Estima Lock

Not quite a straight ankle lock, not quite a toe hold, the Estima lock is an interesting foot lock in the world of grappling. Once legal at white belt, the foot lock has now been classified as a twisting foot lock, so it is only legal at brown and black belt levels.

But in a world of Ashi Garami’s, heel hooks and other wonderful breaking mechanics, does the Estima lock still have a place in the modern BJJ game? Let’s find out.

What is an Estima Lock?

Invented by Victor Estima, a Gracie Barra black belt and brother of ADCC Half of Famer Braulio Estima, the Estima lock is an unusual foot lock where the breaking mechanics are applied through pressure from the torso, which if applied correctly can cause devastating effects.

Unlike a straight ankle lock, the Estima starts off with a rear naked choke grip that is tight to your torso. Similar to a toe hold, you are attacking the internal rotation of the foot instead of the external rotation. Using a crunching force, you can crunch into your opponent’s foot and bend it similar to a toe hold.

These days the Estima lock is considered to be a low percentage move, however, it is a great opportunistic move to create openings in your opponent’s defence so you can move onto the offensive. It is particularly effective against inverting opponents and plays that like to use Reverse De-la Riva.

How was the Estima Lock Invented

The Estima lock was invented during preparations for Braulio Estima’s 2009 ADCC tournament. At the time Braulio was building a game around inversions and Reverse De La Riva.

While looking at options of shutting down these offensive positions, Victor stumbled upon a footlock that would now be known as the Estima Lock. The very year Braulio would go on to submit Rafael Lovato Jr with the very move in the under ADCC 88kg semi-final. Braulio would also heavily rely on the submission through his 2011 IBJJF NoGi Worlds win.

The Estima lock name was given to the submission in honour of Braulio’s brother Victor who developed the move, although it’s competitive success can be attributed to Braulio.

How to Apply the Estima Lock

While there are a variety of configurations, let’s start with the original configuration that was developed by Victor Estima

As discussed before, the Estima Lock is best caught from a standing position. Whenever an opponent places their foot on your hip, with the toes pointing inwards, it’s an ideal time to catch this submission. From a combat-base positition, trap their foot with in the crook of your hip and secure it with a rear naked grip. This is normally caught when an opponent is playing reverse De La Riva, or looking to invert underneath.

As soon as your opponent’s foot is in place, use your arms to establish a rear naked choke grip just above the ankle, towards the foot. The arm near your opponent’s heel goes in first (the “choke arm” of the RNC hold), with the other arm serving as a support arm. This effectively traps your opponent’s foot.

Your goal is to get the side of his foot on your stomach. In fact, this is a crucial part of the setup. You can even pull your belly inward when setting up the submission to ensure a tighter, more painful finish.

For the finish itself, you need to rotate your torso toward your opponent’s hips, squeezing your arms. Extending your belly at this point speeds up the submission and barely gives the person below time to tap out.

While setting up the Estima Lock against open guards remains the best entry, Victor has designed an entire system around the submission, even uncovering entries from below as well.

Estima Lock Defence

There is a point of no return with the Estima Lock and you have to be painfully aware of it, or you will end up in pain. A lot of pain.

The moment someone establishes the four-way hold and they have your foot locked on your belly, you are at the point of no return. If he starts to turn, tap out, and do it quickly.

Your only hope of beating the Estima Lock is at the beginning, when your opponent has not yet begun to apply pressure to the ankle. To ensure that you have enough time to escape, you need to make sure that your foot is not yet on his stomach, but rather on his hip. By the time you see him reach the handles, you need to invert and turn under him.

What you accomplish by inverting and turning is to remove the side of the foot from the belly, thus killing the Estima Lock before it happens. While this is the best defensive option, you should be aware that if you are late and attempt this maneuver, you may break your ankle.

Is the Estima Lock legal in Competition?

The Estima Lock is no longer a new movement and is now classified, based on its mechanics, as a toe hold. The Estima Lock IBJJF rules state that while the lock was considered a straight footlock in the beginning, it is mechanically similar to a toe hold so is only legal from Brown and Black belt.

If there was ever a reason for a move to be available only to experienced grapplers, it is the Estima Lock. There have been many cases, some of which I have personally witnessed, of devastating injuries due to the quick and brutal nature of this submission, especially among white and blue belts a decade ago.

Even today, the Estima Lock can surprise experienced grapplers and cause bad breaks. BJJ’s most famous Uke, Placido Santos, was recently a victim of this famous leg lock himself.


So, should you have the Estima Lock in your arsenal? Absolutely yes! It’s a very effective submission hold that can guarantee you victory if you spend a little time perfecting the mechanics.

The submission often comes as a gift from an unsuspecting opponent, making your life much easier. Be careful, however, both when applying the key and when trying to get out of it, as it goes off very quickly and can cause serious injury to unsuspecting victims.