Heel Hook: Master the Ultimate BJJ Move!

Unlock the Secrets of the Devastating Heel Hook Submission!

Heel Hook in BJJ
Heel Hook in BJJ

The heel hook is a powerful and dynamic submission hold. It has made its mark in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), mixed martial arts, and other combat sports.

As an effective leg lock technique, the heel hook targets the opponent’s foot with a strong twist. It forces them to tap out or risk serious injury.

Over time, this maneuver has sparked controversy due to safety concerns. Yet, it remains a staple of no-gi grappling and professional competitions

Let’s learn the intricate details surrounding this ancient submission move in this blog post – from its mechanics and legality to techniques for execution and defense strategies.

Key Takeaways

  • The heel hook is a powerful submission hold in BJJ that targets an opponent’s foot and ankle. It applies pressure and twisting to force them to tap out.
  • Legal considerations should always be considered before attempting the move This is because different competitions have distinct rulesets concerning their use.
  • Proper technique execution is crucial for safely executing the heel hook. Mastering various gripping techniques and setting up the submission properly is essential.
  • Different heel hooks exist, including outside, inside, 50/50, single leg X, and backstep variations. Each requires specialized training methods and carries potential risks if not performed carefully.

Understanding The Heel Hook Submission In BJJ

The heel hook submission is a leg lock that involves twisting the foot and applying pressure on the ankle joint. It forces an opponent to tap out.

Definition And Mechanics Of The Submission Hold

The heel hook is a potent submission hold in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, martial arts, and Sambo. It capitalizes on the vulnerability of an opponent’s leg. By applying immense pressure to the foot and ankle, this grappling technique forces opponents into submission by tapping out.

This powerful leg-based technique consists of two primary twists: medial (inward) and lateral (outward). To effectively execute a heel hook submission, one must first secure proper control over their opponent’s leg.

From there, the attacker wraps their arm around their foe’s heel or lower calf area while gripping their wrist for added leverage. The goal is to twist the foot either medially or laterally in a swift and controlled manner.

Doing so applies a tremendous force onto ligaments within the knee joint. It causes considerable pain infliction if countermeasures are not taken promptly.

The heel hook submission is a powerful and highly effective grappling technique. It is vital to know the rules and legal considerations surrounding its use in various competitions.

In No-Gi grappling events, like those held by the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling World Championship, heel hooks are generally allowed for advanced competitors.

Not only competitors but also referees and coaches should be knowledgeable about these rules. It will ensure fair play and help maintain high safety standards during matches.

Aspiring martial artists should always familiarize themselves with guidance from their instructors concerning proper technique execution while practicing submissions like a heel hook.

Techniques For Executing A Heel Hook

To properly execute the move, master the gripping techniques and carefully set up the submission before applying pressure and twisting the leg. Read on to learn more about this powerful grappling move.

Proper Gripping Techniques

To effectively execute a heel hook submission, proper gripping techniques are crucial. A solid grip ensures maximum control over your competitor’s leg and foot. It allows you to apply the necessary pressure for a successful tap-out.

Here is how to maintain a strong grip during the attempt. Focus on securing the opponent’s toes or ankle instead of just holding onto their heel.

This strategy increases control and makes it more challenging for them to escape by slipping their foot out. Grappling legend Dean Lister emphasizes cupping his hand around the opponent’s ankle with his thumb pointing downwards.

It is similar to holding a baseball bat. This allows him to create additional torque when applying pressure inside and outside heel hooks.

Setting Up The Submission

To execute a successful submission, proper setup is essential. Here are some tips for setting up the submission and applying it effectively:

  1. Establish Dominant Control: Control your competitor’s leg before setting up a heel hook. This can be achieved by securing a good grip on their ankle, knee, or thigh.
  2. Create An Opening: To apply the heel hook, you must create an opening in your opponent’s defense. Do it by distracting them with a feint or causing them to overcommit to a particular movement.
  3. Secure The Grip: Once you have created an opening, quickly secure a strong grip on your opponent’s foot. Wrap your arm around their heel and lock in their toes with your forearm.
  4. Apply Pressure: To execute the submission, twist your body and pull on the foot while pushing on the knee. It will increase the pressure on the ankle joint. Apply slow and controlled twisting pressure, as sudden jerky movements can easily cause injury.
  5. Be Aware Of Counters: As with any submission hold, there may be multiple counter techniques that your opponent may attempt. Always watch for these counters and be prepared to adjust accordingly.

Following these steps and using proper technique, you can effectively set up and apply the heel hook submission in BJJ or other martial arts. It will minimize the risk of injury to yourself or your opponent.

Applying Pressure And Twisting The Leg

Proper execution of the hook submission involves applying immense pressure and twisting the opponent’s leg. It is done in a way that causes pain infliction and eventually forces them to tap out.

The pressure applied during a heel hook must be balanced carefully with safety considerations to avoid permanent injury. Applying the right force at the right time achieves optimal results without risking any damage.

Injuries due to mishandling include ligament tears and other severe knee injuries, debilitating for athletes.

Different Types of Heel Hooks

The move comes in various forms. It includes the outside heel hook, inside heel hook, 50/50 heel hook, single leg X heel hook, and backstep heel hook.

The Outside Heel Hook

The Outside Heel Hook is a powerful Jiu-Jitsu submission technique that aims to twist an opponent’s ankle and foot laterally. It involves wrapping one arm around the opponent’s leg while placing the other on their heel. Then pressure is applied that forces the joint to rotate unnaturally.

When executed correctly, it is highly effective for submitting your opponent. It helps in securing victory in competitive grappling tournaments or self-defense situations.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners are particularly fond of using this move due to its efficacy against larger opponents.

The Inside Heel Hook

The inside heel hook is a submission hold that targets the opponent’s inner leg and ankle. To execute this move, the attacker entwines their legs around their opponent’s and clasps onto the foot with both hands. They ensure a secure grip before initiating the twist.

The advantage of this hook is its versatility. It can be executed from various positions, including closed guard, half guard, or butterfly guard. Improper execution can cause severe injury to your partner’s knee ligaments if not done carefully.

The 50/50 Heel Hook

The 50/50 Heel Hook is a variation of the heel hook submission commonly used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts.

While it seems advantageous, it also creates a high-risk situation for injury if not performed correctly or resisted by the opponent.

It requires careful control of your leg placement while simultaneously trying to manipulate your opponent’s leg positioning. Mastering this move takes time and practice before attempting it during sparring sessions or competitions.

The Single Leg X Heel Hook

The Single Leg X Heel Hook is a highly effective submission hold in BJJ and submission grappling. It involves trapping one of your opponent’s legs through the “X-Guard” position while applying pressure to their heel.

To execute the Single Leg X Hook, first establish control over your opponent’s leg by wrapping it around your thigh. Then, use your other foot to hook behind their knee. Twist it outward while tightening pressure on the heel with your hands.

As with all leg-based submissions, there are legal considerations when attempting a Single Leg X Heel Hook in BJJ competitions. Mishandling this submission could lead to both participants’ ligament tears or other injuries.

The Heel Hook Knee Shield Counter

The heel hook knee shield counter is an effective way to defend against an outside hook. This technique involves using your free leg as a shield. It prevents your opponent from applying pressure on the trapped leg’s ankle while pushing away the other leg with your arms.

With this defense, you can create space and scramble to regain control of the position or launch a counterattack.

To successfully use this technique in live sparring or competition settings, receive adequate training and practice under supervision from experienced trainers. Safety should always be the top priority, as with any martial arts submission hold or defensive move.

The Backstep Heel Hook

The Backstep Heel Hook is a popular technique used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling. It involves stepping back with one leg while placing the other leg behind the opponent’s knee, securing an Ashi-Garami position, and then applying pressure to their heel using your own.

One of the benefits of this technique is that it allows you to immediately apply pressure to your opponent’s heel without needing to set up the submission with grips or transitions.

However, it also exposes you to several counters if not done correctly, including being swept or giving up position.

Half-Guard To Ashi-Garami Heel Hook

The half-guard to ashi-garami heel hook is a powerful technique used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling. This move involves trapping your opponent’s leg from the half-guard position, transitioning to an Ashi-Garami leg lock. It is done by attacking their free foot with a heel hook.

Mastering the half-guard to ashi-garami heel hook gives you a significant advantage over your opponents on the ground.

Defense Strategies Against The Heel Hook

One of the most effective ways to defend against a heel hook is to recognize and avoid getting caught. Practicing escape techniques and understanding proper counterattacks can help mitigate the risk of injury.

How To Recognize And Avoid The Submission

The heel hook is a dangerous submission hold that can cause severe injury if not handled carefully. Here’s how to recognize and avoid the submission:

  1. Monitor Your Opponent’s Grip: Before attempting this move, your opponent will try to secure a tight grip on your foot or ankle. They are setting up for a heel hook if you feel their grip tightening.
  2. Watch For Leg Entanglement: Heel hooks are often set up when both fighters’ legs become entangled. If your opponent tries to wrap their leg around yours or create a figure-four lock, they might attempt a heel hook.
  3. Listen For Verbal Cues: When applying pressure during a submission hold, fighters communicate through verbal cues like grunting, breathing heavily, or making noises of discomfort. Hearing your opponent make these sounds indicates they are trying to apply the heel hook.
  4. Use Proper Defense Techniques: There are many techniques to defend against the move. It includes counter-pressure, hand-fighting, and rolling away from the submission hold.
  5. Tap Out Before Injury Occurs: Knowing when to tap out is the most important aspect of avoiding injury from a heel hook. If you feel too much force on your foot or ankle, don’t hesitate to signal that you submit.

You can avoid serious injury by knowing the signs leading up to the heel hook and using proper defensive techniques. It will help you continue training safely in martial arts and MMA competitions.

Escaping And Countering Techniques

Escaping the submission benefits avoid serious injury and prevent your opponent from gaining control over you. Here are some effective techniques for escaping and countering a heel hook:

  1. Turn Your Heel Outward: Turning your heel outward can relieve tension on the knee and ankle. This will make it harder for your opponent to apply pressure.
  2. Stack Your Opponent: If caught in a heel hook, stack your opponent by placing your weight on their chest or shoulders. This will make it challenging for them to twist your leg and increase the pressure.
  3. Grabbing Onto A Leg: Grabbing onto one of your opponent’s legs with both hands can break their grip and prevent them from fully locking in the submission hold.
  4. Roll Out Of The Hold: Rolling out of the hold releases tension on the foot or ankle while creating an opportunity for you to escape.
  5. Use A Counterattack: If you’re skilled enough, use a counterattack. Grab your opponent’s leg or attack their other leg to distract or cause discomfort.

Remember that prevention is always better than cure when submitting someone using a heel hook in BJJ. Regular practice and proper training can help improve technique execution while minimizing unwanted injuries arising from improper application.

The Significance of Proper Training And Safety Measures When Practicing The Heel Hook In BJJ

Understand that the submission can cause serious injury if handled improperly. Practitioners must undergo proper training before implementing it in live scenarios.

The Risks Of Mishandling Heel Hook Submission

Mishandling the heel hook submission can result in serious injury. The intense pressure applied to the ankle and foot through twisting movements, like medial or lateral twists, can lead to ligament tears.

It’s also important for those on the receiving end of the hook to properly defend against it. This includes recognizing the set-up early on and working quickly to counteract it with escapes or pressure releases.

Safety Precautions To Take

Take below precautions to safely practice the submission hold:

  1. Always train with a partner with experience executing and defending against the submission hold.
  2. Wear appropriate protective gear, including knee pads and ankle supports, to reduce the risk.
  3. Avoid practicing the submission hold at full strength until you have mastered the technique.
  4. Never forcefully crank or twist your partner’s leg while attempting to execute a heel hook.
  5. Stop immediately if your partner taps out or indicates they are in pain or discomfort.
  6. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience swelling, pain, or bruising after practicing the hook.
  7. Train under the supervision of a qualified instructor who can guide proper technique and safety measures.
  8. If competing in BJJ tournaments or other grappling events, familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations. It will avoid disqualification or injury to yourself or others.

While heel hooks can be effective when used correctly and safely, always prioritize injury prevention and responsible training practices.

The Need For Proper Training

Proper training is crucial for executing and defending against the heel hook in BJJ. This submission technique requires an understanding of not only the mechanics of the hold but also the rules and legal considerations.

Even professional fighters have fallen prey to mishandling this move, resulting in serious ligament tears and long-term injuries.

For those practicing BJJ or any martial art that involves grappling and submissions, seek out reputable instructors. They will teach these techniques safely and effectively.


1. What is a heel hook submission in BJJ?

A heel hook submission is a grappling technique used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that targets your opponent’s ankle and knee joints. The goal is to apply pressure on the Achilles tendon through twisting or bending movements. It is done until it causes discomfort for your opponent to tap out.

2. Is there a risk of injury with heel hooks?

A high risk of injury is associated with improperly performing or receiving a heel hook. If performed incorrectly or applied too aggressively, it can cause serious damage to the ligaments, tendons, and bones around the knee and ankle joints.

3. When should I attempt a heel hook during sparring or competition?

Heel hooks are an advanced technique because of their potential for causing injury. You must have considerable experience executing them before attempting them during sparring or competition matches. Some gyms may have rules against using this move on lower belt levels due to safety concerns.

4. How can I safeguard against a heel hook attack?

The best way to prevent getting caught by an opponent’s attack during training or competition matches is to maintain proper defensive posture at all times. It includes keeping your feet and knees tucked close together when possible. Avoid positioning yourself in vulnerable positions where these submissions become more likely. It includes sticking one leg out while standing straight (widening stance). 

Train with experienced partners who will help you understand how different moves work from various angles. You can better anticipate what might be coming next while advancing defensively.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts.

The heel hook is a solid BJJ submission that can immobilize an opponent and force them to tap out. It requires proper training and execution to prevent injury or mishandling of the hold.

As with any submission held in martial arts, safety should always be a top priority when practicing or competing. Mastering the art of executing this hook takes time, dedication, patience, and discipline.

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