When it comes to leg locks, no gi seems to come to mind. The leg lock began to dominate the no gi scene a few years back, and enjoyed an enormous rise in popularity.
Whether you’re a fan or not, the fact remains that the leg lock has become a much larger part of the BJJ competition scene in recent years and continues to evolve. An unwillingness to respect leg locks and learn them will almost certainly lead to your demise at some point.
The leg lock remains as a fantastic submission tool, and an advantage for those who choose to employ them. If you’ve taken the time to add them to your tool box, good for you, your game has probably become much broader and more dangerous. It seems many felt there was lots of hype surrounding the leg game, and that its popularity might diminish. This may be partly true, but for those that are maintaining and keeping their lower body submission game strong, you may enjoy more success as the attention of others gets drawn away. I’m a huge fan of the leg game. It fascinates me, and I respect it a great deal, as I feel it can really turn the tables in a jiu-jitsu match.
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In the gi, the leg game is a bit different. There seems to be this stigma about leg locking in the gi, almost as if it is looked down upon. The fact is, there is an entire other world of leg lock opportunities in the gi. Different rule sets dictate what kind of lower body submissions can be used and this sets the stage for the use of different positions and techniques.
Let’s take a look at some leg locks performed in the gi. There are some intensely creative ideas floating around where this theme is concerned and they deserve attention.
Let’s start with Dante Leon, and a nasty straight foot lock from reverse De La Riva guard. Check it out!
Beginning in the RDLR, Leon uses his top shin to keep his partner at bay and reaches for a cross collar grip. Leon is setting up inversion here, very similar to a back take that we commonly see from this position. To begin inverting he extends his legs, reaches in front of his partner’s shin, and swings top leg out and around.
Leon then brings his legs into a reverse style x-guard position, positioning himself underneath his partner. He then uses his bottom leg to push on his partner’s far foot. This begins to spread his partner’s base out and aids in off balancing. As he performs this foot push, Leon begins to rotate and dump his partner on to his back. Next, Leon transitions his top arm to an over hook on his partner’s leg and secures a straight ankle style lock by griping his own lapel.
As he travels to his belly, he works to get an X configuration on his partner’s thigh, cementing the belly down position. As he opens his knees wide, Leon allows his hips to drop down to the mat, creating some pressure. He then uses his free hand to begin regaining his posture. This provides the necessary finishing power to complete the submission.
Anytime we can turn belly down to finish a straight ankle lock, the force will be magnified quite a bit. This action of spreading the knees and beginning to lift himself off the mat allows Leon to load a ton of extra pressure on to the foot and command the tap. Excellent.
This next attack is one that I feel everyone should know, and it is brought to us by none other than Bernardo Faria. Have a look!
From an over under passing position, Faria feeds his partner’s leg deep between his and hugs the bottom of the thigh. He then walks himself to the middle, carrying his partners leg along with him. After arriving in the middle, he makes a triangle with his legs and begins to let his hips descend toward the mat. This creates a ton of downward pressure on the knee, forcing the tap.
Faria makes a clear distinction here about safety and application. When we train in the academy, it would be wise to put this one on nice and slow. In a competition setting you can see he turns the move in to a more devastating submission attempt.
As Bernardo explains, the concept is simple. He’s creating a space under the back of his partner’s knee and driving his pressure down in to that space. This is a very low risk high reward technique. Worst case scenario, you don’t get the tap, but you get a reaction that leads to a pass.
Check out this slick foot lock from Rodrigo Cavaca. He sets up this devastating leg attack from a toreando pass. Have a look!
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From a toreando style passing position, Cavaca takes grips on the pants. He begins by crowding his partner and putting pressure on the back of his partner’s knees with his own knees. As he drives forward, he begins to switch to a leg drag style pass, moving his partner’s knees off to his right. When the foot comes within his reach, he over hooks it and secures his opposite side lapel. He then settles in and breaks his partner’s grip on his sleeve using his knee. From this position Cavaca now falls to his left hip and establishes an ashi garami style entanglement.
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For the finish, there’s quite a few moving parts. His wrist is positioned under the achilles tendon and he has a firm grip on his lapel. Being mindful of the pressure on the hip, Cavaca closes his top knee down tight, and pinches his elbow close to his body. After everything has been ratcheted down tight, he begins to rotate to his left for a solid finish.
In the second variation Cavaca begins in a similar fashion, but the foot doesn’t clear his opposite thigh. Here, he catches it with his elbow, pinning the toes to his own leg. He then scoops under the trapped leg with his left arm and secures his opposite wrist. He applies upward pressure to the heel and gets what appears to be an incredibly painful submission. Cavaca demonstrates how we can apply this technique while on top or from a seated position as well.
So, get your gi on and start attacking some limbs!
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