Alternate Finishes from the Toe Hold: a BJJ Leglock Tutorial
Flowing and combining
If you had to pick one catchphrase that describes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a nutshell, it might be "go with the flow." The toe hold offers a perfect opportunity to embody this philosophy perfectly. It is easily one of the most accessible submissions from virtually every position, but it can be very tough to finish in isolation. What follows are just a few high percentage ways you can follow up from a well defended toe hold attack into a second, third, or fourth attacking position based on your opponent's ability to move and escape. As always, please use extreme caution when practicing toe holds, making sure to take the time to understand the technique before trying it on any resisting partners, and making sure your instructor is around. If you haven't already checked out the toe hold basics, please do so now.
Basic to advanced
In 1999 at the Mundial (World Jiu Jitsu Championships), Rodrigo "Comprido" Medieros stunned the jiu jitsu world by finishing open guard legend "Roleta" with a lightning-fast figure four footlock (now more commonly called "toe hold") in the opening seconds of their finals match in the absolute division. The simplicity of Comprido's original attack is paid homage here with the opening maneuver - as your opponent tries for a scissor sweep in no-gi, you can simply reach out for the basic toe hold. Be sure to resist the temptation to say "thank you" as you grab this gift.
Now, we can make this much higher percentage if we can anticipate the attack. After grabbing the toe hold, start by lifting your opposite knee so that your opponent can't sweep you right away with the scissor sweep, and then yield to the sweep just enough to end up on your hip. This will allow you to end up in a fantastic finishing position, much akin to the heel hook finish from combat base.
Transitioning to over/under
If you've been following my tutorials for a while now, you'll know that my preferred leglock finish position is the over/under (the "uber-reap"), which is very nearly checkmate in no-gi grappling. Here's a fantastic way to enter into this position. Start with a basic backstep entry into the toe hold, where you're attacking the same leg that you'd normally kneebar. As you move to torque their ankle with the basic toe hold attack, just allow your partner to move with the pressure. Simply pass the foot over to the other side of your body for a very tight heel hook finish (alternatively, you can reach over and hit an Imanari-style toe hold - very nasty!).
The Gorilla Hook
All credit for the innovation of this move comes from my friend Rick Macauley, who was incredibly influential during my earlier leglock development. In this move, you're already in a toe hold finish position, but for whatever reason, you're unable to get the tap (it definitely will happen if your technique isn't perfect, your partner has super flexible ankles, or there is money on the line). If your right hand is grabbing their toes and your left hand is threaded behind their achilles/calf area, keep your right hand in place, but allow your left hand to swim over their foot, threading their heel in the process (much like a heel hook). Now just torque outwards, and please do use extreme caution here- you're not only attacking the ankle now, but very directly attacking the knee as well in a very nasty finish!
Adventures in toe holds
What I've shown here only begins to scratch the surface of some of the crazy transitions that are available when you start attacking the feet in general, and toe holds are the very best in terms of ease of entry. You have to understand very well how your partner is going to roll and move during these transitions, so be sure to allow them plenty of room to escape whenever applying the toe hold (and this is a really good rule of thumb in general - allow your partner to escape at least part of the way so that you can figure out where they're likely to move, and adjust your technique accordingly). Again, be extremely careful, and be sure to study up on some of the crazier leglock attacks when you have a few minutes.
About the author
Andrew Smith teaches gi and no-gi seminars across the country. Check out his schedule of upcoming seminars and bio here. If you're interested in booking Andrew for a seminar, email him here.