The toehold in BJJ


Toeholds are one of the most popular leg lock submissions in BJJ. This attack involves holding the ankle of your opponent by using the kimura grip for controlling the foot, by toe gripping. Toe hold causes an intense strain on the joints & it’s highly effective when it comes to submission. In modern Jiu-Jitsu, foot locks, toe holds are used generally all the time, especially in higher competitions. It has become a widespread technique that is being taught at the blue belt level & above.

However, toeholds aren’t encouraged a lot in jiu-jitsu academies. Mainly for three primary reasons. The first one is that toeholds are not as high a percentage compared to other submissions. Secondly, they are not allowed in competitions up to brown & black belt. And thirdly, they are dangerous. Toe Holds can cause some serious injuries; first & foremost in your opponent’s foot, its sensitive ligaments, and the ankle. All these points are valid but they are not enough for you to skip them completely!

Toe holds can effectively be used to your advantage. It’s okay if they aren’t in a high percentage compared to other submissions. But that shouldn’t stop you from practicing it. Whenever you find an opportunity to apply for a Toehold, aim for it. It will be tricky because the training partners & opponents are not too used to defending it, so you will get higher opportunities for finishing it.

And you shouldn’t care much if they aren’t allowed until a certain belt competition? Jiu-Jitsu is a complete martial art, & you must not limit yourself to the submissions that are allowed in the competition. Rather, explore the world of Jiu-Jitsu & learn much of the techniques involved in it. Lastly, just because you consider a submission dangerous, it should not deter you from drilling & using it while you are rolling. Every submission is dangerous. The toe hold is much more like a kimura arm lock. You can responsibly try Toeholds while making sure that the training partner understands the danger of toeholds. Get premium quality BJJ Gi from here.

Basics of the Toe Hold

Toe hold is a submission that puts strain on key ligaments & joints in your opponent’s lower leg. It is similar to how you perform Kimura lock. While performing it you get to grab your opponent’s foot by using a hand, after that slide the other hand under your opponent’s shin & grab the other arm by using your wrist. This is what toehold submission looks like & once you are in this position all you are required is twisting the opponent’s foot.

Why is Toe Hold a dangerous move?

Yes, that’s true. To hold is a dangerous move. Ligaments & joints in the foot are already vulnerable to twisting forces so it can damage them easily during the process. There are a lot of instances when people come out with damaged ligaments & as a result of this hold. Moreover, the knee joint also becomes vulnerable during movement especially if you twist your opponent’s foot far out of the axis. Most of the BJJ coaches who support & encourage this move will tell you to get the position without twisting. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to do the twisting if you get to execute it during the competition. However, doing it comes with a higher risk of injuries. It will be totally up to him when he chooses to tap. It gives you total control over defending and escaping moments. You must warn your sparring partner to be careful if you choose to practice it during your training session. 

Also, you must keep your ego under check while you are executing this hold. You must tap out if you see your opponent putting in the right place. As we have said earlier it’s a dangerous move. It can cripple the opponent if performed correctly. It’s a highly effective and powerful move. You must be careful while you apply it.

Executing the Toe Hold

The easiest way of executing this hold is performing it by the top knee-shield position. In case the knee shield of your opponent is stable & you are unable to pass it – then you must turn to a side & grab the foot by using one hand & placing the Kimura lock with it. Finishing the move will be way much easier for you. Another thing that you will get to see in this position is that the opponent must respond to it by pulling the leg away so the toe hold won’t be finished. But it means that the opponent will do away with the knee shield & will give the room for entering half-guard. There’re a lot of positions by which you can apply the toehold.

How to defend a Toe Hold

Now if you are in the position where your opponent applies the toe hold on you – then you are in danger. The main reason behind this is that you won’t be able to generate adequate force for blocking and twisting the foot. Your opponent will rely on the use of both arms for twisting the foot & your foot can never be strong enough to counter the hold. So that leaves you with just an option of taping out on time.

If you wish not to get caught with this hold – you must develop full awareness regarding your feet. Your opponent sensing your attention indulged elsewhere – might get too late for you. Having the awareness that the opponent will grab your toe at any point will make you react speedily and prevent you from this danger at all.

Take Away

Toehold is way nastier than leg lock. It’s so tight and powerful that it can wreck your opponent’s ankle. However, it’s not used that frequently in competitions. It takes a lot of pressure and makes you tap out quickly. It is one of the submissions that has been there since the start of grappling. Also, you must keep your ego under check while you are executing this hold.


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