Basic Leg Pummel Concepts
Unless you've been living under a rock and probably not training BJJ for the last 5 or so years, you have heard about the rise of the leg submission game. With more and more grapplers walking in the footsteps of OGs likes Dean Lister and starting to attack the lower half of the body, coupled with the rise of grappling events and tournaments that have a much more liberal rule set that allows for all of the leg attacks, these techniques have become far more than 'dirty thieves' but have now become essential. Adding them to your repetoire, especially if you train No Gi, is essential from a defensive standpoint if nothing else.
Adding even the simplest techniques can take time and lots of practice. Understanding all of the new terminology, positions, and submissions that the leg lock aces know today, requires a great deal of time. You should set reasonable expectations and not think that you're going to be an expert overnight. These techniques take years to master. John Danaher, the mastermind behind the Danaher Death Squad, who was inspired by Dean Lister to open his own eyes to lower body techniques, has said before that Garry Tonon, one of the premier leg lockers in the game today, who had some of the highest overall jiu jitsu at the time, was slow to acclimate himself with leg locks. While leg locks may not have immediately come easy for Tonon, his work ethic and constant woodshopping of the techniques with a veritable crew of killers under the Team Renzo Gracie banner has made him one of the most dominant and exciting fighters today.
Where do you start to begin down the road of adding these new techniques to your game? First and foremost, look to your coaches and instructors to help guide you. Supplement their instruction with seminars by people like the crew from the Danaher Death Squad or Tom DeBlass, who are known for their leg attacks. There are also a number of grappling instructional resources that are becoming available from people like Craig Jones who has exploded onto the grappling scene with a series of breakout performances in 2017. For more on the rise of this Australian grappling phenom, check out this article from BJJ Fanatics where we explore how he burst onto the BJJ scene.
One of the key concepts that Craig Jones builds his entire leg attack philosophy on is the idea of pummeling ones legs, so that you are constantly working them in between your opponent's legs. Whether from an offiensive or defensive perspective, the notion of keeping ones legs either both between or both outside of the opponent's will keep you out of danger and give you the opportunity to attack when you need to.
From a seated position, or double guard pull situation, we must always work to bring out legs into the position shown above by Craig Jones. With both legs inside we are safe from virtually all leg attacks. We will also be in the best possible position to control their legs and feet and launch your own offensive attacks.
It is crucial to be constantly drilling these positions whenever possible in training. Keeping both legs together whether seated or standing must become second nature. Your opponent will have a much more difficult time attacking you if they are constantly stuck at the front door and unable to set up an entry to single leg X or the ashi garami position.
Similarly when passing the guard, Craig will often bring both legs together between the opponent's legs to allow the leg attack to result from the guard pass, which was simply used as a feint to bait the opponent to worry more about the pass and not the leg submissions. So in this scenario, you now have some very powerful options. You can work to complete the guard pass, or bail out at anytime that it suits you and attack the lower extremities. This will allow you to toggle back and forth between the two and keep your training partners and opponents constantly guessing.
Allowing your legs to be separated will give the opponent more opportunity to work positions like single leg X guard and offer them fertile ground from which to attack your legs in return. Besides leg attacks, there are a myriad number of sweeps available here that will have you reversed and in less than dominant positions if you're not careful.
By being constantly aware of the hooks of the opponent on bottom and utilizing pummeling techniques like driving your knee into the hook and rotating the shin over the compromised hook to bring the legs together, you will both keep yourself safe and ensure that you can attack the opponents legs.
Check out this video featuring Craig Jones and 5 time World Champion Bernardo Faria which details a heel hook set up that will have you terrorizing your opponents and training partners. As high level as this technique is, it is built on the foundation of the basic leg pummeling concepts that have been discussed throughout this piece.
Watching any of the current submission only tournaments or even the action from ADCC in Finland last year and watching the leg locking wizardry that seems to be going on can be extremely intimidating and make learning leg locks seem like an impossibly daunting task. But the reality this that if you invest the time in studying the experts, putting the techniques to practice in safe, drilling and training scenarios, you too can add these techniques to your arsenal.
If you think back rationally about adding new submissions to your your game, it's simply a matter of breaking them down into digestible chunks of details and practicing them until they become second nature. There was a time not all that long ago, when you didn't know how to do an arm bar from the guard and it's probably one of the main submissions you use. By starting with some basic concepts like leg pummeling you will begin to feel more and more comfortable dealing with precarious leg situations and be able to counter and launch your own offensive game.
So at the end of the day, leg locks are not magic, no matter how much they may seem to be so. Instead, they are another example of the complex, somewhat beautiful and ultimately devastating aspect of BJJ joint attacks and submissions. They can be learned with practice and dedication, but you've got to start at the beginning and leg pummeling is a great place to start.
Learn more excellent leg lock philosophy and techniques from Australia's best export, Craig Jones. You can pick up his 4 volume "Down Under Leg Attacks" in both DVD and On Demand formats here from BJJ Fanatics!