5 Leg Locks You Need To Learn First

Last updated on 10.11.2020 by

Eli from Knight Jiu Jitsu demonstrates the very first five leg locks you need to learn for Jiu Jitsu. Given the current state of affairs in BJJ, trying to roll or compete without leg attacks is like trying to exclude arm bars from your arsenal. To that extent, there are so many leg lock options out there, that choosing the best can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. That is why Eli has done it for you in this video.


Leg Locks Are Everywhere

At first, most people in BJJ, particularly those training only with the Gi thought leg locks were ineffective and dangerous. I know this because I was one of those people. For me, everything changed when a fellow blue belt from another gym came to open and and literally destroyed me with leg locks. Of course, I had to learn that stuff.

For the grappling community in general it took John Danaher and a Ph.D. level system of leg attacks to sway popular belief. Not that Danaher was particularly trying to do so. He just managed to remove the dogma that lower limb joint locks are cheap and ineffective moves by strengthening them with proper positioning.

His students then took everything he taught and literally submitted everyone with it. Suddenly, everyone started to get curious about this new “sorcery” in Jiu Jitsu.

With leg locks a huge part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the last decade, even the hardcore nay-sayers like the IBJJF have finally changed their stance. As per a recent announcement by the IBJJF, heel hooks and knee reaps will be added to the list of allowed leg attacks from 2021.

In other words, you better jump on the leg locking bandwagon, and these 5 leg attacks are the first you need to analyze.

The First Five Leg Locks To Focus On

What are the leg locks you can use? There are actually five categories as per Dean Lister, the culprit behind it all. Those are straight foot locks, toe holds, knee bars, heel hooks, and calf slicers. If we subscribe to the Danaher philosophy of leg locks (which we should), then the first four can all be executed from Ashi Garami or Leg Entanglement positions.

For someone starting out with leg attacks, controlling someone long enough to see tup breaking mechanics are going to be key. To that extent, we’ll leave calf slicers aside for more advanced grapplers, at least at present. That means that what you’ll find in this Knight Jiu Jitsu video is an ankle lock, toe hold, knee bar, inside heel hook and outside heel hook.

1. Straight Ankle Lock

The straight foot lock, or ankle lock is the very first leg lock submission you should learn. It is safe to practice, legal at all belt levels, and doesn’t feature complicated mechanics. That said, you can go for it from multiple different positions, ut your best starting point is to do it from the top.

Trapping a leg against most open guards is all you need to set it up. Get the ankle under your armpit and you’re all set to step forward with the outside leg and drop down on your side, trapped lege beneath you. Touch your knee and heel together and you’ll have a great “bite” that will allow you to control an opponent.

The finish goes as follows – get a guillotine grip, replace the elbow you have on the ground with your shoulder, squeeze everything, look down to the mats and then look backward extending your spine. In the video, Eli shares a few counters to common escapes as well.

2. Toe Hold

A backstep pass will open both the toe hold and knee bar leg locks, but you can also do the toe hold when someone is trying to escape your ankle lock. In both cases, the goal is to keep one of your opponent’s legs between both of yours, while facing them with your butt.

Crossing your legs into a triangle will deliver you the best possible leglock control position – Inside Sankaku, a.k.a. Honeyhole, a.k.a. the 4/11. The bottom line is you can attack a myriad of leg locks from this position, but a toe hold is probably the simplest, especially when opponent straighten their legs.

The finish requires a figure four grip, low on the leg you’re controlling with your legs, so that one arm holds the toe knuckle line, and the other grips your own wrist (like in a Kimura). In fact, the finishing mechanics are similar to a Kimura.

The toe hold is currently allowed for brown and black belts only in IBJJF tournaments.

Leg Locks: Toe Hold

3. Knee Bar

legally speaking, the knee bar is in the same category as toe holds – brown belts and above only. At least for now. The mechanics of the knee bar, as the name suggests, are similar to an arm bar. it is a straight joint lock, where you push with your hips on the front of the knee, causing it to bend in the “wrong” direction.

The setup can be the same as for a toe hold, as you’ll see in the video. The goal is to hug behind the knee with both arms as soon as you turn facing the leg. To finish a knee bar you’ll need to be lying on your side, pushing your hips in the knee and trying to rotate your torso towards the ceiling for added pain points.

4. Inside Heel Hook

Arguably, the inside heel hook is the most devastating of all the leg locks we use so far. The inside Senkaku position is the obvious choice here. Paring the best controlling position with the highest percentage finish just seems like the logical thing to do.

The inside heel hook has somewhat complicated mechanics. The main thing to remember is to trap the toes with your armpit, place the writs thumb up right underneath the heel and grab a palm-to-palm grip. The finish will have you pushing the toes down. turning the knees to the mats and lifting the heel. The most devastating of leg locks.

5. Outside Heel Hook

The final leg locks you need to have in your toolbox when you first start to dabble with lower limb submissions is the outside heel hook. To be honest, the submission works pretty much like the inside heel hook, only with you gripping the foot from the outside-in.

The position for it can be the straight Ashi Garami (like for the straight foot lock), but Eli demonstrates it from a leg entanglement called the Game Over position, which is borrowed from Sambo. You can check the video out on the details for it, but what’s important is that it ties in perfectly with t the previous positions and all the leg locks we already covered.

Wrap Up

This video demonstrates five truly essential leg locks, and three key Ashi Garami positions. In essence, it is a mini system, Danaher-style, that is aimed at getting people to know and understand leg attacks. And here is the kicker – even if you’re not into doing leg locks, learning these five crucial attacks will allow you to better defend when people start hunting your lower limbs.