Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Importance of Leglocks

“When lions attack they go for the neck, not the legs.”

Ever heard that before?  Chances are if you have ever tried or learned a leglock, you have.  Every time the subject of lower body submissions comes up, it seems like somebody utters that phrase.  And while that idiom might be true on the savannah, in the gym the lion should be open to learning new submissions. 

Traditionally, leglocks aren’t overly emphasized in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu schools.  At least partially in part because the Gracie’s didn’t do much with leg attacks (in contrast, we all know that Fadda would roll and footlock the heck out of you).  But we all want to be well-rounded grapplers right?  That means keeping an open mind about wrestling, judo, sambo, or other grappling arts that might have something to offer.  When it comes to leglocks, even if you know them but don’t use them, recognizing when one is coming is pretty valuable, don’t you think?  (Hint: your ankles and knees agree with me.)

BJJ doesn’t place a big emphasis on leg locks, but they are allowed in competition rules to varying degrees.  As information continues to be shared and grappling techniques get swapped between styles, leg locks will continue to become more common.  And with guys like Dean Lister and Rousimar Palhares setting the leglock standard in high-level competition, you’d best come correct with your knowledge.  Check it out below, fellow Geeks, and soon your nickname at your academy will be “bear trap”.

At the time of this writing, I’m a no-stripe purple belt.  So I haven’t been training leglocks that long.  There’s no real rule against practicing them at my academy, I just didn’t feel like I had a good enough knowledge of grappling, BJJ or human body mechanics to train them until now.  Here are a few lessons that I’ve picked up either from experience or through conversations with upper belts: 

  • Remember that legs aren’t as dexterous as arms…don’t crank stuff! 
  • Don’t try leglocks on white belts or new blue belts.
  • If you are a white or a new blue belt, don’t do leglocks.  Though I will admit, fewer things are funnier than rolling with a white belt who falls back for an ankle lock or heel hook and looks bewildered when it doesn’t work.  You gotta crawl before you ball, new guy.
  • People get squirrely when you grab their legs/feet, so getting reps in and having your technique down are priority one.  Like any other move if you want it to work you have to drill it, don’t write something off because you can’t get it to work instantly.
Aside from giving you more options, training leglocks will change how you roll and will consequently change how people roll with you.  Positions that didn’t used to be dangerous suddenly will be.  Beware!

Want to learn more about attacking the other 50% of people’s bodies?  Peep some of the resources below:

1)  I own Gokor’s Leglock Encyclopedia and it is a wealth of information.  However my main problem with it is that it is not well organized.  Techniques are randomly thrown together on the discs, not really divided up into categories of position or submission type, which can make finding the techniques you want a challenge.  But if you have the patience, this is a must-have resource.  

2)  Check out  They cover all types of submission grappling, BJJ and MMA as well but seem to have more leglock content than other sites I’ve visited.  As if that wasn’t obvious just by their logo.

3)  Even Kurt Osiander, who by his own admission doesn’t do footlocks, has a few videos out on them.  He makes it a point to mention that he does know footlocks, he just doesn’t use them because he doesn’t like them.  Moral of the story: Knowledge is power, don’t get your ankle snapped because you’re unwilling to learn any submissions below the armpit. 

4)  Another name synonymous with leglocks is Reilly Bodycomb.  He has some DVDs out as well and his highlight reel is below, he didn't fair so well in the Ultimate Absolute but the dude has some mad skills.

If you grapple long enough, you will come across leglocks.  You can avoid them or cite them as not being part of the pure form of BJJ, but in the end it'll be better to know them rather than not.

Train hard,

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