LEG BAR JIU JITSU
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become one of the most popular forms of combat in the modern era. With the rise of televised grappling events like the ADCC, and Who's Number One, many world class athletes are showing why submission grappling has become the pinnacle of combat sports in the world today.
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The evolution of the art has grown from its brutal beginnings of savage street application, and Vale Tudo competition in the dangerous streets of Brazil. Nowadays the culmination of different art forms like Judo, Wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has intertwined into building a more comprehensive grappling system. The highly diverse nature of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has athletes committing to high calibre takedown maneuvers, athletic transitional components, and the intricate lapel systems for passing, sweeping, and submitting opponents.
The new aged athlete is heavily involved in the leg entanglement game, as submission moves like the bjj knee bar, the calf slicer, the heel hook, and the ankle lock all can be achieved from different entanglement positions like the saddle, 50/50 guard, and the bjj ashi garami position. The extensive nature of the leg lock game has seen a multitude of developments from world class practitioners like Dean Lister, John Danaher, Lachlan Giles, and Craig Jones. Their innovative thinking has helped to create a nationwide insurgence of systematic entries into the leg entanglement position. Even though the heel hook has become the premier leg lock in professional grappling, the knee bar is still an extremely viable alternative to submit an opponent.
WHAT IS A LEG BAR
The leg bar is just another name for a knee bar, and this submission can be considerably dangerous to execute. The leverage system of a knee bar submission is similar to an arm bar, as the joint will be put through a severe hyperextension. A knee bar has an extensive series of different entries, which range from different guard positions, to during a transitional exchange. The knee bar mechanism is a simple one, as it involves hyperextension of the tibiofemoral joint. Most people have anywhere from five to ten degrees of extension in their knee joint, so a solid knee bar can be deadly. The most basic explanation of how a knee bar works is that an athlete will trap their opponent's leg between their thighs, as they face the knee joint towards their abdomen. From here they will use their hips to extend the knee joint, while they pull the foot away from the knee extension. The athlete can also decide to thread their opponent's heel underneath their own armpit, and this is a way to gain extra torque onto the knee joint.
HOW DANGEROUS CAN A LEG BAR BE
The dangers of a knee bar submission can be quite extensive if an athlete does not utilise a quick and correct defense. When an opponent uses knee lock bjj moves it specifically targets the tibiofemoral joint with a hyperextension. Because the knee joint was not designed to extend far at all, the ligaments in the knee will help to prevent hyperextension. There are also other factors like the hamstring, and the calf muscle to help resist hyperextension, and even the popliteus plays a vital role in the knee joint, as it unlocks the knee as it bends, and protects the lateral meniscus. The posterior joint capsule will also help to prevent hyperextension by reinforcing the whole knee joint.
Because of the comprehensive systems in place that help prevent the knee from hyperextending, this is why it is not common to see a knee joint exploding from a knee bar submission. However if the knee is extended beyond its normal range of mobility, then this can cause extensive sprains, or ruptures to many of the ligament structures, strains or tears to the muscle tissue, or stretching and tearing to the posterior joint capsule. Although suffering from a knee bar might not have the same devastating effect on the knee that a heel hook can, it can still become a debilitating long term injury, especially if the knee is hyperextended beyond its capabilities.
ENTRIES INTO THE LEG BAR
There are many different entries into a leg entanglement position, with some of them from coordinated attacks, while others will happen during a scramble position. The ashi garami position is mainly used for attacking heel hooks, or the bjj ankle lock, but when an opponent attempts to spin out of the ashi garami position, then the athlete can attack a knee bar submission. As the opponent begins to move towards the inside knee of the athlete, they are commonly looking to pry open the knee, and begin to knee slice through the guard. The athlete will use their timing to unhook their inside knee, and secure more of an outside ashi garami, as their opponent begins to turn their body towards the mat. From here the athlete will slide up into a controlling position on the leg, as they hold the foot on their shoulder, or secure the heel underneath their armpit. To finish the athlete will flex their hips upwards, causing a hyperextension in the knee joint.
Understanding the bjj building blocks of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu means that submissions will sometimes need a different path then the most direct one. This means that an athlete that attacks a definitive knee bar can often play right into the hands of a defensive counter movement. It is important to set traps, and to distract an opponent with other attacking movements, so they can maximise their approach towards a successful submission. This is highly effective from a guard passing stand point, as the athlete will distract their opponent by attempting to knee slice pass. Once their opponent commits to defending the pass the athlete will backstep over their opponent's top leg, securing their thigh between their legs. Before the opponent can hide their foot, the athlete will attack the knee bar, falling to the side and using all of the knee bar mechanisms to get the submission. If the opponent begins to escape their knee from the athlete's grasp, then they can switch into a toe hold maneuver, which can be even more deadly than a knee bar.
Utilising rolling or jumping submissions from the standing position can catch an opponent off guard. There are multiple avenues to attack these highly advanced techniques like a flying arm bar, a spinning bjj omoplata, a scissor leg takedown, or a rolling knee bar. Rolling attacks can be extremely smooth, and effective in the high intensity atmosphere of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition match. To secure a rolling knee bar the athlete needs to occupy their opponent's space by stepping in close, and turning their back, as they place both of their feet on either side of their opponent's leg. It is important to be weary of their opponent taking back control, so sometimes addressing the grip is crucial to avoiding these issues. Once the athlete is in position they will reach down like they were about to play Jeff Glover's donkey guard, and scoop one hand behind the knee of the opponent. Their other hand will help to guide them into a forward roll, as they secure the leg tightly during their transition. To finish they just need to hyperextend the knee joint, while keeping a tight clamp on their opponent's foot.
Utilising different sweep techniques as a way of securing submissions can be an extremely effective tactic. The knee bar is one submission that can be achieved easily from different sweeps scenarios. The pendulum arm bar sweep is mainly used for attacking an arm bar, or a transition into the mount, but because the sweep involves hooking underneath the leg, the athlete can switch into a knee bar by simply transitioning their legs into a secured position on the leg to accommodate the knee bar. The reverse scissor sweep is also a good sweep that an athlete can use to achieve a knee bar submission. This sweep is extremely common and can be achieved from a failed scissor sweep. As the opponent steps over the knee shield hook, the athlete's foot becomes a butterfly hook, as they use a cross grip to secure the wrist, and their other hand will take control of the lat muscle. From here they can shift their weight, and twirl their opponent towards the outside of their body, which will expose their bottom leg for a knee bar attack. Using sweeps that double up as submissions are extremely versatile, and can be advantageous to a competitive athlete.
DEFENDING THE LEG BAR
Defending leg lock submissions are actually quite simplistic one at a time. The problem that athletes face is that there are comprehensive systems in linking all of these mechanics together. For instance it can be easy for an opponent to switch between the different ashi garami positions, and between different leg submissions like the heel hook, the toe hold, and the knee bar. This makes defending all of these transitions hard, because an athlete needs a comprehensive defense system they can memorise. In terms of defending a knee bar this can be a much easier task, as the knee has a far better anatomy structure then a twisting leg lock like a heel hook. The knee bar is also less threatening of an attack to an athlete, which will give them more time to adjust their defensive structure.
A basic way to defend the knee bar is for the athlete to use their frames as a way to protect themselves. Escaping their knee from danger becomes easier if the athlete can use connection between their limbs, and this can make securing the leg difficult from the beginning. If an opponent does manage to secure a tight knee bar then the athlete must think about moving the angle of their knee away from where the leverage will be extended. This may mean they need to escape the angle of their hips so they can free their knee without the risk of injury. A good way to achieve escaping the knee is by using their other foot as a way to push behind the knee of their opponent. This will create an easy way to escape, making it extremely hard for an opponent to remain in control of their limb.
Another good concept in defending a knee bar is all about the placement of an athlete's foot. Commonly the athlete's toes, and their knee will be facing the abdomen of their opponent. This means the athlete should start to face their toes toward the outside of their opponent's body. This will increase their chance of releasing the pressure from the knee, making it hard for their opponent to hyperextend the knee joint. It is important to remember not to turn an athlete's toes toward the inside of their opponent, as they can easily change their angle and trap the knee for an easy knee bar finish. This will also give the opponent an opportunity to switch into a toe hold, so the athlete must remember to face their toes towards the outside, and look to free their leg from the danger.
ARE LEG BARS LEGAL IN BJJ COMPETITION
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions have different standards for different organisations. The IBJJF are different from the ADCC, and the Gi divisions also differentiate from the No Gi division. In the IBJJF regulations, it states that the knee bar is only legal for brown and black belt competitors. This may seem unfair to some of the lower ranked students, but due to some of the more debilitating injuries in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it is understandable why these moves are only left in the hands of higher level athletes. The ADCC has a different standard to the IBJJF, as they believe in helping lower level athletes achieve a higher level of grappling at a younger belt age. In the ADCC the divisions are made up from three different categories, beginner which is a white belt, intermediate which is blue, and purple belts, and professional which is brown, and black belts. This means that intermediate, and professional level athletes are permitted to use knee bar submissions, and only beginner students are prohibited from attempting this knee joint submission.
HOW EFFECTIVE CAN LEG BARS BE
The leg entanglement position in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become a highly effective platform to attempt submissions from. In the modern era positions like the ashi garami, the inside sankaku, the cross ashi garami, the outside ashi garami, and the truck position have made leg lock submissions more accessible to an athlete. The threat of high level leg attacks have become synonymous with No Gi grappling, as the international circuit of professional grappling has instilled its appeal to the modern leg lock. Heel hooks have become the number one leg lock submission, but the credibility of the knee bar is still an extremely effective, and functional way to submit an opponent.
There are multiple variations of knee bar submissions, and these attacks are extremely high percentage inside of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition arena. The versatility of the knee bar attack has even translated into Mixed Martial Arts, as many seasoned fighters attempt the knee bar submission. Some of the more famous wins in MMA history have actually been knee bar victories. Frank Mir defeated Brock Lesnar, Ken Shamrock defeated Kimo Leopold, Mauricio Shogun Rua defeated Kevin Randleman, and Chris Lytle defeated Brian Foster all with knee bar finishes. The effectiveness of knee bars, and leg locks in general have superseded any expectations of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu submission game.
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