The day of hunting a leg lock submission a blitz move is over. Now, you can base your whole grappling gameplan around leg locks, and be on the hunt from the first moments of a match. Even before you engage with an opponent, you could be setting yourself up for leg lock submissions. The best thing about leg locks today is that they’re a part of a system. In truth, everyone that’s a fan of leg lock submissions has their own little system. Some depend on rule sets, other on preferences and some people like to do everything leg lock related. Whatever the case, as with any other system, not everything can work together. Combining some submissions just doesn’t make sense and is nothing more than a waste of time.
Some leg lock submissions, however, work better as a pair, than by themselves. It is always good to have multiple threats from a single position, especially ones that include more than one limb. With the toe hold and kneebar, you get just such a relationship. Both leg locks work at the highest level of the sport, both in Gi and No-Gi. They’re also legal across all competition formats, albeit somewhere form brown belt upward. Using the combination of a kneebar and a toe hold in a successful system is actually a great gameplan. This leg locks submissions work together so well that you can get them from standing, bottom or top position.
Chaining Leg Lock Submissions
Submission Chains are nothing new in Jiu-Jitsu. They’re actually a sign of a high level of understanding of technique, timing, and control. However, despite all the information available, leg locks are still rarely used in combination with anything. Instead of using them as a passing or sweeping aid, or as combination attacks with other submissions, most grapplers still see leg lock submission as one-off moves.
The first thing to consider with leg lock submission chains is the position. Are leg lock attacks going to provide better control or a pathway to an improved position? Today’s approach, heavily influenced by leg lockers like Eddie Cummings, is all about positional dominance from the so-called Ashi Garami, or leg entanglement positions. Still, once you are in such a position, the ultimate goal is to submit the opponent. Further positional movements should only be considered if they defend well.
In order to deal with the defensive game of an opponent, you do not have to think about switching positions right away. You should instead look to switch to a different submission from the same position. Some leg lock submissions, like the toe hold and the kneebar work perfectly together. They are effective both as direct attacks, as well as feeding off each other and the opponent’s reactions. If you know how to utilize them correctly, you’ll be able to construct an “infinity loop” where you can change from one to the other until you get the tap.
Before looking to combine leg lock submissions, we need to understand how each move works. For that, we’ll start by looking at the kneebar submission. However, since this article is about combining submissions, we’re not going to go too deep into the execution of kneebars.
The kneebar is a straight limb submission that targets the middle of the leg. That means that you’ll need to control both ends of the leg in order to affect the knee. Your legs have the task of controlling the opponent’s hips, while your arms and head are responsible for the ankle and foot. The goal is to use your hips to apply pressure to the front of the knee. For that, you’ll need to position them right above the knee joint. Use both your legs to control the hip, pull the ankle towards your torso as you push in with the hips. In essence, the motion is the same as with doing an armbar.
Toe Hold Mechanics
The toe hold is a completely different submission than the kneebar. A toe hold targets the ankle joint, in particular, the ligaments on the outer side of the ankle. It is a very painful submission, but you need to be in perfect position to get a tap from it.
The most important thing for a toe hold, as opposed to a kneebar, is that you need the leg to be bent for optimal success. The submission itself offers you leverage via a figure four grip with your arms. What you’re looking to do is essentially a Kimura on the opponent’s foot. One arm should control the end of the foot, at the level of the toe knuckles. The other goes over it, tightening up the hold. Finishing requires three steps – get your head near the foot, push with the arm on the toes and pull with the other arm (beneath the heel).
Eddie Cummings has an awesome resource on all things connected to leg locks available now. His “Ashi Garami Seminar” DVD release features all leg lock submissions, plus a host of positional variations. the “Wolverine” holds nothing back, offering incredible advice on defending leg locks as well as attacking them!
The Kneebar-Toe Hold Relationship
What connects both leg lock submissions into a system is the position for executing both. the best way to obtain both a kneebar and a toe hold is from the reverse Ashi Garami. In order to get to a finishing position, you’ll need to have one shoulder on the mats.
The first combination is going to start with the kneebar. From a position like the one above, the reaction of your opponent is going to be a very obvious one. They’re going to look to hide their leg by bending the knee and triangling the other leg over it. Kneebar to toe hold. This is the only thing to do, as escaping the hip is virtually impossible when you’re in a tight kneebar position. What this opens up is a toe hold attack on the leg that goes over the kneebar leg. All you need is to crunch up while maintaining tight control with your legs. Establish the toe hold grip on the far leg and lie back to your shoulder for maximum finishing leverage.
Combining these two leg lock submissions works the other way round as well. If you’re hunting a toe hold, the only option your opponent has is extending the leg. However, this is notoriously difficult to do when you’re in a good Ashi Garami. So, a usual reaction is to push on your grip with the other leg. While this is going to cause you trouble, it offers the other leg on a plate for a kneebar. Either finish a standard one or place the leg under your armpit. This is not only going to offer a tighter kneebar, but another shot at the toe hold a well.