How To Defend Against Locks In Jiu Jitsu

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As leg locks become more and more popular in jiu-jitsu, it’s important to know how to defend against them. Being caught in a leg lock can lead to serious injury and even end your jiu-jitsu career. In this article, we’ll explore the best ways to defend against leg locks and keep yourself safe on the mat.


What are leg locks and how do they work?

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), leg locks are grappling techniques that target the legs of an opponent to apply a joint lock or compression hold. They can be highly effective in immobilizing or submitting an opponent by causing pain or applying pressure to the joints, particularly the knee and ankle joints. Leg locks are commonly used in BJJ, submission grappling, and certain styles of mixed martial arts (MMA).

Leg locks can be categorized into two main types: straight leg locks and twisting leg locks.


1. Straight Leg Locks:

    • Straight Ankle Lock: This technique focuses on isolating and controlling the opponent’s foot and ankle. The attacker applies a hold by entangling the legs and then flexes their hips, leveraging their body to put pressure on the ankle joint.
    • Straight Kneebar: The kneebar targets the opponent’s knee joint. It involves controlling the leg and positioning the attacker’s hips perpendicular to the leg. By applying force on the knee joint, the attacker aims to hyperextend or create pressure that can lead to a submission.


2. Twisting Leg Locks:

    • Heel Hook: This is one of the most potent and controversial leg lock techniques. It targets the heel and surrounding ligaments. The attacker controls the leg, typically by entangling it, and then applies a rotational force on the heel to torque the opponent’s leg.
    • Toe Hold: A toe hold involves securing the opponent’s foot and applying pressure to the foot, ankle, and twisting the foot in an unnatural direction, causing pain and potential submission.
    • Calf Slicer: This technique applies pressure on the calf muscle, compressing it against the shinbone. By trapping the leg and using the attacker’s own body as a lever, pressure is applied, causing discomfort and potential submission.


It’s important to note that leg locks can be dangerous if not applied with proper technique and control. Due to the high risk of injury, some competitions and training environments may have restrictions or specific rules regarding the use of leg locks, particularly in certain belt ranks or age groups. It’s crucial to learn and practice leg locks under the supervision of a qualified instructor to ensure safety and prevent accidents.


What are the most common leg locks used in jiu-jitsu?

The most common leg locks used in jiu-jitsu are ankle locks, heel hooks, and knee bars. Ankle locks are applied by grabbing the opponent’s foot and twisting it while applying pressure to the ankle joint. Heel hooks involve controlling the opponent’s heel and twisting it, applying pressure to the ankle and knee joint. Knee bars involve applying pressure to the knee joint by locking the opponent’s leg in place and pushing down on the heel.


How can you defend against ankle locks?

To defend against ankle locks, it’s important to keep your foot flexed and your toes pointed towards your opponent’s chest. This makes it harder for your opponent to grab your foot and apply pressure to the ankle joint. If your opponent does manage to grab your foot, you can try to turn your foot towards the attacker and push your knee towards their chest to alleviate the pressure. You can also try to roll out of the ankle lock by turning towards the attacking foot and using your own leg to apply pressure to their ankle.


How can you defend against heel hooks?

Defending against heel hooks can be more challenging than defending against ankle locks. If your opponent manages to control your heel, your best bet is to try and rotate your leg away from the attacker, which will release the pressure on your knee and ankle. You can also try to roll out of the heel hook by turning towards the attack and tucking your knee under their leg. This will create a space between your heel and their leg, allowing you to escape the submission.


How can you defend against knee bars?

To defend against knee bars, you need to keep your legs extended and your feet pointed away from your opponent. If your opponent does manage to lock in the knee bar, you can try to grab their hand and pull it away from your leg. You can also try to turn towards the attacker and rotate your knee away from their body, which will release the pressure on your knee joint.


How can you prevent leg locks altogether?

The best way to prevent leg locks is to be proactive in your defense. If you find yourself in a precarious position, where your opponent has access to your legs, you should try to escape or transition to another position. You can also train your leg lock defense in specific drills, so that you’re better prepared when your opponents lock in the submissions during live rolls.



In conclusion, defending against leg locks is crucial in jiu-jitsu. With ankle locks, heel hooks, and knee bars becoming more popular, it’s important to train your defense and be proactive in your approach. By following these tips and techniques, you can keep yourself safe from injury and continue to enjoy jiu-jitsu for years to come.

Maxim Tzfenko

Maxim Tzfenko

"I live and breath Martial Arts"

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