How to Do the Straight-Ankle Lock for BJJ
Straight to the Point
While leglocks were commonly demonized in the late 1990s and on into the early 2000s in some circles, the straight-ankle lock has remained legal in virtually every BJJ competition circuit's rule set. Despite this, and even in today's considerably more leglock-liberal climate, many gyms simply don't address the most fundamental of lower-body submissions: the straight-ankle lock.
Here, we'll break down some fundamentally sound entries, and we'll give some tips on getting the submission on the toughest of feet.
One of the best ways to start working on the straight-ankle lock (also sometimes simply called the "footlock") is to start from combat base, right after having opened their closed guard. This means that you will have both of your legs on the inside, an incredibly important concept for attacking legs. Start with your left knee up, and post with your right hand (make sure your post is far enough away so that your partner can't simply take it away by grabbing at it). Now that your weight is off of your right leg, retract your right foot and place it tightly on your partner's hip, toes turned out. You can also reinforce this movement by cupping your partner's knee with your left hand, helping to ensure that your partner's leg will remain trapped. Before you release your "post," be sure to overhook the ankle, very close to the heel, but not so low as to slip past the heel. In order to finish, make a tight guillotine grip first, and then try to hide your elbow underneath your body, eliminating all space. Push your hips forward and circle your shoulders back to apply the finishing submission.
A more powerful version of the straight-ankle lock is the belly-down version. This is much, much more difficult to escape via traditional boot escapes and the like. Start with the same left leg up in combat base. Like the classic set up, there is a one-two leg movement required here as well: slide your left knee across their left knee, mimicking a knee cut guard pass, and at the same time, prop your right knee up, helping to lift their foot up near your armpit. Envelop the foot the same way as before, but this time, use a figure four grip to get the submission, pushing outward on your partner's shin.
Note: This will likely break the bones in the foot (metatarsal bones, most likely) by stretching them out like spaghetti; the classic version may also do this, but it might break the ankle instead.
From the Bottom
Single Leg X-Guard is an indispensable tool for the straight ankle lock. Start by sitting down while your opponent is standing, paying particular attention to keeping your feet behind their knees, following if they move. Grab their right foot with your left hand, then scoot in much closer by planting your left foot on the floor, executing a reverse boot scoot.
The idea here is to snake your leg around theirs, firmly planting your foot onto their hip, toes out. While overhooking their leg in a similar fashion as before, transfer your right foot to their other leg, then lift your hips up and push their knee outwards. This will call them to fall, allowing you to come forward enough to make any adjustments you'll need in order to finish the classic straight ankle lock.
A very useful drill to get you and your partner working on both attacking and escaping the straight footlock is the side switch drill. As you enter into the straight ankle from the top, your partner can properly defend, and you can simply slide out and slide back in to enter into the footlock on the other side. Practice this movement and you'll certainly get better at both the escape and the finish, but you'll also develop extremely useful movement skills.
As always, please use extreme caution regarding any submissions that might be new to you or your partner. It is my sincere hope that you are able to practice these on a regular basis with instruction, and this is predominantly designed to be a supplement for the education your instructors give you. Nevertheless, let me know if you are able to have some success with the straight ankle, and if you get stuck, I'd love to hear that as well! Happy training!
© 2017 Andrew Smith