In modern grappling martial arts, BJJ leg locks play a huge part of the highest level competitive game. We all know by now that the culprit behind this is John Danaher, inspired by the original leg locker himself, Dean Lister. So, in accordance with Danaher’s leg lock theory, we know that BJJ leg locks are all about position. As such, several leg entanglements, or Ashi Garami positions have become the norm lately. However, there’s one position that people seem to overlook despite it fitting the Danaher BJJ leg looks approach perfectly. it is an old, yet brutally efficient position known as the Sambo knot.
Ever since the Danaher Death Squad started claiming legs left and right, the grappling world woke up to the efficiency of BJJ leg locks. Well, most of the grappling world anyway. For people training Sambo it was nothing more than what they do in training on a regular basis. You see, the Russian grappling art of Sambo is very heavily based on attacking the legs. Completely opposite to BJJ, Sambo condemns chokes, yet allows heel hook at every possible level in training and competition. As such, they’re the main culprits behind some of the most efficient lower body submissions and control points in grappling. Actually, that’s where the Death Squad’s favorite attacking position, Inside Sankaku, originates from.
Sambo people, however, are very fond of another really effective position it is probably the one that truly deserves the name Ashi Garami as it is a truly tangled up position. To avoid confusion stemming from nomenclature, though, we’re going to refer to it as the Sambo knot. It is a position that offers heel hooks, toe holds, ankle locks, as well as transitions into other powerful upper and lower body attacking positions. Not that you’re going to need to transition once you get the hang of it.
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The Sambo Knot Position
The one reason why people probably consider the Sambo knot inferior to the Saddle position (or Inside Senkak / Honeyhole / 411) is the inside heel hook. As far as BJJ leg locks go, none is more devastating than the inside heel hook. The Saddle, as Sambo people refer to the Inside Senkaku, offers great control and direct access to this effective submissions. The Sambo knot, on the other hand, only opens up an outside heel hook. Who want’s that, right? Wrong!
The catch here is in the position itself. Even though the outside heel hook might not rank first among BJJ leg locks, the Sambo knot makes it lethal. The position is such a tangled mess of legs to the untrained eye that an opponent sometimes just gives up at the sight of it. That’s before you put their hip, knee, and ankle under tremendous pressure while simply laying back.
The Sambo knot position is essentially a knee reap position, where your leg goes over the outside of the opponent’s knee. Once there, the aim is to thread your leg all the way through and hook it under their opposite side leg. The only way you can do this without destroying their knee is by placing the shin of their first leg in your hip. Right there you have the principle of a bent leg, crucial to executing BJJ leg locks.
Furthermore, you also have complete control over the second leg. Once you hook the bottom leg, your free leg is going to go over their shin. The goal here is to lock your feet, thus creating a closed system. You have the reinforced wedge principle as well as total control. Pushing your butt towards theirs only increases pressure on their leg and increases control.
BJJ Leg Locks From The Sambo Knot
So, what exactly can you do from the Sambo knot? After all, the idea is to hunt for BJJ leg locks, right? Worry not, as there are plenty of ankle braking, knee popping, pain-inducing moves readily available. For the sake of systematization, we’re going to go over them from the least effective one, all the way to the maximum effectiveness submission.
In the modern BJJ leg locks game people often disregard the ankle lock. yes, it is a lower percentage move, but lethal nonetheless from the right position. How to get the ankle lock when the foot is on top, though? As you do it from the bottom, with just a slight breaking mechanics modification. Namely, throw your arm around the trapped leg and place your forearm right above their heel. After you connect your arms, you’ll need to go for a break by pulling your arms up and twisting your torso to look away from the opponent. As a bonus pain point, extend your legs while doing so.
Second of the list of BJJ leg locks from the Sambo knot position is the toe hold. Since you already have a heavily bent leg, hitting a toehold is as easy as pushing on the fingers of the trapped leg. However, for maximum efficiency, grab the figure four grip. To do so, you’ll need to sit upright, In order to remain in control, look to straighten your knees. It’ll entangle the opponent even more and let you finish with ease.
Finally, the outside heel hook. Once again, everything you need is there, you just need to use the correct grip. A Butterfly grip is going to be much tighter than a regular palm to palm grip hereThere’s also the reverse butterfly grip but be very careful with it in training!
Connecting The Sambo Knot With The Saddle
The reason BJJ leg locks from the Sambo are effective is the mechanics of the position itself. It is next to impossible to escape a fully locked Smabo knot. The trouble with it is in setting it up. You need to place really strong pressure on your opponent’s knee (the one you’re reaping). Once you get the feet crossed though, your all set.
In order to be absolutely certain of the submission, be aware that the Saddle is just a few short steps away. If you want to finish from an upside down Saddle position all you need to do is lay back until the trapped leg pops. Once it’s at your chest level, simply place it on the other (bottom) side. Boom, you’re all set for an inside heel hook!
If you want to swing over to the regular Saddle, you’ll need to work a bit more. namely, your best bet is unhooking your feet and placing a tight triangle around the trapped leg, Once there, you can lay back, turning your hip towards their leg. At the same time, their leg is going to pop out so you can transfer it. Be mindful that you’ll need to grip fight for their free leg though, in order to obtain double trouble.