There is one submission hold that is often looked down upon due to its high injury rate. It is so difficult to defend against it that gets banned most of grappling competitions and combat sports. Many grappling schools prohibit the use of this dangerous technique and some Brazilian Jiu jitsu practitioners would even consider it as a dirty submission move. It is common in grappling competitions, which allow the usage of this technique, to see someone think that they’re safe until they hear a loud resounding snap and realize that their ligaments have been torn apart.
The Heel Hook
Heel hooks are some of the Jiu jitsu techniques that needed to be escaped quickly to avoid the risk of contracting an injury. The heel hook is a leg lock that can quickly damage multiple ligaments and tendons by twisting the foot medially or laterally. The leverage puts severe tension to the ankle, which in turn transfers torque to the knee.
The heel hook can be used as a stand-alone submission technique, but it really shines right after you extricate yourself from your opponent’s guard. Fight fans saw a heel hook in action during the first UFC when MMA legend Ken Shamrock submitted veteran kickboxer Pat Smith.
How it is done?
The easiest way to execute a heel hook is by slipping one of your legs between his legs as you squat down to trapping his leg between your knees. Immediately sit back and kick your out outside leg over his leg, then figure-four it with your arms. Turn your inside leg to the ground and use the crook of your elbow the secure his heel. Clasp your hands together and twist inward. If you complete this technique correctly, your adversary will either tap out or suffer broken bones. A similar heel hook can be performed by holding the opponent’s foot in the opposite armpit and twisting it laterally, this is commonly referred as the inverted or inside heel hook.
Being caught in a heel hook is extremely painful. Resisting against it can easily damage your ligaments permanently and potentially end your career. But there are still many options to defend against it. Here we take a look at the 5 Easy Heel Hook Escapes:
1. Turn Over to Side Control
As your opponent reaches down your heel and start twisting it, immediately establish a good base with your knee and hands planted firmly on the ground just above your chest. Kick your outside leg over and use the momentum to come out. You should end up in a side control position if the escape is done correctly.
2. Pry and Back Step
This heel hook escape can be done even if your opponent manages to trap your outside leg. First, grip on his far leg with your hands and shove it outward to create and opening. You need some torque to be able to twist the attacked leg downward, so throw your whole body in the movement. From there on, you can easily pry your leg out or back step to the top position and flat your opponent out.
3. Rolling Stomp
Roll your entire body with the pressure being applied in the heel hook. This will prevent the pressure from building up on your foot and ankle. Use the shin on your free leg to lift up and build leverage as you spin away from the heel hook. You will need to really use some leg power on this one to create some distance. Start stomping your opponent’s behind away and pull the attacked foot inward. Depending on the scramble, you may just end up in a dominant position such as half guard or side mount.
4. Shrimp and Pray
This video demonstrates two easy yet effective heel hook escape. Once your opponent traps your leg for an inverted heel hook, resist your leg to buy some time before it gets pulled across. As it reaches the centerline of his body, establish a good base with your hands and your free foot. Stretch the attacked leg and quickly shrimp it out. If your knee and calf still stuck in between the opponent’s legs, you can use your free leg to push him away. Once your knee is out, you can sit up and control a top position.
But if your opponent still manages to pull your leg across his body, stick both of the soles of your feet flat against each other. By keeping your two heels flat, you essentially make it almost impossible for your opponent to cling with their forearm on. Grab his wrist as your sit up and plant the free leg to the armpit. As you start pushing, you can create enough space for the trapped to shrimp out and secure a better position.
5. Heel Hook Counter
Here’s another good counter against an inverted heel hook. Once the opponent attempts a heel hook, grab the leg that’s in between you and start lifting his heel while keeping his toes tucked under the thigh. Grasp the heel with both hands as you lean backward. When the foot has been twisted enough, the opponent will release the heel hook and submit.
By learning concepts of these escapes, you can at least draw out an idea on how to defend against them. Even so, you should always be careful in practicing them. Grappling should be done realistically, but not to the point where you easily get hurt. It is really dangerous to counter a heel hook that is already fully locked in. Make sure the main goal of your grappling work is to develop the necessary attributes and techniques from the ground. Leave the ego behind and try to find new ways to get the submission without hurting yourself or your training partner.