Teachers’ Corner: When to teach leg attacks

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Marcus Buchecha attacks Rodolfo Vieira’s foot in 2012. Dan Rod/GRACIEMAG

When is the right time to teach your students leg attacks and defenses?

In the 1980s and early 1990s, anyone resorting to leg attacks at a BJJ competition would be met with a salvo of boos. There was prejudice against these moves, seen as being crude and lacking in technique. “Cobbler, cobbler,” the crowd in the stands would chant.

Time went by, BJJ evolved, and below-the-belt techniques began to be seen as excellent attacking options. However, leg-attack positions can easily result in training injuries, especially among the less experienced. For that reason, some foot and knee holds are only permitted in sport jiu-jitsu starting at brown belt.

At the gym, though, it’s all up to the teacher. It’s up to him or her to decide when it’s the right time to start teaching a student to execute and defend against these maneuvers.

“The straight foot lock can be taught starting at blue belt so they’ll begin to understand the position, so they won’t go thinking all they have to do is grab a leg and sit back,” Marcus Buchecha told us in 2011. “They have to understand where the pressure goes, how to sink the position. Starting at purple belt, more variations can be added to the mix. If you start teaching these positions too early on, there’s a risk the kid could get addicted to the position and become dependent on it, making for a limited game.”

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