Leg-locks have taken the grappling world by storm. The high success rate of fighters like Dean Lister, Gordon Ryan, Eddie Cummings, and Ryan Hall have brought the dark arts of leg-locking into the light. Yet there still exists a disconnect between how beginners and advanced leg-lockers approach the leg-lock game. By adjusting your mindset, you can not only submit opponents with a sudden transition, but also control and counter any basic defensive measures implemented by your opponent.
Beginner Mindset: Individuals first beginning to explore leg-locks may be far from beginners in grappling. The more conservative schools still restrain their practitioners from training most leg locks until they reach purple belt in BJJ or higher. When the practitioners begin to incorporate leg locks into their game, there exists a tendency to use them in isolation. If the opponent threatens to escape the leg lock position, they let go and revert upper body attacks, like the high-elbow guillotine, or scrambles. While being able to smoothly transition between upper and lower body attacks can create useful, unpredictable patterns, these transition should occur at the leg-lockers discretion, not the opponent’s.
Advanced Mindset: Advanced leg-lockers embrace the idea of leg lock positions forming an interlocking system. Flowing from top side ash-garami to honey-hole to Russian knot should be fluid and effortless. Switching between side-control, mount, north-south, and knee-on-belly is a basic concept in upper body attacks and the same applies to leg-locks. By adopting the advanced mindset that sees individual leg-locking positions and submissions as part of an overarching system, practitioner’s step into an entirely different world. Micro-adjustments and specific grips placements mean that throughout the transitions the opponent can’t escape the entanglements while consistently providing openings for the leg-lockers to exploit.
The growing awareness of leg-locks in submission grappling is forcing practitioners to adjust their mindset or get left behind, even if just for defensive purposes. In order to improve quickly in BJJ, a cognitive as well as physical approach needs to prioritized and leg-locks are no exception. The idea of ‘systems’ in BJJ is an important concept that warrants careful consideration. In leg-locking, the reward can materialize as a significant boost in submission percentages.