Ashi Garami Explained

by Team Digitsu
Updated: April 16, 2024
Adam Benayoun with standard Ashi Garami or Single Leg X
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, mastering the foundations of ground control is vital, and one of the essential positions you'll encounter is Ashi Garami. This technique, central to leg entanglement systems, allows you to immobilize your opponent by skillfully entwining your legs around one of theirs. With proper execution, Ashi Garami becomes more than just a position—it becomes a gateway to an array of submissions, particularly leg locks.
Understanding Ashi Garami starts with differentiating its two main variations: inside and outside. Both serve as a base from which you can disrupt your adversary's balance and execute a submission. Whether you aim to hyperextend the leg or apply a foot lock, the position provides you with multiple avenues to control your opponent on the mat effectively.
By incorporating Ashi Garami into your BJJ arsenal, you elevate your grappling game, adding a layer of complexity that can confound and counter your opponents. It's a testament to the depth of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where strategic positioning is as significant as the submission itself. Through diligent practice, you'll find Ashi Garami to be an indispensable part of your journey on the mats.

Fundamentals of Ashi Garami

Ashi Garami is a critical position in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, known for offering extensive control over your opponent by entangling their leg. Understanding its fundamentals is key whether you train in a gi or no-gi.

Understanding the Position

Ashi Garami translates to "leg entanglement," describing the way your legs intertwine with an opponent's to create control. In this position, you manage one of their legs using both of yours, which can be done wearing a gi or in no-gi grappling. There are variations, but the core idea remains the same: immobilize an opponent's limb to gain a tactical advantage.

Key Principles and Control Points

To effectively control an opponent in Ashi Garami, your focus should be on a couple of key points:
  • Ankle Grip: Secure a firm grip on your opponent's same-side ankle.
  • Knee Pinching: Pinch your knees tightly to trap the opponent’s leg.

Control Points in Ashi Garami
  •  Ankle Grip - Prevent escape and set up submissions, positioning is crucial.
  •  Knee Pinching - Immobilize the opponent's leg. Engage your leg muscles to maintain hold
  •  Foot on Hips - Creates distance and leverage, maintain balance and control.
  •  Inside/Outside Positioning - Dictates the control and subsequent moves. Adjust based on opponent’s reactions
When you are in the Ashi Garami, your opponent’s mobility is significantly reduced, allowing you to explore submission opportunities. Remember that in no-gi, the lack of fabric makes control more challenging, emphasizing the need for precise technique and strong grips.

Ashi Garami Variations

Ashi Garami is a foundational position in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) that sets the stage for a multitude of leg attacks, especially leg locks. Various forms of Ashi Garami provide the leverage and control needed to enhance your leg lock game.

Outside Ashi Garami

Outside Ashi Garami involves entwining your legs around one of your opponent's legs from the outside. You create this entanglement by placing your far leg over their thigh and your other leg under their calf, clamping down to secure their leg. This variation is particularly useful for applying pressure in leg locks and extending your control over your opponent's movement.
  • Key Points:
    • Useful for initiating various heel hooks.
    • Provides robust control, hindering your opponent's ability to escape.

Inside Ashi Garami

With Inside Ashi Garami, you engage your opponent's leg by entangling it between yours from the inside. This position can be more aggressive and offers a different set of attacks, as it allows closer proximity and more direct control over your opponent’s leg.
  • Key Points:
    • Allows for a tight grip on your opponent's leg.
    • Sets the stage for transitions to more dominant positions, like the game over or honey hole.

Standard Ashi Garami

Standard Ashi Garami also known as Single Leg X is the fundamental leg entanglement position that serves as both a control point and a gateway to further leg entanglements. Your focus here is on immobilizing your opponent's leg by sandwiching it between yours, typically leading to straight ankle locks.
  • Key Points:
    • Basis for most beginners starting their journey in the leg lock game.
    • It's a position of control that can be used defensively or offensively for leg attacks.

Offensive Strategies

When you're in the Ashi Garami position, your goal is to either submit your opponent or use sweeps to transition to a more dominant position. Mastering the intricacies of both submission techniques and sweeps from Ashi Garami can significantly enhance your grappling effectiveness.

Submission Techniques

From the Ashi Garami, you have a selection of leg submissions at your disposal. To execute a heel hook, control your opponent's leg and rotate the heel inwards, applying pressure to the knee. A toe hold, on the other hand, involves gripping the opponent's foot near the toes and twisting against the ankle joint.
Here's a quick rundown of leg submissions from Ashi Garami:
  • Ankle Lock: Grab the opponent's ankle with both hands and arch your hips upwards to apply pressure.
  • Kneebar: Straighten the opponent's leg and press your hips against their knee joint, elongating their leg against the joint’s natural range of motion.

Transitions and Sweeps

Ashi Garami also opens the door to various sweeps and transitions. Use the position to off-balance your opponent and advance into a more dominant position, like the X-guard or even full mount.
Efficient transitions to consider:
  • Transition into X-guard: Elevate the opponent by lifting them with both legs and switch to X-guard to set up further sweeps or submissions.
  • Basic Ashi Garami Sweep: Use your foot on the opponent’s hip to off-balance them as you lift with the leg that's in between theirs, allowing you to topple them over and secure top position.
Leveraging these offensive strategies effectively can give you an edge in both competitions and sparring sessions.

Defensive Measures and Escapes

When engaging in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it's imperative that you have a solid grasp of defensive strategies to counter leg locks and learn effective escape mechanisms to avoid being submitted.

Countering Leg Locks

To counter leg locks, including the threatening heel hook, it’s essential to react promptly. Your first line of defense should be to prevent the full extension of your leg, which is the key to most leg lock completions. You can often defend against common leg locks by immediately creating an angle with your body to alleviate pressure on the targeted joint. When defending against a heel hook, it's crucial not only to protect your heel from being ensnared but also to rotate your leg in the direction of the attempted submission to reduce torque on your knee.

Escape Mechanisms

As for escape tactics, remember that timing is crucial. For an Ashi Garami, you might consider using the boot defense by straightening your leg and stiffening your foot. This move makes it more challenging for your opponent to bend your leg into a compromising lock. To escape from a heel hook, focus on peeling the attacking grip off your heel while simultaneously moving your hips and legs away from your opponent's control, often termed "hip escape" or "shrimping." This action can create the necessary space to withdraw your leg and move to a safer position.

Regulation and Safety

When training or competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), understanding the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) rules and ensuring safe practices are crucial for your protection and the integrity of the sport.

IBJJF Rules and Legality

The IBJJF rules stipulate clear guidelines for leg attacks such as Ashi Garami. These techniques can sometimes lead to a ban in certain divisions due to safety concerns. For instance, heel hooks and certain twisting leg locks are prohibited in gi competitions for all belts except for brown and black. It's your responsibility to stay informed about the rules, which could vary depending on your belt rank and whether you are competing in a gi or no-gi event.
Leg Locks Allowed by Belt Rank
  •  White - Straight ankle lock
  •  Blue - Straight ankle lock
  •  Purple - Straight ankle lock, kneebar
  •  Brown - All leg locks excluding heel hooks (gi)
  •  Black - All leg locks

Injury Prevention and Safe Practice

Your safety and injury prevention should be at the forefront of your practice. To minimize the risk of injury, especially to sensitive areas such as the wrist or knee, proper technique and control are imperative.
  • Always warm up thoroughly before practicing.
  • Use slow, controlled movements when applying or practicing leg entanglements.
  • Communicate with your partner and agree on the intensity and technical boundaries before sparring.
Your well-being is ultimately in your own hands; don't hesitate to tap out early to prevent unnecessary injury. Regularly practicing these safety measures will contribute to a long, rewarding BJJ journey.

Historical and Conceptual Context

Exploring the roots of Ashi Garami brings to light its significant evolution in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and the impact of influential practitioners who have advanced this leg entanglement system.

Evolution within BJJ and Grappling

The Ashi Garami, translated to "leg entanglement," has deep roots in martial arts, primarily originating from the Japanese art of Judo. Within Judo, it was recognized as one of the official 29 grappling techniques of the Kodokan, designed to attack an opponent's leg using joint locks. Over time, Ashi Garami underwent a transformation, as it was adapted and refined within the context of BJJ to facilitate more diverse leg locks and control strategies.
With the rise in popularity of grappling sports, practitioners started to infuse techniques from various disciplines, including wrestling, further expanding the utility and application of Ashi Garami in live competitions. This amalgamation of techniques led to the progression of a more holistic system where the focus extended from solely submissions to include advanced control and transition mechanisms.

Influential Practitioners and Systems

A key figures in the advancement of leg lock systems, John Danaher and Eddie Cummings, have been pivotal in modernizing Ashi Garami and related leg entanglements. He re-envisioned its application, creating a comprehensive leg lock system that is effective and intricate. His approach integrated the concept of control before submission, significantly influencing competitive BJJ and submission grappling.
Danaher's methodologies have spread widely, leading to an increase in practitioners who not only focus on Ashi Garami as a singular technique but also as an integral component of a complex system of leg attacks. This system revolutionized the leg locking game in competitive martial arts, emphasizing the necessity of sophisticated leg entanglements for achieving upper echelon performance in grappling sports.
Follow-up Chatbot Questions

Recent Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Articles