This Is What Garry Tonon Wants You To Know About Leg Locks
For years, the use of the leg lock has been a cause for concern for many BJJ competitors. At the highest levels of BJJ and grappling competitions, leg locks have become increasingly popular, especially with the newer styles of BJJ. In IBJJF rules however, the controversial leg reaping rule limits the legal ways to get into a leg lock, endangering both the practitioner and his opponent. And of course, the ever-controversial Tonon wants none of it.
As a submission grappler, Tonon believes it is his mission to finish all his matches with a submission – as efficiently as possible. And if that submission is a leg lock – all the better. With 41 submission wins out of 54 wins – most of the wins via heel hook, there’s no doubt that Tonon knows a thing or two about leg locks.
Evolve Vacation spoke to submission specialist and No-Gi Grappling World Champion Garry Tonon about leg locks and here’s what he had to say:
You must have a complete understanding of leg locks in order to use them
The difference between having a mechanical understanding of a technique versus a complete understanding could completely affect the way in which you perform a technique. According to Tonon, if you want to be able to submit someone at the highest levels of competition, you must have a complete understanding of the submission.
A complete understanding means that you know a good variation of set-ups for the submission as well as transitions from the submission should the submission fail. “You not only have to understand the structure of how the move works but also how to counter the person who is countering what you’re doing. Or, you could make the technique more efficient so that the standard defense doesn’t work. You need to also have a plan B – you can reposition yourself so you can finish the submission or transition to something new,” explains Tonon.
People have this misconception that leg locks are the most dangerous submissions to learn
For years, BJJ practitioners and instructors alike have avoided both utilizing and teaching leg locks. The idea that leg locks are the most injury prone submission is a myth that definitely needs to be dispelled. “People believe that leg locks are this scary thing that can’t be trained,” says Tonon. “But most people are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
According to Tonon, once you understand the full mechanics of leg locks, the different transitions, entries, and escapes from leg locks, there is very little left to be afraid of. “Leg locks are just like any other submission. As long as you have complete knowledge of the move, it’s really quite safe,” he says.
Leg locks: are they really a cheap move?
Time and again, leg locks have been discredited because they bypass guard passing, which is considered to be one of the main tenets of BJJ. By foregoing guard passing, people believe that this would weaken their overall game or even place them in a vulnerable position as opposed to a dominant one. For Tonon however, executing a leg lock only brings him closer to his ultimate goal: to submit his opponent.
“Why would I spend 15 minutes trying to pass someone’s guard if the legs are right there for me to submit?” asks Tonon bluntly. As a submission grappler who competes with the intention to submit all his opponents, he believes that thinking leg locks are something other than the fastest way to get him to his goal is futile. “Submission grappling means you have to win by submission. If a leg lock is the quickest way you can do that, why would you spend unnecessary time to do something that would prevent you from doing that?” he asks.
Knowledge of leg locks on its own is a useless understanding
When you compete at the highest levels of grappling, you will face other competitors who know as much if not more, than you do. By isolating your knowledge of a submission – leg locks, in this case, you will never succeed. Having a complete arsenal of submissions gives you a much better chance of winning, especially since you can submit from any position. By threatening your opponent with various submissions, you can also bait them into falling for your favorite submission.
“If you’re only good at leg locks, your opponent will know exactly what to defend,” Tonon says. “Although it seems as if leg locks are an isolated thing because of John (Danaher), it’s not. We were taught to submit our opponents the most efficient way possible, and in order to do so, we had to understand other submissions.”
There’s certainly more to leg locks than what meets the eye. Perhaps we can apply Tonon’s perspective about leg locks to our own personal game plan to help us achieve our goals on the mats.
The Evolve Vacation Training Program offers travelers the extraordinary opportunity of a lifetime to train under the largest collection of World Champions on the planet and to explore the hidden treasures of one of the most incredible cities in Asia.Through this very unique program, we have redefined the meaning of “vacation” by creating a truly inspirational, life-changing experience for all overseas visitors from around the world. In addition to the traditional vacation sightseeing, relaxation, beach activities, and cultural exploration, we offer travelers the rare opportunity to train martial arts alongside the Evolve Fight Team, Asia’s most decorated professional fight team, as well as the legendary, world-renowned Evolve Instructor Team.