Friday, November 9, 2012

When should I learn leg locks?

Leg lock....that dark, dirty, seedy word that nobody wants to talk about or even dare utter.  The mere mention of it will earn you ridicule from your peers, scorn from your instructor, and, if you dare try one in class, will result in you being ostracized by everyone at the gym.  I laid it on pretty thick, didn't I?

A question I hear brought up a lot is, "When should I start learning leg locks"?  Usually, directly after this I hear, "I heard that they are really dangerous" or "White belts can't do leg locks, anyway".  Well, white belts can do leg locks.  Ankle locks are perfectly legal in IBJJF tournaments in the white belt division.

And here's something else:  leg locks can be trained by BJJ practitioners of all levels safely! 

I think the most important aspect in teaching leg locks is educating people about them (preferably early).  I first started learning leg locks when I was a white belt.  An upper belt started taking me aside after class and showing me some basic techniques (straight ankle locks, toe holds, heel hooks, and knee bars-something I still suck at).  Right away, I learned some pretty common sense stuff.

1.  When you apply a leg lock during practice, don't crank it.  Pressure should be applied slowly and carefully.  Think about it.  Do you crank armbars, kimuras, and other submissions on your partners when you roll?  Well, leg locks are no different. 

2.  If you clearly have a teammate caught in an armbar during practice and he/she doesn't tap you have two options:
A.)  Stop applying pressure or move onto something else.   If you keep applying pressure you are going to seriously injure your teammate.

B.)  Keep applying pressure, break your teammate's arm, and be a jerk.

The same mindset applies to leg locks.  If I have a leg lock sunk in and the other guy isn't tapping; it's probably not smart to keep applying pressure.  Let go and try something else.  

3.  Someone has me in a submission.  There is no way I'm getting out.  What do I do?  Simple, I tap.  That's it.  It's not really hard or a big deal.  If someone has me caught in a leg lock I tap.  I tap early before I am in agonizing pain. That way, I don't get hurt.  It's truly a revelation.

I'm going to be totally honest with you.  I've only been seriously injured once by a leg lock.  The reason:  I was being being prideful.  I knew I was caught, and I didn't tap.  I didn't get hurt, because leg locks are dangerous.  I got hurt, because I didn't have my ego in check.  Plain and simple.  Once you learn some leg lock basics, and start rolling with them in practice, you know when you are caught.  It's just like any other submission.

Last, it's important to be respectful of your teammates and your instructor.  Some guys don't like to roll with leg locks.  It's important to respect that.  There's been times I've heard my instructor say, "No leg locks today".  Well, I listen to him.  Make sure that you are on the same page with your instructor and teammates at your gym, because in the end those are the guys that are going to make you better.

Leg locks are not only awesome and fun, but they open up a whole new world-that is the whole bottom half of your opponent's body!

                        My leg lock teacher and I at a competition back when I was a white belt

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