Escaping The Inescapable: Estima Lock Defense

John Danaher Triangles
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Plenty of BJJ submissions have the potential to be truly devastating. However, it’s those “blitz” moves that usually result in the most damage. The thing is that most of these moves are rarely accompanied by a high degree of control, meaning injuries are not a given. Regardless, here are the few exceptions that can cripple you and your BJJ career. These are the moves that are surprising, work in a flash and leave no space for escapes or counters. Tap or snap is all your left with, and if you hesitate you might even end up too late to tap. Luckily, not many moves feet this exact description. Of those that do, though, one is a real contender for the undisputed inescapable move in Jiu-Jitsu. It is the dreaded Estima lock, the move which you can’t get out of. Up until now. We bring you a couple of Estima lock defense ideas to keep you safe and rolling!

The infective spread of the leg lock game means most people today are aware of the main dangers of these submission holds. In most instances, people know what to expect from any of the Ashi Garami variations. Calf slicer,s especially from the Truck position are still quite a gray area, despite being legal under IBJJF rules. However, blitz-style leg locks are nowhere to be seen in the modern leg locking game. It is all about control and slow methodical work. So, when somebody throws in a surprise blitz leg lock that is extremely painful and tight, you need to be ready. Especially when that move is legal for all levels of adult and master grapplers. To be honest there is not much out there on the subject of Estima Lock defense. The submission is so fast that even tapping out in time can be a problem. However, there are solutions.

The thing to remember with the Estima lock is that it works from a multitude of positions. Probably the biggest problem is that you can’t see it coming. There’s no elaborate setup, nor complicated games to bait you into position. In most cases, you’ll end up opening the attack fro your opponents yourself, not even knowing where you went wrong. This is precisely the spot where you need to focus your Estima lock defense strategy. Understand the lock so you do not give it away for free. Next up are the usual steps in escaping submissions- prevention, a last-ditch defense and tapping out. Yes, tapping does qualify as a defensive move.

What is the Estima Lock?

The Estima lock is the brainchild of a pair of BJJ’s most famous brothers. Braulio and Victor Estima are legends of the sport. Both are highly rated black belts that fight and teach under the Gracie Barra banner. They both have contributed to the spot immensely, in plenty of technical aspects. However, there’s one move that is probably the move of their careers – the Estima lock.

It was Victor who actually came up with the move by accident, during an ADCC training camp. Braulio, who has a wicked guard game ended up with a foot stuck on Victors hip/belly. His brother just slapped a figure four grip out of habit but ended up with as devastating a foot lock as there is in all of grappling martial arts. Further experimentation led to the move that brought Braulio an ADCC title.

Estima LockThe Estima lock is quite simple from a mechanical standpoint. The basic set up is against an open or half guard. The moment your opponent places the outer edge of their foot on your belly, you’re ready to submit them. One of your arms goes around and the other locks it in place via a figure four grip. From there you take space away by crouching and you finish by turning towards space in between your opponent’s legs.

Primary Estima Lock Defense: Prevention

As you can see, there’s not much to the Estima lock as a move. The trouble is that the figure four grip sticks your foot to their torso. besides the huge power of the torso, the position of the foot is a very awkward one resulting in an exceptionally painful submission. Which is where the first layer of Estima Lock defense comes in.

As with every defense in Jiu-Jitsu, and especially leg lock escapes, you need to make sure you’re never actually in trouble. A key problem is that the Estima is available against most open guard variations. If you can’t use your favorite guard(s) you won’t be able to apply your A game. The first way around is the angle of your foot. If you keep your fingers to the outside, much like with a single leg X guard, you can safely venture into Estima lock territory.

The second key aspect is the grip. For the submission to work the opponent needs to turn into you. While this is leaving it late somewhat, stripping off the near side arm is going to allow for space to wiggle your foot out of danger. The key is to hunt for that arm the moment you notice the grip setting into place. If you reach for the arm after the opponent turns, it will be to tap out. Instead, look to engage one arm if you can. Whenever you think about working from the open guard, rely on a sleeve or writ grip on one arm. There’s no Estima lock without the figure four.

Secondary Estima Lock Defense: A Last-Ditch Effort

This is where things really heat up. This is the one Estima lock defense that can safely get you out of trouble. Thre’s only one catch – you need to time it absolutely right. The principle of this defense is based on the ground rules for defending a toe hold. Since the Estima lock works pretty much like a toe hold, the same principle applies. IN order to relieve pressure off a toe hold, you need to turn in the direction of the force your opponent is applying.

Estima Lock Defense spinThis is the essence of this Estima lock defense. When your opponent goes for the lock, you have to immediately turn towards the opposite side of the trapped leg. The goal is to go for an inversion, but you must not stop where usual inversions do. Instead of simply inverting you’ll need to do a full circle on your back. If you remain inverted, the lock can still work, so you need to complete a full 360. However, remain wary of timing. If you start turning too late, your opponent can simply drop abase and you’ll be stuck for good. So, learn to recognize the Estima lock dangers and use prevention first and foremost. If you see the grip coming together, go for the roll under to relieve pressure and immediately look to grip an arm.

Since most people think they know and understand Ashi Garami and leg locks, it is time to throw them a curve ball. Check out the “Ashi Garami Seminar” DVD by the man who caught everybody by surprise, Eddie Cummings. “The Wolverine” does not only offer you key leg locking tips but also defensive concepts to escape even the most dreaded positions in Jiu-Jitsu. Get it while it is on sale! 

The Tap Out Defense

If you pass the point of no return of the Estima lock, which is the moment your opponent settles into base after turning their torso, you have just one option left for a defense. It is the one defense that universally works 100% of the time. COnsider tapping out as a defense instead of a defeat and you’ll discover a whole new level to Jiu-Jitsu. Plus, you’ll keep your feet together to train more and try a different defense.

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