To Play Heel Hooks Or To Not Play Heel Hooks… (Revisited)

Since we spent the last few days looking at Heel Hooks I thought it would be important to revisit this old post. As I mentioned several times over the past few days safety is my number one priority when playing with Heel Hooks. In the article below I share some of my rules that I follow when playing with Heel Hooks.
How to Safely Apply the Heel Hook

The Heel Hook…Many Jiu Jitsu schools and tournaments have banned this move because it is “dangerous”. While I agree that it is a dangerous submission, there is no need to ban it IF people are properly educated on it. In reality the Rear Naked Choke is way more dangerous than a Heel Hook because it can lead to death. The heel hook just leads to crutches…not death. The reason we still allow RNC’s in tournaments though is because coaches and instructors take the time to properly educate their students as to what is happening with the move and when to tap. For the past six months I have become obsessed with using leg locks while I roll at 10th Planet Van Nuys. During that time I have applied countless Heel Hooks and to this day have never injured anyone. How is this possible? I credit my never injured anyone status to the following five rules.

  1. Position before submission. Anyone who has done Jiu Jitsu before will tell you how important this concept is. You need to have good positioning before you can really apply any submissions. So why is it then that everyone forgets this basic tenet of Jiu Jitsu once they grab the legs? Too many times Jiu Jitsu players will see a leg and just grab it and crank on it without caring about position at all. One way to guarantee that you don’t injure your opponent with any sort of leg lock is to secure good positioning before going for the sub. When you have good positioning you can slowly apply the leg lock and give your partner plenty of time to recognize what is going on.
  2. Play a game of tag with Heel Hooks. When we are rolling in class and I catch a heel hook, I tend to hold the position for a few seconds while I read my partner’s reaction. If I get the sense that my opponent knows what’s going on, I’ll still hunt for the heel hook. If my opponent seems as if he has no clue what’s going on, I’ll let go of the move and transition to something else. There is no reason for me to hold onto a potentially dangerous submission and feed my own ego by getting the tap. Sometimes knowing that you could get the tap is enough. I would rather walk away knowing that I could have tapped a guy instead of walking away apologizing because I injured someone.
  3. Don’t quickly apply the Heel Hook. Many times when someone gets hurt with a heel hook it is because they did not have enough time to recognize what was going on. By the time they realized they were being heel hooked it is too late. One way to avoid this is to slowly apply heel hooks. Give your partner plenty of time to become cognizant of the submission and tap out.
  4. Squeeze the Achilles Tendon before turning. I learned this tip from Reilly Bodycomb and I really like it. Normally by the time my partner feels pain from the submission it is too late. By squeezing the Achilles Tendon it turns a heel hook into a pain move that gives my partner a heads up that he is in a bad situation.
  5. Don’t be afraid to tap early. Like I said earlier, the Heel Hook is a submission that can do serious damage before you feel any pain. One way to avoid taking any damage is to tap early. If you get caught in a Heel Hook and you don’t feel comfortable with it just tap. It’s better to tap early and walk away rather than try and play tough guy and limp away.

So there you go! 5 ways you can safely roll and use Heel Hooks. If you want to learn more about heel hooks feel free to email me, get connected via Twitter, or stop by 10th Planet Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley and let’s talk!

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