In the words of Professor Dean Lister “Why would you ignore 50% of the human body?”
Jiu Jitsu is continually changing, as the sport evolves, we have elite athletes such as Gordon Ryan or Garry Tonon dominating on the mats as a result of the systematic approach to attacks, they have learned from Professor Danaher. Leg attacks have seemed to explode along side the success of such athletes putting these submission attacks in the spotlight for the world to see.
Prior to the increased attention on leg locks, the standard approach in Jiu Jitsu was to get the legs out of your way, meaning go over them, go under them, or go around them in the form a knee slice pass, stack pass, or some other form of guard pass that you were able to execute. Once around the legs, they could be ignored for the most part, while there were times you would use them during a transition or submission attempt, it was always more for controlling the opponent’s ability to move more so than anything else.
With the primary focus always being on passing the guard and then attacking the arms with a shoulder lock or arm lock variation or the neck with your choice of strangle variations, there was a massive void in many practitioners game as the bottom half of the body was being ignored as a way to not only control, but submit the opponent. To the untrained eye, leg attacks can seem confusing, (If we are being honest, they can be confusing to those of us who do train as well) and may not always captivate the crowd the way some of the more common submission do, but the reality is leg lock submission can be highly effective, and some of the entries are just down right awesome and really flashy.
Neil Melanson breaks down the Rolling Knee Bar for us in a short excerpt from his video instructional “Ground Marshal Leg Locks by Neil Melanson”
Starting from a standing position, one of the first things he speaks on is “diving” for the leg and attacking the knee with a sloppy dive and roll. Melanson discourages this as it is sloppy and allows for a large margin for error. Rather, he prefers to “take them for a ride with me”.
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Melanson starts by getting an over hook on using his left arm over hooking his training partner’s left arm and driving his forehead into the side of his training partner’s face. Because he wants his training partner’s right leg to be closer to him he is only driving his forehead into his training partner to create the reaction of them pushing back, at which point he allows them to win head position brining their head between Melanson’s head and his over hook.
Next, we Melanson notes that as he steps away with his right leg it pulls his training partner closer to him and achieves the position he was looking for. In addition to this he notes that he always prefers to control the wrist of the opposite arm (not the over hooked arm) to prevent the training partner from using that hand to peel grips or cause other issues for us.
From here Melanson does a short shuffle step aligning his right foot just in front of his training partner’s right foot and his left foot just between his training partners legs enabling him to lift his left foot off of the mat and hook behind his training partner’s left knee.
The next part happens very quickly, as you know, it’s not always easy in Jiu Jitsu to show every position in slow motion because sometimes, a lot of times really, timing and or momentum are a factor.
The goal of the next part of this technique is to roll leading with your shoulder and rolling over your opponent’s opposite shoulder. In the video you will see Melanson leading this roll with his right shoulder and as the roll continues rolling over his training partner’s left shoulder. As the roll begins Melanson is also using his right hand to reach for his training partner’s right leg. One last detail to note is Melanson adds a slight one legged hop just as he begins the roll he is hopping his right leg from being in front of his training partner’s right leg to being on the outside of his training partner’s right leg.
As the land finishing the roll Melanson is maintaining his over hook on his training partner’s arm, and simply reaching behind his head with his opposite arm (his right arm that grabbed his training partner’s right leg as the roll began) and leaning back. Reaching behind his head traps his training partner’s leg and makes it very difficult for him to escape because of the position. Melanson is had his legs in a triangle around the leg he is attacking with a hook under the opposite leg as well, making it very difficult for his training partner to move much at all.
As an alternate option to finish, you can remove the over hook from your training partner’s arm and scoop up the head instead and cradle your training partner, leaning back for the submission, just as we would have in the original finish. Doing this is going to add to your training partner’s discomfort and further eliminate their ability to move, limiting their ability to escape even more.
When we look at leg attacks like this, initially it looks difficult and flashy, but breaking it down we learn that it is not overly difficult and it’s likely with practice any of us can do it. In competitions where the goal is to put on a show, attacks like this certainly hit the mark.
This is only one of many of the details shown in Ground Marshal Leg Locks, be sure to check out the video instructional for a complete 4 part series on how to ensure you aren’t ignoring 50% or the human body in your ground fighting game.