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Leg Lock Starter Kit With Examples
Beginner's Guide To Attack The Lower Half Of The Body!
In the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there are two main ways of practicing techniques and positions. The most common of these methods is basic technique repetition and this necessary to learn how to perform techniques correctly and add all the necessary details. The other method is quick-paced, high intensity, interval drills.
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The latter is important because it enforces muscle memory for specific movements and techniques. With that being said, I would like to share some high-intensity leg lock drills I use all the time to improve my leg attacking game.
The first drill is a modified version of a very basic seated ashi garami movement. Both partners will sit on the ground facing each other with their legs in front of them. The person doing the drill will move into ashi garami, aka single-leg-X, on one of their partners legs. The partner will do the basic defensive maneuver of pushing the outside leg towards the ground and begin to sit over it. The driller will then quickly slide out of that leg backwards and then reenter the position but on the other leg. It is important that the person doing this drill holds both ankles of their partner the entire interval without letting go. I typically like to do this for one or two minutes.
The next drill I do regularly is an ashi garami entry against a standing partner. The person doing this drill will lie flat on their back while their partner is standing directly above them with their shins on the bottom person’s armpits. To do the drill, the bottom player will begin to lift their legs and hips up and angle themselves to one side while they put their partner in ashi garami. From this position, the ashi garami will be released and is moved to the far side leg. Two huge details for this drill are lifting the hips as highly as possible and creating the angle towards the leg being attacked.
These two drills are a very effective way for a grappler to improve their leg attacking game quickly. They force the movement into muscle memory so that the transition becomes seamless and subconscious and consistently done correctly. They also focus on an important attribute great leg lockers have and that is the ability to quickly transition between both opponent’s legs. The ability to quickly move to the defender’s other leg is something John Danaher mentions constantly and has implemented greatly into his systems.
The single-leg-X position in Jiu Jitsu has gained popularity in recent years due to its characteristic efficacy in both sweeping and submitting. This position, also known as Ashi Garami, made its initial waves when legend Marcelo Garcia began using it in competition to defeat many skilled opponents.
Only within the last five to seven years has the position been associated more with leg attacks. Competitors such as Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan introduced us to boundless options for this position as not only a guard, but a position to submit from and transition to more effective leg entanglements. Because of this, it is necessary that everyone learn this position if they wish to be successful in competition.
The mechanical nature of the position seems complicated at first but becomes simple when actually drilled. To establish the position against a standing opponent, the hips of the guard player need to find themselves directly under the hips of the passer. By bringing one knee between the top player’s legs and wrapping the other leg to the outside, we are establishing a basic ashi garami.
There are important details that need to be understood to make the position efficacious. One detail is squeezing the knees together as you would from many positions such as the armbar as this will ensure that you do not slip off the leg. Placement of the feet is vital; the foot of the leg positioned in between the passer’s leg should be place right under the far side butt cheek while the foot that is wrapped around the leg needs to be placed high against the hip. Ensure that your hips are off the ground too so as to keep the top player off balance.
From here, there are a variety of strong sweeps. The most basic involves the guard player lifting the hips strongly as if they are bridging and opening toward the side of the leg being controlled. In the video below, BJJ Globetrotters instructor Charles Harriot demonstrates this simple sweep.
After sweeping, you will be situated in a similar position but now your opponent is on the ground. From here you can come on tap to begin a pass, most commonly a leg drag pass. You can also attempt a straight ankle lock on the same side leg or transition to better leg attacking positions. This sweep is one of my favorites and I use it constantly because it is quite difficult to defend and easy to enter.
As leg locks have gained in popularity in the sport of Jiu Jitsu, it has become vital that all grapplers of every skill level learn them if they wish to be successful submission artists. The best leg lock systems and instructors have been clustered to few areas in the grappling world, so it is difficult for some to become experts.
Regardless of instruction level, the fundamentals of leg locks must be trained avidly before advancing to more complex and intricate finishes. One technique all grapplers need to learn is the standard straight ankle. Even if you don’t like attacking the legs, learning how it is done will help your defensive capabilities drastically.
Through my years of training, I have been taught the straight ankle lock many different ways. Although each are effective in their own right, Dean Lister’s straight ankle has all the necessary attributes for a consistently successful finish. In the following video, Dean Lister will go over this simple technique with immense detail. Even if you are pretty good with this move, you will definitely have a few more details you can add.
Some important details Dean goes over that have changed the way I finish this technique include the grip, foot position, and chest opening. After experimentation with numerous different grips, I find that the one that works best for me is the guillotine grip high on the chest. Foot positioning in this ashi garami is crucial; the foot of the inside leg has to grab the upper hamstring on the far leg not only to defend the weird heel hook Dean discusses, but also to control the far leg. Controlling both legs is vital and is one of the biggest attributes that have led to the Danaher Death Squad’s success with leg locks.
Also, there is one detail Dean doesn’t discuss in this video that I have learned from Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan that has allowed me to finish the ankle lock much more consistently. After getting to the final position with the ankle trapped and ashi garami placed, do not lie on your shoulder. Rather, stay high on the elbow, from here move your elbow as far back behind you as you can. Then, begin to bring the top shoulder towards the mat as you bridge. This mechanic makes the ankle lock devastating.
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Undefended, the De La Riva guard can be one of the most dangerous positions a guard player can use to attack a standing opponent. There are numerous sweeps, back takes, and submissions that many grapplers are unaware of. The main technique used from this guard is a transition to a crab ride for a back take. This technique is very effective and used at the highest levels effectively.
In quickly examining the positional nature of the de la riva guard, you will notice that the non-de la riva hook leg is usually free, and even if it is not, it can easily be made free. This is probably one of the biggest problems of the de la riva guard and is used to start defending the position.
Because one leg is usually free and undefended, this means that one can start attacking that leg with numerous submissions. The most common submission to attack here is the toe hold. Unfortunately, or fortunately for some, many people don’t know how to properly execute this submission, exposing themselves.
In the following video, Professor Tom DeBlass shows the proper and effective way to quickly execute this technique against your opponents.
The main problem people have with this technique is not actually the break but getting the necessary control to prevent the guard player from rolling out or quickly defending the submission. Also, one thing I noticed when I was attacking this submission a lot is that is very helpful to bend the defender’s leg while you are finish the toe hold as it will provide more leverage for a break.
One common mistake people make when trying to get this toe hold is that after getting the correct grip to finish the submission, they fall to their butt trying to get the proper leverage. To defend this, the guard player has to simply straighten their leg and stand up, giving them the superior position.
It is important to main the top position when attacking this submission in case it does not work, which is often because this submission is hard to finish, you can transition quickly. If you can’t get the finish from the top position, the defender’s movements will usually be enough to allow you to transition to other positions to pass or submit from.
The heel hook has become one of the most effective submissions in Jiu Jitsu in part because it is extremely painful but also because it is a newer technique that not everyone practices regularly. The heel hook can be set up from any of the leg entanglements but is most effective in the saddle (aka 4/11, honey hole, etc). Once in the saddle, this submission is easy to find and finish. The difficulty here, however, is getting to the saddle, especially while playing guard.
In the following video, Absolute MMA black belt Craig Jones shows one of the best ways to get to the saddle when playing butterfly. It is important to note that this specific position is a modification of the traditional butterfly guard as one feet is weaved under the other leg to the other side. This specific modification will out for the entry and sweeps as well.
In my experience with trying this set up, it is vital to reach for the far leg because if the guard passer sprawls, they will end up in a dominant position to pass the guard using a leg drag style finish. Also, it is important to protect your head because if the top player can get a crossface, they will flatten you out and finish a pass very easily.
When I first started doing this pass, once I would lift my partner and shoot the leg through, I had a bad habit of making a triangle with my legs. It is very tempting because of the nature of the leg position here but still a bad idea. If you triangle your legs, it will be easier for the top player to stand on the foot you are attacking and also harder to roll them over.
When attempting this entry, it is very important to sell the technique as if you are trying to sweep them over. If you do it lightly, it will be very difficult to lift the person and will expose you as well. One quick addition to this technique is that if the top player is able to stand as you attempt the entry, by rotating yourself to the other side, you will be able to smoothly transition to x-guard and finish with a sweep.
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