One thing I've discovered in the last couple of months is that there doesn't seem to be much of a middle ground when it comes to knowing about attacking the legs. The world divides neatly into people who want to know everything there is to know about it, and those who never, ever do it. I'd like to change that, so if you happen to be a fellow martial artist/grappler, here are a few simple rules for finding some middle ground on the leg lock front.
- Make it a part of your overall game. That is, find ways that it connects naturally to the things you already do. I think there's a serious problem with people only learning leg locks from the guard top, because anyone who has done BJJ will be too busy passing once they've split the guard to care.
- Be able to give them up. One of the most important points with leg locks is being able to abandon them and go into a good position. The classic one is the pass off the attempted ankle lock or knee slice. The key is to make the positions you're in for attacking the legs connect to all the other positions you have and to be able to transition fluidly between them.
- Treat it as a positional game. By which, I mean don't just concentrate on what's going on down by the foot, but also focus on the level of control you have over the opponent's body and legs. Learn key leg lacing positions and learn how to transition into and out of them.
- Triangle. There are many different variations on the theme of leg lacing, many of which are too complex for people to devote time to unless they are committed to leg locking. A simpler, if perhaps not as complete, approach goes like this: triangle your legs. Whatever way round you are when you're attacking the legs, a triangle will be stronger than a basic knee pinch. It's easy to remember and fairly universal.
- Control the other leg. Many people complain that leg locks don't work because they get stacked or rolled out of. Aside from the thought that we don't complain about arm bars not working because our better opponents defend them and take side control, it's often a problem of not controlling the leg you aren't attacking. Rolling and standing both need that leg. Control it with your legs or your hands, get if off the floor, and you're in a good position to finish.
- Remember the rules. Different rule sets will allow different things, so be sure you pick an approach that fits within what you're allowed. Heel hooks are often banned in many rulesets, while the IBJJF has its reaping the knee rule. Know what you're allowed, and focus on one or two things that you know you'll be able to do.
- Perfect the ankle lock and knee bar. Why these two? Partly, it's because they are allowed in the widest variety of rulesets. They're the earliest leg attacks you're allowed in jiujitsu by belt rank. They're allowed in sport sambo, where twisting leg locks are forbidden. They're also relatively safe to train with, and they also force you to perfect mechanics that become doubly effective when you then apply them to tighter locks later on.