When Should We Be Allowed To Use Leg Locks ?

In Jiu-Jitsu there are many controversial topics with practitioners getting petty heated in their debates. One of the most controversial topics is when should practitioners begin leg locks, ankle locks and heel hooks. While all of these fall into one category of attacks “below the belt” they are viewed very different. In general most schools are ok with foot locks/ankle locks by blue belt , but why are knee bars, calf crushers and toe holds not permitted till brown belt and why do so many schools frown on them. The Heel Hook is banned in almost all gi competitions, restricted to elite nogi competitions and most academies do not permit the use of this move in training at all. Lets dive into the arguments for and against leg locks.

The main school of thought against the leg lock game is that they are dangerous and lower belts can’t be trusted with them in training. The other argument against them is that instructors feel practitioners should focus on the basic moves before moving onto the leg lock game.

The counter argument is that Leg locks are only deemed dangerous because people are not taught how to counter and defend them. Another common counter argument is that Leg Locks are an important part of Jiu Jitsu and why would we neglect this until we are almost at black belt.

Personally, I feel leg locks should be practiced throughout the journey, although I am not sure when they should be legal in tournaments. This is mainly due to the fact that I have actually seen far more injuries in competition via arm locks. People tend to fight arm locks a lot longer than leg locks and thus in most cases result in more injuries. What do you guys think about leg locks and when should they be legal in competition?


  1. Frankly, all leg locks should be allowed at all levels in No-Gi. It encourages learning the art and sport. If you are ignorant to that, then you lose and pay. It’s no different in any sport, the only different is that, other sports have instant gratification of failure, that also don’t possibly cripple.

    Ankle locks should be okay for all levels, tap to pain, if for no other reason, it helps a person learn what they can stand.

    Heel hooks should be legal in no-gi all levels. People need to realize that leg locks are in vogue. Check your rules of the competition and work around them. I recently competed at a New Breed and wasn’t able to knee bar at blue belt (I am a blue belt) or in no-gi, it drop me crazy because I’d been working my no-gi leg locks, but somehow a calf slicer was legal at all levels and bicep slicer banned till black belt.

    A lot of rules make no sense, but I think there is a definite process of easing into leg locks that doesn’t have to be immediate, but once you pass a level of a 2 strip white belt, a practitioner should be aware of the existence, and training partners should respect the experience level of the partner. No one is trying to be crippled.

    • I definitely agree with most everything you said chad !Although maybe keep beginner nogi guys from the heel hook? I am a purple belt and throughout my years I have to say the heel hook is the most common submission that will cause permanent damage and fast !

      • I don’t inherently disagree with restraining a heel hook from a white belt, as far as that being THE submission that is shot for on a less or just generally inexperienced training partner, but again, I think awareness and knowledge is important. Especially, as a more experienced person at a gym, a heel hook shouldn’t be the only way to tap out a less experienced person anyway, if you’re so bent on ‘winning.’

        If the position becomes primed for a heel hook or reverse heel hook in training, ‘slow makes it go’ is the general rule at my gym, and the people that utilize it during no-gi rolling, all respect that. As for myself, sometimes I don’t even feel like it’s worth defending and just tap because it may just be constantly attempting to roll out of it. I’m more happy to just reset sometimes because I was caught.

        But again, I believe that in no-gi grappling all submissions should be legal, in the gi restrict heel hooks. As for other submissions like slicers and leg locks, should be legal. Most lower belts aren’t taught them anyway, and in the unlikely event they are, they most likely won’t be competent at them.

        My opinion is mostly formed on the idea of expanding the art rather than contracting it. It’s the fear that sometime down the road chokes will be banned for fear of death.

        In the end proper discretion and lack of malicious intent is what’s needed


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