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Should I Teach White Belts Leg Locks?
A brief exploration on teaching the dark arts to beginners...
It is no secret that leg locks are in vogue in the Jiu Jitsu community. These submissions that many thought were dirty a few years ago have now garnered mainstream popularity. For many of us, the question has evolved from if to when is the appropriate time to learn leg locks.
Before we dive too deep in the article, let me state it is up to a school to sets its policy on when is the appropriate time. If your school has a no leg lock till purple belt clause, do not sneak them in when the instructor is not looking. You should respect the policies of the school you belong to. It is also equally bad form to try and change policy; especially as a newer student. Running a school is hard. Most likely, your instructor has sacrificed a lot in an effort to create something beautiful. If your school has a rule set that you can’t live with you are free to explore other schools.
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The main argument against white belts learning leg locks is that they are too dangerous. One argument against white belts learning leg locks is with a heel hook, by the time that you feel pain, injury has already occurred. This is in contrast to other submissions where pain is felt first: arm bars, kimuras, knee bars , ankle locks and etc. So based on this argument, ankle locks and knee bars may be permissible but heel hooks would not be. I will play devil’s advocate. Certainly education is required and even crucial when teaching heel hooks. Teaching the importance of taping to a heel hook should be of paramount concern. Additional education is required beyond the education on the mechanics of a submission and the danger of not tapping. Students should be educated on a catch and release policy. If you catch someone in any submission and they do not understand the danger let the submission go and keep rolling. Maybe ask the instructor to go over the submission at the end of class. The point being, the training room is very different than a competition setting. The point of the training room is to learn and get better. There is no money or title on the line. Accidents are inevitable but if your training partners do not have a general concern for your physical welfare then your gym has bigger issues than not learning leg locks.
Another concern may be that the knowledge level is not deep enough to teach leg locks to beginners. To counter this, I can say that the Danaher series on leg locks is the best that I have seen on the subject. I have been buying leg lock instructions since I started training and Danaher’s instructional blows all others away. Some may argue that I am biased as a blogger for this site. Read the reviews and ask around. I know many high level black belts who have never purchased an instructional in their lives with the exception of John Danaher’s Leg Lock instructional. Ignorance cannot be a valid excuse for not teaching leg locks to beginners.
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Maybe you have a third reason that has not been addressed. I would argue that if a white belt is not allowed to catch them in a live roll, there is certainly a place for drilling. If nothing else, do gravity and leg pummeling drills. Perhaps teach white belts ankle locks and knee bars; submissions where pain always proceeds injury.
In my opinion, the danger of leg locks is not the submission itself but the ignorance around them. In my experience, my training partners who have been injured with the submission either did not know how to defend it and rolled the wrong way or refused to tap because of pride that a lower belt was going to tap them out. But this assessment can be applied to any submission. Any submission is dangerous if one refused to tap or defends in a way that creates additional injury.
Perhaps, leg locks are not appropriate for your school at a beginner level. But at the very least, let’s educate the lower belts on the dangers of the submissions and the proper ways to escape. Ultimately, it is up to the instructors on what is right for a school. These are just my thoughts on how to mitigate the dangers. At best, it is an opportunity to arm the next generation of grapplers with a powerful submission system.
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