said detailing the basic Imanari roll, you have to set it up. One way you can set it up is from a tie up and snap down.

You can go right to an Imanari roll from a tie up/snap down when you start a roll. Normally snap downs are used to set up takedowns, but here we’re going to Imanari roll.

Take a tie up and snap your opponent down. Instinctively, they will immediately pop up when they get their posture broken.

As they go to raise their head go right for your Imanari roll to get in position for your leg lock.

Low single to Imanari roll

Another set up to an Imanari roll can come off a failed low single leg attempt. Sometimes when you drop low for an ankle pick a defense is to take their leg away.

When they do this it exposes your other leg to be grabbed for an Imanari roll entry. Grab that leg and go right into an Imanari roll to take them down.

Finishes for the Imanari roll

Traditionally, the finishing leglock for the Imanari roll is an inside heel hook, but there are other options. Two specifically we’ll detail is an ankle lock and a knee bar.

Let’s say you get the Imanari roll and they immediately start defending the inside heel hook. Pull their far leg over putting them in 411 position and take an ankle lock.

The knee bar option off an Imanari roll is also a good option you can go to. Especially if you’re doing a tournament, where heel hooks aren’t allowed.

When you get into position turn your body a little further, grab their heel with two hand and pull inward.

Tips for doing the Imanari roll

If you love doing the leg locks, the Imanari roll is a great entry that you really need to learn. Here are some tips for how to do the Imanari roll properly.

  • Set It Up: You have to set up the Imanari roll with fakes or leg kicks like Ryan Hall did. Otherwise, you’ll completely miss or worse get KO’d by a knee like Marcin Held did.
  • Commit: This is an all or nothing move that you really have to commit to if you’re going to try it. You have to go for it without any hesitation if you want to be successful with it.
  • Penetration Step: You cannot forget your initial penetration step when you go for the Imanari roll. This step gets you in range before you do your roll.
  • Grab Their Leg: As you are falling before the roll, you have to grab the opponent’s leg. Specifically behind their knee, so you can pull yourself into them to complete the roll.
  • Your Leg Between Their Legs: As you roll over your shoulder, your inside leg goes in between the opponent’s legs. Without this leg, you won’t be able to take the opponent down.
  • Swing Your Other Leg: After you get your first leg in between the opponent’s legs, your other leg swings to the outside. In order to take them down you have to swing your leg  with force going behind their knee.
  • Hook Their Leg: As you swing your leg around, both of your legs have to hook behind the opponent’s far leg. These hooks are what trips the opponent to the ground and are needed to complete the Imanari roll.
  • Secure Your Leg Entanglement: Before you go for your leglock, you must secure your leg entanglement. Position before submission like every other tehnique