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The Powerful Straight Ankle Lock
With the recent prevalence of the heel hook in competition grappling, there is one submission that has in some regards fallen by the wayside: the ankle lock. Many grapplers do not realize the efficiency and devastating power of the ankle lock, because of its legality in lower divisions, and because if done incorrectly it is easily survived the simple ankle lock is not given the same respect as the heel hook.
Catch wrestlers and Sambo practitioners have been doing leglocks since well before they were in vogue in the no gi submission grappling scene. They are well aware of the heel hook, but if you ask anyone who is truly entrenched in these grappling styles they’ll tell you that a well placed ankle lock can be potent.
The heel hook has become feared because if you don’t recognize that you are caught catastrophic damage can occur before pain is felt. With some fairly basic training one can recognize the positions that are difficult to escape or even inescapable, but without that training heel hooks can be a real hazard. Ankle locks on the other hand present plenty of pain before permanent damage is done, and even when damage is done it is not usually done to a complex joint.
The key to the ankle lock is the placement of pressure. The pressure must be sharp and it must be precisely where the person executing the lock intends to place it. The defense to an ankle lock is to dig one’s leg further into the lock, so when executing an ankle lock precautions must be taken to prevent these sorts of defenses.
The ankle lock tends to be a single vector attack. That is to say when hitting a heel hook you need to pull and turn whereas the ankle lock only requires one direction. In this sense, it is more of an “idiot-proof” technique because it requires fewer factors than its twisting cousin.
Many people do ankle locks incorrectly which is why they aren’t nearly as popular as other submissions. In order to truly master the ankle lock one needs to understand the potential areas that the lock can be effectively applied.
An ankle lock consists of several crucial elements. For starters you need a solid entry that puts you in position to finish the lock but still have room to adjust if dealing with someone with flexible feet. Secondly the lock must compress the area that is being locked. The foot consists of many small bones and if those bones are mobile the lock will not work as well. Finally the finish must be done correctly; pressure must be sharp and progressive.
Finishing a straight ankle lock can be difficult depending on the anatomy of the opponent’s leg. There are ways, however, to apply enough pressure break even the toughest leg. The Estima Lock is a popular ankle lock that effectively functions as a hybrid between a normal ankle lock and a toe hold. There are also a variety of ankle locks featuring a “rear naked choke” grip on the leg, particularly popular in catch wrestling. Placement and concentration of pressure are crucial to finishing any ankle lock effectively.
Perhaps one of the most notorious leg lockers of all time is Dean Lister. Famous for his fearsome heel hooks, Lister also has extremely powerful simple, straight ankle locks. Lister has a variety of methods he uses to finish these locks. Here’s a video of him teaching his straight ankle lock
Do not neglect the straight ankle lock in your training regime, straight ankle locks can be a fantastic alternative or even counter to heel hooks. The more you practice straight ankle locks the better you’ll become at finding the sweet spot on a person’s leg that will make them tap quickly and the more success you’ll find with them.
If you’re interested in learning more about leg locks, Dean Lister’s leg lock systems have been touted as some of the best in the world. Lister’s leg locks are feared by anyone who faces him and he has a distinct ability to teach and explain them. If you are interested in learning about Lister’s leg lock’s check out this DVD series he put together