Are leglockers bad grapplers?!

by Prof. Martin Guggi

Of course, this might be a provocative question but I think it is time now to talk about this subject. And at the end of this articel I want to make something clear. If we think about bad grappling we need to answer another question first. What is a good grappler? A good grappler is someone who could use his weapons according to the rules of the event. And this may vary from ADCC, IBJJF or Submission only events.

Let´s take a look at the most used submission from ADCC 2017:

7 RNC
6 Heel hook
5 Armbar
2 Toe hold
1 Katagatame
1 Mounted guillotine
1 Mounted triangle
1 Reverse triangle
1 Flying triangle
1 Kneebar/dogbar
1 Guillotine
1 Arm in guillotine

The king of the submissions is still the backtake with RNC at the ADCC event 2017. But the second most used submission of the Armbar was dethroned by the heel hook! But also the Kneebar and the Toe hold are successfully used on the legs. On the upper body any form of the triangle is very effective, too. Triangle, Armtriangles and also the guillotine.
The rise of the heel hooks this year was definitely amazing but is it because it is so effective or is it because most BJJ schools neglected this form of submissions and did not use a system behind it, as the Danaher Death Squad did?


It makes no sense to compare this with IBJJF submissions because if the rules forbid leglocks then it is hard to compare an event where leglocks are allowed with an event where leglocks are not allowed. But we could look deeper and see what submissions IBJJF fighters use successfully.


IBJJF Worlds 2017

10 Choke from back
9 Armbar
7 Bow and Arrow
6 Other
5 Triangle
4 Kneebar
3 Arm in Ezekiel
2 Straight ankle lock
2 Brabo Choke
2 Toe Hold
2 Cross choke

The most used submission is again a form of choke from the back. Followed by Armbar and Bow and Arrow Chokes.
Then we have the triangle and a form of the armtriangle again. On the lower body as in ADCC Toe holds, Kneebars and Straight Ankle Locks.


Of course, there is much more to win a fight or tournament. Takedowns, Guardpulls and sweeps and so on. But let´s concentrate on the submission today. What submission does a good grappler need to know to be successful on any grappling tournament?

1. Back takes and finishes from the back
2. Armbars and heel hooks – if they are allowed according to the rules.
3. Any form of the triangle – Triangles with your legs, Armtriangles (Brabo, D’arce Choke, Anaconda)
• Bow and Arrow Choke – of course only in Gi Tournaments
• Guillotine – more for NoGi Tournaments
• Kneebar and Toe holds for Gi and NoGi Tournaments
It is interesting that the rise of the heel hook at NoGi events replaced the straight ankle lock a little bit. In Gi events the Toe hold is still used.

In ADCC Events the first 50% of the fight there are no points. But in IBJJF Worlds it is always possible to score points. That’s why I use the IBJJF statistic to see on which field the most points are scored.

As you can see the most points are scored from sweeps, followed by Guard Passes.
The BJJ Heroes did an amazing job researching also the most used Guard forms for points = sweeps.

Please check out their researches here: https://www.bjjheroes.com/editorial/ibjjf-worlds-2017-crunching-numbers-3-0

And the most used Guard for any weight class was 50/50 Guard. This is very interesting for me because it is not DLR, Spiderguard, Lassoguard but 50/50 followed by Half Guard, some generic Open Guard forms and Single X Guard.
I assume that this would be very similar to NoGi events. But I believe that a lot of heel Hooks come from a form of 50/50 Guard as well. As a Coach this should make us think on which guard we should spent a lot of time developing skills for our students.


Ps. The Knee Slide Pass and the Pressure Pass is by the way the most used Guardpass. And it is not the Legdrag or the Legwave and also not the Longstep Pass. It is still the basic Guardpass from all – Knee Slide or a form of Under Over Pass.


Now to answer the question: Are leglockers bad grapplers?

Definitely not but the hype which we have now around the Danaher Death Squad Leglock = heel hook system is definitely not only good for the development of young grapplers. Many young grapplers are only focusing on leglocks but still do not know how to pass Guard or take the back. I strongly believe that as a complete grappler you have to know all leglocks – Straight Ankle Looks, Kneebars, Toe holds and of course heel hooks!!! But do not neglect the statistic which proofs that there is much more to learn and according to the number of events out there where you are not allowed to use the heel hook I suggest not to spend too much time on only developing the heel hook. Especially at the beginning of your career focus on backtakes, armbars, sweeps and takedowns but do not spent too much time on leglocks in general. Start with the straight ankle look because it is allowed at any tournament (ADCC/IBJJF) and then continue with the Kneebar, Toe hold and heel hook. But remember the heel hook is for sure the king of all leglocks.

Leglockers are NO bad grapplers but because the BJJ community neglected the legs for a long time we had a big lack of knowledge on this field. And if young grapplers focus on heel hooks now they definitely can be successful compared to athletes who focus on the basics first. I would say that the heel hook has the same mystic as the berimbolo. Everyone wants to learn it because it is new and somehow fancy but if you take a look at the statistic you can definitely see that the berimbolo is not used so much as other techniques. The heel hook is a great weapon and will always be, but I believe that the hype around it will go down. Perhaps next ADCC athletes will be able to defend it better and then it comes down again to who knows the basics better.
But one think is for sure – in a submission only tournament the heel hook is one of the most dangerous submissions and if time is not a limited factor you have to look for weaker body parts and then the heel hook is one of the better choices.