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Leglocks From the Knee-Cut Guard Pass Position

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

Andrew Smith Teaching Leglocks

Andrew Smith Teaching Leglocks

The Knee-Cut Pass Position

Why is the knee-cut pass position such a great source of leglock attacks? Part of it comes from the idea that you're about to pass someone's guard, and so they tend to be doing things with their feet and legs they might not otherwise be doing (a solid, fundamental concept of all leg attacks, and of jiu-jitsu in general, is misdirection). Something makes the knee cut position unique, though: you are halfway in between a straight ankle lock position and a backstep to kneebar position. There is simply no other position that puts you halfway between two positions that are so high percentage. Let's take a look at some basic (and some not-so-basic) options from this position.

Kneebar From the Knee Cut Pass

Knee Cut Pass to Inverted Heel Hook

Inverted Heel Hook: Most Technical Set Up Out There

This particular setup can be thought of in two different ways. First and foremost, you're following up the kneebar from the previous technique. This sequence is very linear in that regard. If your opponent turns their knee skyward, instead of trying to force the kneebar that isn't really there, you can use this space to poke through for the inverted heel hook. My friend Seph Smith shared an excellent detail with me that you should hug the knee of the leg you're attacking, and since then, I've used this technique almost exclusively from the backstep, getting into a wide variety of situations. Once you've gotten good at using this as a follow-up to the kneebar, consider using it as a primary attack, and check out how high a percentage it is. Of course, as always, please use extreme caution when practicing all leglocks, especially the inverted heel hook!

Back to the Kneebar

Inverted Heel Hook to Kneebar

Continuing our theme from the last technique, you could either view this as a one-two-three combination (straight kneebar from the first technique, then the inverted heel hook when that fails, and finally the kneebar again when they roll), or you could look at it as a simple response to the inverted heel hook attempt, as is shown in the video. You can pretty well predict that, if your opponent is sufficiently skilled, they are likely to roll in order to avoid tapping to the heel hook. Well, if your grip is already on for the heel hook, despair not, my friend. They are going to be rolling right into a super tight kneebar.

A common mistake people make when setting this up is that they will try to roll with their opponent. On the contrary, you'd like to keep your hips completely stationary and let your opponent do the turning for you. As I'm fond of telling my students, I'm quite lazy and will do as little work as possible. This technique is no exception.

Rolling Toe Hold From Knee Cut Pass

The Toe Hold

The toe hold, or "figure four footlock" as it might actually be called once in a blue moon, is a somewhat low percentage as leglocks go, but it's extremely useful in combination with other techniques. However, setting up the toe hold from the knee cut position dramatically increases your odds of finishing the attack, going up by perhaps as much as 50%, and possibly even more. Your opponent simply has nowhere to turn during this move, and it is super tight (and fast, so please do be careful!).

Belly-Down Straight Ankle Lock

Belly Down Footlock

The "belly down footlock" or "straight ankle lock" finish reignited my love for the straight ankle lock in the gi. Of course, this technique works ridiculously well in either gi or no-gi, but you are apt to catch your opponent off guard by executing this move in the gi, as straight footlocks tend to be a considerably lower percentage in the gi due to the grips.

At least, they're normally a lower percentage. This one is extremely likely to produce a tap from your partner, as they are going to be hard-pressed to defend this particular attack. First, split their legs apart and take away the "buddy system" defense that neutralizes numerous leglock threats. Second, and perhaps most important in the gi, you are putting yourself very, very far away from their hands, which might otherwise be gripping your lapels or sleeves, pulling you in to defend.

50/50 Heel Hook

Finally, the 50/50 Finish

Following the logical train from earlier to its logical finish, the 50/50 inverted heel hook pops up when your opponent is extremely sharp with their defense - maybe even just a little too sharp. As they move to escape the initial inverted heel hook (with my favorite leg positioning, the "over/under" leg position), they will often rotate beyond the kneebar attack before you get the chance to lock their knee out. However, it's out of the frying pan and into the fifty-fifty heel hook, one of the most devastating of all leg attack positions. It's important that you are well aware of where the position is heading, and are defending your own feet as you move to attack for the heel hook.

Conclusion: A Whirlwind of Attacks

The wonderful thing about leg attacks is the incredible flow from one position to the next, from one attack to another. There are more orthodox leg attack positions, like the aforementioned half guard bottom kneebar series that I've used successfully in competition, and then there are incredibly unorthodox attacks for leglocks. All of these require not only a firm understanding of the fundamentals of BJJ and of the various leg attacks and the dangers involved but also the right atmosphere in which to train them and attempt them. Always be sure to consult your instructor any time you're not 100% sure if you should be practicing a technique, and be sure you're supervised any time you're working on these techniques if you're not a black belt or leg lock aficionado (and YouTube aficionados don't count!)


Fullblast on April 18, 2017:


Andrew Smith (author) from Richmond, VA on May 21, 2015:

Glad you enjoyed the techniques, Kev!

Kev on May 21, 2015:

This is awesome, I'm a white belt but i love the straight ankle and that belly down looks gnarly. Thanks for posting!