In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it is the first submission most of us learn.
The Americana has many names. Catch-as-catch-can wrestlers call it a keylock or a double wrist lock. In Judo, it is known as one version of the ude garami -- literally "arm entanglement." I've heard it called the "V-lock" and the "paintbrush." But most of us know it as the Americana.
For years I heard the story that in the 1970s an American wrestler, Bob Anderson, was training with Rolls Gracie and introduced Rolls to the move. In the book, "The MMA Encyclopedia", Bob Anderson is quoted as saying:
"I didn't come down there and go, 'Okay, I'm going to show you the Americana arm bar and I'm the guy that invented it.' It just grew out of what I knew and what he [Rolls] liked ... he later -- I didn't even know -- he called it the Americana because I was the American wrestler that came down and showed him the move and that's how the Americana armbar got started."
Now Bob may have brought the move back into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu popularity but, as an old Judo move, it was always a BJJ technique. Just look at this video filmed in the 1950s. Right after performing tomoe nagi through, Carlos Gracie applies the arm entanglement now known as the Americana.
I am not questioning Bob Anderson. I do think he showed Rolls. I do think that Rolls named it the Americana. I'm guessing it was a move that was largely forgotten about and Anderson brought it out of retirement.
These things happen all the time. Consider the "Darce Choke." The "Darce" has been part of jiu-jitsu for decades (I originally learned it as "the brabo choke." But one guy up in the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City got good with it: Joe D'Arce. He got so good at it that people started calling it "D'Arce's choke."
I'm guessing someone read it somewhere and didn't know how to say his name, and the darce choke was born.
The UFC fighter, Jason Von Flue puts someone to sleep by putting his shoulder into his opponent's neck and the "Von Flue Choke" is born.
Hell, in my own head there is "The Dave Sweep." If you are an old schooler at Madama Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy and ever rolled with Dave Terhune, you were swept with his go to sweep: he would gift wrap you from guard and then hit you with a pendulum sweep. I call that, and will always call that, "The Dave Sweep."