How to do a Heel Hook in BJJ?

How to do a Heel Hook in BJJ?

For years, there has been a stigma around learning heel hook in BJJ. Many old school black belts banned their students from learning them citing that they were too dangerous to learn. 

But thanks to grapplers like the Danaher Death Squad, Dean Lister, and Craig Jonesthey have made them popular to learn. Their performances in submission grappling and sub only competitions have shown the effectiveness of the heel hook. Today, the heel hook is one of the most popular submissions out there!  

There are numerous ways to perform a heel hook and we’re going to break down various ways to hit them. We’ll also explain why instructors try to avoid teaching newer students heel hooks and different types of heel hooks. 

Heel Hook jiu jitsu

Why do Instructor Avoid Showing Newer Students a Heel Hook in BJJ

Point blank, the reason why instructors avoid teaching newer students a heel hook in BJJ is that it can be extremely dangerous. Plus Heel Hooks are illegal – well in IBJJF tournaments at leastAs IBJJF was founded based on the Gi Jiu Jitsu, where heel hooks are even more dangerous. The argument here is that the friction of the Gi Trousers makes it real easy to catch the submission and very difficult to escape. You’ll see that heel hooks are more allowed in other No Gi grappling tournaments like ADCC  

Regardless, heel hooks in general are very dangerous, especially when spazzy newcomers are involved. After a heel hook gets locked in, you only have a fraction of a second to tap before getting injured. The pressure on your knee comes on quick and could easily tear a knee tend if cranked hard enough.  

Newer students sometimes don’t grasp the danger of doing this move or getting put in it. More experienced grapplers will ease the heel hook in, while newer students will torque it as fast as they can.  

They are more likely to hurt their training partner doing heel hooks or get hurt refusing to tap. A knee injury from a heel hook will put them off the mat anywhere from 6 weeks to a year. 

Outside Heel Hook vs Inside Heel hook in BJJ

There are two types of heel hook in BJJ and the difference is pretty self explanatory. Outside heel hooks are when you hook around the outside of the heel and inside heel hooks are the opposite.   

Both are also done from either your outside hip or inside hip depending on the leg you’re attacking. They both come on quick, but inside heel hooks tend to come on a little faster than outside heel hooks. 

Basic Heel Hook From a Leg Knot

Footlocks are way more common in Sambo than in BJJ, so the most basic setups come from Sambo. One of the most common for the heel hook is called the leg knot.  

In the leg knot, your outside leg crosses over the opponent’s leg and you triangle your legs. At the same time your hips are facing them to keep them in place. If your hips aren’t facing the opponent it makes it easier for them to escape.  

By keeping your hips aligned with the opponent’s it keeps them in place and gives you an angle for the submission. You can also hook their far leg or cross your legs around both legs to keep them in place. It looks like a knot, hence why they call it the leg knot.  

One mistake people make with the heel is they try to control the heel with their bicep and turn quickly. Doing this you don’t have control of the heel and it is easy to escape.  

Instead, you first fall towards the heel to hook it with the blade of your wrist. To finish, after you control the heel, you fall towards your back shoulder at the same time you turn.  

For a visual, check out the innovator of Heel hooks in BJJ, Dean Lister show you this setup below. 

Inside(Inverted) Heel Hook

This technique to get the inside(Inverted) heel hook is a little similar to the above technique with a few slight differences. You typically triangle your legs around their leg the same way, but for this one, their heel is near your inside hip.  

One big detail for doing a good inside heel hook is controlling their knee. If you aren’t controlling their knee, you won’t get the heel hook.   

inside heel hook

Try clamping your knees together to keep their knee in place and facing up. It is much harder for them to escape with no space.  

The next step is to fall on your outside shoulder, which is the opposite way of doing the outside heel hook. At the same time try to have a hand cupping under their knee to keep it in place.  

For the last two steps you need to bend the leg to get the angle to do the heel hook. Then pinch the top of their foot between your tricep/armpit and hook around their heel with your wrist. For the finish connect your hands palm on palm and slowly rotate your arms as your armpit moves downwards.  

Lachlan Giles along with Craig Jones have a great explanation on how to do the inside heel hook below. 

Outside (Reverse) Heel Hook Master Class by John Danaher

There is no one better to learn heel hooks from than the master of leg locks John Danaher. He has coached countless BJJ champions that used methods to win titles.  

On BJJ Fanatics, he has a complete 20+ minute video detailing how he shows the outside heel hook. We could attempt to try and explain his method, but would be here all day reading this article.  

John is very detail oriented and we would definitely miss quite a few details trying to explain his method. So it would be better for you to hear it from the master himself in the link below. This video is a master class for doing the outside heel that you should definitely watch multiple times.

Heel Hook From a Triangle Escape

There is a great setup for a heel hook jiu jitsu you can do off of a triangle escape. First thing of course is once they lock up a triangle, you need to posture up and make space.  

Then you can do the escape where you cross your legs around the opponent’s body. This escape will break your opponent’s triangle and put you in position for multiple types of leg locks.  

One of them is a tight heel hook. Thread your leg across their leg you’re attacking and figure four your legs to keep them in place.  

Turn towards their ankle, lock your hands palm to palm, and turn their toes toward their rear for the tap. Garry Tonon shows this great setup in the video below. 

Key Details To Consider For Heel Hook Jiu Jitsu

  • Knee Control: The opponent’s knee needs to be controlled in order to put on a heel. You need to have your legs controlling their leg above their knee to keep it in position for the heel hook. 
  • No Space: Whether you’re doing an inside or outside heel hook, you cannot have any space open. Any space you leave open will give your opponent the opportunity to escape, so try to leave no space available. 
  • Hip Alignment: Your hips need to be in line with your opponent’s hips, If they aren’t directly lined up together, they can easily use the angle to escape your submission. 
  • Fall Back Before You Turn: Before you try to crank the opponent’s foot, you need to fall back and establish control of their foot. If you just try to hook the heel and turn quickly it won’t work and they will escape. So remember to first turn into the foot to get control, then fall to your back shoulder as you turn. 
  • Hook With Your Wrist: When doing a heel hook always control their foot with the blade of your wrist. There’s too much space in the crook of your elbow or armpit to properly lock in a heel hook. So always remember to get a palm on palm grip and have the blade of your wrist across their heel. 
  • Make An Angle: To get the heel hook, you need to force their leg into an angle around  90 degrees for the submission. You won’t get a heel hook on your opponent if their leg is straight. 

Final Thoughts

We barely scratched the surface on heel hook jiu jitsu entries in this article. There are numerous heel hook entries from different leg lock systems that would improve your Jiu Jitsu game.   

You may be nervous about training with heel hooks, but knowing them will make you a more complete grappler. As Dean Lister told John Danaher, when he asked him about leglocks.   

“Why would you ignore 50% of the human body?”- Dean Lister. The answer to that is simple – you don’t