The Estima Lock is a very curious Jiu Jitsu move – not quite an ankle lock, not quite a twisting foot lock. I remember it popped up when I was a blue belt, and as it grew in popularity everyone was afraid of it. The technique existed in a weird legal gray area – since nobody knew exactly what it was!
Shortly afterwards, the Danaher leg lock revolution rocked the BJJ world and everyone seemed to forget about the Estima Lock in favor of the Ashi Garami system. And yet, to this day, the Estima Lock remains one of the best leg locks that you can do in grappling and MMA.
What is the Estima Lock?
The Estima Lock is a toe hold, mechanically speaking. It is a rotational submission that involves trapping the opponent’s foot with your torso and arms, causing devastating damage to all the ligaments in the ankle joint.
The grip configuration is the same as a rear naked choke but placed around an opponent’s ankle rather than the neck. The interesting part is that the power for the breaking mechanics comes from the rotation of your upper body, given that the side of the opponent’s foot is trapped by your belly.
Another interesting characteristic of the Estima Lock is that it is one of the rare leg locks that work best when done from the top – against a person playing guard.
Why Is It Called The Estima Lock?
The Estima Lock was created by Victor Estima, half of the popular Estima brothers duo. As his brother Braulio Estima was preparing for the 2009 ADCC, he was working a lot on inversions and the Reverse De la Riva guard.
Trying to give his brother the best possible rolls in preparation for the ADCC, Victor ended up inventing a move to prevent his brother from inverting. That move is what we know today as the Estima Lock submission. That same year at the ADCC Braulio used the move to beat Rafael Lovato Jr. in the semi-final on his way to ADCC gold. He also relied heavily on the submission on his path to victory at No-Gi Worlds in 2011.
The name is in honor of Victor who came up with the move, although many people associate it more with Braulio, given his competitive successes with the technique.
How The Submission Works
While there are a variety of setups, we’ll begin with the original setup as developed by Victor Estima:
Whenever you’re on top, fighting against somebody’s guard, and they place their foot on your hip/belly, you have a chance to hit an Estima Lock. You will need to be half kneeling or kneeling in order for the move to work, though.
For the setup, you need the side of your opponent’s foot to be on your hips with their toes pointing towards your centerline and their heel on the outside. This often happens when people are trying to retain guard, or are playing certain open guards.
The moment their foot is in place, use your arms to establish a rear naked choke grip right above the ankle. The arm that is near your opponent’s heel goes in first (the “choking arm” of the RNC grip), with your other arm acting as the support arm. This effectively traps your opponent’s foot.
Your goal is to get the side of their foot across your belly. In fact, this is a crucial part of the setup. You can even withdraw your belly inwards when setting submission up to ensure a tighter and more painful finish.
For the finish itself, you need to rotate your torso towards the opponent’s hips, squeezing with your arms as you do so. Extending your belly at this point brings the submission about much quicker and leaves barely any time for the bottom person to tap.
While setting up the Estima Lock against open guards remains the best entry, Victor has devised an entire system around the submission, even discovering entries from the bottom as well.
Is There an Effective Estima Lock Defense?
There is a point of no return with the Estima Lock and you need to be painfully aware of it, or you’ll end up simply being in pain. Lots of it.
The moment someone establishes the figure four grip and they have your foot trapped on the belly you’re at the point of no return. If they start rotating, tap, and do so quickly.
Your only hope of beating the Estima Lock is early when your opponent has not started to place pressure on the ankle yet. To ensure you have enough time to mount an escape, you need to make sure your foot is not yet across their belly, but rather on their hip. The moment you see them reaching for the grips, you need to invert and spin under.
What you accomplish by inverting and spinning to remove the side of the foot from the belly, thus killing the Estima Lock before it happens. While this is the best defense option, you need to be mindful that if you are late and you attempt this, you may actually break your own ankle.
Can You Do The Estima Lock In Competitions?
With the Estima Lock no longer a novel move, it is now classified according to its mechanics as a toe hold. As such, under IBJJF and UAEJJF rules, it is only legal for brown and black belts.
If there was ever merit for a move to be only available to experienced grapplers, it is the Estima Lock. There have been plenty of instances, some that I’ve witnessed personally, of devastating injuries as a result of the quick and brutal nature of the submission, particularly amongst white and blue belts a decade ago.
Even these days, the Estima Lock can surprise experienced grapplers and cause bad breaks. The most famous Uke in BJJ, Placido Santos, was recently himself a victim of this notorious leg lock.
So, should you have the Estima Lock in your arsenal? Absolutely yes! It is a very effective submission hold that can guarantee you a win if you spend some time perfecting the mechanics.
The submission often presents itself as a gift from an unsuspecting opponent, which makes your life a lot easier. Be careful though, both when applying the lock and when trying to escape it, as it comes on very quickly and can cause severe injuries to unsuspecting victims.
Ogi is a black belt that does Jiu Jitsu full time and is very passionate about anything grappling-related.
He is also the head coach of Enso Jiu Jitsu in Macedonia and an aspiring Globetrotter.