Leg Locks


I love leg-locks. People say they’re dangerous, and for awhile I bought it. I still don’t finish them due to the inherent risk compared to an arm-lock. The fact is, they’re no more dangerous. People don’t defend them well, or do the wrong thing and end up getting hurt. If someone was to do juji-gatame on you with a solid grip on the hand and pinching tight with their legs you wouldn’t roll violently as it would break your arm. For some reason when you take the knee-bar and grip on the foot, people do just that.

Another argument I’ve seen against leg-locks is that they’re impractical – they give up position. This is mostly erroneous. There are some leg-locks which I admit will put you in a bad position if they don’t work out. Having said that – half-guard top, half-guard bottom, reverse knee-on-belly, and inside the guard are all good examples of times where doing a leg-lock is pretty ace. Below are three examples of my favorites. There are many, many more.

From half-guard top (right leg trapped):

  1. Get an underhook on your partner’s left leg, get it up by your neck. Since you’re actively sitting on one of their legs the triangle isn’t really a concern here. Their legs should be easy to open up even if they have them locked from here. If they’re playing the lockdown so this isn’t possible, just push their arms back (think standing in a no-gi situation) and stand-up quickly (jump to your feet). Playing the lockdown is asking for your ankle to get broken. They’ll either go back to a traditional half-guard or you’ll hear an abrupt popping sound probably followed by screaming.
  2. Now that you have your underhook you’ll want to control their right arm. Push your left hand into their bicep to keep them from being able to grab your leg.
  3. “Stand” on your left foot and spin towards their underhooked leg. You should feel like you’re in the knee-bar position now. Let the foot continue past and sit on their hip, pinching your knees around the thigh. Hug the shin to your shoulder.
  4. You now have your choice of finishes. Wade likes the Achilles crush where you press the ridge of your right wrist directly into the Achilles tendon as you lay back. This will hang your weight off of it and let you really grind in. It’s not pleasant (at all), but it’s pain compliance so it’s possible they won’t tap. The knee bar is a great way to finish (obviously?). Finally, you could also have your right hand grab the blade of their foot (should be their left leg for our example) and then figure four grip. You now have the standard grip for a toe hold. Spin your body about their leg holding your hands exactly where they are. This is a rotational ankle lock. As they try to spin out, push the foot towards them and continue rotating at your hips. This is kind of hard to describe so I’ll try to do a video.

From the full-guad:

  1. Open the full-guard in your favorite way (might I recommend the very traditional opening on the knee?). You should end up with your right knee up, and your right elbow touching it.
  2. Grab a hold of their right leg with your left hand. They may try to pull it away – if they do, PASS, they were kind enough to turn to a side and remove the leg that was stopping you.
  3. Assuming you’ve isolated their right leg (and aren’t climbing their back by this point), turning your hips push the leg over your right forearm and figure four grip (your elbow should be touching your knee the whole time, if it’s not, you’re probably going to give up your back). You now more or less have the grip for a kimura, but on their leg.
  4. QUICKLY (but not super fast because this is going to like wicked hurt) turn back towards them. Your right knee should go to the ground and your left knee should come up so that your shin is in their back. There are three finishes I’ve been shown from here. The first is to switch your grips to a toe hold (this is my preferred). Second, you should be able to just keep twisting to apply a hip-lock slash rotational knee-lock (you’ll have to find some way to keep them from turning out, and it’s your arms/hips against their leg/hips so I avoid this one – it feels like a loosing battle). Third, if they turn to their belly you can just switch to a straight ankle lock by having your left forearm under the Achilles tendon, left hand grasping the right forearm, and the right hand on their shin/knee. You’re figure-foured up. Finish him!
  5. As an added bonus, you start this, you get them turning, but the leg pops out of your deft grips. Roll them belly-down (if they didn’t do that for you) by pushing the leg and just sit on their butt. You could probably fish out a Boston Crab from here, but it’s much easier to move the pressure to their lower back and spin to take their back (already broken-down and gift-wrapped for you).

From the full-guard: The “Sambo Pass”. I don’t know why. The name is not my creation. I love it because you don’t need to open the guard, it’s an all-in-one open, pass, submission, bonus submission if you mess up.

  1. Trap your partner’s right hand against his body with your left hand. Use your left elbow to trap his right leg against your hip.
  2. Use your right hand to block their left arm so they can’t post. If he can post you’re going to get swept (scissors sweep – you’ve set it up for him, in fact, a lot of people will try to sweep which just gets you where you want faster if you’re controlling the movement).
  3. Step your left leg up (shin to their side/back) and turn to your right (you’re going to have to stop blocking their arm at some point, but by the time you do, you should already be over and behind them).
  4. You’re now sitting on your opponents back with at least one leg pinned to your hip and ready for the submission. Everything from above is on the table. If you still have both legs spine locks are also on the table. Don’t be a dick.
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One thought on “Leg Locks

  1. I don’t use them, as I’m far too scared of injuring a training partner, due to the problem of people explosively rolling the wrong way, which you mentioned above.

    At the same time, I like to occasionally roll with people (preferably at least purple: I don’t trust the control of white belts and most blue belts) who use leglocks, as it’s still important for me to understand the defence.

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