When I first started BJJ, leg locks were considered taboo and even worse, a cheap submission that didn’t warrant much respect in victory.  Now, they are a staple submission for gi and no-gi competitors. It was not too long ago that reaping was legal and I consider myself fortunate to have seen this transition.  So I feel it’s also my responsibility as a coach and a training partner, to show merit to the reaping technique and the submission surrounding leg reaping techniques. If BJJ is to continue to be one of the premier grappling arts, we can’t turn a blind eye to leg reaping and heal hooks.  

So when do you teach reaping and leg locks? Some say wait for purple belt. I believe an introduction is warranted at white belt, particularly in a no-gi class, where students might be exposed to leg attacks from their training partners. I would rather my students see reaping early and allow them to practise heal hooks and other leg attacks under supervision. Being uneducated in the area of leg attacks could easily lead to injury. Giving students the knowledge so that they understand the risks, just seems to be the more intelligent approach. 

Another thing to consider is students visiting your gym don’t always follow IBJJF rules. Some may be MMA fighters or may practice other grappling styles i.e sambo or shoot wrestlers. Wouldn’t it be better if students were familiar with leg reaping techniques and heel hooks? I started training at a time when competitions consisted of many grappling styles partaking in the same competitions. Quite often wrestlers, judo players, sambo and BJJ players, all battled it out at the same events. Rules often varied from competition to competition and sometimes rules changed the day of the events. It was in our best interest to have a knowledge of leg attacks as early as possible. 

Here are some helpful methods to build in leg attacks during class:

  1. White belt vs. white belt “catch and release” legs lock policy or no leg locks between white belts
  2. Have open communication – tell your partner if you are working on leg attacks beyond what IBJJ rules allows
  3. Have a match that focuses on leg submissions only – nobody will be surprised and everyone gets to round off their skill set
  4. Remember both students involved in a match are responsible for each other safety
  5. When needed, remove or add leg attacks to prepare for competitions

You have 4 limbs and a neck. Be ready to protect all of them when you hit the mats.