Grapplers Graveyard

Your Guide to Heel Hooks

heel hooks in bjj

Heel hooks are one of the most powerful and talked-about moves in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). They can end matches quickly and are known to be very effective but risky (mainly for your opponent’s health). It has been a relatively new meta to start playing more leg games in the world of jiu-jitsu, and you find yourself wanting to compete at the highest levels (ADCC, CJI, or IBJJF) learning how to play leg games is going to be crucial for your development. This guide will cover the history, techniques, uses, and safety tips for heel hooks. Whether you’re new to BJJ or have been practicing for years, this article will help you understand and master this powerful move.

Understanding Heel Hooks in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

What is a Heel Hook?

A heel hook is a move that targets the ankle and knee joints. By twisting the foot using the heel, you can put a lot of pressure on the ankle and knee. This move can make your opponent give up or help you control them better.

History of Heel Hooks in BJJ

Heel hooks have a long history in grappling. They were once seen as very risky and were often banned in many competitions. But now, they are allowed in some No-Gi competitions for advanced belts, showing that they are becoming more accepted.

Types of Heel Hooks

There are two main types of heel hooks: the outside heel hook and the inside (inverted) heel hook. The type you use depends on how you have trapped your opponent’s leg. Both types involve using your arms and legs to control your opponent’s leg.

The Mechanics of a Heel Hook

Heel hooks work by creating a twisting force on the knee joint. When done right, the opponent’s leg is trapped, and the heel is exposed, allowing you to apply the move. The inside heel hook is usually more damaging because of the way it twists the knee.

Adding Heel Hooks to Your Game

Why Learn Heel Hooks?

Heel hooks are a great move to add to your skills. They are very effective and can help you control and beat your opponents. Knowing heel hooks can also make you better at other leg locks and make you a more complete fighter.

When to Use Heel Hooks

Heel hooks can be used in many situations, like during scrambles, from guard positions, and as counters to other leg attacks. They are especially useful in No-Gi grappling, where there are no grips to hold onto.

Setting Up Heel Hooks

To set up a heel hook, you need to trap your opponent’s leg properly. Common setups include the Ashi Garami, 50/50 guard, and the saddle position. Each of these positions gives you different ways to control and attack the leg.

Executing the Heel Hook

To do a heel hook, trap your opponent’s leg with your legs and arms. Twist the heel while keeping control of the knee joint. It’s important to do this move slowly and carefully to avoid hurting your opponent.

Safety Measures and Ethical Considerations

The Risks of Heel Hooks

Heel hooks can cause serious injuries, especially to the knee. A small mistake can lead to big damage, so it’s important to be very careful with this move.

Training Heel Hooks Safely

When practicing heel hooks, always talk to your training partner. Apply the move slowly and give your partner time to tap out. Focus on control and precision, not strength.

Ethical Considerations in Competition

In competitions, use heel hooks with respect for your opponent’s safety. The goal is to win, but not to hurt anyone. Always follow the rules of your competition regarding heel hooks.

Advanced Techniques and Variations

Inside Heel Hook

The inside heel hook, also called the inverted heel hook, is more dangerous because of the way it twists the knee. This move is often used from positions like the saddle or inside Ashi Garami.

Outside Heel Hook

The outside heel hook is less damaging but still very effective. It can be done from positions like the 50/50 guard and outside Ashi Garami.

Transitioning Between Heel Hooks

Advanced fighters often switch between inside and outside heel hooks to keep their opponents guessing. Learning these transitions can make your leg lock game more unpredictable.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Poor Leg Control

A common mistake is not controlling the opponent’s leg well. Without good control, your opponent can escape or counter your move.

Relying on Strength Over Technique

Heel hooks need precision and control, not brute strength. Using too much strength can lead to bad technique and increase the risk of injury.

Ignoring Defense

Knowing how to defend against heel hooks is just as important as knowing how to do them. Learn common defenses and counters to improve your overall game.


How dangerous are heel hooks?

Heel hooks are very dangerous because they can cause serious knee injuries. Proper training and control are key to minimizing risks.

Can beginners learn heel hooks?

Beginners can learn the basics of heel hooks, but it’s usually better to focus on other moves first. Heel hooks should be practiced with an experienced instructor.

Are heel hooks allowed in all competitions?

Heel hooks are not allowed in all competitions. Many organizations have specific rules about their use. Always check the rules before trying heel hooks in a competition.

What are the best positions for setting up heel hooks?

Common positions for setting up heel hooks include the Ashi Garami, 50/50 guard, and the saddle position. Each offers different ways to control and attack the leg.

How can I improve my heel hook technique?

Improving your heel hook technique takes practice, control, and a good understanding of leg entanglements. Practice with a knowledgeable partner and get tips from experienced instructors.

What should I do if I get caught in a heel hook?

If you get caught in a heel hook, tap out immediately to avoid injury. Knowing common defenses and counters can also help you escape or prevent the move. If you are experienced and know how to defend against a heel hook then defend but if it is deep enough it is not worth the hospital visit.


Heel hooks are a powerful and effective move in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. By understanding how they work, practicing safely, and respecting their risks, you can add this valuable tool to your skills. Whether you’re new to BJJ or an advanced fighter, mastering heel hooks can make you a stronger competitor.


  1. BJJ Fanatics – The Complete Guide to Heel Hooks

  2. Grapplearts – How to Do Heel Hooks Safely

  3. Jiu-Jitsu Times – The Evolution of Heel Hooks in BJJ

  4. BJJ Eastern Europe – Heel Hooks: The Most Dangerous Submission in BJJ?

  5. Reddit – Heel Hook Safety and Techniques

  6. Wikipedia – Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu