How to do the Kneebar in BJJ

How to do the Kneebar in BJJ

One of the most famous leglocks in all of grappling is the Kneebar. When done correctly it can be one of the most secure submissions that you can lock on to.

Today leglocks have exploded in popularity within the BJJ community, and the kneebar is only one of the many leglocks that has been steadily gaining some attention. There are now numerous entries into the kneebar that you need to be aware of and ready to defend.

Let’s take a deep dive into this leg lock and show you how to do the kneebar in BJJ. We’ll give you breakdowns of various entries and list key details you need to remember when going for them.

Kneebar in BJJ

What Is Kneebar In BJJ?

The kneebar is a leg lock that targets the knee of your opponent. Jiu Jitsu adopted the kneebar from Judo which in that martial art is referred to as the “hiza-juji gatame.”

Although within BJJ, leg locks were frowned upon for years, so you didn’t see the kneebar much in early competitions. Within the Russian martial art Sambo is really when the kneebar and other leg locks were first revolutionized.

Then later, kneebars started to be used in No-Gi by competitors like Dean Lister and Erick Paulson.

Today with the kneebar being IBJJF legal for brown and black belts, they are being learned more than ever before!

Kneebar From Half Guard (Top)

The easiest position to learn the knee bar is from Top half guard . Your opponent’s top leg is already in position for you to spin around and take the submission.

Kneebar from top half guard start by under-hooking your opponent’s top leg. Next push your opponent’s head and spin around to isolate their leg.

You’ll now have to establish control in three points of your opponent’s leg to secure the kneebar. Their hip, knee, and foot.

Curl your toes down to establish control over the hip and pin your thighs above their knee. Then secure their heel with both arms and place your head on top of their feet. Putting their foot in between you and the mat to keep them from turning out.

With the leg secured, bridge your hips into their leg to finish the submission. Here is leg lock wizard Dean Lister showing the details of this technique.

Kneebar From Knee shield

Another great kneebar entry you can do from on top in half guard when your opponent has a knee shield.

With your inside arm, you’re going to underhook their top leg Gable grip your hands above their knee. Make sure that your inside hand is the top hand of your Gable grip.

Now with your grip secured, you’re going to fall to your outside hip. Then as you fall to your hip, pull your opponent’s leg into your body.

Next, you’re going to turn your body and place your head on top of your opponent’s foot to prevent them turning. Control the heel with an RNC grip and bridge your hips for the finish.

High level BJJ competitor Junny Ocasio details how to do this entry in this video.

Buchecha Kneebar from Bottom Half Guard

A kneebar is also open from the bottom half guard with a knee shield. In Gi, you use a cross collar and sleeve grip, while in No-Gi, you use a frame and wrist control.

You start the technique by pushing your opponent with your knee forcing them to put their hand on the mat. This gives the space to underhook your opponent’s leg and bring your top leg around their head.

This puts their leg right in between yours and in position for the kneebar. Hook the opponent’s far leg with your bottom leg and pinch your thighs together to control the leg you’re targeting.

To get your opponent to roll or fall to their stomach, you need to bump them using your hips. Now with your free hand, pull their foot towards you and take the kneebar.

Multi time world BJJ champion Marcus Buchecha is famous for this technique and explains it in this video.

Rolling Kneebar From Standing

From standing in a clinch, you can roll right into a kneebar to surprise your opponent. You start this technique out by getting an overhook on your opponent.

Next, step in and turn your body to face the same way as your opponent with their leg between theirs. This is the leg you’re going to attack.

From here, squat down and roll into your opponent’s leg. As you roll, you’re going to catch your opponent’s leg and secure your control.

Your momentum forces them to the ground and you end up right in the kneebar. Here is Neil Melanson breaking down the rolling kneebar.

Key Details To Remember

The kneebar is a phenomenal submission to know, but one missed detail and you will lose it. Here are the key details to remember when going for a kneebar. 

  • Hip/Knee/Foot: For the kneebar to work, you have to control your opponent’s hip, knee, and foot. Without establishing control of these 3 body parts, you will not submit your opponent.
  • Control above the knee: With leg locks, you must control your opponent’s leg above their knee. This is especially so when going for a kneebar.
  • Grip and heel control: You can either use a RNC grip, two hand grip, or control the leg with your armpit. They’re all serviceable, but what’s important is to control the heel or your opponent can easily escape.
  • No open space: There cannot be any open space between you or your opponent when you go for a kneebar. You must take the space away or your opponent will get out.
  • Squeeze your thighs: When you get your legs around your opponent’s leg, you must squeeze your thighs shut. This closes space, while also helping put pressure on their knee.
  • Bridge your hips: To lock on the pressure, remember to bridge your hips into your opponent’s leg.

How To Defend The Kneebar?

The kneebar comes on quickly, so you must start your defense before your opponent controls your leg. Here are key details for defending against the kneebar. 

  • Escape your knee: To get a kneebar your opponent must establish control above your knee. So, you can’t let that happen and push their legs below your knee.
  • Don’t fall back: The worst thing you can do with any leglock is fall to your back to defend. This gives your opponent the space they need to control your leg and wrench it.
  • Control opponent’s upper body: From any position to get a kneebar, your opponent has to turn and go toward your knee. If you control their upper body, this will block them from being able to turn or spin.
  • Awareness of leg positioning: Any time your opponent has your leg in between your legs, they can go for leg locks like a kneebar. You have to be aware of where your legs are positioned at all times and address any potential threats.
  • Triangle your legs: Triangle your legs is one of the last defenses you can do when your opponent establishes leg control. Be sure to triangle over the leg they’re attacking or they will easily get the kneebar.
  • Separate opponent’s legs: Your opponent needs to have their legs closed around your leg to get a Kneebar. So to defend against it, you must open their legs to defend against the submission.

Final Thoughts

This article was just a small taste of the possibilities with the Kneebar in BJJ. It is a highly versatile submission that you can hit from on top, bottom, or even from standing.

When done correctly, the Kneebar in BJJ is among the tightest and most secure leg locks you can go for. It is highly recommended to know just a few entries and finishes – even at the lower belt levels! As you progress through the ranks, you’ll be glad you’ve learned a few things or two!