KNEE BAR BJJ
The art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become an extremely diverse platform for athletes to showcase their skill sets. When Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was first introduced to the western world, Martial Art forms were extremely segregated, as different art forms stuck to their own quarters. With the culmination of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and the induction of different Martial Arts fighting against each other, the world was exposed to a better way.
What this article covers:
- How to Execute a Knee Bar
- Different Knee Bar Set Ups
- Does the Knee Bar Work in Other Forms of Combat
Nowadays many Martial Artists integrate different styles of fighting systems to improve their ability to defeat their opponents. This is seen in Mixed Martial Arts, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as many world class athletes have created their own bjj building blocks that incorporate Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wrestling, Judo, and even Sambo techniques. Even Muay Thai kick boxing has featured in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as practitioners will use the Thai clinch as an instrumental part of controlling an opponent's posture.
There are many different submissions incorporated within the structured arsenal of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Traditional Jiu Jitsu has seen arm locks and choke holds become iconic, but in the more modernised world of grappling the popularity of leg locks, and different leg entanglement positions have become the feature. The dangerous leg lock game is now being showcased by many world class athletes, from the new age grappler all the way to the traditionalist now fighting to keep up with the trends. Heel hooks, toe holds, knee bars, and calf slicer bjj techniques are among the four most dangerous leg locks in the modern form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The knee bar, or otherwise known as the leg bar jiu jitsu position has been around for a long time, as many traditionalists are well versed in the hyperextension of this legitimate leg lock. Even though heel hooks are probably the most dangerous leg submission, knee bars are not far behind in comparison.
HOW TO EXECUTE A KNEE BAR
Knee bars can be an extremely dangerous submission, as the damage that can be caused is serious to the knee joint. A knee bar is extremely similar to an arm lock, as it involves the hyperextension of the knee joint to secure a leg lock submission. There are many different ways to secure a knee bar, and commonly it is set up from the bjj ashi garami position, or from a guard passing position. The mechanics of a knee bar are pretty simple, and it involves an athlete to secure an opponent's leg in between their thighs. To execute a tight knee bar the athlete must have their legs clamped lower than the athlete's knee line, and they must have their opponent's knee facing towards their chest with their toes over their shoulder. To finish the submission the athlete will be pulling the heel, as they extend their hips outwards, causing severe hyperextension of the knee joint. The athlete can also decide to thread their opponent's heel underneath their armpit if they require more torque, and this is usually against more flexible opponents. If the opponent manages to slip their knee outside of their opponent's knee line, then the athlete can switch into a toe hold, which is even more of a deadly maneuver. This makes the knee bar position one of the most deadly due to its diverse range of submission attacks.
DIFFERENT KNEE BAR SET UPS
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has many rules surrounding competition aspects, and quite often students will ask are leg locks legal in bjj. Although a beginner student can only utilise a bjj ankle lock, as they work their way up through the ranking system, other leg lock submissions become available like the knee bar, the calf slicer, the toe hold, and the heel hook. One of the most common knee bar set ups comes from being stuck in an opponent's half guard. When the athlete is looking to pass the guard, and is stuck in half mount, what they can do is look to backstep, and clear their leg over their opponent's leg, trapping it between their legs. From here they need to act quickly, and dive in deep for the heel before their opponent can connect their hooks together. Once the athlete has the heel secured with their toes over their shoulder, they will fall to their side and begin hyperextending the knee by pushing their hips outwards. This is quite an easy knee bar to execute, and it's probably one of the most common set ups.
Another common way to set up the knee bar is from the ashi garami position, and this submission move can be utilised from most ashi garami positions. Although it does involve some intricate timing from an athlete. Commonly an opponent will look to spin out of the ashi garami by moving towards the inside where the knee is in the thigh. This is because if they move towards the outside foot that is in the hip, they will be unable to escape, and risk spinning into a heel hook. Once the opponent has begun to rotate towards the inside, the athlete will loosen their ashi garami, leaving their outside foot planted firmly in the hip, while they thread their inside leg over creating an outside ashi garami, with their opponent turned away facing the mat. From here the athlete will lock their leg into a triangle, as they allow the back of the heel to slot under their armpit. To finish the knee bar the athlete will rotate their hips toward the mat, as they drop their shoulder back, creating a hyperextension of the knee.
Knee bars can come from different scenarios, like when an athlete is setting up for the scissor sweep. What can commonly happen is an opponent will step over the outside foot of the knee shield, and this will force an athlete to change their tactics. Now that the opponent has stepped over the outside foot, it will become a butterfly hook inside their groin. Using a cross grip to secure their opponent's wrist, and their other hand to secure the back of the lat muscle, they can execute a reverse scissor sweep. It is in the details that as they begin to elevate their opponent with their hook, and start to twirl them in the reverse direction, that the bottom leg becomes exposed. Midway through the transition the athlete can scoot straight into a knee bar position on the bottom leg, as they flex their hips straight into their opponent's knee joint, as they pull the heel backwards.
Rolling knee bars from the standing position are also highly achievable, and are not as complicated as they may seem. The hard part of the technique is turning their back on their opponent. The athlete will step into their opponent's space positioning both feet on either side of the outside leg, as they lower their body into a forward fold yoga position. From here the athlete will scoop behind the back of the knee, as they instantly forward roll over their shoulder. This movement will force their opponent to go with them, as the athlete lands in a knee bar position, and starts the process of hyperextending the knee joint, while they pull back on the ankle. This can be a low percentage move for a beginner student, but once an athlete understands how to be effective with their forward rolls, then this technique becomes extremely easy, and highly productive.
Another solid knee bar attack is the figure four knee bar. This submission can be secured from inside of an opponent's half guard, when the opponent has a triangle locked around the leg. The first step is to begin the knee slice pass on the opponent, and when the athlete knee slices down the inside of their thigh they will back step, clearing the top leg of the opponent. From here the athlete will trap their opponent's leg that is anchoring the triangle, by threading their leg over the top, and creating their own connection. From here the athlete will attack the leg by hyperextending the knee, and what makes this submission deadly is that the opponent’s leg becomes a blocker behind their knee, which makes it impossible to defend the knee attack.
The inverted knee bar is a submission that can be achieved when an athlete is in the half guard position. First and foremost the athlete needs to dig in their frames so they can create enough space to attack double under hooks. The athlete will need to use c grips underneath their opponent's armpits to push their body weight up higher, so the athlete can control their opponent's waist. Now the athlete is in a prime position to use their leg to scoop the back of their opponent's heel, and pull downwards hyperextending the knee. The athlete can use both feet to administer the tap, or they can simply use one foot, either way this can be an extremely uncomfortable position.
HOW TO DEFEND THE KNEE BAR
Defending the knee bar is a lot easier than defending some of the other leg lock positions, like the inside heel hook. Because the knee bar is a straight leg lock there is no imminent danger to be too concerned with. Submissions like the jiu jitsu neck crank are extremely dangerous and can cause a panic tap to occur, but the knee bar is a submission that gives an athlete some time to play with. With the twisting aspect of heel hooks, the ligaments can get destroyed really quickly, but the strength of all the leg bones, combined with the hamstring curl that an athlete possesses, makes achieving a knee bar rather tricky. However, this does not mean an athlete can stay in a knee bar and think it will not finish them. An athlete needs to be actively defending the submission by framing, and trying to free their knee from their opponent's clamp.
There are different variations of defense to escape from a knee bar. One way to escape the position is to use their free foot to push into the back of their opponent's knee, as this will help them create enough leverage to escape their knee. It is important to be ready because an opponent may try to switch the position and attempt a toe hold, or move into a heel hook attempt. Another way to defend the knee bar position is by instantly turning the foot towards the outside of the opponent’s body, and this will free the knee from the leverage position. It is important not to turn the foot inwards, because the opponent can roll and make the knee bar tight on the bottom leg, they can also switch into a toe hold, and this becomes much harder to defend. Once the athlete has turned their foot to the outside of their opponent's body they can easily free their knee from their opponent's thighs.
DOES THE KNEE BAR WORK IN OTHER FORMS OF COMBAT
There is a wide range of submission maneuvers that are utilised in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu matches. It is common for athletes to question whether these submission moves will work in a real life street application. Considering Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was designed specifically as a self defense combat system, many of the grappling submission holds do have significant relevance in a real life conflict situation. The only real way to test whether any of these moves do work for real is inside of the Mixed Martial Arts arena. MMA is as close as an athlete will get to a real life street fight. There are many combat athletes that have added Brazilian Jiu Jitsu submissions to their arsenal, and this is because striking won't always get the job done, as the fight is often taken to the ground. This has left an apparent need for submission ferocity inside of the cage.
Looking back over the history of Fighting there have been many athletes that have achieved submissions like the knee bar in many different events worldwide. Going back to the early 1990’s before the UFC showcased their inaugural event, the only place that an athlete could test their skills, and receive a decent paycheck was in Japan fighting at the king of Pancrase tournament. Ken Shamrock was known as the world's most dangerous man, and in 1994 he showed just why, as he decimated all of his opponents becoming the very first king of pancrase champion. In 1995 he would go on to defend his title against the world renowned Dutch kickboxer, grappler, and MMA extraordinaire Bas Rutten. Even though Bas Rutten was a formidable opponent it only took Ken Shamrock one minute to take the fight to the ground, and spin into a knee bar finish. This was the beginning of a future of submission holds in professional fighting.
Other fighters over the course of history have applied seriously good knee bar finishes. One fight that comes to mind is Mauricio Shogun Rua versus Kevin Randleman in 2006 at the 32nd edition of the Pride Fighting Championship. Randleman was an athletic beast, and an iconic wrestler at the time, and Rua was more famously known for his soccer kicks, and stomps to the head which was allowed in Pride FC back in those early days. Randleman took Rua to the mat with electric speed, but Rua would quickly turn the tables, as he landed a sweep to gain a dominant top position. At 2:35 into the first round Rua secured a knee bar, as he threaded Randleman's heel underneath his armpit, and applied an extensive amount of torque to the hyperextended knee. This win was extremely impressive, as it was the only submission win in Rua's 24 fight career.
There have been some seriously good knee bar finishes in UFC history like Frank Mir submitting Brock Lesnar at UFC 81, and Zabit Magomedsharipov with his iconic knee bar finish at UFC 228 against Brandon Davis. At UFC 110 Chris Lytle performed an excellent rolling knee bar against Brian Foster. Kenny Robertson pulled off an incredible knee bar, as he had a high back control with both hooks in before reaching back and hyperextending Brock Jardine's knee. Other exceptional athletes like Jim Miller, Frank Shamrock, Rousimar Palhares, Antonio Braga Neto, and Ken Shamrock have all executed knee bar finishes in the UFC. There will always be submission prowess in Mixed Martial Arts, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as the high calibre of finishing moves like the knee bar have become extremely dangerous leg entanglement positions.
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