The Ankle Lock
As leg locks have swept the competition scene the last several years, many jiu-jitsu players have become enamored with the heel hook.
It’s fast, it looks impressive, and many times opponents tap early out of fear of knee damage. Because of this many players overlook the ankle lock as a valuable submission, wanting to advance straight to the heel hook. However, there is a strong case for spending time learning the ankle lock.
At lower belt levels, competitors are often only allowed to do ankle locks. The IBJJF rule set doesn’t allow any other leg lock until brown belt, so white, blue, and purple belts would be wise to learn the only leg attack available to them.
For competitions with more open rule sets, the grips for an ankle lock provide great control over the opponent’s leg well you secure the needed position to finish. Often times in trying to free the foot of an ankle lock grip, it can fall right into a heel hook set up.
Dean Lister, who finished many high-level grapplers with leg locks at multiple ADCC events, shows an effective ankle lock set up in K.A.T.C.H Leg Attack System.
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Overhooking the foot, Lister aims to place the middle of his forearm against the back of the opponent’s heel. This gives a hard bone to grind to heel and cause a lot of pain before even applying the lock. This placement also makes sure that the arm wrapping the foot is not too loose and giving space for an escape. Additionally the arm needs to low down on the foot so that when the lock is applied, its full force is going into the ankle joint, not the shin.
Gripping his hands together, Lister pulls them up to the center of his chest, engaging his arm and back muscles. This creates a tight lock around the ankle and recruits multiple muscle groups into the submission.
Well the upper body is applying the submission; the lower body is securing the position. The same side leg (if your overhooking the ankle with your left arm, then the left leg) comes under your opponent’s leg and wraps around with the heel of the foot driving into their hip. Pressing the foot in makes difficult for them to move or stand back up. Your other leg is tucked under their opposite leg to hinder any ability to spin out of the position.
Dean Lister refers to this position as an inside footlock, though today it is more commonly referred to as ashi garami.
For the finish, squeeze the knees together take away any mobility in leg, and lean back put pressure on the ankle until they the tap.
A More Advanced Finish
Recently, Mikey Mususmeci achieved his third straight IBJJF Worlds gold medal in 2019 with a twelve second ankle lock (also the set a record for the fast submission in Worlds history)
Here’s him teaching it:
Mikey is playing with a newer style of leg control in this video. Instead of the traditional ashi position, his right leg is coming across and applying the control to the hip and his left shin is in his opponent’s knee pit.
The opponent grabs Mikey’s leg and pulls it away, preventing Mikey from turning over and down to finish the lock. So instead, the world champion braces one hand against the knee. He grips his own lapel to keep his locking hand anchored, and to finish he focuses on putting his shoulders and head back on the mat.
Ankle locks are great fundamental skill to have and is a submission that will serve you well in any style of competition. These are just two variations to get you started on your leg locking journey.
Get the classic Dean Lister K.A.T.C.H. leg lock system here at BJJ Fanatics and get the complete system from this legendary leg lock pioneer. It is available in both DVD and On Demand formats!