One of the most noteworthy oddities of BJJ is the negative (and even dismissive) attitude that traditional instructors and practioneers have taken towards leg locks. Unlike the close cousins of BJJ like Sambo, submission grappling, and catch wrestling--which are martial arts that often focus more on leg locks than upper body attacks--BJJ has traditionally been an art more focused on chokes and arm/shoulder locks. That's fine as far as it goes, of course, but it leaves a glaring hole in the game of a number of BJJ pracitioneers. Not only are some leg lock techniques off limits for certain BJJ belt levels--e.g., beginners are not allowed to use toe holds, knee bars, or calf slicers--but arguably the most effective leg locks of all--namely, the heel hooks--are off limits to all competitors in the IBJJF and in other BJJ competitions. Stranger still, the most effective means of securing the position for many of the leg locks--namely, the knee "reap"--is similarly forbidden such that even an accidental reap will get a black belt disqualified!
I, for one, think the traditional attitude in BJJ towards leg locks more generally and heel hooks and reaping more specifically is completely misguided. And while "safety" is often cited as the reason for the rule that prohibits reaping, I have never seen any real data that support the contention that reaping is any less safe than non-reaping versions of the leg attacks. Indeed, I think the case could be made that reaping is even safer since, when done properly, it prevents one's opponent from trying to roll out of the leg lock--which is one of the most common ways that people hurt themselves when they've been caught in a leg lock. Moreover, given how prevalent that reaping is in Sambo and catch wrestling, in order for the "reaping is dangerous" argument to be persuasive, one would need comparative data that knee injuries were more prevalent in these two grappling arts than in BJJ. Here again, there is a dearth of data. So, I remain skeptical.
However, rather than speculating concerning the real reasoning behind the odd stance BJJ has adopted towards leg lock techniques such as reaping and heel hooking--which is a post for another day--I am simply going to assume that any BJJ pracitioneer should want to be as well-rounded as possible. Given that being well-rounded requires that one be familiar with even the techniques that have traditionally been frowned up (or even forbidden) by BJJ traditionalists, I am going to dedicate several posts to leg lock attacks--with a focus on techniques involving the (unduly) dreaded knee reap.
For today's post, I have included three videos. In the first video, the head official for the IBJJF (Gracie Barra's Marcelo Ribeiro) explains the rules pertaining to the knee reap (after all, if you're competing in the IBJJF, you'll have to follow their rules no matter how unnecessary or misguided you think they are). In the second video, you'll find a great interview between Budo Jake and Stephen Koepfer (who is one of the top Sambo practioneers in the US). Finally, in the third video, one of the true masters of leg locks--ADCC champion Dean Lister--shows several reap positions that you should consider adding to your own game. So, watch, learn, and go train!