Make Your Achilles Lock Unstoppable
Whether you're just starting down the path to be a leg lock ace, or you've been on the mats for a number of years and have been practicing lower body submissions for some time, it's always good to revisit the classic fundamental techniques and pick up any new details or nuances you can find. Leg locks have become so versatile in competition that they are being set up from nearly every position imaginable, from closed guard, to half guard, to side control and even mount--you are never safe from the leg lock ace.
Arguably the most important leg lock or foot lock there is the straight ankle or achilles lock. The reason we think it's the most important is that it's the acceptable in competition. The IBJJF allows straight foot locks in competition from blue belt level on up. This leg submission is also versatile in that it can be used in both Gi or No Gi competition.
It's also mechanically one of the easiest leg locks to understand (on paper). On paper, we are just guillotining the foot and heel, controlling the leg and hip, and driving our hips in and our torsos away to create a great deal of pressure on the top of the foot and on the achilles tendon area. But as you all know, no more is just as easy as it seems on paper.
In the video below, five time world champion Bernardo Faria brings in Chris Palmisano, a Marcelo Garcia black belt to show his variation of this classic technique. Pay close attention to all of the details and we'll break it down afterwards.
Chris Palmisano sets up the scenario for this technique by working a knee slice pass to Bernardo's strong side. In this case, Bernardo is utilizing a strong knee shield ala Z guard to crowd the space that Chris needs to pass.
Take back the inside
To address this Z Guard knee shield, Chris is going to work to take back the inside space by switching directions and bringing his outside leg between Bernardo's legs. This puts Bernardo flat and also makes his knee shield ineffective and brings both of Chris' legs between Bernardo's legs which as any up and coming leg lock ace should know is the safest place to be for defending leg attacks.
Attack their shield
Once both legs are inside between Bernardo's, Chris is going to shrug the knee shield away and bring the far leg that's now inside across the front of his thigh to pin it as he holds the knee and falls to the side. Now what was once Bernardo's strong knee shield is now completely trapped under Chris' body weight and pinned between both legs.
Address their defenses
The first of two things that Bernardo wants to do to defend is to hop over the bottom leg and make sure that the bottom leg's foot is not in his hip to prevent this escape. The second thing he needs to do is to create a boot effect with his foot and begin to wiggle it away from Chris' body.
To prevent this, Chris brings the inside hip that is pinning Bernardo's leg up and over so that his foot replaces the bottom leg that Bernardo is beginning to hop over. Secondly, Chris puts pressure on the knee with his hand downward which opens up the knee outwards and allows him to reset the lower leg. By resetting the lower leg, he can put his head to the floor and secure an extremely tight grip. Opening up the knee prevents Bernardo from wiggling away and making the securing of the grip impossible.
Finish the lock
Once the lower leg has been reset by opening up the knee and the proper grip on the blade of the forearm is secured at the heel (across the achilles tendon), Chris lowers his body weight back down on the leg and begins to arch backwards while driving his hips forward. It does not take much more than an inch or two of backwards movement of his torso before Bernardo taps.
The beauty of this technique is that it comes off a thwarted pass. The bottom opponent using their knee shield is a strong position and within moments they are on their weak side with their shield being stretched out and controlled. With the foot on the hip, there is no way to chase the opponent and come up and by opening up the knee with the downward pressure, it is extremely difficult to escape the final grip of the achilles lock. In other words, your basic straight ankle lock just became unstoppable.
There is always more you can learn about a position you feel good about. Be open to absorb details that you see in class or being taught at seminars or instructionals. One simple adjustment like the lower leg reset can make the difference between sometimes finishing the leg lock and always finishing the leg lock.
For more leg lock knowledge, check out the legendary Dean Lister's library of instructionals like his K.A.T.C.H. leg lock system available in both DVD and On Demand formats. Dean was one of the first dominant American grapplers to wreck havoc on his opponents on the highest stages in the world like ADCC with his brutal leg lock wisdom. You can get it in moments at BJJ Fanatics and trim years off your journey to become a leg lock ace.