3 Commonly Cited Reasons For Heel Hook Hate

I want to talk about a very important topic. This is something that is used often in some academies and treated as the dark horse in others. T

he heel hook.

The heel hook has a very poor reputation in the BJJ community and I believe this is not right. The heel hook, for those who are unaware, is a leg lock which involves trapping the foot at an angle and applying a twisting motion to the knee joint.

For this analysis I am going to discuss the reason the heel hook is illegal in gi competition and why it is frowned on in the academy.

  • Injuries– This is easily the most cited reason for the heel hook hatred. People have spread a myth that the heel hook is inherently more dangerous than other submissions. This is, in my own opinion false. There have actually been a few studies on no-gi competitions where they showed far more submission injuries from arm locks. The primary reason people seem to get injured from the heel hook is that many academies don’t teach proper use or defense of this submission. Imagine if you didn’t know the escape to an arm lock. You might get hurt a lot more, right?
  • Friction– This is more of a theoretical reason for why it is illegal in the gi. In no-gi you can escape this submission by simply rolling and slipping your foot out (still not easy). In gi, however, this is much harder. The gi adds friction which can hold the foot in much tighter. However the gi adds friction to every move, so applying the ban only to the heel hook can seem unreasonable.
  • Fear– This is the reason I think most academies frown on the move more often than not. The instructor and students simply fear the move because they believe the aforementioned points. In many cases, they also don’t know the move themselves or how to defend it. I think that banning a move based primarily on fear is such a shame because, in truth, it is a very valuable technique.

What do you think about this submission? Do you train it? Does your academy teach or allow it?  Do you agree with my points?


  1. In my personal experience the major problem with heel hook injuries is that they affect you more than injuries from the other submission holds. My work life as well as private life, aside from martial arts training, don’t require me to engage in many substantially physical activities, so if I have a sore arm or neck I can simply walk it off by not going to training until it feels better. When I hurt my legs through leg locks or heel hooks however it is a real pain in the ass to be limping around for a while.
    That being said I learned to avoid it by simply tapping more quickly when I’m caught in a heel hook instead of fighting for the roll. It doesn’t feel good to tap when I feel like I could have defended the submission if I had hung in there enough, but I think it’s better than just start bitching about heel hooks and demanding for them to be banned.

  2. It’s all about the training.
    Training proper defense, positioning and of course, training proper submissions. Knowing how to do it helps to defend it.
    I’m an old school type of bjj guy, which means no heel hooking or knee subs for a great portion of my Jiu-jitsu life. And now I feel that I have to catch up with the times.
    Heel hook drill every chance I get

  3. Heel hooks are not like other submissions. If you say this, i would question your knowledge of the submission. The reasons why heel hooks are vastly more dangerous than other submissions is first of all, it is possible to break someones knee with it even if you arent torquing it at all. I personally have seen someones leg break from a heelhook because the guys partner caught it while he was posted on his hand, so when he tried to sit back down to tap it broke his knee. and i personally have had my ankle broken twice in heel hooks, one time because the person cranked it and it wouldve been litterally impossible for me to tap fast enough to prevent it. now im not saying its always unsafe, as at my academy we do heel hooks very regularly, but im trying to get them banned for safety reasons. if you want to debate with me about it a little id be happy to, but the fact of the matter is that if its possible to take someone to the hospitol and off the mat for months even when the submission is being applied minimally by high level belts then it should have no place in jiujitsu, where our training partners safety should always be our number 1 concern.


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