Jiu jitsu is a dangerous sport. Submission holds inherently have the ability to injure people, but through education and proper coaching all moves can be practiced safely.
The dogma surrounding leglocks is based more on politics than it is actual safety. The IBJJF rule set, which most competitions use, does not allow for competitors to do heel hooks at any level and only straight ankle locks up until brown belt. At brown belt, competitors are allowed to do toe holds and kneebars, but reaping is still not allowed.
While the lack of legality regarding certain leg entanglements leads to an emphasis on passing and control, it leaves a lot of practitioners completely unaware of how to defend half their body until they are a higher belt.
The key to making a safe gym is an emphasis on teaching students control. Heelhooks can be practices safely from day 1 and this can be shown by the 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system, which includes heelhooks in their curriculum from the start. Coaches need to educate their students on heel exposure and breaking pressure, students should be taught from day 1 that if their heel is exposed and their leg is entangled they should tap and the applicator of the move should release the hold if his partner is too stubborn to tap.
There is no excuse for not teaching straight footlocks regularly as this submission is as safe, if not more safe than a armbar or a kimura, but yet some schools still ignore it. At any competition, it’s readily apparent which schools teach leglocks and those who glaze over them.
I have seen a lot more people get injured drilling stand-up than I have rolling with heelhooks and as the game continues to evolve, schools that neglect leglocks are being left behind on the competition scene in the nogi scene and the only reason it isn’t happening in the gi is because the IBJJF rules don’t allow it.
Jiu jitsu should be pure. No major joint locks should be banned. Instead of prohibition of moves, we should educate students early and force them to create a well-rounded game. Whether you like it or not, leglocks are here to stay and you owe your students to teach them.
If you’re at a school that won’t allow leglocks, don’t fear there are a number of great online resources that will at least give you an idea of how to defend your legs.
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