T Nation

Leg Dexterity (BJJ)

Hello everybody,

To get right to the point:

How does one acquire better leg dexterity?

As you continually practice BJJ, will leg dexterity come with time?

or is it more of a natural thing? IE: Am I completely doomed?

Are there drills specific to leg dexterity? any tips at all?

Thanks!

If you must know: Yeah, I’m very interested in BJJ, as many of you are.

I have great trouble pulling off arm bars, triangle chokes, heel hooks, toe holds, go go platas, or anything that requires me quickly moving my legs into any position besides holding mount or guard. I am ok when slowly going through the motions… but in a real session, I have rarely pulled it off with any of these submissions. I feel as if my legs are in slow motion compared to anybody I have rolled with.

mobility and flexibility

Personally I’ve never even thought about ‘leg dexterity’. My triangle and armbar were horrible and sloppy when I started. I worked on them via drilling and sparring, 1 or 2 details at a time, and they improved tremendously.

Are you alluding to a flexibility issue? Tight muscles making your legs harder to control? If so, take some time everyday to stretch and you’ll have a new pair (of legs).

If you’re deficient at actually moving them around, I’m not sure I can offer any advice, other than mat-time.

I’d say sparring and drilling.
Drilling is boring but needed and sparring makes you use technique while the other guy really tries to pass/defend/submit.

[quote]ude garame wrote:
I’d say sparring and drilling.
Drilling is boring but needed and sparring makes you use technique while the other guy really tries to pass/defend/submit.
[/quote]

Gospel.

Drill, drill, drill ,drill…and drill some more…then roll a lot.

EDIT: It’s also important to stretch and stretch deeper every time.

Thanks for your replies, guys!

I really am not sure if it is a mobility issue, flexibility issue, or coordination issue.

I have never been one that was fond of stretching though… so I could painstakingly add stretches in. I hate stretching so much though. :frowning:

Is it really that simple though? Drilling alot? Rolling alot?

I have been for a couple months now … 2-3 times a week. I feel like I should be better by now!

Sometimes I find difficulty because the person I am rolling with is alot taller than me. That makes it really hard for me to get my legs around them in the first place. I’m not too sure how to compensate for my shorter legs yet. I attempt to counter this using the gogo plata… but I’ve never pulled that off while rolling with somebody. I just can’t do it fast enough.

I’ve heard people talk about leg dexterity being essential to BJJ and I just wanted to hear if there was any tricks to it. I know Joe Rogan/Mike Goldberg have often praised BJ Penn’s leg dexterity – which is also why I wondered if it was more of a born talent.

Ah, anyways. Thanks again.

EDIT: Just another thing. Often when I go for let’s say… a heel hook. (This is a prime example). I will have the foot tucked under my armpit and I will have my arm pressing below the ankle. Then as I am trying to get my legs around and locked… I can sometimes only get one leg wrapped around the other’s leg and I find myself in a shitty (SHITTY!) position and then I am punished for it.

BJ Penn, has extremely flexible hips and knees if his fights are anything to go by. It could be genetics, but I think stretches is at least part of it.
Think of the rubber guard system, requires a very high level of flexibility and dexterity of the legs to use. I can assure you a good number of the guys that get taught the system had to work on stretches and coordination.

Anyways, most of the maneuvers in BJJ do not require such a level of flexibility, just above average.

Would love to answer your question on the heel hook, if I didn’t suck so badly at leg locks (and knew what the question was).

A few months isn’t really all that long, also you’ve gotta keep in mind that if you’re rolling with the same guys the whole time they’re getting better too. Roll with someone brand new, and it’ll help you see how far you’ve come. Whenever I feel like my game is super shitty I roll with a newer kid.

About the leg dexterity, rolling and drilling is definitely where it’s at. The more you do things, the more they become part of how you move. Also, I’m slow as fuck and I hate scrambles. So, I take that into consideration when formulating my game. Take the moves that work for you and your body and do them, not everything is for everyone. There are also a lot of little tweaks to make basic moves work for every body type.

Maybe my school is really old school, but 3 months in and you’re working toe holds and heel hooks?

A few months isn’t really all that long, also you’ve gotta keep in mind that if you’re rolling with the same guys the whole time they’re getting better too. Roll with someone brand new, and it’ll help you see how far you’ve come. Whenever I feel like my game is super shitty I roll with a newer kid.

About the leg dexterity, rolling and drilling is definitely where it’s at. The more you do things, the more they become part of how you move. Also, I’m slow as fuck and I hate scrambles. So, I take that into consideration when formulating my game. Take the moves that work for you and your body and do them, not everything is for everyone. There are also a lot of little tweaks to make basic moves work for every body type.

Maybe my school is really old school, but 3 months in and you’re working toe holds and heel hooks?

+1 on the leg locks.

I’ve only just started toe holds, Achilles locks and the kneebar (2 months ago: Started Feb last year). The heel hook is still off limits.

With the exception of the toe hold, leg-lock submissions tend to be harder to gauge than upper body locks and chokes. Plus, and this is the ‘doctrine’ in my school, since you lose position when going for them they could reinforce bad practices in beginners.

From what it sounds like you’re having problems with mobility in very basic movements that shouldn’t require much mobility in the first place. Or at least you’re not satisfied with your ability to pull off these motions in real time. BUT you can for some reason pull it off slowly. So yes, the answer is DRILL DRILL DRILL DRILL, you just haven’t put in the necessary repetitions to be able to pull off these movements fluidly. If you did synchronized swimming or wrestled since you were a kid these might be easier, but you just have to accept that it’s going to take a while to build up the hip musculature, knee musculature, and muscle memory.
Just like a big squat or bench, even if you could progress EVERY session it will still just take TIME.

But if you want to improve faster then any general mobility program will do for the most part… Magnificent mobility, Search Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey articles, look around on stadion.com, get a copy of “relax into stretching”, whatever… Pick a program and run through it. Everyone’s jiujitsu is different, and everyone has a different body makeup so we are all going to find different drills helpful for our style… but some general ones that I like…

  • Drilling actual movements
  • Hurdle Drills of All sorts
  • Leg raises (one leg at a time)
  • Indian style leg raises (Hang from bar, bring your legs up like you’re sitting indian style)
  • Hip circles (laying on back)
  • Flutter kicks (Super high reps (200+) & lower reps (20-30’s) using ankle weights)
  • glute drills: Bird dog, donkey kick, etc
  • Static stretches get a bad rap despite their benefits- try yoga
  • shrimping drills on a TRX

[quote]rundymc wrote:
BJ Penn, has extremely flexible hips and knees if his fights are anything to go by. It could be genetics, but I think stretches is at least part of it.
Think of the rubber guard system, requires a very high level of flexibility and dexterity of the legs to use. I can assure you a good number of the guys that get taught the system had to work on stretches and coordination.

Anyways, most of the maneuvers in BJJ do not require such a level of flexibility, just above average.

Would love to answer your question on the heel hook, if I didn’t suck so badly at leg locks (and knew what the question was).[/quote]

Sorry for the confusion. I was trying to give an example of when I feel my leg dexterity fails me.

[quote]pch2 wrote:
A few months isn’t really all that long, also you’ve gotta keep in mind that if you’re rolling with the same guys the whole time they’re getting better too. Roll with someone brand new, and it’ll help you see how far you’ve come. Whenever I feel like my game is super shitty I roll with a newer kid.

About the leg dexterity, rolling and drilling is definitely where it’s at. The more you do things, the more they become part of how you move. Also, I’m slow as fuck and I hate scrambles. So, I take that into consideration when formulating my game. Take the moves that work for you and your body and do them, not everything is for everyone. There are also a lot of little tweaks to make basic moves work for every body type.

Maybe my school is really old school, but 3 months in and you’re working toe holds and heel hooks? [/quote]

I am rolling with guys who have been doing it for a few years, maybe you’re right.

I’ll try to keep patient – it’s just frustrating because I do have a lot of natural wrestling ability and I can produce a good amount of force in small distances. BJJ is pretty much the exact opposite approach than I had when wrestling in highschool, or just wrestling with my friends – I actually have to be intelligent about it. I can’t just ram into people and hold them down.

And the place I go to right now is more of a club than anything (it’s free and not 3 hours away). Unless it is ‘season’ (seems like winters to me) the instructor does not really teach classes and isn’t there that often (he teaches basic boxing classes as well as karate). He showed me a few basic things when I first went in and left me on my way to roll with anybody who wanted to. I ended up just looking up BJJ videos on youtube and trying to ‘learn’ a few things from there (Gogo plata, heel hook) plus I have been a MMA fan for around 5 years now. So I’ve seen alot.

But I sure did not realize heel hooks were more of an advanced movement! Maybe that’s part of my issue with them. My main problem with them is once I’m throwing my legs over and trying to lock my feet – the guys I roll with are really good at spinning out of it before I can even lock my feet. But! I did look up a different approach on heel hooks at submissions101.com and I did realize that my body positioning was off by alot. And I also learned from them that I attempted it from a bad position (I was in the guy’s guard but was having trouble doing much of anything… he didn’t have control of my head… so I leaned back and attempted it from there… lol)

From what you guys are telling me - it just seems like I have alot to learn still. I can accept that – it’s just frustrating cause I’m usually a quick learner!

[quote]rundymc wrote:
+1 on the leg locks.

I’ve only just started toe holds, Achilles locks and the kneebar (2 months ago: Started Feb last year). The heel hook is still off limits.

With the exception of the toe hold, leg-lock submissions tend to be harder to gauge than upper body locks and chokes. Plus, and this is the ‘doctrine’ in my school, since you lose position when going for them they could reinforce bad practices in beginners.[/quote]

Thanks! I’ll stay away from them from now on. I don’t want to create bad habits before I’ve even been to a formal class.

[quote]Xen Nova wrote:
From what it sounds like you’re having problems with mobility in very basic movements that shouldn’t require much mobility in the first place. Or at least you’re not satisfied with your ability to pull off these motions in real time. BUT you can for some reason pull it off slowly. So yes, the answer is DRILL DRILL DRILL DRILL, you just haven’t put in the necessary repetitions to be able to pull off these movements fluidly. If you did synchronized swimming or wrestled since you were a kid these might be easier, but you just have to accept that it’s going to take a while to build up the hip musculature, knee musculature, and muscle memory.
Just like a big squat or bench, even if you could progress EVERY session it will still just take TIME.

But if you want to improve faster then any general mobility program will do for the most part… Magnificent mobility, Search Mike Robertson and Eric Cressey articles, look around on stadion.com, get a copy of “relax into stretching”, whatever… Pick a program and run through it. Everyone’s jiujitsu is different, and everyone has a different body makeup so we are all going to find different drills helpful for our style… but some general ones that I like…

  • Drilling actual movements
  • Hurdle Drills of All sorts
  • Leg raises (one leg at a time)
  • Indian style leg raises (Hang from bar, bring your legs up like you’re sitting indian style)
  • Hip circles (laying on back)
  • Flutter kicks (Super high reps (200+) & lower reps (20-30’s) using ankle weights)
  • glute drills: Bird dog, donkey kick, etc
  • Static stretches get a bad rap despite their benefits- try yoga
  • shrimping drills on a TRX
    [/quote]

I’ve always been an active guy so I guess I really didn’t expect mobility to be an issue. Especially since I have wrestled before and I do frequently with my friends in ‘MMA sparring’ sessions we do together when we’re drunk. And as far as hip strength goes… I squat and deadlift regularly.

But - I cannot swim. I cannot swim for the life of me!

I am definitely not pleased with my ability to pull off the motions in real time.

I guess I’ll just heed all of your guys’ advice and keep practicing and I’ll work on mobility too. As of now I have trouble doing the Indian style leg raises you described… so maybe it is a combination of both - like you have all suggested.

Thanks alot, to all of you who took the time to reply!

What’s “Wrestled before”?
4 Year in high school? Started in pee wee leagues? That’s “I wrestle…”
No offense to you friend, but dicking around with your buddies doesn’t qualify as active much less training.

We’re talking a completely different kind of hip strength… Squats and deadlifts are not going to do it.
The kind of strength I’m talking about is more like going up to the thai bag, climbing to the top, wrapping your legs around it and doing situps for 1 minute PROPERLY without slipping around and shit. It’s much more akin to eggbeaters (treading water) than it is the triple extension you get from cleans or hip extension from deadlifts…

It’s a mixture of mobility and strength. You’re only going to have smooth fluid shot from YEARS of drilling your shot over and over, you’ll only be able to throw up a gogoplata instinctively after THOUSANDS of repetitions of gogoplata’s… just like floyd mayweather STILL throws jabs on the heavy bag even though he’s perfected the jab he STILL drills it over and over and over…

While there’s obviously SOME carryover, “gym”-strong and “MMA”-strong are two vastly different things…

[quote]krazykoukides wrote:
As of now I have trouble doing the Indian style leg raises you described… so maybe it is a combination of both - like you have all suggested.
[/quote]

Loosen up those hips! You’ll throw up gogoplata’s in no time…

[quote]Xen Nova wrote:
What’s “Wrestled before”?
4 Year in high school? Started in pee wee leagues? That’s “I wrestle…”
No offense to you friend, but dicking around with your buddies doesn’t qualify as active much less training.

We’re talking a completely different kind of hip strength… Squats and deadlifts are not going to do it.
The kind of strength I’m talking about is more like going up to the thai bag, climbing to the top, wrapping your legs around it and doing situps for 1 minute PROPERLY without slipping around and shit. It’s much more akin to eggbeaters (treading water) than it is the triple extension you get from cleans or hip extension from deadlifts…

It’s a mixture of mobility and strength. You’re only going to have smooth fluid shot from YEARS of drilling your shot over and over, you’ll only be able to throw up a gogoplata instinctively after THOUSANDS of repetitions of gogoplata’s… just like floyd mayweather STILL throws jabs on the heavy bag even though he’s perfected the jab he STILL drills it over and over and over…

While there’s obviously SOME carryover, “gym”-strong and “MMA”-strong are two vastly different things…[/quote]

I wrestled for 2 years in high school because I started late. And hey, no offense taken. I can see how what I said could be taken to mean that I think I can wrestle because I dick around with my friends.

I also wasn’t claiming I’m a phenomenal wrestler. I just didn’t understand why I wouldn’t have the necessary hip strength and everything, when I did wrestle for a couple years and I’ve been strength training for a few. One of my strengths was always my sprawl and I always thought that was a show of hip strength (and timing, of course).

Anyway, thanks again.

[quote]Xen Nova wrote:

[quote]krazykoukides wrote:
As of now I have trouble doing the Indian style leg raises you described… so maybe it is a combination of both - like you have all suggested.
[/quote]

Loosen up those hips! You’ll throw up gogoplata’s in no time…[/quote]

I will, man! I will do these daily!


Here is a picture from my very first wrestling match. Hah.

I actually hated highschool wrestling. I really wanted to try BJJ. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do… ever since I watched TUF season 4.