Learn How They’re Done and Why They’re So Effective — With. Input From Former UFC Ringside Physician Dr. Joseph Estwanik!
During a match, a young grappler thinks he’s safely passing his opponent’s guard to get to a better position. Then he feels an intense pain in his bent arm — like his muscles are about to explode. He’s forced to tap out even though he doesn’t know what just happened.
The grappler learns that he was caught in a biceps slicer. Many unwary martial artists have been lured into passing their opponent’s guard only to be caught with this move. The biceps slicer belongs to the family of submission techniques known as compression locks. Also called muscle locks, muscle slicers and muscle crushers, this category is composed of devastating holds that inflict intense pain by pressing soft tissue (muscle or tendon) against bone.
In this tutorial, I will discuss three compression locks: the Achilles lock, the biceps slicer and the leg slicer. They’re taught in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, sambo and catch wrestling, but they’re considered unorthodox submission holds and, therefore, are not used often in training or competition. For that reason, the application of any of them is bound to incorporate the element of surprise, which is never a bad thing in a contest.
ACHILLES LOCK AKA: Achilles Hold, Achilles Squeeze
TECH DATA: The Achilles lock is probably the most commonly used compression lock. It induces intense pain by pressing the Achilles tendon against the lower-leg bone or ankle. In general, that happens when you sink the bony part of your forearm into your opponent’s Achilles tendon while using your foot and leg to immobilize him and boost leverage. When you use the Achilles lock, think of the trapped ankle like a miniature neck that you’re attacking with a guillotine choke.
Along with the heel hook and toehold, the Achilles lock is a staple of leg-lock specialists because of its effectiveness. That makes it a valuable addition to your arsenal.
TRIVIA NOTE: The Achilles lock is detailed in The Canon of Judo, by Kyuzo Mifune. Called ashi-hishigi in the judo world, it’s categorized as a joint lock (kansetsu waza), but it’s not part of the Kodokan Judo Institute’s curriculum.
BICEPS SLICER AKA: Biceps Lock, Biceps Crusher
TECH DATA: The biceps slicer induces instant agony by driving the biceps muscle into the humerus bone, which constitutes the upper part of the arm. Ideally, it’s applied by inserting the shin or forearm into the gap created when your opponent’s arm is folded, then pressing the sharp edge of the bone against his biceps. The trapped arm is compressed even more to up the pressure on the muscle.
The biceps slicer benefits from the element of surprise because when they’re faced with the not-yetcompleted technique, most martial artists will be preoccupied with possible hyperextension or hyperrotation of the arm and thus won’t be ready to defend against the compression lock. TRIVIA NOTE: If your opponent believes he’s perceptive enough to detect and then resist an arm hyperextension, you can bend the limb into position for a biceps slicer in a heartbeat. Conversely, if he fights against your biceps slicer, you can transition to an arm lock that goes with the flow as he resists.
LEG SLICER AKA: Calf Slicer, Thigh Crusher
TECH DATA: The leg slicer causes its incredible hurt by crushing the calf and/or thigh into the bones of the leg. Ideally, you fold your foe’s leg and insert your shin or forearm into the gap while positioning the bony edge of your limb against the muscle. Compress the bent leg a bit more and you’ll create great pressure on the leg muscles as they get squeezed between the leg bones. As with the aforementioned techniques, the leg slicer can take advantage of the element of surprise because during the lead-up, most martial artists will be concerned with avoiding hyperextension or hyper-rotation of their leg.
TRIVIA NOTE: If your opponent is sharp enough to resist what he thinks is an impending hyperextension of the leg (such as a kneebar), you can bend his leg into a leg slicer. And if he fights what he thinks will be a leg slicer, you can transition to a kneebar.
Andrew Zerling begins inside his opponent’s open guard. His left knee is raised to keep the man from closing his legs, his right arm is overhooking the left calf and his left hand is controlling the right knee (1). Zerling posts with his left arm and...
The grappler attempts an arm lock, but his opponent clasps his hands to defend against it (1). The martial artist bases out with his left hand and turns his body counterclockwise so he can swing his right leg over the man’s right wrist (2). Next, he...