There’s been a lot of argument on the interwebs over the past few days about heel hooks as a result of a match between two teen girls at the EBI over the weekend. One of the girls who has been featured on jiu jitsu times executed a heel hook on the other girl and the girl being heel hooked did not tap in time, it was a troubling situation. Are heel hooks more dangerous than other submissions?
Heel hooks are scary in that if you are spazzy with a heel hook either in defending or in applying catastrophes will likely happen. For this reason, most people are not taught heel hooks early enough for it to really become part of their “jiu jitsu DNA” and as a result there is a certain inherent fear of the heel hook.
There’s also a bit of history with lower extremity submissions, specifically the Luta Livre vs BJJ rivalry and the competition between the Gracies and Oswaldo Fadda. I’m going to go ahead and leave those details out of this analysis, but I wanted to address that they do play a role in the grand scheme.
Heel hooks need to be respected. They also need to be taught with precision and delicacy that very few other submissions are granted.
I always like to use the kimura as a submission that I cite when discussing the heel hook. If I tighten the kimura before cranking on it, it can injure the other person as quickly and as catastrophically as a heel hook. Given the anatomy of the hips, the knee and the ankle, a heel hook is already relatively tight before any sort of cranking goes on, so it is fundamentally similar to a kimura applied once everything is elongated and positioned correctly.
Just as one should tap as soon as that kimura is set up, one should be ready to tap as soon as the heel hook is set up, think of it as a grapplers’ version of a checkmate, no reason to keep moving pieces. On the other side of things, if I apply a kimura with the intention of ripping the other guy’s arm off if he’s not familiar with the kimura he won’t have time to tap, the pain will set in simultaneously with injury, like a heel hook.
Now, I know that medically speaking the heel hook and the kimura are two very different beasts, but when it comes to the potential explosiveness and time off if the submission is not treated with respect, similarities exist.
But here’s the catch: we’re taught kimuras from day 1, by the time people are legitimately trying to rip our arms out, we have a grasp of when to tap, heel hooks on the other hand are dangerously neglected, most people only start to learn them once they’re legal for them to do in tournaments. This might be problematic.
What do you think of heel hooks? When did you first learn the heel hook? What do you think of the analogy of a heel hook vs a perfectly set up and applied kimura? If you had been taught heel hooks since day 1 would your opinions be the same?