Preventing Leg Lock Attacks

by Brian Jones

Leglocks are sort of like the ‘Dark Side’ of jiu-jitsu and submission grappling. They represent a sort of esoteric art even within submission grappling and can often provoke a fear response in those not trained to deal with them. It seems like nothing bothers an experienced grappler more than to know he is getting ready to compete against a “leglock guy”.

Undoubtedly leglocks are effective and the inability of many experienced grapplers to defend them effectively can make them an equalizer. Techniques such as toe holds and heel hooks must be applied with caution as they can lead to serious ankle or knee injuries. In this post I want to cover some general points about staying out of leglock danger. This is not the final word on leglock defense. Far from it. Once your leg has been isolated and secured you have a serious fight on your hands. But following these three general guidelines will give your opponents fewer opportunities to attack your legs.

Danger Spots to Avoid

Standing or kneeling over your opponent

Standing or kneeling directly over your opponent (figures 1 and 2) will provide him an opportunity to lace his leg through and attack with a straight ankle lock, heel hook, or knee bar (figure 3). When standing over the bottom man try to stay outside his legs or else completely between his legs with foot control. If you find yourself in a kneeling position immediately drive your high knee toward the mat.

Figure 1








Figure 2









Figure 3













Directly behind opponent in the turtle

When working against an opponent who has gone into the turtle stay to the sides (aka the clock position) as shown in figure 4 or work from the front of your opponent. If you go directly behind and leave one leg between your opponent’s legs (figure 5) it is possible for the bottom man to tuck under and roll into a knee bar.


Figure 4









Figure 5














Foot in the pocket position in guard

In the open guard your foot is vulnerable every time you rest it on your opponent’s hip as in figure 6. I call this putting your foot in the pocket. Your opponent can easily scoop the foot and sit back for a straight ankle lock or heel hook. When placing the foot on the hip make sure it is pressing against the front of his body as demonstrated in figure 7. This becomes even more important without the gi because of the lack of upper body control you have over your opponent.

Figure 6


Figure 7


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