In a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Podcast, Joe interviewed Renzo Gracie Black Belt, John Danaher. Many within the Jiu-jitsu & MMA community know Danaher as a sought after coach, mentor, and masterful tactician who has been key in bringing the popularity of leg lock techniques to the fight game.
In the interview with Rogan, Danaher references a conversation he had with veteran grappler, Dean Lister, who himself was a huge proponent of leg locks. Danaher recalls Lister saying: “Why would you ignore fifty percent of the body?” and that was the question that caused much of Danaher’s musings and developments around leg lock and lower body submission systems.
So why would we ignore fifty percent of the body? Many techniques considered ‘traditional’ in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu are executed upon the upper half of the body; strangles of the neck, arm locks and even spinal locks, but why has the bottom half of the body been neglected? It is worth asking this question. Many have made arguments from a variety of viewpoints, such as rule sets in competition, or the possible risk of injury with lower body attacks.
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Leg locks are a number of BJJ moves, that if performed properly, put your opponent’s leg joints and/or muscles under tremendous strain. That being said, even though these moves are very effective, there used to be a time when they were not held in high regard. In fact, you’ll see that this is the case to this very day in some Brazilian JiuJitsu schools.
In recent BJJ and MMA matches it has been evident that the powerful potential of leg locks are making fighters curious about learning more about them.
The rising popularity of leg locks
With the help of the work of the leg lock pioneers in Brazilian JiuJitsu, leg locks are taking their rightful place in the BJJ game. John Danaher and Dean Lister are two of the king’s in today’s leg lock game. It was not that long ago when leg locks were considered unworthy of attention in most Brazilian JiuJitsu schools. However, If used properly, they can be positively devastating. When you hear the words “devastating leg lock,” the “Danaher Death Squad,” a small group of leg lock specialists instructed under the guidance of John Danaher, immediately come to mind. These BJJ phenoms are experts in performing various leg lock combinations and winning matches in this fashion.
That being said, there are a number of different leg locks that you can execute in a match or in sparring. Here are the five most popular types of leg locks.
5 Basic Leg Locks
The straight-foot lock is a classic in the field of leg locks. It’s also known as the ankle lock or the foot lock. The move is performed by grabbing your opponent’s leg, then shoving his foot under your armpit. After that, you put your outside foot on his hips and your inside foot under his thigh, followed by your outside forearm underneath his ankle, then grab your hand with your other hand. The move ends when you squeeze and your opponent taps out. This move is legal in most, if not all, high-level BJJ organizations that hold tournaments.
We have started the list with a classic that is held in high esteem and is condoned for use in most BJJ organizations and schools. The heel-hook, however, is anything but held in high esteem. Sure, nobody can deny its devastating effectiveness. In fact, if you perform the heel-hook to the bitter end, then your opponent will get multiple fractures along his leg. This is why you should be very careful when doing this move. You can do the inside heel-hook from the 50/50 guard. All you need to do is take your opponent’s leg and then put your elbow under his heel. Grab your hand with your other hand and twist his heel. Tap out. The outside heel hook can be done with reaping – another potentially dangerous move. The same thing goes here.
The toehold can ruin your opponent’s foot if brought to the end. His knee will also be in trouble. A great way to do this move would be from the knee shield position. All you need to do is rotate a and grab your opponent’s foot at the fingers. You slide your other arm underneath the foot and grab your forearm – much like you would do for a Kimura lock. And then you shove his foot towards your opponent’s butt for maximum leverage. .
There are certain opponent’s that will never tap out to a calf slicer. This may be that their calves are strong or they can withstand high levels of pain, which is exactly what this move is, “painful.” You can do a triangle on your opponent’s upper hip with your legs, then place your forearm below his knee joint at the weakest upper point of his calf, then use force to generate pressure and put him into a lot of pain. Few people can withstand this and there are instances where the entire calf muscle tears apart under the force of this submission.
It is recommended to start drilling the 5 basic types of leg locks no matter who you are. Just make sure that you’re careful with their application in Brazilian JiuJitsu competitions. You wouldn’t want to cripple someone while sparring or competing. Granted, it’s your opponent’s responsibility to tap, but you will see that some people don’t really care (or know) about the devastating leg locks they are captured with. In this case, the smartest thing to do would be to make a note in your mind that you have finished the move without actually finishing it – and to let your opponent go. By learning the 5 most popular leg lock types you will shoot your BJJ skills through the roof.
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