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The Outside Heel Hook Master Class
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The Outside Heel Hook Master Class

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One of my favorite things about Jiu Jitsu is that the game is constantly changing and evolving.  

That being said, leg locks may not be something you’re super familiar with, depending on where you train and how long you have been training, it may not have been part of the standard curriculum.  Regardless of your thoughts on them, there is no disputing the fact that leg lock submissions are being used to finish fights on some of the biggest stages in the world. It’s important to understand them fundamentally, and if nothing else, know where the danger lies.

Leg locks in general have been something sort of foreign to me that I admittedly have some opportunity to explore more deeply and work to gain a better understanding of when and how to apply these submission holds.  

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Given the opportunity, If you could learn the outside heel hook from anyone, Professor John Danaher is arguably the best person on the planet to learn it from.   Check out his video “The outside heel hook master class” featuring Professor Bernardo Faria.

In this video you’ll see Professor Danaher breaking down the details of not only the positions required to obtain the submission hold, but how to preemptively handle the common escape attempts, as well as a plethora of other details that go along with the leg submission game.

Starting in Ashi Garami there are four “distinct tasks” that must be carried out in order to successfully get in position, maintain the position, and ultimately execute the submission of an outside heel hook.  We are going to take a look at each in detail, as well as how to anticipate the opponents’ escape and maintain control through that escape attempt.

First, there must be a strong connection to the opponents’’ leg.  In order to achieve this the inside leg knee should be locked down tight on your opponents’ leg as close to the hip as possible.  The “shoelaces” of that same leg should be biting under the opponents’ opposite thigh like a butterfly hook, with constant pressure pushing into the opponent.  This hook should be somewhat close to the mats and as tight to the opponent as possible. Failing to keep this tight exposes your heel for a submission attempt from the opponent.  With the opposite leg, the foot comes up with your toes facing out and the heel presses into the opponent's’ hip. With everything in place, the knees can squeeze together securing a tight lock on the opponents’’ leg.  With this type of position, done properly, your opponent should be able to move around, scoot, roll, twist and turn about and you should be able to stay in position, even without using your hands, as Professor Danaher so eloquently demonstrates in the video.

Secondly, we must expose the heel.  Dropping to the shoulder from Ashi Garami is dangerous in that it opens up the opportunity for your opponent to leg pummel to switch their top leg position exposing your heel and giving them the opportunity to attack your leg before you can attack theirs.    The best approach here is to switch to another form of Ashi Garami. To do this, post the bottom foot on the mat with your knee pointed to the ceiling and shift your hip towards the ceiling. Then you can bring the foot that was posted on the mat across the opponents’ waistline, again remembering to keep it tight to the opponents’ hip to avoid exposing your heel.  If done correctly, when you shift your hips up towards the ceiling it should expose the opponents’ heel, allowing you to wrap your arm around it and secure a guillotine like grip around the ankle, locking the toes in your armpit.

Once we are able to secure the heel, we need to work to secure a strong connection to the opponents’ leg again.  It’s important to note that while we are in this position with our hips facing up securing our grip on the heel, we are not as connected to the opponent as we were in the previous position.  In order for this position to be as strong and resistant to escapes we must triangle the legs around the opponents’ leg.

Finally, we move to outside Ashi Garami.  This happens when the opponent tries to escape.  When the opponent turns away in attempt to escape by getting on all fours and either attempting to pull the leg out, run away, or more aggressively pushing on our butt to assist in pulling the leg out, we point our knees towards the mat and follow the movement of the opponents’ escape attempt.  This should end with our legs on the outside and our upper body facing the same way our knees are pointed. Once this position is secure, we are in position to finish the outside heel hook.

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Before we work to finish the submission hold, we must make sure we have the correct grip on the heel.  The toes should be in your armpit, with the heel sitting on your forearm between your wrist and elbow. This hand should be knuckles facing your face, as if you were looking at a wristwatch.  The second hand comes in under that hand and supports the submission by gable gripping your hand.

Now for the moment we have been working so hard for.  Finally, we are able to look at finishing the outside heel hook.  The first step in finishing the submission is to leg curl your heels back towards your own butt.  While doing this, you want to pull on the heel towards your own head. This submission should set in quickly if you are in the correct position, with the right grip.  This position, grip, and finish tactic produces an extreme amount of “breaking pressure” and should be used with caution on your training partners and opponents.

While this video is packed with tons of important details on how to get in position, maintain position, and ultimately finish the outside heel hook, this is only one example of many.  Professor Danaher’s systematic approach has quickly made his instructionals some of the best selling instructionals in the world. Don’t forget to check out the entire “Enter the System” series, not only for leg locks, but many of Professor Danaher’s top submissions he focuses on when training world class athletes.  

John Danaher has changed the leg lock game with his technical leg lock system. Get his DVD "Leg Locks: Enter The System" and learn from one of the best instructors in the game! BJJ Fanatics has it here!

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