Why Beginners Should Avoid Leg Locks



Photo by: integral-vovinam

As I am typing out the title of this article, I am already anticipating the flood of contrary arguments.

And many of those will be perfectly valid points.

But hear me out.  I covered a couple of reasons leg locks are NOT commonly taught in many BJJ gyms.

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The aspect of Brazilian jiu-jitsu that defines it differently than other grappling arts is the positional hierarchy. The ground positions are organized in such a way that fighters know how to progress from inferior ground positions up to dominant positions. This philosophy underpins all of the various techniques and links them into a highly effective system and strategy.

Ideally, you take your opponent down, pass their guard, go to mount or rear mount, and then execute a submission.

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As anyone who has progressed past their first month of training recognizes,  position is more important than submission.

Much of BJJ training consists of defending and passing the guard, overcoming your opponent’s defenses, and achieving a dominant position.

But as soon as we introduce leg locks into the equation, certain personality types get really excited.

These new grapplers will catch more experienced students in foot locks and be seduced by their early success. In their minds, they have discovered a short cut! After all, the tap is the most important part of training, isn’t it?!?

However, this is detrimental to their longer term learning. Students will become one-trick ponies. Instead of focusing on passing guard and earning positions, they will simply hone in on the legs and attack. 

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One example proves my point perfectly.

I once observed one new student who we’ll call “Peter.”

Peter was bigger and more athletic than many of the more experienced students and predictably got absolutely worked by smaller, less athletic grapplers in his first month of training.

This would not do!

Peter needed a quick way to start getting some submissions of his own and his early answer was the foot lock.

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After he got a few taps on those more experienced students whose guards he could not pass, he embraced the leg lock! Peter didn’t care anything about how to control the mount or develop a good defensive guard. It was all leg locks, leg locks, and leg locks!

However, his training partners soon identified his one trick and became better at defending his attacks.

The easy taps quickly dried up.

Now, to get a tap, he had to dive on that leg lock as fast as possible and crank it before his opponent had any chance to defend.

Peter was regularly hurting training partners. 

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The instructor repeatedly warned him that this was destructive to the learning environment (and ligaments of his training partners!) and that he needed to stop.

But it was too late.

When Peter was temporarily forbidden from using leg locks by the instructor, he found that he had nothing. He had not developed anything else in his jiu-jitsu!

I watched him rolling and getting completely schooled by much smaller, weaker partners who had better jiu-jitsu! 

He was absolutely lost without his leg locks.

Peter became discouraged at losing and soon quit jiu-jitsu completely.

I am going to humbly suggest that had Peter not started using leg locks, it would have been better for his longer term progress and longevity in the art.

Read also on Jiu-jitsu Times – Leg locks : The 5 Basic Types

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