Why Training Leg Locks Is Discouraged in Many Bjj Academies

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In another Jiu-jitsu Times article, I wrote about the effectiveness and growing popularity of leg locks.

This, of course, begs the question: if leg locks are so effective (and the lower limbs comprise 1/2 of our anatomy) why are they seldom taught in BJJ academies?

There are actually two excellent reasons most BJJ schools dedicate little training time to leg locks.

First, what is taught in many academies is largely dictated by the IBJJF rules for sports competition. With so many gyms focused heavily on competition, far more time is going to be spent training strategies that win medals.

Because many competitions have rules restricting or prohibiting leg locks, competitors are unlikely to win by attacking their opponents’ legs. It therefore makes more sense for gyms to train sweeps and attacks on the upper body.

BJJ isn’t the only art whose style has been heavily influenced by competition rules, either. Judo has discarded MANY valid grappling techniques such as leg grabs to try to achieve a certain aesthetic outcome in the competitions.

The simple fact of the matter is competitions often dictate the art, not vice versa.

Another reason schools might be hesitant to train leg locks is the fear of new student injury.

We all see the new guys who are full of enthusiasm. They don’t want to tap to an arm lock and get a painful lesson in the form of a strained elbow.

This mentality isn’t too much a problem when it comes to the upper body. A painful elbow will heal in a few weeks and hopefully a lesson will be learned.

But the anatomy of the legs is a little different.

A Brazilian black belt once explained it to me when I was a fresh-faced white belt :

“When you get arm locked and do not tap, is big pain and small damage. When you get leg locked and do not tap, is small pain and BIG damage!”

A sore elbow is one thing. A torn ACL is quite a different injury!

A buddy of mine was rolling with a thrashing, athletic noob one time and had secured a heel hook position. My buddy held the heel but did not forcibly apply the lock.

The opponent, however, vaguely recognized he was caught in something and reacted in an instinctive and tragic way: he violently spun in the WRONG direction! He torqued his own ankle and POP! There went his ACL in his first month of training.

My buddy felt like crap after, but there was little he could do to anticipate the sudden, dangerous move by his training partner.

A few of these types of unfortunate incidents and it is perhaps not surprising to see heel hooks banned in many academies.

In another article, I will argue another reason that beginners should not learn leg locks right at the start of their BJJ learning.

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

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