Attacking the legs! There’s more than to it than meets the eye…

An often neglected area of many Jiu jitsu student’s training and progression is leg locks. Learning how to attack the legs correctly and efficiently is an important part of your journey. However, many students are too eager to learn leg locks as a source of “a quick tap” instead of taking the time to learn how to pass the guard. Before attempting to learn how to attack the legs, it is important to develop solid base and strong guard passing skills. With that out of the way, I feel that it is still important to learn leg locks relatively early in your training so that you dont develop a guard game overly susceptible to leg attacks and also so that you develop the ability to remain calm when defending and escaping  your opponent’s leg attacks!

The most obvious place to attack your opponent’s legs is when you are in their guard! As obvious as that may sound, being in your opponent’s guard can be a great place to either set up a leg attack or use your leg attacks to create fear in your opponent and set up your guard passing! Using your leg attacks to set up your guard passes can be a very effective way to help you deal with those “tough to pass” and “dangerous guard” players! After a few attempts at attacking their legs, most guard players will become more conservative and defensive while playing from the bottom and that can make your job a lot easier! After all, you are now starting to draw them into your game and that is one of the keys to effective Jiu jitsu!

Cobrinha's Toe Hold (2008 Mundials)

Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles submits Bruno Frazzatto in the dying stages of the Final match of the 2008 World Brazilian Jiu jitsu Championships with a toe hold!

Also realise that this strategy can be used in reverse when playing guard. How you ask? Think about it, your playing guard and your opponent has tremendous base and posture. You cant get any of your attacks going, his base is solid, you cant move him, his posture’s great, you cant make any inroads into arm and neck attacks. This time you attack hard with a sweep to off balance your opponent just long enough to get under him and attack a leg… Your timing is good and have caught your opponent by surprise, he reels, twists, turns, struggles desperately then taps. A look of shock on his face as you touch hands and go again, this time you fake a leg attack he over reacts and all your sweeps and submission attacks become easy! And this is how you can use your leg lock game as another tool to set up your sweeps and submissions as they scramble to defend their legs!

And then there is just those times when you are getting crushed, out scored, out positioned, out hustled and out smarted. Then you go for a leg like your life depends on it and get the submission! Leg locks can be used as a great equalizer. Because so few people train them, more accurately because so few opponents train them correctly they are ruthlessly effective against:

-bigger, stronger more athletic opponents,

-smaller faster opponents,

-more experienced/technical opponents

Frank Mir

Frank Mir submits Brock Lesnar with a knee bar for the UFC Heavyweight title at UFC 81!

A word of caution though, there are two things of fundamental importance when training leg locks. Number 1: Seek Expert Instruction. To really learn the ins and outs of the leg lock game it is important to learn from an expert in the subject. And unfortunately not just any Jiu jitsu black belt will do, as until only recent times leg locks were frowned upon by the Jiu jitsu community therefore they were not taught with as much precision and attention to detail as they rightfully deserved! A great resource to start with is High Percentage Leg Locks by Stephan Kesting (an expert on the subject). I highly recommend it. Number 2: Train Safely! Attacking the legs can be dangerous practise if you and your training partners aren’t careful and respectful. When attacking the legs, there is no room for ego. If your caught, TAP!!! Although the muscle structure of the legs is quite strong, the joints are just as fragile and susceptible to tears, breakage and damage as any other joint. As a matter of fact, what can sometimes make these attacks dangerous is that you often dont feel any pain when caught until it’s too late. So if your leg is trapped tight and your opponent is applying pressure, please tap! It really could save you a trip to the hospital!

Good luck with your training and Happy rolling!


Jiu jitsu Kingdom


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One Response to “Attacking the legs! There’s more than to it than meets the eye…”

  1. Jeanmarie Halla Says:

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