Dan Faggella: Breakdown of the Toe Hold for BJJ and MMA

Dan “Giant Killer” Faggella is a BJJ Pan American champion, academy owner, and leg lock expert. In addition to writing for Jiu Jitsu Magazine and great websites like On The Mat, he shares his leg lock / submission techniques online at www.BJJLegLocks.com


Leg Locks for Beating Bigger, Stronger Grapplers


It’s often thought that leg locks are the “great equalizer” of the Jiu Jitsu game, and in many ways that’s true. However, using leg locks to level the playing field with bigger and stronger opponents requires not only an aggressive initiative to go for the legs, but a knowledge of how to maximize leverage and force even if your opponent is by far more powerful.

In this article, I’m going to dive into the details of what is now the most powerful leg lock in the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation, the toe hold. Most of my requests for toe hold breakdowns come in some way or another from people watching on of my matches versus larger opponents, like this one:


Using this setup as an example, we’ll break down the three elements which – to me – comprise the most important points for finishing the toe hold on bigger and stronger opponents:


(Follow along with the video below)


1)    “The Cucumber Bend”
When you’re setting up your toe hold, its important to not just be satisfied by locking your hands together, but to make sure that by the time your hands connect, you’ve “loaded” a lot or pressure on the bent foot of your opponent. This ensures that you don’t need much muscle to finish because the tension on the outer ligaments of the opponent’s foot are already tight simply from your wrist pressure.

2)    Keep the Foot Tight to Your Chest
Many people try to do what I call the shot-put method of finishing the toe hold, where you push the leg away from you and towards your opponent in order to get the tap. I’ve been lucky enough to take private lessons and seminars with toe hold experts world champions like Caio Terra and the Mendes brothers – and if you watch these guys going for toe holds, you’ll notice that during the setup and the finish, they keep the attacked leg tight to their chest, rotating to the side with their bodies to get the tap (and NOT pushing the leg away from them. 

3) Bend Their Big Toe to Their Elbow

It’s been traditionally taught that in order to force the toe hold tap, you’ve got to bend the opponent’s big toe towards his tailbone. In fact, you should be bending his big toe towards his same side elbow (IE: if you have his right foot, aim to get his right big toe to his right elbow). What this does is it gives you more range of motion and it also works against the knee joint because you’re bending the foot out and over the opponent’s own knee joint. When it comes to finishing this attack on someone bigger and stronger, you’ll definitely want to ensure that you’re loading as much pressure on as many joints as possible.

To learn more specifically about leg locks on larger opponent, you can find Dan Faggella’s other instructional resources online at www.BJJLegLocks.com.

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