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How to Do an Inverted Heel Hook in BJJ

Andrew Smith is a 3rd-degree BJJ black belt based out of Richmond, VA (Revolution BJJ). He runs BJJ Path, a video tutorial website.

Going for an inverted heel hook.

Going for an inverted heel hook.

The Inverted Heel Hook

The inverted heel hook is easily one of the most devastating submissions in all of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, often being responsible for injuries at grappling competitions and in MMA fights. Our interest in this tutorial is to understand how it works so that we can prevent future potential injuries. I also want to facilitate a better understanding of the position so that you can play with the position safely.

As always, consult your instructor first to make sure that these submissions are allowed at your particular gym, and use caution whenever applying an inverted heel hook for the first time (and every time after that!).

The Knee Cut Entry

Starting with a knee cut guard pass, drive your knee all the way to the ground, and then backstep to the opposite side of your partner's body. Be sure that when you step back, you don't simply swing your leg wide, but instead, take a much shorter, tighter step back, and then drive your knee through the space underneath your partner's leg. Assuming you were cutting your right knee across, it is your left knee that is poking through this space.

Hug your partner's knee close to your body, making sure your knee is all the way through, isolating their leg, and finishing with you in the over/under position, attacking their left leg with the inverted heel hook. Lean to your right hip to bend their knee at 90 degrees, and get your heel hook grip (always go palm to palm here, and always use only the blade of your wrist for the finish, ensuring that you are hooking their heel, not sliding off). If your partner rolls through, you have a sort of double whammy: the kneebar during the transition, and then the 50/50 inverted heel hook finish when they roll all the way through, past the kneebar.

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Leg Drag Set Up

The leg drag entry isn't altogether different from the backstep entry, in that you're trying to poke your knee through and underneath their knee while holding onto their knee with your arm. As you drag their right leg across your body, hug their knee with your right hand as though you are holding onto a rope suspending you over a cliff.

As you sit down, you can weave your left leg around their leg, once again establishing the over/under leg position. You have the inverted heel hook finish, and again, if they roll through, the kneebar is going to be an easy follow-up, and then the 50/50 Position finishes.

Escape Bait

This third option is a sneaky favorite of mine. Start in side control, on your partner's right side. As they drive their right knee through the space in between the two of you, drive your right knee through that gap, and then once again hug their knee with your right arm. This mimics the leg drag position almost 100%.

If your partner triangles their legs to defend, you can easily transition to the far-side straight ankle lock. If they loosely triangle, switch to the cloverleaf finish. If they avoid triangling their legs altogether, or undo the triangle at any point, move on to the inverted heel hook finish you wanted in the first place. As always, whenever setting up the heel hook finish, make sure your partner's knee is bent outwards.

Train Safely

I can't stress the importance of being careful whenever applying pressure on these submissions. Be careful with your training partners so that you continue to have training partners in the future, and be sure to enter the rolling session with learning in mind above winning.

These leg attacks are very high percentage if done correctly, and I've used all of them successfully in competition and at the gym (and had my students use them successfully as well). Keep me posted on whether this stuff works out well for you, too, and if you have particular issues, let me know what they are!

© 2016 Andrew Smith

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