Your First Step to Becoming a Leg Destroyer
So word on the street is that your 2018 New Year's resolution is to become a leg destroyer. You've been watching all these leg lock gunslingers from the Danaher Death Squad like Garry Tonon, Gordon and Nicky Ryan, and Eddie Cummings among others and you're tired of being afraid of leg attacks and want to add them to your BJJ game.
Studies show that millions of people make New Years resolutions and have great intentions on January 1st to make progress, but by the end of the year less than 10% of us will have made any progress. That means on the eve of 2019, you might still be sitting there wondering what happened and why you're no closer to being a leg destroyer than the average Tae Kwon Do student.
Well, we're here to map out the plan for you. And no, it doesn't involve hundreds of hours stuck in New York City traffic to train in Manhattan with evil genius John Danaher and his league of grappling superstars, at least not yet. Let's start off slowly. Let's assume you've never trained any leg attacks, although less likely than a decade ago, it is still possible to find academies that eschew the lower body game.
Do Your Homework
First and foremost, you will want to do some research on the history of leg locks in BJJ and how the evolution of the sport up until now. You will want to get to know the key players in the development of the leg game and how they continue to impact the game today.
One of the founding fathers of the leg game and also of American grappling in general is Dean Lister. He has long been one of the most feared leg destroyers and has been submitting opponents with his lower body attack system for nearly two decades. It has also been said, that a conversation between Dean and John Danaher is what actually opened Danaher's eyes to the opportunities that the lower limbs presented to grapplers, namely his students who currently dominate the competitive arena on nearly every stage from EBI to ADCC.
Set Reasonable Expectations
It is quite common when jumping into a new aspect of jiu jitsu to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. It's like someone who was a high school wrestler, walking into their first BJJ class and planning to dominate the first purple or brown belt they get their hands on. When they find out that the average multi-stripe white belt can give them lots of problems, they are dumbfounded.
The same is true of the leg attack game. If you've never trained or examined the game, you cannot expect, no matter what belt you currently are, to have a transference of skill level to that arena. If you have primarily been a gi jiu jitsu player, who has not trained many leg attacks, but you have achieved your brown belt, it is foolish to think you are going to automatically be adept at leg attacks. Instead, it's important to see yourself as a white belt when approaching brand new techniques. Sure, your understanding of basic mechanics and body placement will be more advanced, but the actual practice of the submissions is as new to you as a student who has never taken a class of any kind.
Along with doing your homework and understanding the development of the leg game, it's also important to start building a general understanding of the different types of attacks and the vocabulary that surrounds lower body submissions. Listening to the new crop of leg destroyers talk about their training and their techniques is very much akin to listening to a foreign language the first time you hear it. Terms like "ashi garami" and "kazushi" will become second nature after some time, but initially be ready to be a little confused. It's natural and part of the process.
Also, understand that there are techniques that are for lack of a better term, easier than others. They require much less manipulation and set up than others. It can be argued that the straight ankle or achilles lock is much simpler to catch and finish than the heel hook, so when you're developing your game plan, start with and work to master the simpler techniques until you have developed more experience.
Find Yourself Solid Instruction
First and foremost, look to your instructor and coaches. They should always be your first resource for adding elements to your game. No matter what kind of school you train at, today it's hard not to find someone who is exploring the nefarious leg attack game.
Go to seminars. Support these athletes when they come to a town near you, even not near you. It's worth a bit of a drive to learn from the top BJJ athletes when they are on tour. The majority of them are also very welcoming at their home academy if you reach out and make arrangements ahead of time, you can probably schedule a private with them depending on their schedule. And always remember, you get what you pay for. Their time is extremely valuable as they are most likely gearing up for their next competition, so don't plan on getting off cheap. No matter how expensive, it is an investment in you and your game that you will be able to reap benefits from for years to come.
Check out instructional DVDs and online streaming instructional videos. While there are a number of amazing videos out there for free (see below) from the best athletes in the game. The best resources will typically have a price tag associated with them and why shouldn't they? Most BJJ instructionals cost less than one month at the average academy and can provide the distilled knowledge of world champions in a format that can be watched and reviewed over and over as much as is necessary. Instructionals are a great investment. It's important to make sure you are picking the right ones.
In the videos below, we see some examples of the OG Dean Lister showing some of the most fundamental and easy to assimilate leg lock variations. These would be a great start, whether you are a newbie or perhaps there are some details you could use a bit of refinement on to make your straight foot locks even more deadly. In the first video, Dean Lister demonstrates an outside footlock in the gi.
In the next video, Dean breaks down the straight foot lock in great detail. This video is outstanding in that it is also a good history lesson in the development of the straight foot lock over time and how he adapted different principles to make it more effective over time.
The final video is a promotional trailer for Dean's "Leg Attacks and Grappling Hacks" available here at BJJ Fanatics. The brilliant filmaker Stuart Cooper blended Dean's competition footage from the 2015 ADCC competition in Sao Paulo.
So let's make this the year that you stick with your New Years resolution and leave the average person in the dust with their 10% success rate. You want to be a leg destroyer and we've got the plan. Make the resolution, do your home work and research the history of leg locks (BJJFantatics.com has plenty more articles where those came from), set some clear expectations and then get to work learning. Don't expect to be a destroyer on day one, but if you get the best instructionals out there from BJJ Fanatics, you're guaranteed to achieve this year's resolution!
Here are some links to the various Dean Lister leg attack instructionals available on sale today at BJJ Fanatics. These also have On Demand options, so you don't even have to wait for shipping. You can have them in minutes!
Here is a link to Dean's "Leg Attacks and Grappling Hacks" featured in the promo above. This is the On Demand version, so you're mere minutes away from becoming a leg destroyer like Dean. The journey of a thousand leg attacks begins today!
Here is a link to the classic Dean Lister "K.A.T.C.H." instructional in On Demand format. This was the first instructional and became an instant classic setting the foundation of Dean's system out for everyone to learn from.