The Cartwheel Knee Lock
One of the most feared aspects of grappling is the leg submission and defense game. Some grappling practitioners never step into the world of the leg and foot attacks. Though times are changing and more and more schools are beginning to open their minds to teaching leg locks,. they still carry a stigma that will probably last for a number of more years. The increase in the number of No Gi and submission only style of competition continues to bring attention to these powerful and creative leg submissions.
Dean Lister has been a grappling and jiu jitsu pioner at the highest level for over two decades. In his career, Dean has competed on all of the highest stages against some of history's greatest competitors and he has found success. Long before the likes of Garry Tonon and Gordon Ryan, current leg attack virtuosos, there was Dean Lister. Besides his fierce heart, one of the elements of his game that set him apart from many competitors was the encyclopedia of leg locks he had mastered nearly a decade before they began becoming more commonplace and popular.
To get deeper inside the mind of this American grappling pioneer, check out this article from BJJ Fanatics here.
In the video below, Dean Lister demonstrates (on his good friend and uke the inimitable Jeff Glover) his Cartwheel Knee Lock. The knee lock or kneebar is one of the most fundamental leg attacks and can be attempted by practitioners at all levels and has application in both gi and no gi scenarios. It is legal in IBJJF competition because of its relative safety compared with leg attacks like heel hooks that involve twisting of the ankles which puts the knees in a much more precarious position.
This knee bar is can be a great addition to your submission arsenal and can be easily assimilated into your game if you pay attention to the key points.
Sleeve Grip/ Arm Control
Proper gripping of the opponent's sleeve will allow you to staple their hand to the mat and keep them facing the direction you need them to and prevent them from following you when you cartwheel and step back. Dean reviews a number of grips and ultimately settles on what he calls a classic grip which is the pistol grip where you control a bunch of sleeve material allowing you to maintain a fist and staple them down.
Cartwheel Over/ Step Back
Once you've check arm control off of your list, you can now cartwheel back with your far leg basing backwards to prevent yourself from rolling completely off the opponent. From here, you will have a moment to assess which direction your training partner or opponent is going to most readily offer up for you. Most likely, if they do nothing, you will be able to snatch up the submission, but if they extend their leg, you'll have other options come available.
Once you've snatched up their leg, you will fall to your side bringing your feet to the opponent's butt area, while pinching your knees. This will provide both control and a leverage point to use the downward pressure from your feet, to counter balance the upward motion of your hips into their knee when you finish the submission. Dean is a proponent of a rear naked choke style grip on the foot to prevent the person from twisting or rolling their leg and letting the pressure off of the technique. This is very similar to maintaining proper thumb position when we are finishing the classic arm lock. If the opponent rotates either limb, the position will be lost.
Opens Up Pass
In the event that the opponent extends the leg that you stepped over, you will very easy be able to pass their guard and move to a dominate side control position on the opposite side. Either way, you are progressing and winning the match.
When adding any new technique to your tool box, you will meet varying degrees of success in the beginning and this is to be expected, according to Dean. We must attempt a position many, many times to make sure we experience all of the different reactions and problems that our opponent's can give us. For instance, if the opponent is able to retract their knee and frame it on our hips as we are stepping over, we are opening ourselves up for a back take and it will only take a few of those before you will be trouble shooting that particular adjustment or counter and make sure it doesn't happen any longer. This is the nature of jiu jitsu and should be embraced. Dust yourself off and work that cartwheel again until it's perfect!
Now that you've seen one of the OGs of American grappling showing some of his leg lock magic, you should take advantage of the special "Leg Attacks and Grappling Hacks" instructional series by Dean Lister, on sale today!