Easy Ashi Garami for Everyone
According to the old proverb, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The meaning behind this old saying is that all we need is to take that first step and we can begin any journey, no matter how long and daunting.
If you've been training BJJ for any length of time and you've not gotten into the sometimes nefarious looking world of lower body submissions, the first time you dip your toe (see what I did there?) into the water can be a frightening day. Gone are the simple days of pure jiu jitsu when all a practitioner needed to know was the difference between closed guard and basic open guard. If you really knew your stuff, maybe you can do some half guard every now and again.
Entering the land of lower body submission requires you to begin understanding a new language, filled with terms like ashi garami, honey hole, 411, and inside sankaku. It can be more than a little overwhelming. But what we forget is that any new technique, any new concept can seem extremely daunting at first. The first time we are taught a standard arm lock from closed guard, our brains are reacting very similarly to the first time we sit down and try to understand a leg lock.
We must start simply and we must break things down into smaller bits, or smaller steps. The journey of a thousand leg locks begins with understanding one concept. The concept we would like to start with today is ashi garami which simply means "leg entanglement" and is one of the best places to start our journey towards becoming leg lock aces.
Ashi garami is a position where one of the opponent's legs has been isolated and trapped on the outside of the offensive players legs. One of the attacker's legs is entwined behind and over the top of the thigh with the foot placed in the opponent's hip joint. The other leg is pinched with the knees driving together while the hook on that leg is most commonly hooked onto the other leg to prevent it's mobility.
Let's look at some simple ashi garami entries from legendary grappling and MMA competitor and coach Ricardo Almeida, who also happens to be the instructor of Tom Deblass, Frankie Edgar, and many others.
For Almeida, a huge fundamental and concept of understanding the ashi garami position is knowing how to use it defensively to keep your feet safe against attack. The number one rule of thumb in the leg game is that the one with both of the feet on the inside of the opponent's legs is the safest from leg attack.
Entries into positions are oftentimes the most important thing to understand. Completing a technique is one challenge, but putting ourselves and our opponent's body into the proper position from which to execute the technique is a fundamental and concept that cannot be ignored.
Almeida demonstrates several techniques with the ultimate goal of 'unbalancing' the opponent. By unbalancing his opponent, he forces a reaction in the opponent. That reaction is to prevent the unbalancing and in each of these cases, involves the opponent stepping a leg up creating space for Ricardo to enter into ashi garami.
Ashi garami is also known as single leg X guard and from this position, there are not only a number of leg locks available, but also many sweeps like the single leg X and the extremely effective "taking out the trash sweep."
In the first instance, he utilizes a butterfly guard entry, securing an under hook and using the butterfly hook to unbalance the opponent and force him to step up. In the second instance, he utilizes a simply arm drag to unbalance the opponent.
So with a little effort and taking that first proverbial step of learning the basic ashi garami position and a few simple entries, you can begin making that journey to a thousand leg locks. And until your leg locks get where they need to be you will have sweeps available to you and absolute worse case, you'll understand better how to keep your own feet safe from the other leg lock aces in your path.