When Should Beginners Start Learning Leg Locks?

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There’s still a stigma about leg locks.

But it’s hard to doubt how effective… and devastating they can be, especially heel hook variations.

This post is based on the questions I got from my friend.​

  1. Should we teach leg locks?
  2. What level/belt is OK to learn leg locks?
  3. And when it comes to rolling, what rules should we use for leg locks?

These are all great & tricky questions, and I’m sure different people would give you other answers.

I’m pretty liberal when it comes to teaching/learning all sorts of techniques.

I don’t think some techniques are too advanced for people to teach/learn.

So, I’d say yes to question 1, and I think it’s perfectly fine to teach leg locks to white belts, including heel hooks.

In principle.

Practically, though, I do have some concerns.

A. Some techniques do require you to know certain moves or understand certain concepts.

So, I could show beginners how to do inside heel hook from 50/50. But for them to get some solid understanding of this technique, they should know about 50/50 beforehand.

The same applies to moves like berimbolo. I don’t think it’s an advanced move that white belts should never learn or use, but they need to know how to do the De La Riva guard well enough.

From an instructor’s perspective, I believe it’s a must to cover all the prerequisite knowledge before moving on to leg locks.

B. Leg locks can be easy solutions for some people (especially big & stronger guys)… in a negative way.

The modern leg lock game emphasizes positional control thanks to John Danaher. You should always work on reaching a dominant controlling position before applying a leg lock, whether it’s straight foot lock or heel hook.

But… some big & strong guys don’t care/realize their position is not that good. Yet they can still get a tap by using brute force.

Is this bad?


They may be getting quick “wins” by using brute force, but from a long term perspective, they’re wasting their time by not working on precise technique.

They are only getting their way & delaying their progress.

Frankly, this scenario applies to any other technique, but people are more likely to get caught with and tap to leg locks.

Make sure to work on improving the quality of your techniques rather than chasing quick satisfaction. (And after all, it’s not just about big & strong guys either… sorry, big & strong guys).

OK, what about rolling?

Again, there are some practical concerns…

… but, I’m inclined to say…

Allow everything!

We should all know how to escape from leg locks anyway. It’s better to start working on defenses as early as possible.

What matters here is not so much about leg locks themselves, but how careful & precise each player is. And good communication is essential as well.

Unfortunately, though, most people are not careful or precise. They don’t pay enough attention to others rolling near them. This is something important to think about as well. I suppose you could improve this situation by building a better gym culture.

A practical solution may be to encourage people to do “catch & release” when it comes to leg locks… perhaps for white & blue belts at least.

On that note… here’s a pretty good quote from Ryan Hall.

“The vast majority of people are doing the vast majority of things wrong the vast majority of time.” – Ryan Hall

Let’s work on being more precise in the long run no matter whether it’s a leg lock or another move.

You’d be less disappointed at your BJJ skills in the future that way.