BJJ Analysis: Heel Hooks and Foot Locks. My hates = My biggest weaknesses.

Last night's BJJ session at the Labs focused on a least favourite area of mine: heel hooks. At least the biggest chunk of the session was around using sound BJJ principles to prevent, counter, thwart, unravel and finally escape heel hooks. It made me think a lot about why I dislike this subset of BJJ / submission grappling.

Heel Hook City!

Initially I thought it simply was because I sucked at it so badly but I dug deeper and I think it's more than that. I think it has to do with me never understanding it properly nor having it explained to me. After all, everyone who starts BJJ from scratch will suck at it but thankfully not all quit. Somewhere along the line we formalise some theories, learn some basics and drill the technique, position or transition. We become "familiar" with the armbars, guard passes and rear naked chokes but leg attacks, not so much.

Leg locks used to be a bit taboo in BJJ because instructors feared beginner students when faced with a good guard would not put in the time and effort needed to learn to pass the guard (and just simply flop to their backs for foot locks) or simply underestimate the danger of heel hooks and hurt their partners. Thankfully there is a wave of change now that I think is the result of BJJ players facing Sambo grapplers at various Submission Wrestling events and getting exposed to holes in their games.

Anatomy of the Knee

Either way, I have never been taught entries, set-ups or transitions to leg locks so I've never really understood them nor considered them part of my game. Thankfully, some of our top players have so we've spent some good time working defence and prevention over the years but here's the deal: after spending just a few minutes yesterday on entries, I was...wait for it...hooked!

I have a system for learning which I jokingly call the Part Time Learning System (more about that in a future post) and when I applied it to leg lock entries they suddenly made perfect sense. Also, because your body's orientation is so different when attacking the lower body (as opposed to when setting up chokes and arm locks) it adds a whole new dimension to the attacking game from bottom.

What do you hate in BJJ / Submission Grappling? Have you spent some serious time thinking about why? The answers might surprise you.

PS. Roy Dean has really good products addressing lower body submissions (amongst others) and they are highly recommended.

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A.D. McClish said...

I don't hate leg locks. I would go for them more. But, as you touched on in your post, I generally don't go for them on whitebelts. I have seen a few whitebelts get their ankles popped or something torn in their knee because they either tried to escape the wrong way (thereby injuring themselves) or didn't tap early enough. I practice attacking heel hooks only on blue belts or higher because I know that they know how to escape and when the time for escape has passed.

I still make a lot of mistakes when escaping heel hooks as well. It's one of those submissions that, if I am unsure of the escape or am not quick enough in starting my escape, I just tap. I don't like messing around with them. I already have bad knees!!

Also, I thought it was humorous that word verification for me to publish this comment was "bicrank". Indeed!

The Part Time Grappler said...

I will learn how to do them properly. One thing I do believe is that if you have established the correct positional control for a heel hook then you should be able to put on a nice foot look which isn't nearly as dangerous.

That word ver. thing always cracks me up :o)

SkinnyD said...

With you there, man. Leglocks are my next big project after guillotines. HATE GUILLOTINES. I got so frustrated with guillotines a while back that I undertook a whole initiative to learn everything I could about them and literally write a report about it.

Georgette said...

Our school is pretty hardcore about leg locks, footlocks, wristlocks and neck cranks. I would like to spend more time perfecting them. I think I have the ankle lock DVD by Stephan Kesting and I recall being very impressed by it when I watched it as a whitebelt. I just wish I had 48 hour days :)

The Part Time Grappler said...

@ Skinny: HA! Guillotines are such a great example! I can't wait to read your report :o)

The Part Time Grappler said...

@Georgette I don't know what you mean..ehm...I've never pulled a sickie from work to...ehm...sit at home and watch BJJ dvds...ehm...ever!

slideyfoot said...

I don't like lower body submissions and never use them, but I wouldn't say I hate them: I just worry about injuring people. So at present, I'm only interested in learning how to defend against them, rather than apply them myself.

What I hate is guard passing, which is definitely my biggest weakness.

The Part Time Grappler said...

I know what you mean slidey. the philosophical question is: Why do we hate these things? Why do you hate guard passing? What challenge does it present you with? That's what tickles me.