Heel Hooks 101

Do you want to train heel hooks but you’re worried about getting hurt? Well don’t worry any more, this article will have everything you need to learn how to properly set up and apply the heel hook, as well as some tips and perspective on how to safely work heel hooks into your training.

To get this straight I’m no world expert on heel hooks but I have been working on them and using them in rolling for a couple of years now. I’ll give some personal insight on the best way I’ve found to train heel hooks safely as well as some of the videos that really helped me along the way.

How to Correctly and Safely Apply a Heel Hook

I saw this video from Kent Peters sometime last year and it really helped me polish up my heel hook technique. Kent goes over the setup and how to correctly apply the break so that it gives your partner plenty of time to tap. Once you have the technique for the finish down you should check out the rest of Kent Peters videos. He puts up a lot of great content and a lot of the leg lock setups in my game are from his videos.

Tips For Safely Incorporating Leg Locks in Your Training

Now that you know the proper technique for applying the submission, how do you train the heel hooks in a way that wont get you and your training partners hurt? That parts actually pretty simple, it’s the same way you train everything else in Jiu Jitsu! Just like Kent says in the video above, you don’t go reefing on armbars and expect that nobody will get hurt so treat heel hooks the same. One of the main reasons I’ve noticed for why people apply heel hooks quicker then they need to is because they don’t have effective control over the rest of their opponent body. This means they have to finish quick or else their opponent will escape. You wouldn’t dive at an Americana from side control giving up the position would you? The same applies to heel hooks, control the body effectively before you start digging for the heel so that you can do the technique in a controlled manner.

In this video Matt Kwan talks about the proper mentality for training the heel hook by controlling the leg first.

Getting a Feel For Leg Locks

I recently did a seminar with the head instructor of a school that is very well-known among other things for their leg lock game. I’m not going to say his name just so I’m not accused of putting words in people’s mouths but he is a very famous Jiu Jitsu instructor. He went over his thoughts on one way to prevent injuries while doing heel hooks. This is what he tells his students to do and what he suggested to us at the seminar. When you’re rolling with heel hooks, especially when first starting out, roll until someone gets the submission but tab before there is any pressure applied. After the tap have your opponent slowly apply the submission so that you can get a feel for when you need to tap. He said that this will allow you to figure out what a heel hook actually feels like when it’s on. They do have a different feeling than an armbar or a shoulder lock, its less pain and more like a feeling of pressure. Using this method keeps you safe by stopping the roll then giving you a chance to feel out where the pressure comes in.

The biggest thing that you need to do, even above all these techniques is to take ego out of the equation. If your ego is to big you’re going to get inured. Your going to hold out on tapping because you tell yourself, “It’s not hurting, I can still escape.” Then, POP. Don’t do this. Just accept that you will have to tap in the process and try to learn from each tap.

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