Many jiu-jitsu practitioners are becoming interested in leg locks due to its effectiveness and power. There are various kinds of leg locks, and there are options that can be used by beginners and other more complicated ones that can be used by higher belt-level users.
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BJJ Leg Locks
Currently, leg locks are becoming a more frequently used move, with many competitors successfully using these leg attacks to win.
There are five basic leg locks that we will discuss.
Straight Ankle Lock
This leg lock is often also known as the Achilles lock, and it is one of the very first leg locks that you will learn when you take on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is because the straight ankle lock can be easily learned since it is relatively simple to use and administer. It is also legal in most grappling competitions.
To use this straight ankle lock, you must use an overhook by circling your forearm over one of your opponent’s legs, specifically targeting the Achilles heel.
Your opponent’s submission is secured because you generate pressure when you press your foot against your opponent’s rib cage and with that, your hips move forward while you apply an upward force using your forearm to subdue your opponent’s Achilles heel.
Since this attack targets the metatarsals, ankles and Achilles tendon, there is potentially for these areas to be damaged. If your opponent chooses not to tap out, they could actually snap their fibula or tibia.
In this leg lock, you are most likely to use a figure-four grip on your opponent’s foot. You would twist their ankle and end up hyperextending it. This move allows you to grab hold of your opponent while preventing them from turning or kicking their leg away from you.
To further lock their movement, other than using your clinched legs to secure their leg, you can make use of any other part of your body to apply pressure to stabilize the immobilization you have on your opponent’s leg.
While the toe hold is commonly mistaken for a simple pain move with no real break, it can actually break your ankle if it is well-administered and not defended well. It can also lead to torn ligaments and joints in the foot and knee.
This technique is usually administered as a reaction towards your opponent’s escape or your opponent’s reaction to your first leg lock attempt. It is not typically used as a starting leg lock amongst your first chain of leg lock attacks.
This is because your opponent’s reaction towards your first few leg lock attacks usually place them in the position for you to use the calf slicer. The calf slicer resembles bicep slicer. With a bicep slicer, you need to lodge your forearm into the crook of your opponent’s elbow and then bring their wrists up to touch their shoulder.
With a calf slicer, you will need to lodge your shin in the crook of your opponent’s knee and then bring their foot closer towards their buttocks. Similar concept, but with different body parts. When you use this move, your opponents will tap due to the immense pressure that’s put on their knee and calf.
The kneebar is also a great move that everyone should learn because it is also very effective and relatively easy to administer, similar to the straight angle lock.
To conceptualize this move, you should think of the kneebar as the armbar, but this involves the legs instead. In an armbar, you would use the arm as a lever and play force at your hands or your wrists. Similarly, in a kneebar, you would create that same lever, only this time, you’d use your leg and apply force at your Achilles tendon or the ball of your heel.
While using this leg lock, be sure to place your opponent’s knee on your belly.
This is crucial when you are hyperextending their leg and using the knee as the pivot point.
With this move, you could end up breaking your opponent’s knee, fibula or even dislocate their knee if they choose not to tap out.
The heel lock is a more advanced foot lock that is usually taught to a user once they have earned their brown belt and have had experiences with other leg locks.
The heel lock is a lock that focuses on both the ankle and the knee. In this move, you lock your opponent’s legs and control their knee, forcing them into submission. A common way to complete this submission is by gable gripping your arms around the knee of your opponent’s controlled leg. In addition, when you twist the heel into your opponent, it generates torque at the ankle and then continues to the knees.
Another thing to note is that the heel hook has two variations, mainly the outside and inside heel. The difference between these two variations is really just the side of the heel that you are gripping.
This leg lock is one of the most dangerous submissions you can use in grappling, so you should always be careful when training with this technique.
How to Defend Leg Locks in BJJ
Leg locks are getting increasingly popular, which makes it immensely important to learn about how to defend against these attacks. There are three things to keep in mind.
Firstly, you must have a good base, along with good posture. Leg locks are usually done when you are swept on the floor, hence, as a prevention measure, keeping up can be important.
By keeping up and having good posture, you ensure that you don’t fall into your opponent’s play. Stay up, stay strong and stay in control. Secondly, grips are important. If you have already fallen, you must immediately establish grips on one or both of your opponent’s wrists so that you can prevent any hand moves for the leg locks.
Thirdly, if you do get swept and can’t really get a grip, make sure you clear the knee line. By keeping in control of your knee line, you will get more overall mobility and control and be able to recover better.
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Busting Some Myths
There are some common myths about leg locks. This section will explain how these myths are not actually true.
Leg Locks Are Too Dangerous
While it is true that leg locks should not be carelessly and casually practiced, it is definitely not too dangerous. If it is learned in a gym with trusted partners and trainers, leg locks can be a safe part of your training. Be sure to use a proper bjj mat.
However, if your gym has certain leg locks limited to certain belt levels, you must follow the rules since it is usually set due to safety considerations. Use a bjj mouthguard too.
Leg Locks Are Too Difficult to Execute
While some high-level leg locks can be complicated, there are a few that are really simple to execute. It just requires some learning and practicing before you can use those techniques. You can always start with the simpler forms and proceed to more challenging ones. It’s all a matter of trying and practicing.
Leg Locks Are Illegal in Competition
Leg locks are actually allowed in competitions. While there are some leg locks that may be restricted to some divisions, not all of them are disallowed. By learning these leg lock techniques, they can add to your arsenal while you compete and serve as another way to defend against opponents and win.
Practicing leg locks can be fun and great additions to your BJJ techniques.
However, just as much as they are great to use and learn, you should always exercise caution and know your limits and tap out when needed. Be sure to learn about how to execute these attacks, how to defend against them and how to strategically use them to lead yourself to success.