A famous adage goes: it is better to have the skill and not need it than to need the skill and not have it. With the current meta of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, there is no question that grapplers need to learn how to defend or, even better, attack with leg locks.
Leg locks dominate the grappling scene and will continue to do so until grapplers know how to neutralise them effectively. And in order to defend against a position, we must first understand how the position works from both the offensive and defensive perspectives. This article will discuss the Inside Sankaku/411 position in BJJ.
A Position Of Many Names
If you have been training Jiu-Jitsu for some time, you have probably heard the saying, “position before submission.” To have a better chance of submitting an opponent, you should first dominate them positionally, thus, isolating a part of their body. The original members of the “Danaher Death Squad”, namely Eddie Cummings, Gordon Ryan, and Garry Tonon, led by their head coach John Danaher, dominated the grappling scene using a hierarchy of leg positions. This new wave of Jiu-Jitsu sent shockwaves around the community and forced everyone to deeply assess how they do leg locks.
The 411, also known as the saddle, honey hole, cross ashi garami, and inside sankaku, is the most powerful leg lock position in grappling. This position is powerful because it allows you to control both of your opponents’ legs (one of the most vital parts of their body), allowing you to attack with leg locks while denying them the ability to strike back. Securing the position means you can constantly attack their legs with nasty leg submissions, most notably the heel hook. Getting in the 411 gives easy access to the heel for a heel hook finish. Alternatively, you can attack them using techniques like the toe hold and kneebar.
While it allows you to threaten many leg submissions, holding on to the position can sometimes be tricky as it applies pressure to the legs. Controlling the opponent’s hip area prevents them from continuously turning or running away, thus making it easier for you to finish them with a leg submission. Another reason that makes the 411 effective is that you can get into it from different positions, be it standing defending from a takedown, standing guard pass, rolling (Imanari roll), or open guard. There are countless ways to get into the inside sankaku position, and with enough drilling, you will find an entry that works best for your game.
How To Perform The Inside Sankaku/411
A great way to learn a move is to study grapplers who are masters of the technique. Many grapplers of today use this leg configuration, so it is best to study more than one athlete. To start, let’s see how Gordon Ryan, the greatest No-Gi grappler of all time, employs the 411 position.
Gordon Ryan uses the 411 position to sweep his opponents, pass the guard, and threaten back takes. In this example, he used the opponent’s right leg to apply the sankaku. In the 411 position, you move in from the outside of the opponent’s right leg, putting it on the outside of your hip. Bring your left leg over, triangling the opponent’s right leg as you collect their far (left) leg.
Collecting the far leg is critical as it denies the opponent’s ability to post and have a sturdy base. Aim to have your left knee pointing towards the ground, opening up your leg while clamping your calf down and pinning it across the opponent’s hip. You want to avoid pointing your knee upwards as it will make it easier for the opponent to turn, drive away, and get up. These are red flags because they allow the opponent to reach for your head.
Use your left knee as a frame on the opponent’s hip so that if they try to reach your head, it will block them down, pushing towards their ribs and chest. This position allows you to control the opponent’s right knee but will not give you enough control over their right toe (end of the lever). Note that you can still underhook their right ankle to attack with a knee bar, and as soon as they defend, you can return to the 411.
While controlling the opponent’s left leg with your right arm, aim to turn on your left side so that it puts you on the same side of the hip of the leg that you are controlling (the opponent’s right leg). In this position, your opponent will most likely withdraw their right leg to do a technical standup. Even if the opponent posts their left leg on the mat to base and tries to remove their right leg, it will be difficult for them. However, if you don’t control their far leg (left leg), and the opponent turns towards it, they can plant their right leg to base and pull away at the same time.
Your right leg should be hooking their left leg (hamstring area), and bring your right knee down across the top of the opponent’s right leg, creating a tight wedge behind their right knee. You can cross your feet or triangle your legs to keep control. Grab the opponent’s left leg with your right arm, bringing it on top of their right leg. You can control the leg in many ways, such as putting it above your shoulder or using an ankle lock grip, though any leg submission on the top leg will be difficult. It is essential to have control at the end of the lever (the opponent’s left foot) as it will prevent them from generating base on the mat.
Aim to continue controlling the opponent’s strong side (right side). If you want to turn to their weak side (left side), hold the opponent’s left leg as much as possible so they can withdraw it and escape. Remember that in the 411 position, always aim to control the opponent’s hip, knee, and the end of the lever (foot).
While the inside sankaku/411 is proven to be an effective leg-controlling position, please be mindful when practicing it, as you can potentially injure your training partner’s knee. Studying different leg lock positions to evolve your game is ideal and is honestly a requirement in today’s grappling landscape.
Remember that leg locks are not the end goal here. You can also use the 411 and other leg configurations to transition to other attacks, such as passing the opponent’s guard or taking their back to secure an upper-body submission.
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