Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition has had several major contentions over the past few years in order to maintain an environment that is safe for everyone. One of the most significant involves a war against any reaping of the knee, as these types of injuries come about very easily and tend to be more significant than others. Whether we agree or disagree with the current stance on rules protecting the knee joint, the rules are the rules and if we want to compete we have to play the game accordingly.
My goal in this article is to offer some insight from my experience through personal competition and coaching at high-level tournaments. One thing I love about BJJ is the infinite amount of techniques offered to practitioners that occur in a cyclic rhythm—gaining popularity for a brief amount of time, then fading in popularity, only to return again years later. We truly never know what seemingly forgotten sweep or submission is going to return from the pits of obscurity and come back with a fiery vengeance.One such technique over the past couple years, is the rebirth of the straight ankle lock. With more and more ingenuity being added to the BJJ game, people are taking basic techniques and making monsters out of them.
A properly executed straight ankle lock is definitely a formidable obstacle to evade and escape. This is strictly my personal opinion, but I feel it is also a means to take advantage of certain schools reluctance to allow students to perform leg locks during training. This results in a deficiency in technique recognition and escape. I will say though that it is certainly not as bad as when I started training. To a certain degree, it forces everyone to evolve or succumb to a major area of attack within the submission game. The Achilles heel, so to speak, of the straight ankle lock used in competition is that the rules make it very easy for someone looking to explore this technique to be instantly disqualified under seemingly innocent circumstances. Here are my two cents on using the straight ankle lock in BJJ competition (keeping in my mind that I personally love this technique and encourage its use in competition and in training as it is legal for all adult belt levels):
First things first, it is your personal responsibility to be absolutely sure you understand all the rules applying to the tournament you are competing in.It may seem overcautious, but attending the rules seminar and asking questions for each tournament is due diligence. This way you have insight from the people that will be personally refereeing your matches.That said, I feel you must understand this very important fact when it comes to reaping the knee.Regardless of how much you understand the details of your outside leg crossing over the center line of your opponents leg from hip to knee joint, it is 100 percent a discretionary judgment call by the referee within your match. There is no absolute when you have a rule based upon a judgment call. Understand that no matter how strongly you feel you were staying within the rules, the referee ultimately decides based upon their own personal discretion and their decision is final. This is simply the nature of the beast that you have to accept when playing this type of game. The only alternative is to avoid the situation altogether, which I do not agree with.
My opinion is to play your game true to yourself and let the cards fall where they may. If you feel you were robbed and disqualified unfairly, simply take the decision with a grain of salt based upon the inherent risk of your style and focus on the unlimited positive lessons you acquired through testing yourself in competition.
To close I’d like to offer a couple of tips to try and help you avoid the frustration of being disqualified for reaping the knee. First, in my experience, the disqualification usually occurs when your opponent is defending your ankle lock by standing in posture and pressing into your legs with their knee and hips. In this scenario, the perfect anecdote comes naturally as crossing your outside foot over the center line to inhibit the forward progression often without even thinking about it. I recommend specific training this specific scenario over and over prior to any competitions to help alleviate your natural reaction of crossing your foot over and to provide yourself with several options that fall within the competition guidelines. Also through this type of specific training, you can diagnose a solution to prevent the position from escalating to the point of this specific scenario. As we all know in BJJ, effort and energy are better spent preventing a scenario as opposed to escaping it. Secondly, research ways to transition to x-guard and several other sweeps such as those covered by Marcelo Garcia using your inside knee and pushing it into the back of your opponents knee while holding and pulling your opponents foot on the same leg. Marcelo has several videos available that show many variations and transitions involving this style of sweep. As always, ask your professor for help and don’t rely solely on video material as it is incomplete as a teaching tool.