Kneebar leg positioning

What are the pros and cons of kneebarring people with

a) your legs crossed or triangled around the leg you're kneebarring


b) One of your legs (your inside leg) BENT at the knee, the other one behind your opponent's butt and your legs NOT crossed or triangled


I'm currently only practising the second type of kneebars, but I'm wondering if I'd had more control with the other. In any case, I'm saving money to purchase Stephan Kesting's kneebar video after a few months :)



Here are my thoughts on the subject

Ankles crossed or triangled: this gives the best control of your opponent's legs with the minimum number of counters.  Whether you triangle your legs or cross your ankles depends on personal preference, body type and situation. 

For most people triangling your legs gives you the strongest 'squeeze' on your opponent's legs, but there is a 6'5" guy at our club for whom the leg triangle doesn't work - his legs are too long.  He is best off crossing his ankles and really squeezing his knees together.

I often like triangling my legs when I am attacking my opponent's top leg (i.e. we are both on our left sides and I am attacking his right leg).  When I am attacking his bottom leg (his left leg) I most often end up in the crossed ankle position.

The 'Shin In" position: Some entries pretty much require that you end up in the shin in position, but I don't think it is as strong or as stable as the 2 positions described above (unless you end up with his leg behind your armpit).  Sometimes you end up in this position and, as your opponent rolls around in an attempt to escape, you can switch to a better control position.

There is lots of information about kneebars at and I think I'm going to add this question to that thread.

What do other people think about these 2 or 3 positions.  What are your personal preferences?


Exactly 15 minutes after asking this question, the MAN himself (as far as kneebars and good grappling in general goes) posts a very good answer! :) Gotta love!

I know that some entries pretty much require you to end up in the "shin in" position, but my problem is that all the kneebar entries that I know are like that, i.e. from the guard, from the top of the guard and from the side mount :)

Thanks Stephan! I really appreciate it.

obviously, jonpall has not purchased kill bill's knee from

shame. shame.

Since we're on the subject, can anyone give me a rough description for a kneebar setup from the top of the knee-on-stomach hold down?

I assume that from this position, it would be fairly easy to avoid ending up in the "shin in" position. But which leg does it make more sense to kneebar and to which side side should you try to fall to?

Just some thoughts.


Thanks for the question jonpall - I've added it to the kneebar Q&A on my site.  I am doing a lot of article writing and web design these days, and am spending far too much time in front of the computer.

Often when you try a kneebar your opponent will roll - when he rolls he often leaves space for you to sneak your foot through his legs and cross the ankles or triangle the legs.  This may be a little harder if you are wearing shoes.

Say you have your right knee on his belly - if you spin to your right (clockwise) you can get the kneebar on either the near or far leg, depending on which leg goes where.  A lot depends on what his energy is.  I don't think that these techniques are something you can force, especially without the gi.

My favorite kneemount to kneebar entry involves spinning the other way, to my left (counter-clockwise).  Place your knee somewhat to your left of his sternum - almost certainly he will turn onto his right side and your knee will drop to the floor.  Continue this momentum and spin around to the reverse mount.  From here you can kneebar either leg or apply many other leglocks.  Check out Andrew Yao in action at

gotta run

Anyone got any tips about how to do the kneebar from the side mount or knee on stomach that minimizes your opponent's chances of standing up? Lately, my opponents have been able to counter my kneebar attempts a lot by simply standing up.

Look at that he had the leg mostly straightened out and secured BEFORE he sat off to the side. That's important. Keep all your weight on the opponent and only sit off once you're ready. A common mistake is to just grab the leg and sit off immediately without ever putting any weight on the opponent. When you sit on the opponent hard, it will knock the wind out of him a little bit and get his leg to pop up a little bit.Now, look at you should notice about this is that he falls across the body. He's attacking the right leg, but he falls to the opponent's left side. This makes it impossible for the opponent to use his left foot to push on his butt to escape.Lastly, if he manages to get to his knees or even stand up, but you still have your legs in the kneebar position, that's your cue to hit a rolling kneebar. Try to roll in place as much as you can, you don't want to try to roll him over you, you want him to stay where he is as you roll under him.edit - roll in place means you do a front roll but you don't move forward.

One thing that's very important (but hard to see) in the Paulson clip is his leg action.  He DOES NOT stand up to go for the kneebar.  A lot of people come up onto one foot when they attempt the kneebar from half guard or the kneebar from side position.  That gives way too much space and is very telegraphic.  Of course if you are already posting on that foot for some reason then it doesn't matter - I'm talking about going from your knees to your feet to the kneebar.

What he does is swing his left leg through while remaining on his right knee.  This is less difficult than it sounds.  Including this 'legwork' in my kneebar entries has made my kneebar attacks much less telegraphic.

Thanks, Stephan. I had no clue. It's interesting to note, however, that in that second link, the kneebar is done by going from side mount, to jumping up to your feet and the to the kneebar. But the sport is always evolving and people are coming up with better entries for the techniques every now and then.

Can anyone give a description of the rolling kneebar Andrew was talking about? And aren't you supposed to do a BACK roll and not a FRONT roll? Also, I assume that you have to get your head on the inside if it's not there already, right? And how to you make him fall down once you've rolled?

Just curious...

Rolling kneebars are typically done with a forward roll.  If you go to you will see a couple of forward rolling kneebar entries (one from standing and one as part of an entry from guard)

Head inside for standing, head outside for kneeling.

If you had a kneebar on the ground, and he actually got to standing on his feet, something went terribly wrong. Standing on the feet requires his legs to be straight, and if you have the kneebar partially on, he's going to try to bend his legs.

Usually he will manage to get to his knees and you can do the rolling kneebar with your head on the outside. You don't need to make him fall down. His upper body can still be in the same position as before you rolled, IF you rolled in place.

Ok, I think I know what I'm misunderstanding. When people talk about a rolling kneebar, are they always referring to a front roll? Do you never try to roll backwards? And I'm not really getting why doing a roll solves the problem when your opponent gets to his knees and bends his leg. Sorry, those questions are getting more stupid every minute. I'll check out how Michael Jen did his 2 rolling kneebars on his Lethal Leg Locks tape and try to shut up :) I'll also just try more kneebars in sparring.

Thanks for the patience.

Yes, they are always referring to a front roll. There are some moves where you make him fall backwards, like that's hardly a roll. A back roll is when you're lying flat on your back and you roll back so you end up on your knees. A front roll is when you're on your knees and you roll forward to being on your back. I don't know how back rolls have anything to do with kneebars.When you do the roll, you end up in a position where you can apply a lot of force to unbend his leg, which is hard to explain, but you know it when you do it. It should not matter if he bases his hands in front of him and doesn't fall down, that's important. I actually don't like the rolling kneebar shown in lethal leglocks, because he does it head inside. I find head inside leads to getting crossfaced and squished flat on your back before you do the roll.There's a rolling kneebar in the Fighter's Notebook that's pretty good, although he doesn't secure the leg enough with his arm before rolling.