What do Jiu Jitsu legends Imanari, Sakuraba, Shinya Aoki, Eddie Bravo, Ryan Hall and Dean Lister have in common, despite being prolific grapplers? Not only do they have nasty submission games, they’re masters of one of the most taboo submissions in BJJ history – the leg lock. What was once a Judo and Catch Wrestling technique, the leg lock has seen increasing popularity in the BJJ competition scene in the last couple of years.
Leg locks are an effective, yet dangerous submissions, that focus on putting pressure on your opponent’s Achilles, foot, ankle joint and/or knee joint. If you’ve practiced this technique in BJJ class or had someone submit you with it during sparring, you’d know just how much pain tolerance you’d need to resist tapping to a leg lock. If you’re looking to add leg locks to your arsenal of submissions, you’re in luck.
The toe hold, foot lock, ankle lock, heel hook, calf slicer, kneebar are all different ways to finish a leg lock. Depending on your preference and the position of your opponent’s foot, you can use one of these finishes to submit your opponent. If you are a white, blue or purple belt, you need to wait until you get your brown belt before you try out the toe hold and knee bar, at least under IBJJF rules.
When trying out a leg lock for the first time, try to go into it slowly. A leg lock is difficult to escape, and could potentially cause a lot of injury to your opponent.
When executing a leg lock, your opponent should feel pressure in the right areas, depending on the submission you want to finish with. For heel hooks foot locks and toe holds, the pressure is located on your ankle, foot, Achilles and/or knee. For knee bars, obviously, you’ll feel intense pressure focused on the knee joint. Be sure to apply constant pressure with your torso and arms as you squeeze and finish the position and use your legs to trap your opponent’s. If you feel like your opponent’s leg is loose at any point, you’re probably doing the submission wrong.
When you go for a leg lock, chances are, you’ll probably be in a situation where your own foot is exposed. This is dangerous because it makes you vulnerable to getting submitted yourself. Don’t forget to hide your feet and make it a point to move them out of your opponent’s reach when you go for a foot lock. As with all submissions, you should always think a few steps ahead of your opponent and think of your next move should he/she escape out of the lock.
If you don’t have good control over your opponent, chances are, he/she could probably spin out and escape from your leg lock. If you want to finish with a heel hook, foot lock or ankle lock, the foot must be deep enough in your armpits to ensure that you’d be able to submit your opponent. However, if you have your opponent’s foot too deep inside, you wouldn’t be able to put pressure in the right places.
There’s no doubt that adding the leg lock to your game would certainly benefit you, especially if you’re a guard player. As with all new techniques, you should drill the leg lock with a partner using minimal resistance on both ends before using it in sparring.
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