What Are Leg Locks?
Leg lock (or leglock) is widely used in many martial arts, like Sambo, mixed martial arts, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, catch wrestling, and shoot wrestling.
NOTE: In judo, leg locks exist, but that kind of techniques are prohibited in competition, despite it was allowed earlier.
The leg lock is also a trademark of Sambo fighters.
Fedor Emelianenko, one of the best MMA fighters of all time, is known to be a Sambo champion.
If a more detailed classification is considered, a leg lock should be different from a hip lock or foot lock.
Some techniques are designed to attack ligaments or bones, while other techniques attack muscles directly.
Sambo fighters are known to be the masters of leg locks. In UFC, the man with most leg lock victories is Rousimar Palhares.
Why do the competitions ban leg locks?
When you train, leg locks have to be applied with control, until the opponent feels the pain and taps out.
Those are very dangerous submissions which can cause muscle, tendon, or ligament injury.
In the worst case scenario, tight leg lock can cause the fracture of the leg.
There is one thing that gives special meaning to leg locks – you can apply it from almost any position.
5 Basic Types & Variations
Generally, there are 5 types of leg locks:
- Ankle lock,
- Toe hold,
- Heel hook,
- Calf crush (calf slicer).
Some have subtypes, and all of it will be described.
#1 - Kneebar
The knee bar is also known as leg bar, knee lock or hiza juji gatame in Judo.
It is a submission which hyperextends the opponent’s knee.
- The opponent’s leg is trapped between practitioner’s legs and the practitioner should hyperextend the knee joint.
- The opponent’s kneecap is pointed towards practitioner’s body, and the practitioner applies the pressure with the hips.
- The knee is held by hands only.
There is one more variation of a knee bar, where the practitioner traps the opponent’s foot behind the armpit.
In this variation, the pressure is applied by upper body and hips at the same time.
This type of knee bar is more effective and harder to escape.
#2 - Ankle Lock
It is also known as a shin lock.
The lock is applied to the articulatio talocruralis, which is hyperextended through the motion of plantar flexion.
The basic ankle lock is applied from the full guard when you kneel or stand above your opponent.
All you need to do is take the opponent’s leg and overextend it by pulling it towards yourself.
You can make the leg lock stronger if you turn to the side.
There is one subtype of the ankle lock, and it is called Achilles lock (straight ankle lock) or ashi hishigi in Judo.
- You have to trap the opponent’s leg under your armpit with both of your legs and pull towards yourself.
- You must hold the opponent’s foot by applying the pressure with your forearm.
- The lower third of the opponent’s calf suffers the pressure.
- The accent of this submission is the Achilles tendon, and that is how it got its name.
- You can also rotate sideways for more pressure.
#3 - Toe Hold
It is also known as ashi dori garami in Judo.
- When going for a toe hold, a practitioner should use his hands for rotating the opponent’s ankle.
- It twists or pushes the opponent’s foot while at the same time he maintains the full control of the opponent’s leg.
- It can be performed off the full guard, side control or even omoplata.
- The goal is to cause the overextension of the opponent’s foot.
There is one subtype of toe hold, and it is called figure four toe hold.
- When applying this technique, one hand controls the opponent’s toes on the foot.
- Another hand is set under the opponent’s Achilles tendon.
- You should grab the wrist or the submission will not pass. You have 2 options – flex the opponent’s foot slightly sideways or straight.
- Figure four toe hold is a very effective submission and hard to escape.
#4 - Heel Hook
The heel hook is the most painful submission of all leg lock techniques, the trademark of a Sambo fighters.
This leg lock has the effect on multiple joints, and this is the reason why it is the most dangerous one too.
- The foot is twisted laterally or medially.
- Knee, ankle, and hip are rotated at the same time.
Rousimar Palhares earned the suspension in UFC after he denied to release the heel hook in the fight against Mike Pierce, despite the referee ordered otherwise.
It just confirms the danger this leg lock brings.
The basics of the heel hook require to wrap your legs around the opponent’s leg and to hold opponent’s foot under your armpit (same like in straight ankle lock).
- The heel is in your forearm, and you are twisting it by moving your whole body.
- The center of rotation is the opponent’s ankle.
- You are twisting the opponent’s leg in one way, and at the same time, turning your hip in the opposite direction.
Here is a great tutorial.
There are two subtypes of the heel hook.
The first is known as the reverse (inside or inverted) heel hook.
- The motion remains the same, but you hold the opponent’s foot in the opposite armpit.
- For the successful submission, you will have to rotate his leg laterally.
The last subtype is the trademark of Sambo – sliding heel hook or flying scissor heel hook.
- You are throwing yourself through the air (optionally, you can slide down the ground, depending on the distance between you and your opponent’s leg),
- Trapping opponents front foot and taking him down at the same time while you are performing the submission.
- While your opponent falls on the ground, the submission is usually finished.
Take a look at the fight between Ryo Chonan and Anderson Silva – a world-class example!
Here is a slow motion tutorial.
#5 - Calf Slicer
This leg lock is known as calf slicer, calf cutter, knee slicer, leg slicer, and knee separator.
In Judo, it exists under the name hiza hishigi.
This leg lock doesn’t look dangerous, but it can cause extremely serious injuries to the calf muscle.
- The practitioner compresses the leg of his opponent.
- The forearm or shin bone are put behind the knee of the opponent.
- The goal of the submission is to crush the opponent’s calf and at the same time, calf muscle separation of the knee joint.
- The practitioner’s feet are used for additional pressure towards the opponent’s calf.
Here is a great tutorial.
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