Ethan Crelinsten: Leg Lock Counters BJJ DVD Review

Ethan Crelisten leg lock counters review
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Here is an interesting BJJ instructional by one of the now-defunct DDS squad black belts that is not one of the Ryan brothers or Gary Tonon. This time, Ethan Crelinsten is the one sharing leg lock knowledge, and he does so in the opposite direction of what we are used to seeing from the Danaher bunch – he teaches leg lock counters in his first BJJ DVD instructional so far. 

Ethan Crelisten leg lock counters
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The leg lock game has reached new heights in the past decade. From the obscure and demonized moves they were until the 2010s, leg locks are now a staple in any gym’s curriculum. That evolution, though, means that most people now know how to attack with some of the most common lower limb submissions from the infamous Ashi Garami positions. Not only that, but people are also getting good at defense. AS the threat of leg locks rises, Ethan Crelinstein steps in to offer a different kind of leg lock defense – direct leg lock counters. 

The 4-part Jiu-Jitsu instructional addresses the most common leg lock attacks and offers ways to counter them. Counters include both positional counters, that will land you in a better controlling position, as well as direct leg locking counters.

As you might expect from a DDS member, this is a No-GI instructional.

Instructor Background

Ethan Crelinsten is a John Danaher black belt that came up splitting his time between the NYC blue basement of Renzo Gracie’s BJJ Academy and Firas Zahabi’s TriStar gym in Montreal. He started off as one of the junior members of the Danaher Death Squad, eventually going on a run of big victories himself, most notably at the ADCC North America Trials in 2017 and 2018. 

Crelinsten was born in Montreal, Canada in 1994. He took up MMA training at the age of 19, having no previous experience with sports whatsoever. Since TriStar is the spot to train in Montreal, he quickly ended up blooming under the tutelage of fellow Danaher black belt Firas Zahabi. Crelinsten quickly shifted his focus to Jiu-Jitsu. Connecting with the mother-gym in NYC was only a question of time, and Ethan ended up training with the DDS regularly as a purple belt.

In his short and fruitful career so far, Crelinsten has two ADCC Trials wins, as well as notable wins in submission-only super fights against big-name opponents. Most of those came before his promotion to black belt. Ethan got his black belt along with Nicky Ryan in 2020.

After the Danaher Death Squad disbanded, he went over to form B-team Jiu-Jitsu with Craig Jones, Nicky Rod, and a few other standout grapplers.


There is no real surprise that a former DDS member, now a member of the B-team has a leg lock instructional. However, the specific aspect of leg locking that Etha Crelinsten covers in this BJJ DVD instructional is highly interesting. Instead of trying to demonstrate attacks, or straight out defense, he chose to focus on leg lock counters. 

Throughout the 4 volumes of the instructional, Crelinsten demonstrates how to get the back, or pass guard when a bottom person is attacking you with leg locks. He also shares sneaky and extremely effective leg lock counters to leg loc attacks, meaning you’ll get a leg lock submission off your own using the opponent’s set up to enter into Ashi Garami.

A very interesting thing he does in this instructional is that he offers his concepts and principles in terms of countering leg locks in the final volume as opposed to the first (as most others do).


This DVD instructional will help you deal with leg locks in a more efficient and advanced fashion. However, it requires a least fundamental understanding of some of the most effective submissions and positions. 

In modern Jiu-Jitsu, this does not exclude people in terms of belts, given that some white belts out there are much more experienced in leg locks than some of the old-school black belts. That said, the DVD is not for those without any leg lock experience, regardless of belt level.

The reason for that is if you do not understand leg locks, you’ll most likely try to use the leg lock counters Ethan teaches in a way that won’t work and will only get you in more trouble.

If you are a leg locker, though, this DVD will open up a whole new dimension of options, particularly when grappling fellow lower limb fanatics.

Technical Details

A BJJ Fanatics production delivering the usual high-quality video and audio aspects of the DVD. The instructional is available in DVD format, as well as a digital download. 

The material is organized in 4 volumes. The first two volumes last around an hour, while the third volume caps off at the 50-minute mark. All of these are filled with leg lock counters techniques and are divided into chapters. The last volume lasts around 20 minutes and focuses on the concepts and principles that Ethan Crelinsten uses to set up his leg lock counters.

That brings the total running time of this instructional just over 3 hours.

Detailed Analysis

DVD #1

In the opening volume, Crelinsten starts off offering a series of slick back takes when an opponent is attempting to hunt for leg locks. He begins by addressing the 50/50 a.k.a. the modern bane of leg locking positions. He offers both top and bottom 50/50 entries to the back mount.

Ethan then moves on to explore how to deal with the outside Ashi, reaping, and even double trouble situations.

Some of the most innovative aspects of Crelinsten’s counter leg lock game are in the final few chapters of this volume. In them, he shares ways to get the back off of elevation and inversion attacks which are pretty much a big part of every leg locker’s game.

DVD #2

Part two of “Leg Lock Counters” looks into guard passing as the final result of countering lower limb attacks. Ther is a different multi-chapter section for techniques in terms of dealing with 4 of the most common Ashi Garami positions from the top.

The first section covers straight Ashi Garami. There are two chapters, the Ashi smash and high step vs. Ashi to easily get you past a straight Ashi. As it is essentially the same as the Single Leg X-Guard, you get double the value of these passing counters.

The outside Ashi is next up for passing counters. Again, Ethan Crelinsten starts with a smashing pass, before exploring a double underpass. He also uses a wrestling leg ride called the Turk to beat the outside Ashi (my personal favorite).

The largest part of the techniques in this volume addresses the Cross Ashi Garami (Hoenyhole). After Ethan’s favorite smash pass, the options spread to include countering leg pummels, rolling knee folds, and kick overs. In addition, Crelinsten turns to wrestling again, this time using the crab ride to deal with the Cross Ashi and pass. A couple of slick movement-based passes round this section up.

Finally, it is back to the 50/50, looking to expand on the top position counters already touched upon in the first volume. Apart from the straightforward stack pass, both other passes include a direct leg lock submission opportunity for the top person.

DVD #3

Part three is exactly what makes leg lockers water at the mouth (and maybe other places). Once again there are sections covering straight, outside, cross Ashi, and 50/50 positions.

The counters include transitioning into Ashi variations yourself, killing the original attacker’s options by doing so, and opening up a host of leg lock finishes to ap them out. Some of the moves you’ll see here include the infamous backside 50/50, reverse figure four finishes, hip flops, and a bunch of other sneaky counter leg lock submissions.

DVD #4

I am still curious as to why Ethan left his conceptual approach and the way he thinks about leg lock counters for the very end. That said, this volume does contain some extremely important information for anyone that likes to dabble with leg locks.

The concepts Ethan Crelinsten talks about are the relation of the hip and knee in an Ashi Garami. He explores this crucial battle from both an offensive, defensive and counter-attacking perspective.

Another cool concept he offers is keeping the feet together to prevent people from ever gaining a deep control of one of your legs. He also talks about dividing the opponent’s attention and resources and folding them in order to strip Ashi Garami positions away easily.

How We Grade The “Leg Lock Counters” Ethan Crelinsten Instructional

Considering this Ethan Crelinsten BJJ instructional’s technical aspects and quality of content, we come to an overall score for this instructional that I’ll deliberate in short below.

Technical Quality: 10/10

As previously mentioned, every technical aspect of this DVD is bang on point, from audiovisual quality to multi-angle camerawork and the way Ethan explains the material.

Quality of Content: 9/10

Content-wise, this is a gold mine. The length of the instructional is also in the perfect 3-5 hour sweet spot for a BJJ DVD. As usual, everything shown in a No-Gi instructional is very easily transferable to Gi Jiu-Jitsu, and this instructional is no exception. 

The only drawback of this particular DVD is that you absolutely need previous leg lock knowledge in order to get the most out of it. In fact, the more you already know about leg locks, the more useful this instructional is going to be for you.

Overall: 9/10

 A solid 9 out of 10 for Ethan Crelinten’s first instructional. I advise everyone to give this one a try, as, at one point or another, everybody will have to expect that leg locks are here to stay. 

Wrap Up

I have always loved the concept of countering from bad positions instead of only defending and escaping. In the context of leg locks, this is pretty much readily available, given the proximity to Ashi Garami for both players. In “Leg Lock Counters” Ethan Crelinsten precisely outlines how you can counter the modern leg lock game not just by more leg locks, but also by passing or aiming to obtain back control.

Ethan Crelisten leg lock counters
Click for techniques list & more info
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