With the booming popularity of leg locks in BJJ, heel hooks are getting most of the shine. Many of the other leg locks, while effective, sometimes get lost in the shuffle.

One of those techniques that we’re going to talk about is the ankle lock. It is a tried and true technique that is a leg lock that you must know.

There are numerous ankle lock techniques out there and we’re going to a full break down on them. Everything from when they were created, the mechanics of them, various techniques, and tips for locking them in.

When was the ankle lock created?

Noone can be accredited with inventing the ankle lock, but has been widely practiced in grappling for nearly 200 years. Every form of grappling practices this technique and has a different name for it.

In submission wrestling it is referred to as an achilles lock, while its name in Judo is the ashi-hishigi. The Jiu Jitsu term in Portuguese for ankle lock is botinha, which means little boot. They call it this, because the technique looks like you’re putting a little boot on your opponent.

With the move widely practiced by various forms of grappling it cements that it is an effective move.

How does the ankle lock work?

The ankle lock has numerous technical variations, but they all go by the same principle. For the ankle lock to work, you have to control the opponent’s body at three points. Their hip, bover their knee, and the foot you’re attacking.

Once you establish control of the opponent’s leg and hip it is a matter of leverage. The opponent’s leg becomes a lever and you use leverage to put pressure on their ankle.

Someone efficient with ankle locks that is aware of these mechanics are hard to deal with grappling. If they get a hold of your ankle and put this submission on it is all, but over.

Straight ankle lock

Usually when you get into leglocks one of the first you learn is the straight ankle lock from 50/50. Before you can go for the ankle lock, you have to secure control of the opponent’s leg.

There’s numerous leg entanglements, but you can go with this simple control. When you’re going for an outside ankle lock have your outside foot on their hip and inside foot hooking their leg.

Once you get your legs this position you must bring your knees together to cut off space and be tight. With their leg secured, you can work on getting your grip.

Hug their ankle tight with the blade of your wrist pressed against the opponent’s achilles. Your hand needs to be placed on your chest for two reasons. It keeps your grip high, which makes it more secure and harder to escape.

Now you can lock on the pressure. Push on their hip the same time you arch your back and drive your wrist bone into their achilles.

If done right, the pain is excruciating and will result in a quick tap.

50/50 inside ankle lock.

This technique is similar to the basic 50/50 straight ankle lock, but done at a different angle. You bridge your hips and push the opponent’s foot to your inside hip.

The other difference is your foot placement. With this one, you are going to put both of your feet on the opponent’s hips. Your grips will be similar using a shallow grip with your wrist bone on their achilles.

Push on their hip with both feet as you arch back to lock in the pressure.

Straight ankle lock variation

This variation is when both you and your opponent are in a sitting position. You start with your legs in between your opponent’s legs hooking under both legs.

Choose the leg you want to attack and grab it with two hands. One on their ankle and the other on their knee as you pull it into you.

As you do this your far leg shifts to an inside hook on the leg you are attacking. You then press your outside leg against the opponent’s thigh, get your grips and get the submission.

Straight knee ankle lock

Generally when you do an ankle lock, you have to bend the opponent’s knee, but sometimes they defend it. When you go to turn your, they block by grabbing your leg and keeping their knee straight.

Even if they do this, you can still counter and get your ankle lock. With your grip on their ankle still locked in place your hand on their knee and push it as you lock super tight pressure.

If you’re in Gi it works even better, because you can grip their pants to push their knee upward.

Half guard to ashi garami ankle lock

Ashi garami provides great control for an ankle lock. This technique starts from half guard and enters into ashi garami.

You start from a knee shield and bring your foot between the opponent’s legs and hook the leg you’re attacking. Reach behind the opponent’s and grab their side with one hand and cup their knee with the other.

Use these grips to shift your body to put you in ashi garami. For the finish grab a hold of their ankle and lock on the pressure.

Ankle lock from open guard pass

There’s a few standing ankle lock techniques, but this one is really tight. Act like you’re going to pass their guard and start moving their legs around.

When you’re ready put one of their ankles under your armpit. To further secure your submission, you’re going to trap their other leg to keep them from defending.

Grab their other leg and pass it over the leg you are attacking. Once you pass it over step over it to lock it in place and fall back to get your ankle lock.

Ankle lock counter

The common defense against an ankle lock is to take off the foot that’s against the hip and scoot out. When an opponent does this, you can still salvage your ankle lock doing this counter.

Before they can fully escape, take your inside hooking leg out and push it against the opponent’s hip. This puts the opponent back in position to finish your ankle lock.

Tips for doing the ankle lock

The ankle lock seems simple enough, but many people make errors locking it in. One misstep and you will lose the whole submission. Here are tips to remember when doing the ankle lock.

  • Arm placement: Make sure to place the blade of your wrist against the opponent’s achilles tendon. Many try to wrap their whole arm around the ankle, but it’s easy to escape and there’s no pressure. 
  • Hand on your chest: When you get your grip make sure to have your hand placed on your chest. This will ensure you lock your grip up higher up, while makes your grip more secure and harder to escape.
  • Turn into the foot: When you go to take control over the opponent’s foot turning into the foot before getting your grip. You need to have your body and the mat in between their ankle when you turn to take a grip.
  • Hip connection: For just about every leg lock, you need to be connected to the opponent’s hip. This gives you leverage for your submission, while also keeping them away as you lock in your ankle lock.
  • Control the toes: You have to control the opponent’s toes when attempting an ankle lock. When you go for their ankle trap their toes with the back of your tricep. It traps their foot and gives the arch you need to lock on the submission.
  • Bend the foot: Going along with controlling the toes, you have to bend the opponent’s foot at a downward angle. The defense for an ankle lock is to straighten the foot, so you need to bend it at an angle.
  • Leg control: Like with all leg locks, you have to control the opponent’s leg above their knee. This ensures you have control over their leg and can finish your ankle lock
  • No space: Keep your legs tight when doing any leg lock technique. If there is any space the opponent can use it to escape.
  • Bridge your hips: When you go to put on pressure, bridge your hips into the opponent’s leg.
  • Toes to heels: For the motion of the ankle lock you need to go toe to heel. Any other way than the submission will not work.
  • Use your body: Use your whole body when you go to lock in pressure on your ankle lock. Using just your arms won’t get the maximum pressure you can get on your ankle lock.