How To Perfect The Imanari Roll In BJJ

The Imanari roll, named after the legendary Japanese MMA fighter Masakazu Imanari, is a dynamic and somewhat unorthodox technique in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that has gained prominence for its effectiveness in quickly closing distance and securing leg locks. While not a move recommended for absolute beginners, more and more have been using the Imanari roll and have found great success. This article aims to break down the technique, offering insights into its use in the art of BJJ.


Understanding The Imanari Roll

Before we go over the mechanics of the technique, let’s first define what the Imanari roll is. The Imanari roll is basically a rolling movement where you aim at the opponent’s legs with the intent to enter into some form of leg entanglement. At its core, it requires a blend of agility, timing, and technical precision. The move starts from a standing position and involves a rapid drop where you fall to your back and roll towards the opponent’s lower body, again aiming to entangle them and set up leg lock submissions like heel hooks or knee bars.


The Mechanics Of The Imanari Roll

The starting position for the Imanari roll is the standing position, where you face the opponent head-on. The key to a solid entry is keeping a balanced but agile posture that allows a rapid level change. The roll is initiated by lowering your level, similar to a wrestling shot. Choose a lead leg (usually your stronger side) and step towards your opponent. As you step, drop your other knee to the ground, creating momentum that will carry you forward and near the opponent. As your knee touches the ground, lean forward and roll over the shoulder of the same side as your lead leg. The roll should be tight and controlled, aiming directly towards one of your opponent’s legs. As you complete the roll, your aim is to entangle your opponent’s leg. This is typically done by wrapping your legs around theirs, creating a position from which you can attack with leg locks.


Imanari Roll Application

In this video, BJJ blackbelt Jon Blank shares the basics of executing the Imanari roll. He says that while the Imanari roll is effective, it is not an absolute requirement to learn this technique. The technique starts from the seated open guard. Get a scoop grip on your opponent’s leg as you fall on the side of your gripping arm (in this case, Jon’s right side). Do not roll too near to the opponent’s feet; stay a few inches outside so that your roll resembles as if you are orbiting their foot. Roll to your side as you raise your hips, and catch their leg by entangling your right leg near the hip. A good tip here is to use your other arm to support your leg entanglement by using a waiter grip for added stability. If you do all these steps correctly, you should be able to execute the Imanari roll after several tries.


Common Mistakes While Using the Imanari Roll

One common mistake is rolling too far from the opponent, making leg entanglement difficult. Ensure your roll is tight and directed towards your opponent’s legs. The roll should be smooth and continuous. Losing momentum can make the move ineffective. Focus on a fluid motion that maintains speed throughout the roll. While going for the Imanari Roll, don’t forget your defense. Be aware of your opponent’s potential counters, and be prepared to defend or adjust as needed.


Integrating The Imanari Roll Into Your Game

The Imanari roll can be an excellent surprise technique, especially if you’re known for a different fighting style. Use it to catch opponents off guard. The Imanari roll can be combined with other leg attacks or used as a transition to different positions. Experiment with chaining this move with other aspects of your game. Be prepared to adapt the technique based on how your opponent reacts. This might mean transitioning to different submissions or using the roll to create scrambles.

Another tip is to build a system to use the Imanari roll in a controlled and safe manner. This means that you can also learn techniques that will complement the Imanari roll so that you still have several weapons at your disposal in the event that the Imanari roll fails. Take it from us: once you get your training partners with the Imanari roll, they will do whatever it takes to prevent you from pulling off the technique successfully.

Learning the Imanari roll means that you understand the power of attacking the legs. It is apparent that if you wish to add the Imanari roll to your game, you should also have a strong knowledge of leg locks, especially the heel hook. Mastering the Imanari roll is pointless if you know no leg attacks. Yes, you can use it to sweep the opponent to the ground, but with its high-risk, high-reward nature, it is best to know several finishes once you get to a leg entanglement. We recommend that you study the modern leg lock game, which includes the many variations of ashi garami and heel hooks, before adding the Imanari roll to your toolbox.


Imanari Roll Tips For Mixed Martial Arts

MMA practitioners can use feints and setups to make the Imanari roll more effective. This could involve faking strikes or other takedown attempts to create openings for the roll. Understanding your opponent’s tendencies and reactions can significantly increase the success rate of the Imanari roll. Use it when they are least expecting a leg attack. Even after mastering the basics, there’s always room for improvement. Keep refining the technique, and stay updated with new variations and applications as the sport evolves.



The Imanari Roll is a testament to BJJ’s evolving and dynamic nature. While it may not be a fundamental technique, its effectiveness in the right hands cannot be undervalued. By understanding the mechanics of this incredible technique, you can add a powerful and surprising element to your grappling repertoire.


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