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When Should You Start Learning Leg Locks?
When should you start learning leg locks? The simple answer is today. End of blog. Just kidding. There are many more factors to consider, so we're here to help you out.
Let's look at the actual complexities of this question to flesh out a good answer of when you should start saying "F it, try a leg lock" like John Danaher recently recommended on the Joe Rogan podcast, when discussing his own BJJ evolution. The question of when someone should start studying leg locks is hotly debated, highly personal, and should always involve your coach's or instructor's input because they will be and should be highly involved in your development.
There are a few fundamental follow up questions that should be addressed before you start down the path of learning leg locks. Addressing these will help you along the way by helping you understand the reasons behind why you are studying them and what's the best game plan for studying them.
Why should you study leg locks?
Why is it even important for you to study leg locks? There are BJJ practitioners who have studied and practiced their entire lives who have not spent a single moment training lower body submissions. They have been able to get through life opening guard, passing the closed guard, recovering guard, achieving dominant positions like side control, mount or back control and securing submissions. And they have been happy. This is a perfectly good way to spend your jiu jitsu training.
On a really basic level, isn't the study of martial arts a way reaching one's potential and taking your development as far as you can. With that said, Dean Lister's now-famous comment to Renzo Gracie black belt John Danaher about classic BJJ ignoring 50% of the human body by not taking a serious account of lower body submissions, begs the question, can we afford to ignore leg locks in the ever-evolving world of BJJ?
Let's look at this question from the perspective of an average BJJ student who has no desire to challenge the leading leg lock aces on the EBI or ADCC stages. Having at least a workable knowledge of the fundamental leg locks and positions could theoretically double your BJJ knowledge, making you more well rounded and complete as a grappler. Whether you are a Gi only practitioner or practice both Gi and No Gi BJJ, having some basic leg locks in your arsenal will make you a better competitor on whatever stages you find yourself on in life.
If you have set your sights on the gold medal position of any competition whether it be IBJJF or one of the many who are much more liberal with leg attacks, then this question is as absolute no brainer. You will be putting yourself at a definite disadvantage without those leg locks in your toolbox.
Take for example Tom DeBlass black belt, grappling superstar and newly christened MMA fighter Garry Tonon, who was an extremely high level grappler before he ever began his concentrated study in the blue basement of the Renzo Gracie Academy in NYC with John Danaher. For Garry, the world of leg locks opened up the possibility of achieving the most efficient submission while incurring the least damage and possibility for attack. Practitioners of all levels can benefit from this insight.
What belt level are you?
Here's why the belt question is important to understand. Certain competitions explicitly allow certain types of leg locks at precise belt levels. This does not mean that you can and should start learning them or training them at this level. This is simply a guideline for competition. If you wait until brown belt to train some of the techniques that become allowed in competition at that level, you will be sorely behind the competition.
The most liberal response regarding what belt level should one be when one can begin training leg locks would be whenever that person becomes comfortably enough to begin sparring. By this point, a person has attending enough classes and begun to be able to roll and begin applying what they know in a safe way.
Where should you start?
To revisit the importance of consulting with your coaches and instructors, you must make sure that you have their blessing and support to begin learning and practicing leg locks. With their guidance, support and knowledge you will be able to save yourself from possibly going down some dead ends.
After you have begun working with your own academy and classes, it can be helpful to begin supplementing your leg lock knowledge with other resources like instructional videos and seminars. Most of the highest level leg lock aces spend downtime touring the world sharing their knowledge. This can be one of the best investments you can make in your jiu jitsu. Most are available via their various social media channels, so drop them a line and see where they're going to be.
So to reiterate, the best time to start learning leg locks is years ago. The second best is today. Whether you are a BJJ hobbyist or a Danaher Death Squad wannabe, it will behoove you to begin exploring the techniques that continue to revolutionize the world of grappling. Whether you are a Gi only or a No Gi player, there are leg attacks that are appropriate and should be understood.
BJJ Fanatics has some of the best resources out there in regards to grappling instructionals. Whether you are looking for IBJJF Leg Legs Locks, the leg lock instruction of an OG like Dean Lister, or the latest techniques from Australian leg lock ace Craig Jones. By supplementing the techniques you are learning in class with instruction from the who's who of grappling instructors, you will be getting the best of both worlds and be astounding your training partners with your fluent use of sankaku before you know it.
One of the best offers at BJJ Fanatics is the leg lock bundle which features two of Dean Lister's best-selling leg submission instructionals, as well two instructionals that will help the Gi focused competitors who are looking for IBJJF legal leg attack techniques from the likes of Luis Panza. This collection contains 13 volumes of leg lock mastery. Available here from BJJ Fanatics!