But That’s Illegal…


“Illegal” is a hard term for me in the grappling world. I understand banning certain things due to safety risks. I also understand that rules will always be politically driven (what’s good for the gander is good for the flock mentality). I’ll even describe something myself as “not allowed” or “illegal”, but when I stop and think about it, none of the techniques are really illegal. You can’t do heel hooks in judo competition because the rules ban any joint lock which does not attack the elbow as the primary joint (and then for political reasons we consider certain shoulder locks as “elbow locks”). Then when you say “there are no leg locks in judo” one of the black belts inevitably says “judo has leg locks, but they’re not allowed in competition.” So then, leg locks aren’t illegal, there’s just a context we’ve agreed to not do them in. If they really do exist in judo, why don’t we practice them?

Notions like this are hard for me to swallow. It’s especially hard in BJJ for me because the rules for no-gi are pretty much NHB, but the rules in the gi are myriad. There are heel hooks in BJJ. There is reaping the knee. Neither are allowed in competition in the gi, but since they are allowed in no-gi, how should we practice?

That’s the question I’m having now. Leg locks work well for me, but they’re not allowed in judo competition at all and I won’t be able to do more than knee-bars, straight ankle locks, and Achilles crushes in gi. Should I keep training the toe-hold with knowledge that I will gain it as a weapon in competition at purple because I can still hit the knee-bar at blue (and I use the same setup for both), or do I just focus on my chokes and arm-bars because they’re allowed in all competitions? It’s probably a silly question, I have a ton of other basics I need to work on which will be occupying my time. Still, what is “illegal” and should I preclude those techniques from being added to my game? I’ve already learned spine locks and heel hooks. I don’t use either in rolling though I know how. It’s clearly possible to learn things but not use them. Should I start stripping the stuff that can’t be used until purple though?

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2 thoughts on “But That’s Illegal…

  1. No. In my opinion, once you’ve reached a certain level of proficiency (you don’t start trying to HULK SMASH RAWRRR everyone every lesson) everyone should train under black belt rules in gi. Purple+above should train with heel hooks, but never apply the submission. Learning to defend these attacks are just as important as learning to apply them.

  2. I wrote a blog on the issue of heel hooks being illegal, and its a subject I’ve become pretty passionate about. I too am confused about the strange view leglocks have gotten. I play leglocks, and I play them a lot. Its seems crazy to me to take away half of the human body as far as possible targets are concerned. They have a reputation of being dangerous, and they are, but my opinion is so is any joint lock. When I armbar someone, they tap right away, but when I get someone in a heel hook, they stubbornly refuse to give up, and injury can sometimes occur. So to me the reason they are dangerous is not because of anything inherent in the moves themselves, but because of people having no training on how to get out, when they are in danger, and a general lack of respect for the techniques. I guess its just my opinion, but I’ve leglocked tons of folks over the years and never hurt anyone except 2 guys in a tournament who were being foolish and stubborn. Not that I train in the Gi anymore, but I’m shocked at the direction the IBJJF rules are going, no knee reaping? Good lord.

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