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Leg Lock Safety
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Leg Lock Safety

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Leg locks are a consistent debate topic in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition world and thus are sometimes a looming cloud in training, like the elephant graveyard of the mats.

There are different rules for various organizations, each school seems to have a variable approach to them and you typically don’t learn the more precise motions until you have been training for a while. Taking all of this into consideration forms a very blurred line, so what are the real rules?! 

A big reason a lot of professors don’t teach a lot of leg locks in class is simply because of the mixed attendance on the mat. The risk of injury and advanced technique are not for beginners, and in order to avoid confusion or harm to partners, it is generally skipped over for large classes. In addition to the threat of injury, leg locks tend to distract beginner grapplers and inhibit them from advancing other necessary skills if they are introduced too early. That being said, what happens when we are ready for these techniques? 

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Once you are comfortable attending advanced classes, you might notice the addition of knee bars, ankle locks and toe holds to your regular submissions of chokes and arm bars. Cue the excitement! At this point in your Jiu Jitsu career, your instructor trusts you to take care of yourself as well as your partner in these drills, so don’t get too caught up in the fun. The International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) has rules for each belt rank as to which submissions are allowed in competition. As a general rule these are often carried over into recreational rolling. 

This chart outlines the point at which submissions are considered legal in competition. Notice that the majority of leg joint submissions are farther down on the list and reserved for those that are adult blue belts and above. What makes these submissions more dangerous than others? Arm locks are painful and cause taps relatively early on, and injury risks are mostly parallel to pain; this means that harm isn’t likely to occur if the student isn’t in pain (though there are of course exceptions to all rules). Leg locks, on the other hand, are trickier in the sense that there is less pain felt before harm is induced. It takes a more seasoned grappler to recognize dangerous joint positions for both themselves and the person they are rolling with. 

When it comes to your game development and introducing leg locks too soon there are a few things to take into consideration. 

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1) Achieving a solid foundation

2) Guard passing It’s much easier to look for a short cut when you get trapped in someone else’s guard rather than apply fundamental techniques to advance your position or escape.

If you rely too much on leg locks to get out of everything you will not only get trapped in a lot of worse positions than you started in, but you will also bypass the knowledge of a lot of basic techniques to help you develop a well rounded grappling approach. 

Now that we’ve discussed the risks of leg locks, let’s go over a few examples so we can correctly apply them into our arsenal! Straight ankle lock: This submission can be used both offensively and defensively in grappling. It consists of two different pressure points (hyperextension of the foot as well as achilles tendon compression). There are multiple positional variations to this technique, but the idea is to isolate your opponents foot while keeping their body at a distance so they aren’t able to pull it back or bend the joint to escape. This maneuver can become dangerous to the knee if the person in the submission hold tries to spin out. 

Here are two different approaches shown by Mikey Musemeci: 

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