ARE HEEL HOOKS LEGAL IN BJJ?
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become an extremely popular form of combat across the world of Martial Arts. BJJ is a highly efficient form of grappling, that involves practitioners utilising strong footwork, and sharp reflexes, to set up an opponent for a takedown. Once the fight has reached the ground, practitioners will use fast and proficient transitional systems that lead to dominant control positions. After neutralising their opponent the practitioner will set up different forms of submissions through a series of intricate flow chains. There is a multitude of different submissions that practitioners can use including chokes, arm locks, and leg lock submissions.
What This Article Covers:
- Are Heel Hooks a Legal Submission
- The Dangers of Using Heel Hooks
- The Heel Hook Epidemic
- Should You Learn Heel Hooks at the White Belt Level
- How Many Entries into the Heel Hook Are There
- How to Train Safely Using Heel Hooks
Students will often discuss the legality of different maneuvers they can execute during matches. Different organisations have different rule sets which can affect the game plan of a practitioner, heading into a tournament. It is important to understand the rules and ask questions to maximise a practitioner's chance of winning the fight. Students will often ask if are slams allowed in BJJ, as the popularity of many high-flying manoeuvres like suplexes, and power bombs can seem appetising to practitioners. Other students can wonder are neck cranks legal in BJJ, as maneuvers like these can help practitioners gain quick victories over their opponents.
ARE HEEL HOOKS A LEGAL SUBMISSION
There are many dangerous submissions within a BJJ practitioner's arsenal, as there is a significant list of illegal BJJ moves. Although some of these submissions are legal in some divisions, like one of the most deadly submissions, the heel hook. In more recent times, the series of different heel hook maneuvers have become extremely popular. Because heel hooks are such an incredibly dangerous move, it is understandable to know that they are illegal in most divisions of Jiu Jitsu. While a practitioner is competing in BJJ tournaments, utilising any form of heel hook whilst wearing the Gi is completely illegal. Executing heel hooks are only legal at the IBJJF level, for brown and black belts in the No Gi division. There are other organisations that allow heel hooks at the intermediate level of a blue and purple belt, but again this is only in the No Gi divisions. With the rise of international competition that has seen exceptional athletes taken out by heel hooking techniques, the popularity and the necessity of learning these submissions are becoming a number one priority to the modern grappler.
THE DANGERS OF USING HEEL HOOKS
There are a host of different dangers when a practitioner begins messing around with leglock entanglements. Students will begin to question their instructors and ask if Brazilian jiu-jitsu is safe, and for most of the game it is safe, but there are definitely some aspects that are more dangerous than others. There is a reason why dangerous techniques are taught to more advanced practitioners, as the nature of the submissions can be extremely brutal. When a student attempts to submit their opponent with a heel hook, it is one of those submissions that can put significant pressure on the knee joint almost instantaneously. If this submission is applied too recklessly, it can result in an opponent, or a training partner tearing their ACL, dislocating their knee, or even breaking bones in their leg. It is extremely important to understand the mechanics of how the knee works, before attempting to execute heel hook maneuvers. Once the student understands how the submissions work, and how the knee reacts to the submission, then they are in the best place possible to develop their leg lock system. Many high-level competitors have incurred serious leg injuries, due to the heel hook game, meaning that even the most experienced practitioner can be in significant danger, at the hands of a heel hook. It is extremely important to tread carefully, and tap early when on the receiving end of a heel hook. It is also extremely important to be extra vigilant when attempting heel hooks, as opponents can often try and spin out of danger, which can cause serious injury.
THE HEEL HOOK EPIDEMIC
In recent times the heel hook has become an extremely popular weapon of choice, although the heel hook is not a new submission, as its origins date way back to the beginning of Jiu Jitsu. Many heel hooks used to be secured during matches between the Gracie clan, and Luta Livre fighters in Brazil. Many of these matches would also include jiu jitsu striking, as a good way to open up various submissions. As the evolution of the sport headed down the path of teaching a wide variety of students, the Gracie clan believed that beginners should not be learning such an advanced submission maneuver. Over the years the submission did get somewhat lost as athletes focused more on the traditional style of securing arm bars, and various chokeholds.
Nowadays the heel hook has come back in a massive way, as many high-level athletes are mastering different forms of leg entanglement systems. The art of No Gi has hit new high levels of stardom on the international scale, as many of the athletes are impressing fight fans with their ingenuity in the leg lock development. Some practitioners have called for leg locks to be a cheat move, similar to wrist locks, as many high-level athletes are getting caught in the heel hook trap. In recent times the development of the heel hook position has seen innovative new ways to enter into this position from a variety of different control positions. The heel hook is fast becoming the deadliest submission maneuver in combat sports today, and although many practitioners find the maneuver extremely brutal, it is extremely important now for practitioners to learn how to deal with this position.
SHOULD YOU LEARN HEEL HOOKS AT THE WHITE BELT LEVEL
Learning submission maneuvers like the heel hook are an extremely advanced concept. This type of learning should happen later on in a practitioner's development, as it needs to be ascertained by experienced Martial Artists. Beginners should be steering clear of advanced maneuvers like the heel hook, as it can prove detrimental to the growth of their game style. The Gracie clan believed that if you taught beginners heel hooks, then they would miss out on creating some of the most important building blocks in their foundation. The Grace clan made it illegal for white belts to learn this type of maneuver. If a student begins to wash over some of the more basic, and foundational maneuvers, then massive holes will appear in their game. Some practitioners think they can fill those holes with advanced leglock entanglement systems, and although some of their attacks may be deadly when they are faced with a different challenge the practitioner can be extremely exposed.
Starting an intricate combat sport like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be very challenging, as the art has a multitude of different techniques to utilise. Progressing through the ranks of BJJ, a practitioner will begin to realise that they can take their own pathway. This means they basically can major in certain parts of the game, as they look to achieve an all round expertise in most positions, and maneuvers. Beginner belts can absolutely choose their own pathway, meaning they can learn intricate leg lock systems, but it would be extremely wise to make sure that their fundamental Jiu Jitsu is up to scratch. If a student can stick to these ideals, then adding another string to their bow by learning leg lock entanglements, can become extremely advantageous.
HOW MANY ENTRIES INTO THE HEEL HOOK ARE THERE
The heel hook position has fast become one of the most popular, and intricate technical systems there is in grappling. To finish the submission is relatively simple, as all the practitioner has to do is secure the leg with a tight grip, trap the toes inside their armpit, and use a heel hook grip to twist the knee in an opposite direction. Although the mechanics of the submission are relatively simple, it is the entries that are extremely intricate. There are numerous ways to enter into a leg entanglement position, as modern styles of 50/50 guard, k-guard, and z-guard are great platforms to launch into different leg submissions like heel hooks, knee bars, ankle locks, toeholds, and calf slicers.
Here is a list of some of the more popular forms of leg lock positions.
The Ashi Garami is one of the more popular positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as it uses precision and timing to secure an opponent's leg. To achieve this position, a practitioner will secure their opponent's leg by shooting their cross knee from the inside of the guard toward their opponent's hip, while threading their opposite leg around the outside of their opponent's leg, trapping the hip in place. This position creates a triangle type lock, as the heel connects to the knee. Many advanced grapplers use this position to hunt for heel hooks, and toeholds.
The Inside Ashi Garami is another highly effective position to secure the heel hook, with a common entry from the Reverse de la Riva guard. It's all about control, and if the practitioner can control their opponent effectively from their Reverse de la Riva guard, then they can easily invert underneath their opponent, before switching their legs and securing their opponents leg. Once they have an inside ashi position, it becomes increasingly harder to defend heel hooks.
The Saddle is another high percentage position used to set up heel hook attacks. In this position a practitioner uses their outside leg to wrap around the thigh of their opponent, as their inside leg creates a triangle over their outside leg. Practitioners can also use their inside leg to hook their opponent's other leg. The saddle is a highly rated position for practitioners to attack a multitude of different leg locking submissions.
There are a lot of different leg entanglement positions, as the modern grappler is highly advanced in many different leg lock entries. In the modern form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, shooting in for heel hooks has become an extremely popular weapon, as the technical capabilities of the leg lock can be executed quickly. There are many other leg entanglement positions like the single leg ex, the 80/20 position, the Outside Ashi Garami, the 50/50 guard, the 411 positions, the Knee Out position, the Grounded Kani Basami, and the Cross Ashi position. With the high proficiency of these more modern positions, students need to train comprehensively in attack and defense, just to keep up with the evolution of the game.
HOW TO TRAIN SAFELY USING HEEL HOOKS
It is extremely important to understand the mechanics of a heel hook when a practitioner is attempting to improve their skill sets. All practitioners need to remember that their training partner's inside the gym need to be looked after. With this in mind, practitioners look to carefully develop their leglock entanglements, without causing injuries to their training partners. Drilling is extremely important, as knowing how to secure this position, and using the right amount of force is a necessity in mastering this technique. It is important not to crank the submission on your partner, as there is a fine line between pain and injury. Some practitioners will play catch and release, meaning once they secure the leg lock position, they will slightly apply pressure before releasing the submission. This is a good way to train so their training partners can be confident they will not incur an injury during their development.
Some practitioners will seem to get carried away with the thrill of leg locking a training partner. If a practitioner is desperate to get the tap and is counting them, then they are heading down a slightly egotistical pathway. Becoming exceptional at BJJ involves practitioners becoming completely humble during any development phases of their game style. This is exceedingly important when it comes to heel hooks, as one wrong move can keep a training partner out of the gym for 12 months or more. In today's Jiu Jitsu, many practitioners are using heel hooks, as the movements have become more mainstream during competition. This means the necessity of learning the position is crucial, so practitioners can defend this advanced submission.
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