This article originally appeared on Evolve Vacation.
Look up how to counter leg lockers in Google and you’ll find a number of counter-curses to remove the leg-locker curse, or leg-locking spell, which is, of course, a mythical spell from the world of Harry Potter.
Funnily enough, competing with a capable leg locker in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is probably much the same feeling as having your legs tied together helplessly by the fictional Draco Malfoy; it sucks and it feels like you can’t do much about it.
With leg locking becoming all the rage lately, it is important that practitioners understand not only how to attack the legs of an opponent, but how to defend against leg lock attacks, as well.
By leg locks, we are generally referring to all types of leg attacks, including, but not limited to: heel hooks, foot locks, knee bars, and toe holds.
Because seemingly every grappler out there right now is learning leg locks and learning how to attack with them, it is becoming increasingly difficult to defend against these type of attacks.
Today, Evolve Vacation reveals How To Combat A Leg Locker.
Don’t get trapped
We could dive straight into ways to specifically stop each leg lock, but it is of greater importance to recognize and be aware of the dangers of falling into the leg lock system with a confident grappler and how to prevent the disastrous outcome of having your legs locked up.
The focus of this article is that if you don’t fall into the traps, you don’t have to actually defend the submissions.
So, how can you combat a leg locker in the first place?
Keep your feet safe
It might sound simple, but you would be surprised how many grapplers carelessly leave their feet ripe for the taking.
As a general rule, don’t let your feet extend past the hips of your opponent. Likewise, don’t raise them higher than the chest area of your opponent either, because they can snatch them and secure them in the armpit area easily.
Play some butterfly guard
Additionally, try to start in a way that doesn’t leave your feet in an insecure position. Another useful tip to remember is that whoever has their two feet on the inside (or middle) of their opponent’s feet and legs is winning the leg lock battle. So, don’t let your opponent’s legs beat yours, and instead look to place both of your feet down the middle.
A simple way to ensure this? Try and play butterfly guard. Butterfly guard is one of the safest guards when facing a leg locker – and of course, there are a number of sweeps and attacks that are possible from this position.
Avoid full mount
Now, this might sound a little crazy, but you should avoid playing full mount against a leg locker (especially in a submission only contest). By giving your opponent your full weight they can elevate you and attempt sweeps from x-guard or any other number of ways to control your body and attack the legs.
This is why you rarely see expert submission only grapplers take full mount in competitions such as the Eddie Bravo Invitational. It is much safer to attack the back or work from side control – where your legs are much safer against proficient leg lockers.
Defending the leg lock
In most cases, you can correctly apply all of these techniques mentioned above and still find yourself in a leg lock war with a skilled opponent.
Once there, it’s important not to panic or rush, and instead focus on removing the dangers of the leg lock. If you beat the leg lock, you most often pass to a dominant position – so there’s the added benefit of that, too!
Focus on the knee line
Heel hooks, knee bars, and most foot locks really only work when the knee is exposed.
By exposed, we mean that your knee is passed through past their knees. If your knee is closer to you than your opponent’s knees, you are relatively safe. If your knee is closer to your opponent’s body than their knees, you aren’t safe at all and your leg is exposed to a number of attacks.
Apply the boot
Attacking the leg becomes a whole lot more difficult when the opponent has put ‘the boot’ on.
The boot is simply a technique that involves straightening out and tightening your leg and foot in a way that prevents an opponent from easily being able to manipulate it.
Essentially, by flexing the toes upward and away from the body of your opponent, together with straightening the leg (and paying attention to the knee line), you can make it all the more challenging for your opponent to execute a submission while you look for an escape.
Control the head
Most leg lock submissions require the attacker’s body to be laying on the mat – likely on their side.
To prevent your opponent from establishing an attacking position, one of the best first things to do is clinch the back of their head or neck and break their posture. This not only acts as a way of keeping yourself upright and helping to smash through their position but also disables them from moving to the mat and beginning their attack.
Attack the clinching arm
Similarly to controlling the head, another great first step to stop the attack is by controlling their clinching arm. By that, we are referring to the hand and arm that they are using to finish the submission.
For example, if they are rolling to their left and using their right hand to finish a top-side heel hook, you can grab their right forearm and use that as another point of leverage to stand back to your feet. By pulling on and controlling this arm, you again make it more difficult for the attacker to finish the submission.
Foot to the mat
Another smart first move against a leg lock clinch is to put your foot to the mat.
Heel hooks, for example, require your foot to be lifted from the mat in order to appropriately twist and turn at the toes and start pulling them towards the ‘rear’ of an opponent.
If they have grabbed your foot and/or leg, attempt the boot, but if they still don’t have proper control, you can put your foot down to the mat and start looking at ways to recover guard.