Garry Tonon Talks About Heelhooks And The Danger Of It

Photo by: Blanca Marisa Garcia

On Facebook, Garry Tonon talks about heelhooks and the danger of it being misused. The heel hook is a devastating submission hold that’s known to break bones when competitors refuse to tap. Tonon mentions that students need to be taught how to respect this particular move.

Likewise, students should be taught how to properly apply and defend against this move. It’s apparent that Tonon isn’t happy about how many preventable injuries occur each day. His Facebook post makes a lot of sense. To avoid further injuries, BJJ and MMA students really do require more education and less ego in combat.

Garry Tonon:
“Dear jiu jitsu community,
It has come to my attention that heelhooks are being used more and more in mainstream competition in both MMA and BJJ. I am excited for this but it comes with a responsibility. You absolutely must educate your students, or bring someone in who can, on how to intelligently apply and defend these submission holds, and all submission holds. How can you as a coach, in good conscience, allow a student of yours to compete were a submission hold is not only legal, but common, and not educate them about it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. There are a lot of serious injuries happening in gyms and competitions every year. 99% of them are preventable and or able to be made less serious by proper education. Your students need to understand that this submission hold is powerful and can do great damage if it is not respected. I am not sorry that people get injured in these moves. We operate in a COMBAT SPORT! When intelligent defence is not applied, and a person does not tap, limbs break and people go unconscious. This is real stuff we’re dealing with. Tell your students that! Make it clear, if you are not responsible and educated you will get unnecessarily hurt or unnecessarily hurt others. As well as education about the actual techniques it is your job as an instructor to rid your school of ego. If you teach your students to consider taking pops in moves just to not tap in the gym just to not get submitted by someone injuries will happen. If you let your students apply moves aggressively and recklessly in spite of people, injuries will happen. Ok rant over. There’s probably some stuff I missed but please consider my message.”


  1. “The heel hook is a devastating submission hold that’s known to break bones when competitors refuse to tap.” Typically, the heel hook destroys ligaments when the lower leg is rotated out of the knee joint. There is no bone breakage. I think as a writer for the jiu-jitsu times, one would know that.

  2. It usually tears ligaments, but if your joints are strong, it can cause spiral fractures of the tibia, or break any number of bones in the ankle, depending on angle of attack.

  3. I agree 100% with Tonon but he’s pretty much a voice in the wilderness. Everybody says “leave ego at the door.” I wish I had a dollar for everybody who said that. Usually the people saying it the most are the people with the biggest egos. But even the ego, that just means “I,” it’s what gets you out of bed in the morning, it’s what makes you want to achieve. The ego becomes a problem when it gets out of balance. So it’s ok to play to win, that’s healthy ego. Ego imbalance is when winning is the only thing, it’s more than fair play, more than your partner’s wellbeing or even your own. I mean basically what he’s saying is people need to not be assholes and in order for that to happen their instructors have to not be assholes. Is that reality? I don’t know. Jesus didn’t have a lot of luck with that message but possibly Garry Tonon has more social media followers than Jesus. So hopefully his words will make a difference.


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