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LEG LOCK BJJ
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LEG LOCK BJJ

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For a long time, competing in the Gi has been the pinnacle of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu combat. From the Brazilian National Championships all the way to the prestigious World Championship tournament, where many high level athletes have made a name for themselves like Roger Gracie, Ronaldo Souza, Marcelo Garcia, and Xande Ribeiro.

What this article covers:

Throughout the evolution of Jiu Jitsu the bjj building blocks have begun to change, as the fundamentals of positional control, and passing the guard are becoming less important to the modern day leg locker. Instead the culmination of different leg entanglement positions like the 50/50 guard, the inside sankaku, and the ashi garami jiu jitsu position take precedence.

Before Leg Locks became all the rage, there was GOKOR!  Learn the leg lock game from one of the pioneers of the sport and BJJFanatics.com!

jiu jitsu leg locks

Nowadays the professional Jiu Jitsu athlete has the hunger for more modern, and televised competition events. Gaining notoriety from events like the ADCC, Who's Number One, Polaris, and Fight 2 Win, they are bringing the art of No Gi grappling into the mainstream era of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The leg lock has always been around, but its more recent significance in the professional world scene, has only driven more innovation surrounding the development. Leg lock submissions have proven to be extremely dangerous, as many of them either compress, hyperextend, or twist the knee joint. This has created the need for a comprehensive defense system, as well as an even more creative entry system to the leg entanglement game. 

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WHAT IS THE LEG ENTANGLEMENT POSITION 

There are many different positions that make up the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu repertoire. From takedown maneuvers, to sweeping transitions, defensive and offensive guard positions, and guard passing techniques. One position that has become exceedingly popular is the leg entanglement position. This is a position where one practitioner will attempt to secure control, and inevitably achieve submissions to the leg area. Leg entanglements involve submissions to the knee, the ankle, the groin, the foot, and the calf. There are multiple avenues to attack leg submissions like using an inverted guard position, the single leg x guard, the k guard, the de la riva guard, the 50/50 guard, the z guard, the squid guard, and the worm guard. There are also numerous ways to thread into attacking leg positions like the ashi garami, the outside ashi garami, the cross ashi garami, the inside sankaku, the leg knot, and the truck position. 

HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF LEG LOCKS ARE THERE

There are many different kinds of leg lock submissions, with some more dangerous than others. The deadliest leg lock of all is the heel hook, which predominantly has two main variations, the inside and the outside heel hook. The difference between the two is that the outside version rotates the knee away from an opponent's centreline, as opposed to an inside heel hook which rotates the knee towards the centreline of the opponent. Both variations can be dangerous, with the inside version becoming more popular on the world level, due to the more effective entries from a wider variety of positions. Even though this submission involves attacking the heel and twisting the ankle, the clamp on an opponent's thigh with the athlete's legs will ensure the pressure is directed straight into the knee joint. The heel hook can cause significant damage to many of the ligaments in the knee including the meniscus, the lateral cruciate ligament, the medial collateral ligament, the posterior cruciate ligament, and the anterior cruciate ligament. The heel hook is illegal in most competitions, and can only usually be executed by brown or black belt competitors. 

Another popular leg lock is the bjj ankle lock, and this submission can be used by all belt ranks. This submission is also known as the straight foot lock, which is one of the simplest leg locks to apply, but is also the simplest to defend. The ankle lock can put a lot of downward pressure on the inside of an opponent's foot, which will cause the bands of ligaments that help hold the ankle bones together, strain or tear. The ankle only has a limited range of motion, and this submission can severely impinge the ankle beyond its linear, and rotational movement. The ankle lock is generally achieved from the ashi garami entry, where an athlete will look to take their opponents down in the single leg x guard position, before clamping the leg and applying the ankle lock to the achilles tendon.

The knee bar is another common position, and just like the heel hook it is usually only legal for brown and black belt competitors. The jiu jitsu knee bar can be another dangerous submission, because the mechanics of the maneuver will hyperextend the knee joint. Any submission toward the knee is extremely deadly, and needs to be utilised cautiously. The aim of this leg lock is to hyperextend the knee joint past the point of its normal range of motion, which will cause compression to the meniscus. This will ultimately lead to damage to other ligaments that support the knee like the anterior cruciate ligament. The knee bar is a submission that can be extremely tough to defend once an athlete is caught deep, so it requires an early preventative measure. 

The toe hold is another extremely deadly submission that is only attempted by high level practitioners. Applying a toe hold will force the opponent to give up position, and this is due to the pain, and severity the submission can cause. The toe hold has a similar function to the ankle, except because the toes are directly attacked, it will cause more severe torque on the ligaments in the foot. A figure four grip is applied to the ankle, with one of the athlete's hands holding the toes, while the other forearm acts like a leverage point. This action causes plantar flexion due to the rotational aspect of the submission. This leg lock is one of the deadliest, and is often used in conjunction with a knee bar submission.

Another painful leg lock is the calf slicer bjj submission. This maneuver is commonly associated with athletes that are well versed in the rubber guard position. The truck position is a leg lock entry that is commonly seen in building up to the calf slicer. This submission can also be utilised from more traditional positions like the closed guard, and the mount. The calf slicer, or otherwise known as the calf crusher, is different to most leg lock submissions, as it will apply pressure to the muscle instead of the joint. This submission will cause severe pain to the calf muscle, but can also do damage to the knee joint. The calf slicer is usually applied by using an athlete's shin behind the knee of an opponent, before pulling down the foot, and causing the calf muscle to crush into the shinbone. 

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ENTRY POSITIONS TO THE LEG LOCK

The most common position to attack leg locks from, is the ashi garami. This position is when a practitioner is securing an opponent's leg with a knee pinching the inside of their thigh, while their other leg is wrapping around the outside of the thigh. The outside leg is placed in the hip, while both legs are squeezing together. This will give an athlete the opportunity to attack the heel, or the ankle. The ashi garami is one of the more popular attack positions to use in No Gi grappling, and this is due to how easily it can be set up from various guard positions.

The outside ashi garami is similar to the standard ashi garami, with the difference being that the practitioner's legs are threaded to the outside of their opponent's thigh. Commonly in this position the practitioner will connect their feet together, which can be a dominant grip for a practitioner looking to secure a heel hook submission. The cross ashi garami is where a practitioner will thread their leg from the inside to the outside, and back over their opponent's leg, before hooking into their opposite leg. The practitioner's other leg is hooking under the opposite leg like a butterfly hook. This is a highly effective and dangerous position, which can lead to a variety of leg lock submissions.

A really dangerous position to attack inside heel hooks from is the inside sankaku, which does bare a resemblance to the cross ashi garami. The inside sankaku uses the inside leg of a practitioner to thread through, and around the outside of their opponent's leg, before threading back over the top, and under the opposite leg. In Japanese the term sankaku means triangle, so it is important to secure a triangle by using their other leg underneath their opponent. This position is secured on the inside of their opponent's leg, as the connection of the practitioner's triangle will enable a tight lock, and give a high percentage chance of finishing an inside heel hook. 

Another dangerous position is an old Russian sambo technique, called the leg knot. This position can be a little harder to enter due to the higher entanglement of both legs. The practitioner will grab hold of one ankle placing it firmly under their armpit, while their closest leg threads over the opponent’s trapped leg, and back underneath hooking the opposite leg. The practitioner's other leg will trap across their opponent's opposite shin, threading underneath and connecting with their other foot. This will give a maximum opportunity to control both legs, and broaden the scope with the variety of leg submissions they can achieve.

The truck position was made famous by Eddie Bravo, and his 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system. The truck is a great entanglement position that can be used to attack a multitude of techniques like the twister, the heel hook, the calf slicer, and the bjj electric chair position. This highly effective position has the ability to keep an opponent stuck in between a variety of submission maneuvers. There are many different ways to enter the truck position, but essentially it is when a practitioner has a half guard from the back, as they create a triangle with their legs, and utilise a jiu jitsu lockdown position. The practitioner will then secure a grip with their arms on their opponent's other leg, to attack a variety of submissions like the banana split, the calf slicer, and the knee bar. 

THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE LEG LOCKS

Securing a leg lock position can be daunting especially when a practitioner attacks from the 50/50 guard, as it will give an equal opportunity for their opponent to attack their own leg lock submission. One of the easiest, and most high percentage submissions is the inside heel hook from the inside sankaku, as this submission can be achieved easily from the butterfly guard. The practitioner will simply elevate their opponent on both of their butterfly hooks, as they use the angle shift, of taking their right butterfly hook out of the groin, and placing it underneath the hamstring of the opposite leg. This will create a triangle, or inside sankaku position, where an opponent can use an easy heel hook transition.  

Another great position can happen as an opponent attempts to pass the guard. The practitioner will use their right shin (or the one on the bottom) firmly against their opponent's right shin. From here they will invert onto their right shoulder, threading their left leg into a cross ashi position, as they slip their right leg behind their opponent's leg until it hooks their left leg. From here the practitioner can either move straight into an inside sankaku, or use their left hand to trap the knee, while their right hand traps their opponent's left ankle. From here the practitioner can easily make their opponent fall to the mat, landing straight into an inside heel hook. 

An iconic submission in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the back step knee bar from inside an opponent's half guard. This submission is easy to do, and only requires a strong control on the pass, before back stepping over their opponent's leg, and sitting on their belly. From here the practitioner will have their opponent's leg trapped between theirs, as they maneuver onto their side, and secure the leg with the knee into their chest, and the hook of the foot on their shoulder. To finish the submission it is a matter of hyperextending the knee joint by cupping the back of the ankle, and extending their hips out, as they pull inward with the ankle. The knee bar is a high percentage submission, because if the opponent manages to escape the leverage in the knee, then the practitioner can simply switch to a toe hold.

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HOW TO DEFEND THE LEG LOCK

There are different ways to defend leg locks in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and it primarily depends on which submission is being applied. A simple ankle lock defense starts with a practitioner instantly curling their toes toward themself, so they can buy themself a little bit of time. If the practitioner's left leg is being attacked, then they will post off the mat with their left hand, and use their right hand to pin their opponent's bottom leg to the mat. From here the practitioner can use all of their weight onto their left hand as they slip their but over the bottom leg. It is important to keep their right hand pressuring the knee, as they continue to circle away from the ankle lock.

Before Leg Locks became all the rage, there was GOKOR!  Learn the leg lock game from one of the pioneers of the sport and BJJFanatics.com!

bjj leg locks

Defending heel hooks takes a bit more concentration than a straight ankle lock. A practitioner should always be actively trying to extend their toes, and their knee, so they can slip the heel out of their opponent's grip. Using this kind of pressure is the countermeasure, or the opposite pressure from their opponent's attacking pressure. Often a practitioner will try to roll away, but it is extremely hard to clear the knee from the ashi garami position. Instead if the practitioner is having their left leg attacked, then they should post off of their left hand, and their opposite leg, as they straighten their trapped leg. This will force their opponent onto their shoulder, which will instantly make the heel hook attempt weaker. Now the practitioner can use their right hand to pin their opponent's leg to the mat, as they easily slip the heel out of danger by turning their hip, and getting their knee toward the mat. Now the practitioner can move into an advantageous position like a guard pass to side control, or mount. 

Defending the knee bar is another different concept to the heel hook, or the ankle lock. The first aspect for a practitioner is to think about clearing their knee from the centreline, as this is where the hyperextension becomes prominent. The first step is for the practitioner to use their free foot, and start to push into the back of their opponent's knee, as this will make it significantly harder for the opponent to hyperextend the knee joint. At the same time the practitioner will be pulling their leg backwards, which will help to clear the knee from out of the leverage point. The important tip is the positioning of the foot behind the knee, as opposed to a foot pushing into the glutes. A push to the glute can also work, but what a practitioner will find is how much extra leverage they will have from pushing into the knee. Jiu Jitsu is all about finding the most simple ways of attacking, and defending, so a practitioner can have the highest level of energy in order to win the match. 

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