Aoki Lock (Devasating BJJ Ankle Lock Submission)

The world of BJJ leg locks is vast, and the scales can tip in both directions instantly. One interesting leg lock that can be used as a counter, even if you are caught in a bad position or when you are in a dominant one, is the Aoki lock. But what is it?

The Aoki lock is a foot lock that works similarly to an inside heel hook by turning the foot outward and the heel inward. The applied linear and rotational pressure creates immense tension both in the ankle and knee of the attacked leg.

The Aoki lock is a crafty and unfertilized submission with almost the same potential as the inside heel hook but offers better control and looks more like an ankle lock. Not to mention, it’s one of the most annoying ways to get submitted while controlling someone from the Ashi Garami.

What Is An Aoki Lock

The Aoki lock is a leg lock attacking the ankle and the knee. The Aoki lock is a distinct submission in that the attacked foot position is externally rotated, the toes are under your armpit, and the heel is on your chest or ribs. By bridging slightly and applying rotation force, you force the ankle to twist in two directions, eliciting a tap or a severe leg injury.

While the Aoki lock looks like a straight ankle lock on the surface, the mechanics of the move are quite different. The straight ankle lock is a linear submission that works by hyperextending the foot and putting pressure on the Achilles tendon.

Depending on how the lock is applied and the anatomy of both players, the pain and damage can be done to both or either.

On the other hand, the Aoki lock is not a linear submission, and it works more like an inside heel hook than a straight ankle lock. The rotation element of the Aoki lock makes the move so powerful.

Putting the ankle in an outwardly rotated position, even if one applies a linear force, such as a straight ankle lock, simultaneously transforms the move into a rotational ankle submission and a knee lock.

Depending on how much linear and rotational force is applied in the Aoki lock, damage can be done to the medial ankle ligaments (due to linear force) and the MCL and ACL in the knee when the rotational force is greater.

Aoki Lock Setups

The Aoki lock can be set as a reactive movement or an active attack. A common way to get the Aoki lock is as a counter to the opponent’s standard Ashi Garami ankle lock attempt.

While they are trying to finish you, the nature of the leg entanglement leaves their outside leg hooked on the front of your hip and ripe for the Aoki lock.

This is a simple yet extremely potent way to counter the Ashi Garami straight ankle lock and can even be finished if you are caught in a single-leg X guard/vertical ashi.

Another common setup is a reaction to straight ankle lock defense. This time, you have the opponent in the standard Ashi and threaten them with the straight ankle lock when they do the common escape of trying to rotate the foot outward and pull the leg out.

Allow some of the foot extraction and catch it so the toes are still under your armpit and the heel is resting on your ribcage.

This is a very powerful way to submit someone, but you need to be ready for the foot extraction and catch them immediately. This can also be done while the opponent tries to rotate out of your foot locks.

You can also set up the Aoki lock as a counter and an attacking move. When you have the opponent in the standard Ashi, instead of going for the straight ankle lock, upgrade the grip to the Aoki lock grip by inserting your outside foot on the inside of the opponent’s thigh and using the hook to apply pressure outwards to force their heel out.

These are not the only Aoki lock set-ups possible, but they are the most popular ones, and all three are explained further in this excellent video:

Finishing The Aoki Lock

Once you secure the initial Aoki position, the finish is relatively simple. The key is to have the foot trapped elbow-deep and the heel tightly on your chest. You can use multiple grips for the finish, with figure four being the most popular but far from the only one.

Depending on your arm length, you can cross-grab your forearms or even your shoulders if it is the best way to remove all the space. As with other leg locks, controlling the foot is not enough, and you have to address the hips and the opponent’s ability to rotate out of the submission.

You can finish the Aoki lock from the standard Ashi Garami, get your feet on their belly, or use other different butterfly hooks variations, a few of which you can also see in the video from Stephen Kesting I shared above.

Is The Aoki Lock Legal

The Aoki lock is in a somewhat gray area regarding IBJJF rules. The submission is fair game in rulesets that allow heel hooks and knee reaping, but things are not so simple under IBJJF rules.

The rules do not mention the Aoki lock, which should make it legal. Still, in general, it is considered a rotational submission damaging the knee, and as such, is banned for all levels in the gi.

The move can be deemed legal, and the referee can let it pass if the force is applied only laterally to the ankle, as has been the case in many matches. If you rotate outward during the finish, the move becomes illegal.

But for most people, and in most cases, the chances of getting disqualified for doing an Aoki lock in a competition where heel hooks are banned are high. Even if you’ve applied it like an ankle lock, the opponent can always claim it was a heel hook and still get you DQ-ed.

History Of The Aoki Lock

The Aoki lock is named after the legendary Japanese MMA fighter and grappler Shinya Aoki. Aoki did the most likely first finish with this move against Tatsuya Kawajiri at Dream 15.

A more recent high-level and exciting use of the Aoki Lock was seen at One Fight Night 15 when the student became the master. Grappling phenom Mikey Musumeci submitted the legendary Aoki with the move he invented.


Aoki locks are rare, but they are an essential part of high-level leg-locking exchanges. Even if you don’t currently do a lot of leg locks, knowing what the Aoki lock is and how it’s applied will improve your viewer’s experience of tournaments like the ADCC.

And if you do no-gi with the full leg-locking vocabulary, the Aoki lock can often help you have the final word in leg-locking shootouts.