Mastering Leg Locks: A guide to proper foot positions

Four Foot positions that will change your Leg Locks.

The Rise of Leg locks

At the forefront of the Jiu Jitsu scene, one submission hold in particular, is taking the Submission Wrestling world by storm. At grappling tournaments across the country, grappler’s are conquering their foes via Leg locks. The numbers don’t lie. The Eddie Bravo Invitational (EBI) is the most highly regarded “Submission Only” tournament in the sport. At the invitational, expert grapplers compete against one another in pursuit of a possible $25,000 grand prize. At EBI 8, 10 out of the 16 matches(62.5%) on the card ended by way of Leg locks.

For the past decade, Leg locks have had a mystique surrounding them. Some would argue that Leg locks are “Cheap” and “Dirty”, while others support them (rightfully so) as being legitimate submission holds. Competitively, Leg locks have always been around, but the recent evoking of interest has been due namely to a few grapplers from NY. Eddie Cummings in particular, stands out as the lead expert and Leg lock pundit. Eddie’s a fascinating case study simply because he earned his way to the top of the sport competing on the regional circuit as opposed to the more national and ‘prestigious’  IBJJF Tournaments that so many view as necessary.

The name “Eddie Cummings” being synonymous with Leg locks. Eddie has brought with him a firm explanation of the four most effective foot placement positions, increasing the finish rate of  leg locks.  A grappler with the intention of mastering Leg locks, MUST have a firm comprehension of these proper foot positions. Understanding proper foot positioning is vital to attacking and defending leg locks.

The Four Foot positions

  1. Single Leg X or Ashi Garami
  2. Outside Ashi or 80/20
  3. 50/50
  4. Saddle, Inside Sankaku or Honey-Hole

1. Single Leg X / Ashi Garami

First, is The Single Leg X foot position. It is this most common position, and the easiest to obtain. Made famous by Marcelo Garcia, the SLX position served two primary purposes for Marcelo, a sweeping position and an entrance into his very well known X-Guard. In modern times the position has evolved into a guard with a variety of sweeping options and Leg lock attacks. Another grappler, Eddie Cummings uses the position to effectively enter into his leg lock sequences. The Renzo Gracie Academy prefers the name Ashi Garami paying homage to the Judo Self-Dense technique.

Proper Foot Positioning for Single Leg X:

Single Leg X foot Positioning
Note: The left foot is located on the opponents hip and the right foot is tucked in between opponent’s legs.

With the Single Leg X position, the attacker has one foot threaded to the outside of the opponents leg, with the foot pressed against the opponent’s hip, with the right leg tucked in between the opponent’s legs .

A different perspective of Single Leg X as opponent is standing. Make note: Here Marcelo Garcia has the Single Leg X foot positioning as he prepares to sweep Cobrina.

Below: Eddie Cummings using Single Leg X as a finishing position for the Heel Hook at EBI. The foot placement of Cummings is identical to the foot place of Marcelo Garcia in the above picture.

From the SLX, Eddie Cummings pins the leg of his opponent as he attempts to finish a Heel Hook.

2. “Outside Ashi”  or 80/20

Secondly, The “Outside Ashi-Garami” position or more simply “Outside Ashi” is a position made famous by Jon Danaher and his “Death Squad” pupils. The position first came into the spotlight due to the vicious MMA Fighter Rousimar Palhares. “Toquinho” used the Outside Ashi position to secure his infamous “Heel Hook”on many occasions.

The proper foot positioning of Outside Ashi  is similar to the Single Leg X foot positioning. However, the leg wedged in between the opponents leg is removed from the middle and both feet become crossed at your opponent’s hip of the leg you are attacking.

Florida based grappler, Josh Hayden is an EBI veteran who also utilized the position very successfully. He has dubbed it 80/20. Josh Hayden has an instructional dvd series on the position that you check out here: 80/20 Leg Surfing DVD

Pictured below: Outside Ashi leg positioning against a standing opponent.

From the Outside Ashi position both feet of the attacker goto the hip of the isolated leg of the opponent

Pictured below, Rousimar Palhares utilizes Outside Ashi. Palhares’ preffered leg position for finishing leg locks in his MMA Fights.

Notice the leg and foot positioning of Palhares as his opponent screams in agony. Both feet are to the outside of his opponents isolated leg.

3. 50/50

Moving on to the third position, The 50/50 position has taken the Sport Jiu Jitsu world by storm in the past decade. Due to the long history of competition, there’s been many instances of grappler’s utilizing this position. However, I have to give credit to Ryan Hall because he has successfully the position to the forefront of the grappling scene. 50/50 is a great position for the Inverted Heel Hook finish. The position is has been dubbed “50/50” because both grappler’s leg positions are identical, giving each grappler an equal chance of attack.

Pictured below is the 50/50 leg entanglement

In the 50/50 Leg entanglement both grapplers have identical foot positioning.

Ryan Hall is a very high level athlete now competing in the UFC, He won The Ultimate Fighter T.V. Show in Season 22. He has a fantastic DVD series which you can check out here: 50/50 DVD

Ryan Hall demonstrates in Inverted Heel Hook from the 50/50 position

Saddle, Honey Hole, Inside Sankaku

Finally, we save the best for last because The Saddle position is a very high percentage way to finish the Inverted Heel hook. The Saddle position is favored amongst grapplers due to the nature of where it places the attacker’s feet. In addition to the Single Leg X, Outside Ashi or 50/50 positions, the Saddle position threads the outside leg of the attacker, over and in between the legs of the victim. This leaves the attackers feet virtually “hidden” from counter attacks.

Below: Garry Tonon attacks an Inverted Heel Hook from the Saddle Position on Polish MMA Fighter and Grappler Marcin Held.

Garry Tonon in the Saddle position on Marcin Held at Polaris Pro.


Former Bellator MMA Champion and current UFC Fighter Joe Soto recently submitted his UFC Fight Night 98 opponent Marco Beltran with a heel hook from the Saddle position. 

Joe Soto forces Marco Beltran to scream as he submits Beltran with an Inside Heel Hook from the Inside Sankaku position.


Watch the video below of the four foot positions for Leg locks.

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