The toe hold is a simple but effective joint lock attack on the leg. It is one of the two very frequently used ankle locks. This submission technique is often called a foot lock. In terms of how pressure is applied, it lies somewhere between a twisting lock and a straight lock. It is not as safe on the joints as the achilles lock but is still several orders of magnitude safer than the infamous heel hook.

Basic Mechanics

This ankle lock works by stretching/torquing the foot around the axis running the length of your foot. Imagine the following: You are on your knees. Your partner is lying down to your 10 o'clock, with his feet going to his 3 o'clock. With your right hand palm face down, grasp his right foot. Your little finger should be touching his little toe with your fingers curled under his foot. Your left hand comes over his shin, then back around and under, eventually grasping your right wrist. His right leg should be completely encircled by your left arm. Now, slowly curl and push down with your right hand while using the left arm and wrist area as a fulcrum. If you have done this properly, your partner will be experiencing a significant amount of pain.

Some common scenarios for applying a toe hold:

  • Following a takedown or after your opponent's guard has been broken and you have leaned back into a kneeling squat. Raise one knee so that the raised leg is directly under his knee. (At this point, you should be down on one knee, much like when your football coach tells you to "take a knee.") Slide your hand down his lower leg and grab a hold of his foot. Push down on his foot while directing his upper leg inward with the raised knee. Wrap your free hand around the leg, thread between his leg and your arm and grab a hold of your wrist. Apply a downward pressure.
  • Following a failed knee bar - your opponent has countered your attempt at a kneebar and pushed you down his leg toward his foot far enough to make levering the knee impractical. His foot should be directly in front of your face and it is a simple matter of applying the lock.
  • Following a low Tatarkin roll or a rolling sweep.

Some basic counters to the toe hold include spinning in the direction of torque, closing the distance between you and your opponent while turning your leg, and/or applying your own counter leg lock. As with all real submission holds, resistance is futile once the lock is fully set and the pressure is on. The time to counter any joint lock is before it is fully locked out, during the execution, not after.

The toe hold is often the result of or results in a mad scramble for positional advantage. This is because this technique offers no positional advantage if the technique fails and like many other leg locks, can be performed from a positional disadvantage. This is a technique that is most often performed successfully when there is a large disparity of skill between the grapplers involved. This is because this technique is inherently less secure than many other joint locks and has easy to learn, intuitive counters. A grappler generally has to have superior control and a superior fighter's intuition to execute this lock on anyone more than experienced than an intermediate level student.

The toe hold can and is often combined with a knee compression to turn it into a combination knee/ankle lock.

A modified and unrealistic version of the toe hold is what Kurt Angle uses in the WWE professional wrestling ring.