The second you make contact with the leg - attack your opponents balance

The second you make contact with the leg - attack your opponents balance: A very common problem you will see in Jiu jitsu athletes is a tendency to simply pick the leg up when going into their high single legs. As a result their opponents can easily maintain balance on one leg and because they are in good balance, they can immediately go into strong counters - Guillotines, Kimura, leg lock entries - all kinds of problems. It is very important that the second you get two hands to the leg, you immediately exert strong downward pressure with shoulder/chest whilst pushing with your head so that your opponent is out of balance with weight in his heels. Often this will force him to use his arms to help regain balance - this precludes him from using this arms to lock up his guillotine, Kimura and leg lock counters. All his attention will be momentarily taken up with staying up rather than attacking you. Then you can focus on the task of completing the takedown without the distraction of defending yourself from his counters. Make a habit doing more than picking the leg up - make sure you go further disturb his balance at the same time and keep him hopping and reaching so they he never gets settled enough to counterattack so you can make a smoother completion to your takedown


Heel hooks in IBJJF competition

Heel hooks in IBJJF competition: The IBJJF made an important decision recently to allow the use of heel hooks and associated knee reaping in no gi competition starting next year. It is a reflection of the continued evolution of Jiu jitsu as a sport with the greatly increased prevalence of leg locking and heel hooks in particular and of the ever widening split between gi and no gi aspects of the sport. I believe the IBJJF were wise to limit the rule change to no gi competition. Heel hooks in a gi would be too easy due to the friction of pants and the power of gripping the pants to enter ashi garami holds. It would rapidly devolve into a game of whoever gets to the legs first would probably win and much of the classical upper body skill set could be lost. By splitting the game you have one part of Jiu jitsu representing the classical ideal of positional advancement to the upper body pins and submissions that is safe for all levels, weights and age categories and the other emphasizing the notion of limb isolation and control leading to submission over the whole body. While I do believe this is a significant change and will make Jiu jitsu an even better sport going into the future, I do not think it will significantly change the rankings of the champions in the long run. At first there will doubtless be a few big upsets as established champions initially struggle with some of the changes; but champions will do what champions have always done - they will learn, adapt and grow and use the same drive and determination that got them to the top before to get there again - just in slightly new ways. In time the skill level of everyone will rise to the new levels required and the sport will advance with most of the champions holding their ground. In 2010 Judo radically changed their rules by banning all lower body takedowns - a seemingly huge change - but the same champions stayed on top as they simply adapted their game. After an initial period of instability, the same will happen in Jiu jitsu. One thing is certain - the players of the future will have a more complete submission game and fewer defensive weaknesses and our sport will continue its fascinating evolution.


When attacking the legs - try to control all three joints

When attacking the legs - try to control all three joints: One of the reasons I favor leg lock attacks is because of the very robust connection you can make to an opponents body that makes it rather difficult for an opponent to pull away from you once the attack is launched. This is particularly true when you are able to connect to all three joints of the leg - hip, knee and ankle. You have a choice as which of those joints you seek to connect to first. Sometimes it’s good to begin with the heel/ankle (end of the lever). Sometimes knee and hip is good (keeps the opponents knee inside your knee line). But at some point, if resistance is strong and there is a danger of the opponent pulling completely away from you, it’s wise to find a strong connection to all three joints. Here, one hand controls the ankle, the other the knee and my feet and knees control the hip. Once the control has been established - then you can transition to submission - in this case it will require a movement to get my wrist under the heel - but it will be made considerably easier due to that initial three aspect control. The leg is a long and strong limb - maximize your chances with this principle of control.


Leg locks won’t work in MMA

Leg locks won’t work in MMA: A very commonly stated opinion is that leg locks won’t work in MMA. When the squad first began using leg locks in grappling competition, critics immediately claimed that they wouldn’t work against higher level opponents. Then when the squad started beating higher level opponents in submission only tournaments the same critics claimed that they wouldn’t work in a points tournament of the highest level such as ADCC. Then when the squad (and others) beat numerous opponents with leg locks in ADCC the critics retorted that they may work in grappling but you couldn’t use them in MMA because you would get pulverized by strikes if you so much as attempted them. I always laughed and shrugged my shoulders at this argument - the same way I did when the early critics said leg locks wouldn’t even work in grappling. There is nothing special or unique about leg locks. They are like any other martial arts technique - IF THEY ARE UTILIZED WELL AND AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME - THEY WILL WORK WELL. IF NOT, THEY WON’T. Every move has its good point points and bad points - their success or failure is not based on the move itself but rather upon our ability to exploit its good points while avoiding the bad points. I have seen grapplers who used triangles, arm bars, Guillotines, lose control of them and get pounded into defeat - yet no one claims triangles, arm bars or guillotines should never be used in MMA. Moreover, there is plenty of historical evidence of leg locks being used successfully in mma for a long time. Understand that the success or failure of your moves is tied much more to the quality of your applications of the move than to the moves themselves. Almost all of the major traditional moves of Jiu jitsu are capable of winning a fight if your use of it is good. Focus on the quality of your application to make your moves work rather than what people try tell you will work and you will find your own creative ways to victory as Neiman Gracie did last night with this beautifully applied hybrid inside heel hook/knee bar leg lock over one of the greatest welterweights in history


Your opponent has two legs - make sure you are capable of attacking both

Your opponent has two legs - make sure you are capable of attacking both: Its natural in Jiu jitsu to favor one side for attacks. Most of us have a better rear strangle on one side than the other, most of us have a preferred side for the guillotine. In the case of the legs, they are so close together and it’s so common that an opponent can slip free from your ashi garami that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you could only attack one side well. Take the time to develop strong attacks on both of your opponents legs, because very often as you attack one leg and a good opponent escapes, his other leg will be ready to be attacked. The good news is that because your opponents legs are very close together, it takes very little movement skill to transfer form one to the other. Thus Learning to attack the legs on both sides is not so difficult to learn.


Hunting legs from bottom position

Hunting legs from bottom position: When I began studying leg locks many years ago in the early 2000’s, they were seen almost entirely as an attack from top position against an opponents guard. Essentially they were seen as an alternative to guard passing when on top. Indeed, the main criticism of leg locks in those days was that if they failed, you would lose top position. When I began studying them, it soon became apparent that there were MANY ways to enter from bottom position. This immediately destroyed the old criticism that if you attempted them you would lose position - if you started on bottom there was no issue with ending on bottom. Furthermore, there were good reasons to FAVOR bottom entries into leg locks. The top athlete uses his legs as his primary base of support. This means any time he is taken off balance, he must spread his feet/knees wider to stay on top - and every time he does this he surrenders inside position to your feet or knees - the precursor of ashi garami variations leading to leg locks. There is more. When in top position the legs not only provide your BASE, they also bear your WEIGHT. As a result, it is more difficult to move them defensively (as opposed to the bottom player where his legs bear zero weight and thus can be moved very rapidly to evade top leg lock attacks). Heavy legs spread wide apart for base are easy targets for leg lock attacks. Time soon showed that the bottom leg lock game was even better than top leg lock game - it fit very well into the smaller athletes arsenal. It is very difficult to fully sweep a skilled opponent, but quite easy to simply disturb their balance - and that’s all that is required for a sharp leg lock attack. Nowadays the leg lock game has changed greatly from those early days. The vast majority of attacks now are done FROM guard position - not AGAINST guard position. Leg locks now don’t have to be opposed to the traditional positional game - they can be a part of it by greatly adding to the submission arsenal of the basis of the bottom positional game - guard position. Here, Garry Tonon works for another of his entries into ashi garami from open guard.


Heels or toes?

Heels or toes? Whenever your opponent is standing in front of you there is a question of the greatest importance that in most cases can only be answered you and your opponent - where is your opponents weight centered? Is it on his heels or on his toes? The answer to this question will determine what form of attack and what direction of attacks you will use. Learning to read whether your standing opponent has weight forward on his toes or back on his heels is one of those skills that is often passed over in teaching but has has the greatest effect on whether your subsequent moves actually work or not. Here I use a basic arm drag on a standing partner and feel his reaction between heels and toes. Weight on toes is a good sign to continue the drag forwards. Weight on the heels is a good sign to switch from drag to some form of takedown or sweep to the rear. Failure to pay attention or the subtle but all important weight transfers between heel and toes means you have to use brute force to get moves to work - reading the heel to toe weight transfer well makes for seemingly effortless moves.


Three great entry points into submission: Ashi garami, Front headlock, Kimura

Three great entry points into submission: Ashi garami, Front headlock, Kimura. The game of Jiu jitsu has a dizzying array of moves, tactics, principles etc and in the hurly burly of sparring or competition it can be very difficult to remember what to do. Whenever confusion reigns - SIMPLIFY. If you are searching for submission in a dynamic and chaotic situation - focus on the three best entry and most accessible entry points that will give you a tight hold on even a very challenging opponent and get you in a position to start threatening submissions. These are ASHI GARAMI, KIMURA and FRONT HEADLOCK. Ashi garami will open up a vast number of sweeps, reversals and leg lock submissions. Kimura will open up submissions via Kimura itself, plus juji gatame arm locks, triangles and sweeps/takedowns. Front headlock will give you Guillotine, Darce, Anaconda strangles (among others) and transitions to the back along with many takedowns. In a chaotic and confusing scramble - stay focused on these three control grips - they are almost always available at some point, and will get on the short cut to submission! Here, Craig Jones, a young master of Ashi garami, gets a deep bite on his opponents leg that points him a situation to attack with leg locks and sweeps and immediately gets his opponent into a defensive mindset.


If you can’t get under ‘em...knock ‘em backwards

If you can’t get under ‘em...knock ‘em backwards: A big part of my approach to open guard situations is to get deep UNDER an opponent so that you can lift and elevate them into vulnerable position from which attacks often succeed. Any kind of lifting attack will require you to get UNDER AN OPPONENTS CENTER OF GRAVITY. Pretty soon opponents will figure that out and start backing away from you to prevent you getting under them. That’s when you must start adjusting the direction of your initial attack from UNDER and FORWARDS to BACKWARDS in the same direction as their defensive movement. Playing these two games against each other as a dilemma pairing will make you a very dangerous attacker from open guard.


Heels and toes

Heels and toes: Jiu jitsu is a subtle game. Sometimes the smallest actions can have deep consequences. A good example is the significance of shifting an opponents weight on to different areas of the feet. A well balanced person has the weight going down through the center of their feet. All that changes when you can draw an opponents weight FORWARD ONTO THEIR TOES or alternatively, BACKWARDS ONTO THEIR HEELS. When you can do this you can throw/sweep them forwards and backwards with ease - if you can’t, it’s going to be very difficult to throw or sweep anyone your own size and skill level. You must learn the craft of shifting your opponents weight to the toes and heels - this is the precursor of most successful throws and sweeps. When sweeping opponents TRY HARD RO GET A SENSE OF DRAWING THEM ON TO HEELS OR TOES BEFORE YOU COMMIT TO THE ACTUAL SWEEP. This will massively increase your success rate.