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Toe Holds and Wrist Locks, Sneaky and Effective

Toe Holds and Wrist Locks, Sneaky and Effective


The toe hold and the wrist lock are some of the most powerful submissions in bjj.  You are attacking a lot of bones, joints and ligaments when applying a toe hold or a wrist lock.  The wrist lock in particular is one of the most overlooked submissions that there is.  Reason being, many people associate wrist locks with martial arts like aikido and think that they are just a pain submission. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The wrist lock is one of the most devastating submissions that you can apply. 

The toe hold is also one of the most overlooked submissions.  Many people also assume that this a pain submission because we see so many high-level guys not tapping to this at the worlds and the pans.  What we often forget is that the guys that don’t tap this are often black belt World Champs that would rarely tap to anything else.  For example, the Mendes brothers, the Miyao brothers, and guys like Bruno Malfacine are infamous for not acknowledging toe holds.  We have to remember that these guys are the best of the best, the toe hold is a very legit move.

Why don’t we delve deeper into these two submissions and see where they work from and how they work?  The wrist lock can easily cause massive damage and we have seen high level guys tap out to it.  For example, Garry Tonon was tapped by wrist lock at the NY Open and Romulo Barral was tapped by toe hold at the Worlds.

Toe Hold

Let’s start with discussing the toe hold because it si much more common to encounter the toe hold.  The toe hold is only legal from brown belt up with the IBJJF and it is one of the most devastating submissions.  The toe hold can be a game changer.  It is a very sneaky and effective submission.  Sometimes you may be involved in a rigorous match or roll where no one is able to solidify much.  This may be a stalemate situation; the game changer can often be a toe hold that you hit hard and quick. 

People see competitors holding toe holds for a long time and think that it is a submission that needs to take a while.  The best toe holds come on strong and fast and catch you by surprise.  If you are in a toe hold for a minute your opponent will be able to develop a defense and by themselves sometime to escape.  That is why you want to be sneaky and take your shot fast. 

The toe hold can also be a gateway to other submissions or to a pass.  Sometimes you can threaten a toe hold and something else may open up or you may be able to solidify a pass off of the failed attempt.  Another benefit to the toe hold is the fact that you may be able to get a sweep from it.  Sometimes when your opponent is attacking you, if you are able to get a toe hold from bottom they may concede to a sweep and you can get on top from it.  Whether you are a competitor or just casual bjj practitioner you should be aware of the toe hold and start to use it.  Check out this toe hold with Dean Lister below. 

The Wrist Lock

The wrist lock, if properly applied, is one of the best submissions you can learn for gi, nogi, or self-defense.  It allows you to use a massive amount of leverage against a small part of someone’s body.  Therefore, the wrist lock is a good technique for smaller guys to learn for bigger opponents.  You can apply wrist locks from standing, guard, or top position.

One place to get a good wrist lock is from standing.

The standing wrist lock is good for self-defense, and has been utilized in black belt tournaments.  It is one of those attacks that is not telegraphed, therefore, it can be a lethal and surprising weapon. The wrist lock from standing is difficult to practice in training because it typically comes on very fast.  Your opponent may yell and give a verbal tap as opposed to a regular tap because they may not have time to tap. 

Wrist locks are also a great weapon from the guard.  You can apply several wrist locks from closed guard and half guard.  Once again, the wrist lock is not very common so you can use it as a surprise attack.  Check out our article “Closed Guard for Self-Defense” to learn some good wrist locks from closed guard that work for self-defense predicaments.

The wrist lock from closed guard works well when you chain it together with other moves.  You can use it to set up ot The wrist lock may be the most effective when applied from the top position.  This is because you can use good weight distribution and leverage to attack a small part of your opponent’s body.  There are a variety of wrist locks from side control, full mount, north south, and back control.

Check out our article, “A Brutal and Easy Wrist Lock” to see a cool wrist lock.  When applying the wrist lock from top position, you can easily trick your opponent into giving up his wrists.  One of the benefits of the wrist lock is that it is readily available.  For instance, with arm bars, they may have to extend, the wrist lock can be applied while your opponent has their elbows bent and tight. 

If you would like to add wrist locks, leg attacks, and a deadly closed guard to your bjj arsenal, check out Claudio Calassans 4 DVD set “Giant Killer Techniques.”  This is a great tool for a Jiu Jitsu practitioner who wants to become more aggressive and develop their game as a whole.


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