A few years ago, when I first discovered leg locks, there was one name popping out in the world of BJJ DVD instructionals. Before all the variation on the subject by people trying to emulate Danaher’s system, there was only one. Well, only one legitimate source of knowledge, anyhow. To this day I still believe that everyone looking to learn leg locks should start with Dean Lister. After all, he is the original leg-locking wizard of BJJ. His original work, the K.A.T.C.H. leg lock system is compulsory material for anyone looking to become the next Touqinho. The best thing about Lister’s stuff is that he covers everything. He makes even the most simple techniques deadly, like the straight ankle lock for example.
Dean Lister is an extraordinary leg locker in all departments. He is not just a specialist at one but does all leg locks with incredible proficiency. Now, while Danaher might be the Yoda of heel hooks, Lister is the ruler of everything leg lock. Even after Danaher’s brand, new instructional comes out, there’s no better introduction than Dean’s material. After all, he is the one that inspired Danaher to become a leg-locker.
One thing to admire about Lister is his constant will to grow. He didn’t stop at his K.A.T.C.H. release. He has more than a few high-quality DVD instructionals with revised and improved information in each. His constant experimentation and evolution are what make moves like the straight ankle lock as dangerous as a heel hook. In one of his latest videos, Dean demonstrates a wonderful variation of the straight ankle lock. It takes this fairly simple and legal move and turns it into a formidable weapon to claim anyone’s scalp! Or better said foot.
The Straight Ankle lock
Before we ump into Lister’s variations, let’s take things to step by step. To begin with, let’s look at the standard straight ankle lock before moving on to variations. The straight ankle lock is the first leg lock most people learn. From certain positions, it is legal across all belt levels and competition formats. Many people, though, look at it as the most ineffective of leg locks. The mechanics of the move are very different from those of a heel hook, but that doesn’t diminish the technique’s efficiency. Especially when everything is in perfect order.
For the straight ankle lock from the straight Ashi Garami, you need to cover a few basics. First, you need to control every joint of the opponent’s leg. The most important control is the control of their hip. This is the one that most people get wrong more often than not. The reason is positioning. When in Ashi Garami do not look to control their leg with your legs. Instead, use your whole body to isolate their leg. That way you’ll have both the weight advantage and a better position to finish.
Furthermore, grip positioning. The straight ankle lock grip is fairly easy – a palm over palm grip. Where most people go wrong is the height of the grip. Always look to connect your hands at chest level and focus on keeping your arms there. Whatever you do with your upper body or legs, your hand’s must not slide down towards the belly!
Dean Lister’s Modification Of The Straight Ankle Lock
Dean Lister is very good at figuring out the kinks that certain moves have. In the sense of the straight ankle lock, his improvements are in three general areas. One is the positioning of the feet in the Ashi Garami position. This has multiple impacts on the overall finishing rate of the straight ankle lock. The second, the finishing motion. Lister focuses on both extending and twisting the foot in order to put enormous pressure on the ankle joint. Both grips and upper body positioning are essential for this. Finally, he addresses a very common defensive option the opponent has when grappling with the Gi. Let’s break down every aspect of the straight ankle lock from a modified Ashi Garami, Dean Lister style!
1. Leg Position
Any leg lock starts with hip control. We already covered the need to use the complete body to control the leg. Controlling the hip directly requires different configurations of your legs. When doing a legal leg lock, things get even more complicated. Lister’s solution is simple. The straight Ashi Garami is essentially a prone version of the Single Leg X guard. Lister’s variation includes getting the foot of the inside leg on the same hip as the outside leg. Why? First, you get way better control over the hip, preventing any possible rotation. Next, you have a frame that can create more space than with the straight Ashi Garami. In turn, there’s more space to finish the straight ankle lock.
Oh and if they attempt to grab your lapel when in Gi, there’s no need to change anything. The power on the hips is so great that you’ll be able to break any grip with ease and maintain distance.
2. Upper Body Alignment
The upper body has a bigger role in finishing than it does in controlling the position. It is responsible for both extension and torsion of the ankle. While most people just sit back when in a straight ankle lock, Dean Lister uses more complex movements. Hip extension is still a big part of the submission, just not the only one. Instead, first, you’re going to look to create tension on the ankle by shrugging your shoulders back and engaging your lats. Then, you’re going to look to twist towards the ground, forehead on the mats. Only then it is time to extend but make sure your head doesn’t leave the mat. Just extend your hips while raising your head to look up.
3. Key Grip Details
The first thing lister points out is the grip configuration. A palm over palm always beats the figure four configuration when it comes to the straight ankle lock. The breaking arm needs to be shallow on the Achilles, looking to place your forearm bone right on the tendon. Again, always keep your hands high on your chest for maximum leverage.
4. Tension And Power Source
The straight ankle lock is a powerful move because of two main things. First is the space that you have to apply braking pressure which is due to distance. The distance is a result of hip pressure and leg placement, so make sure you have point #1 down to the finest detail.
To create tension, you need to make sure you’re pulling the leg out of the hip socket, much like with an armbar. This is where hip pressure via the legs and upper body alignment come together. These two aspects of the position create the perfect environment to finish the straight ankle lock.
5. Breaking The Ankle
Finally, breaking mechanics are simple. If everything is right, pressure should be unbearable even before you go for the breaking mechanics. Good control, proper grips, and tension are the fundamentals. The breaking mechanics is just the finishing touch. Apply your power source (feet on hip, and your hips) and maintain upper body alignment to finish. For a strong finish make sure you extend your hips, pull your shoulder blades back, and rotate towards the mats at the same time.
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