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Ultimate Guide To Heel Hooks

Ultimate Guide To Heel Hooks


The Ultimate Guide To Attacking And Defending Heel Hooks

What Is The Heel Hook - And Why Does It Kick So Much Ass?!

My friend, the heel hook is the nastiest, most bad ass, must destructive leg lock submission. It is responsible for many, many... many knee surgeries and I'm putting it out there now. If you are NOT familiar with leg locks or your academy is pure IBJJF and does not do heel hooks, don't be that fucking guy who starts doing heel hooks on his partners and destroys your boys knees.

But - what makes the heel hook the king of all submissions is that it is extremely hard to defend against and causes extreme damage to the body. The heel hook was first seen in Japanese Jujitsu as a self defense skill, but quickly evolved in shooto and catch wrestling.

One of our favorite sayings is that if you can't stand, can't fight. The heel hook attacks one specific part of the body (achiles heel), while controlling and isolating the knee, in conjunction with the hip to prevent your opponent to spin. Then rotational, inward force is applied the to heel to finish off the submission. It ignores the big strong muscules of the body, and focuses on the attacking just the knee and ankle.

Due to it's destructive nature, the IBJJF has banned the heel hook in all of their tournaments. The heel hook is a quite a powerful submission in MMA and no gi submission grappling tournaments / events like ADCC, EBI, Etc.

It is important that you learn both how to attack and defend the heel hook. The best way to learn how to defend against any technique is to first learn how to apply it yourself.  Once you’re familiar with the setups and mechanics of an attack then it becomes much easier to reverse-engineer the defense.

If you someone who is committed to learning the concepts, principles, and overall system of attacking leg locks - especially the heel hooks. Watch the John Danaher Series called Entering The System: Intro to Leg Locks. It focuses on all leg attacks, but primarily the inside and outside ashi garami (heel hook). Watching this DVD series should be a requirement before you train leg locks.


Top 3 Heel Hook Attacks

Inside Heel Hook

One of the most popular modern grappling trends is to focus on targeting the lower half of the opponent’s body with a leg lock. The inside heel hook / ashi garami, which is the most formidable of the leg locks, is definitely causing a lot of buzz into the grappling scene as well. It is quickly becoming apparent that the inside heel lock will continue to be a staple move in modern grappling competitions.

What makes this heel hook lock is effective is the intrinsic nature that the hold has. By twisting the heel, the attacker will be making use of the strong muscles in their back against the weaker muscles of the knee. The structural advantage means that this move has quickly become one that even beginning practitioners will be able to learn and implement effectively and safely.

The Outside Heel Hook Master Class By John Danaher - Taught To 5X World Champion Bernardo Faria

John Danaher breaks down in AWESOME detail on how to attack the outside ashi garami / heel hook with the man - Bernardo Faria. This video is a DO NOT MISS type of video.

Standing Heel Hook Setups by Craig Jones

Standing Heel Hooks are not only great for submission grappling matches, but are also great for MMA and Self-Defense. If you're in an position where you don't have the time to sweep, pass, take mount, etc - and you need to fuck a mother fucker up quickly - hit the heel hook bro!! Our man Craig Jones is the master at hitting some beautiful heel hooks from anywhere.

Top 3 Heel Hook Escapes & Defenses

Defending and escaping the heel hook can be one of the most intimidating things in bjj.  Lately, leg locks have exploded in popularity because of the increase in submission only tournaments like EBI.  Many people are starting to learn heel hooks earlier than ever and you need to be able to deal with them.  Many people are very fearful of heel hooks because they assume if they get caught in them that it may be late and that their ligaments may already be damaged. 

This is untrue. You can get caught in a heel hook and still have time to tap without being hurt.  When you get caught in a heel hook, you need to remain calm.  There are a few steps you can take to defending and escaping the heel hook.  The first thing is to have good base and not get swept, the second is to control the hands, and the last thing if you are deep in a heel hook is to clear the knee line.

Base, Posture, and Defending the Heel Hook

Base and posture are extremely important elements to defending heel hooks and leg locks before they occur.  Theoretically, the heel hook cannot be finished if you are standing and your foot is still flat on the mat.  So if you have good base and posture, you can prevent your opponent from sweeping you.

Not getting swept is easier said than done but it is the first thing to attempt when dealing with a pesky heel hooker.  If you can manage to keep an aggressive game and have good posture you will be able to nullify the heel hook.  A good attack when someone is playing butterfly guard is the kimura trap and roll, check out our article, “Using the Kimura Grip to Control your Opponent.”  Also, check out this video where Eddie Cummings talks about if heel hooks are dangerous and some principles to defending them.

Hand Fighting to Defend the Heel Hook

Hand fighting is another key element to defending the heel hook.  Theoretically, your opponent probably can’t finish a heel hook with one hand, and even if they can, it will be much more difficult.  SO assume you tried to have good base and posture but your opponent sweeps you, the first thing you should do is hand fighting and attempt to get a 2 on 1 grip on your opponent’s wrist.

Controlling your opponent’s wrist is vital to survival if you have already fallen and are near getting heel hooked.  Check out this video with Dean Lister below about escaping a heel hook.

Clearing the Knee Line

Clearing the knee line may be the most important detail to escaping the heel hook, if you fall and your opponent is starting to attack the heel hook than you need to be able to clear the knee line.  This means that you can get your knee cap out from in between your opponent’s legs. 

Assume you are about to get swept, as you fall try to fall controlled in a position so that you can clear the knee line.  This will help you evade heel hooks.  Check out our article “3 Steps to Defending Leg Locks” to learn more on this concept.  Also, check out this escape to a heel hook below with Reilly Bodycomb.

Heel Hook DVDs / Instructional Videos

Let's just be honest with each other here. The world of leg locks is a big one. It's like learning the concept of "guard" again, but applying it to the legs. You know what I mean... do you remeber as a white belt that no matter how you tried to hold guard, your opponent would pass in a second later. That's what it's like playing the leg lock game with someone who knows their shit. You're in for a world that you're not ready for ... yet.

But I gotta suggestion for you. See there's this guy, MAYBE you've heard of him: John Danaher. He just so happens to be regarded as the absolute authority on leg locks.

When you're ready to dive into the world of heel hooks or ashi garamis or whatever you want to call them - then start here.

BTW - if you're wondering what ashi garami means, it's basically means leg entanglement or entanglement of legs (in Japanese), enjoy that piece of knowledge for our new game BJJ Fanatics TRIVA (not real)! But stundy John Danaher to get all the answers to heel hooks and leg locks from a smart dude who just wears rash guards.


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