An unnecessary rush to completion

Joint locks - don’t be in a hurry to extend the limb: There are two ways to submit an opponent in Jiu jitsu - strangles and joint locks. Overall I believe strangles are the more effective of the two but joint locks are still a truly vital part of the game. You must make a deep study of the skill of attacking the arms and legs of an opponent. Probably the single most common problem I see in developing students who have gotten into a position to joint lock an opponent is AN UNNECESSARY RUSH TO COMPLETION that sacrifices control and allows an opponent to escape. When it comes to joint locks CONTROL BEATS SPEED. There are exceptions to this. There are times when a fast entry and finish can get you a win before an opponent can get into a defensive reaction - but for every time you see this happen you will see twenty cases where too much concern with speed weakens your control and you end up with nothing. Focus on a tight connection to the joint above the joint that you are attacking. If you are attacking the knee - get a good connection to the hip. If your attacking the elbow, get a good connection to the shoulder. Don’t be afraid to move with your opponent to maintain that connection. When you feel the connection is strong and you can control your opponents movement - THEN go to attack the joint. Victory will go to the athlete who exhibits great control more often than the athlete who exhibits great speed.


Don’t just attack the joint - attack his balance at the same time

Don’t just attack the joint - attack his balance at the same time: I’m sure that many times you have had the frustrating experience of locking on a nice submission hold and having your opponent hold a strong defensive posture and then work his way free of the hold. Most submission defense against submission holds applied from bottom position begin with POSTURE and BASE. It is for that reason that whenever possible, go beyond just attacking with the submission hold - ATTACK YOUR OPPONENTS BALANCE/POSTURE/BASE AT THE SAME TIME. This will greatly hamper his defense. Here, Garry Tonon has locked on a very tight cross ashi garami hold and is clamping it in place with a well applied inside sankaku (triangle) leg entanglement. Note how he goes the extra distance against tough opposition and breaks his opponents balance as well - immediately making escape more difficult and with the additional benefit of heel exposure as a bonus. Next time you are locked into an arm bar, triangle, leg lock or whatever from bottom position, make a simultaneous attack on your opponents balance and you will soon find that the balance attack makes the submission attacks much more successful


Most times you have a juji gatame arm bar you also have a triangle available

Most times you have a juji gatame arm bar you also have a triangle available: The positioning for arm bars and triangles is such that WHENEVER YOU HAVE ONE, YOU ALMOST ALWAYS HAVE THE OTHER AVAILABLE. Triangles have the inherent advantage that they a locked around your opponents head and shoulder and hence much tighter. Also, triangles offer the dual benefits of a strangle as well as an arm lock and also, you can attack the joints from a triangle as well or even better than you can from a conventional juji gatame position. For these reasons it is often worth your time to switch your legs from the classic arm bar to a triangle when working for your submission. At little cost you will soon find yourself exerting considerably more control and with more finishing options. Here, Gordon Ryan takes an Ollie to from a brutal arm bar into a still more brutal triangle variation that makes escape very unlikely and allows him to choose his next attack in a leisurely fashion. Next time you are in arm bar position, play around with transitions to triangle variations - front, side, rear and reverse - and see what kind of havoc you can create


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.


The path to powerful arm bars is through the head and shoulders

The path to powerful arm bars is through the head and shoulders: Ostensibly the juji gatame arm bar is an attack on the ELBOW. After all, that’s what will actually break if the opponent refuses to submit. However, your ability to control a tough resisting opponent long enough and well enough to get to that breaking point is mostly bound up with your ability to dominate his HEAD AND SHOULDERS. In the use of arm bars from bottom position in particular, you must be able to take your opponents head into an unnatural position that thoroughly undermines his ability to stack his weight into you and blunt your attack. Use the crossface leg - the one that goes over the head - to curl back in such a way that his head is taken completely out of alignment. This makes effective resistance very difficult indeed. As is so often the case in Jiu jitsu, you have to win several preliminary battles in order to win the major battle. In this case, the head before the elbow.


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