leg locks

Using the Leg Lock from Closed Guard

Close up action of a leg lock

Close up action of a leg lock

Successfully finishing a leg or foot lock in a mixed martial arts fight is not an easy task. Without very good technique your opponent could easily slip from your clutches and turn the tides of the fight in his favor. However being able to complete this submission successfully can round out a fighter’s submission game and give him a very sneaky weapon.

This leg lock setup will focus on finishing  from the closed guard position. When your opponent has you stuck in his closed guard your options are not always as open as you want them. many times fighters will fight not for submissions or sweeps but just to break your posture, hold you down, and tire you out while you fight for a stalemate. Quickly applying this leg lock can throw your opponent a curve ball and hopefully get you the victory.

Breaking Through the Defense

Usually if a fighter is on his back he will wrap his legs around you for the closed guard; there are also other techniques but this one is really the most common. His goal from here is to either submit or pass, you want him to do neither.

To start your attack you need to first unhook your opponent’s legs from behind your back freeing up your range of motion. There are times when a fighter will do this on his own, whether it is to attempt a sweep or maybe just a lapse of concentration. If you can perfect the leg lock it should only take this momentary lapse for you to take advantage and finish the opponent.

In reality though, we cant all be that good or that lucky. There is one fundamental closed guard pass that works great for this technique that is simple and effective. To perform this pass you need to posture up  in the closed guard with your hands on the opponent’s waist pressing him into the ground. One kneed is placed at the opponent’s tailbone and the other leg is stepped out and back. A simple twisting motion is used to break the opponent’s feet from your back and you are free. For an in depth explanation for this simple pass CLICK HERE

Positioning For Attack

Once you have broken through the guard of the opponent it is time to start pressing the attack. To get yourself in position, one leg is placed in between his legs almost as if you are kneeling down and pressing your shin into the groin. This help keep your opponent pinned down and prevents him from moving into you so that you can have the opportunity to grab his leg.

Your other leg is then swung out and around your opponent’s leg and onto his stomach to isolate the leg you are going to attack. You then also roll off to the side of the attacked leg. The knees are squeezed together to keep the leg from slipping out. The legs are also used to pin the opponent’s hip into the ground so that he cannot escape now that he knows what is coming next.

The opponent’s foot should now be in the vicinity of your armpit. The foot is gripped similar to the grip used in a guillotine choke, the arm on the bottom side is placed under the foot and the other hand is used to hold onto your hand locking the foot in place. This grip should be placed as close to the foot/ankle as possible because the higher you go on the shin the more pressure is diverted away from the foot during the finish.

The Finish

The finish for this submission is really an Achilles lock. It uses all leg strength to attempt to separate the opponent’s foot from the rest of him. Your arms are used to lock the foot into place against your upper body.  his hips/thigh are pinned to the ground and immobile due to your legs holding him down.

By using a squatting motion, pushing down with the legs, and pulling up with the upper body all the force is placed on the ankle joint and a tap out is inevitable. Mastering this technique is no easy task but it can certainly come in handy in a pinch.

Here is a video showing this technique in its entirety.


Wonderful World of Leg and Foot locks

In Brazilian jiu-jitsu there are a number of submissions that involve putting pressure on points in the legs to cause a tap out. Completely unsurprisingly there are categorized as leg locks. They can be extremely useful in BJJ because they can be easy to use but also hard to defend against without good technique. In mixed martial arts they are seen less often but can still be extremely useful because its only natural for an opponent to protect his head and arms in a fight while leaving legs out in the open for attack.

It is much more natural for people to work with their arms than their legs. Our hands can hold onto things to help anchor them into position and generally have better fine movement control; both things are good for defending against submission attacks. However an opponent certainly wont be clasping his feet together to prevent a knee bar, unless of course he is half chimp. Also in mixed martial arts just going for any type of leg lock generally takes you out of effective striking range which is a plus.

The last advantage of a leg lock, especially in a MMA arena, is the element of surprise. Its natural to defend against attacks to the upper body more than the lower. If your still not convinced watch the great Anderson Silva get caught hook line and sinker in a leg lock when he could have easily won the fight

Achilles Foot Lock

Basic Achilles lock positioning

There are a few basic leg or foot locks taught in brazilian jiu-jitsu, with each having multiple variations of course. The most basic of which is probably the Achilles foot lock. This basic submission consists essentially of putting the opponent’s foot in a guillotine choke; his Achilles tendon being the neck and the pressure being placed on the tendons/ligaments in the top of the foot. Your whole body is used to push back on the foot causing pain and the risk of tearing needed tendons.  This foot lock is effective because of its simplicity and flexibility.

Heel Hook

Another type of leg lock is called a heel hook. These are quick and deadly submissions that put enormous pressure on the knee and demand a quick tap out when sunk in correctly. In training there is great care to finish this move in because of the possibility of damage to the knee from the applied pressure.

The basic idea behind the submission is to immobilize the opponents foot and lower leg against your body and upper leg with your legs. The two are then rotated independently with the two halves of your body to put pressure on the opponents knee. It doesn’t even sound all that simple but it is still easier said than done. There are also a number of variations to the heel hook which make it a serious threat in the hands of an expert.

UFC fighter Rousimar Palhares is known for his leg locks and more specifically his heel hook. For some of his highlights and technical breakdown of a more complex heel hook setup CLICK HERE.

Less Common Locks

The knee bar really does look similar to an arm bar

The knee bar is another leg lock that is taught in Brazilian jiu jitsu. As the name would imply this is essentially an arm bar for the knee. The pressure put on the knee to bend it in the opposite direction generates excruciating pain and can cause injury if the victim does not tap out. This is a less common submission because of a generally lower success rate than other leg locks.

Lastly there is a calf crank. The calf crank is not a traditional submission that aims to rip apart a joint. Instead it focuses on putting pressure on the opponents calf muscles and lower leg bones. This means that it causes more pain than threat of injury. The calf crank isn’t seen much or a guaranteed submission but there are a ton of variations that make its use very flexible. For an in depth look at the calf crank CLICK HERE.