Do you consider yourself to be a modern-day leg locker? IF you do, it must mean you’re truly a master of the Ashi Garami from every aspect. You know what to look for in the position, you know all the variation and transitions between them. You also know how to enter the position from a variety of other positions. And, of course, most importantly, you know how to keep your opponent there until you secure a lock. Or, is it the other way around? Do you hunt for the lock first and the Ashi Garami second? Let’s see what makes a modern leg locker truly dangerous and how you can also evolve into one.
Today, leg locks are spreading like wildfire through the grappling community. Even the most die-hard, Gi only old school BJJ athletes had to recognize that leg locks work. Or, more precisely, that they work when some people execute them. And the secret that makes someone a good leg locker is now out. It is the Ashi Ggarami, or the positioning leading to leg locks. While this might seem like the solution to the “inefficient” leg locks from before, practical experience shows otherwise. The problem is that people revert to hunting submissions before securing control and still revert to wild, low-percentage moves. Only now do they have a name for it.
Well, if you truly want to be a high-level leg locker, you’ll have to change this approach. And it all starts with how you get into the Ashi Garami variations and how you stay there.
The Modern-Day Leg-Locker
The main trait of the modern-day leg locker is Control. This is apparent to everyone yet it somehow manages to turn into chaos the moment most people try hunting for leg locks. We all know what the Ashi Garami position is, and most of the highest level variations. Yet, for some reason, people focus on the tap much more than how they get it, which, in turn, leads to them losing both the submission and position.
The Ashi Garami positions are not too complicated in nature. This is mainly due to the fact that you can only attack leg locks from a few top angles. This greatly reduces the Ashi Garami variations that work at the highest level of the sport. And the mark of an elite leg locker is the ability to submit other elite grapplers under any ruleset. The Ashi Garami offers a way to keep your opponent pinned while hunting for leg locks that your opponent can’t defend against.
Apart from controlling the mechanics of the Ashi Garami, the way you get into the position is a major factor in the success of your leg locking attempts. Entering the Ashi Garami is actually not hard. The only thing you need is to learn more than one entry and have them from all major positions. For starters, you’ll need to focus on entering from the top and bottom. As you evolve as a leg-locker, you’ll be able to see openings everywhere and even come up with your own.
Getting Into Ashi Garami
So, what’s the deal with Ashi Garami entries? The thing to remember is that you do not need to be obvious. Getting into Ashi Garami becomes apparent to your opponent fairly soon, meaning they can counter your attempts early. This is exactly why good entries are crucial for a solid leg locking game. Namely, entering into the correct position from the get-go means you won’t have to fight to adjust your control. It also means you’ll be able to hunt for submissions right away.
So, apart from keeping things under wrap, your focus should be on where your hips end. Whether you’re entering from the guard, from a pass, or from the feet, where you place your hips are going to be detrimental to the success or failure of your Ashi Garami entry. The one thing to get right is getting your hip as tight and close to the hip of the opponent as possible. This is going to allow you to enter the position without allowing your opponent to sneak out. It is also going to land you in a position to finish, bringing you a step closer to the title of leg locker.
Butterfly Guard Entry
The butterfly guard seems to be the quintessential position for every leg locker. So, being good students of the “dark arts”, we’ll start there. All joking aside, the butterfly guard is actually a very powerful position. It offers great attacking options while keeping you fairly safe. In terms of leg locks, it is the holy grail for guard positions.
From a basic butterfly guard with one underhook, the goal is to try and sweep your opponent as usual. The trick is to really try and sweep them so that they have to base hard on the sweeping side. AS their weight shifts, the leg that you have the butterfly hook on becomes lighter. This, in turn, means that you can lift it to enter into an Ashi Garami.
The Ash Garami of choice for any elite-level leg locker is going to be the Inside Senkaku AKA 4/11. So, we’ll be looking for that position now. As you have your opponent spread out with their arms on the ground, your task is to sneak your free leg under the leg which you’re lifting of the ground with the butterfly hook. As soon as you clear their knee, you’re all set to retract your legs and alp on a triangle. From there on, you just switch your hips and you have what every leg locker dreams about – an inside heel hook.
Half Guard Entry
The half guard is another one of those positions where we end up all the time. So, why not hunt for leg locks from there. Initially, you might want to try different entries into Ashi Garami. this is perfectly ok. However, you’ll soon realize that your best bet is playing butterfly half guard, at least for a short while. This brings both your legs inside the opponent’s legs. If you have any hope of getting to an Ashi Garami and retaining guard, this is your only viable option.
The entry is going to target the free leg of the opponent. As you establish the butterfly half guard, use the hook to lift the leg and use a frame with your arms to push the opponent towards the same side. The goal here is to expose the free leg so that you can slap on an Ashi Garami. Since their leg is on top now, you can hunt for a toehold directly.
X – guard Entry
Speaking of open guard entries, the X-guard also ranks very high among leg lockers. The thing that the X guard provides is variety. In truth, it is a position fit for the more advanced leg locker. That said, it is going to work even for those that do not have a lot of experience. As long as you pay attention to how high your hips are.
From the X -guard, you can always attack the leg near your head by transitioning into the Single-leg X-Guard. However, a better option is to lift the opponent at drawing them closer to your head. This gains you access to the far leg which means you can blast both your legs straight up, getting your hip high up on theirs. This is going to both get you into an outside Ashi Garami and get the opponent on the ground.
Entry From The Feet
Top position entries start from standing. In general, taking someone down and subsequently entering into an Ashi Garami is what you, as a leg-locker should aim for. However, this is not always possible, so you’ll need backup options. One such example is getting an Ashi Garami off a single leg takedown attempt.
Once you have a single leg, and you find it impossible to finish, do not give up on the move. Instead, look to transition their leg to the outside of both your legs. next, make sure you keep the leg tight and use it to pull your opponent on top as you sit down. this is going to et you in a single leg X-guard position. From there on, getting into a straight Ashi Garami is something every leg locker has to know in their sleep.
The backstep entry is one of the most useful entries into Ashi Garami you can master. IT works from almost any top position. You can use it against De la Riva, half guard, Quarter guard, etc. You can also use it in conjunction with other Ashi Garami entries to really confuse your opponent.
When you find yourself in a half-kneeling position with one of the opponent’s legs under control, you should always try to get a straight Ashi on that leg. However, this often time is hard, so what you’ll do is use the position to get the Inside Senkaku. Simply backstep your leg around the opponent’s free leg while keeping their knee in place with your grip. From there on, the inside heel hook is just a butt scoot away.
This entry is one of the favorite ways of getting the Inside Sankaku of Craig Jones. As you know, he is one of the premier leg lockers in the game today. This entry, along with a dozen other high-level moves are all explained in his “Down Under Leg Attacks” DVD set.
Finally, entering into an Ashi Garami from the closed guard is one of my favorite ways to annoy people. When you’re caught in the closed guard, grip the wrist on one arm as soon as possible. Use the grip to position their arm to the ground, so that you can step on it with your foot. Place the foot of the same side leg on the biceps of the arm. Now you’re safe to sit down on your butt and throw the other leg over the opponent’s hips. When you’re stable, simply lay back and the guard is going to pop open.
Now you can choose which leg you want to attack. Place a grip around that leg and turn to that side. this will allow you to sneak your bottom leg over the thigh and lock up an inside triangle. From there on, you can finish from the Inside Senkaku or the Game Over position.