Product Review: Modern Leg Lock Formula

“Leg locks have been around a long time, but in the last few years they have become much more sophisticated, powerful, and effective.

New strategies and transitions have been developed.  The control positions have been refined. And the actual submissions themselves are now applied in a different way that requires much less strength.”

The Modern Leg lock Formula with Stephan Kesting and Rob Biernacki is a comprehensive and technically-sound video textbook that every student of the game should study.  We are provided enough substantial material to work on for years; at least it would take years for me to incorporate everything into my game correctly.

Rob Biernacki is the owner and head instructor of Island Top Team in Nanaimo, British Columbia and the mind behind If you’ve been in the BJJ community for more than six months, Stephan Kesting requires no introduction. I’m sure you have signed up for his Grapplearts newsletter and have browsed his articles and YouTube channel. If you haven’t, I highly recommend doing so.

Grapplearts offers The Modern Leg lock Formula in three different formats, DVD, online streaming and in app form on iPhone or Android. My review includes the DVD set and the iPhone app.


It is clear that Rob has an in-depth knowledge of the leg lock game and he is a very good teacher. He states that he has been training leg locks since the change of the century and when I asked him how his leg lock game has evolved, he presented it to me in six stages:

Version 1.0 of our system is what I was using prior to training with Eddie Cummings in Dec of 2015. I had been training leg locks since 2000 and my coach Charles McCarthy was known for his leg locks when I started training with him in 2004. I also trained with Ryan Hall in 2012 after extensively studying his 50/50 material, and so my game was primarily an amalgamation of those 2 influences, and I was starting to add some elements of Caio Terra’s DLR ankle lock game after training with him in 2014.

Everything changed after training with Eddie, I added what he had shown me and my effectiveness improved dramatically, that was version 2.0. Then, due to some controversy with some videos I put up on YouTube, as well as some issues I was having with a couple of positions, I was motivated to try to reverse engineer the info and try to come up with some new answers.

The first revision, which primarily focused on the bridge wedge mechanism and the splayed leg outside ashi was version 3.0. After that I went through a process of trial error with my top students and tested out and revised the information while training with Caio Terra and Yuri Simoes.

The revisions became version 4.0. Then we developed a couple of adjustments that were used by 10th planet standout Kyle Boehm to win a couple of matches at ADCC trials, and a couple of adjustments to defending and countering the outside ashi position that became version 5.0. This is the version you see in the Modern Leg Lock Formula.

Stephan and I recently filmed an update that includes some new entries (variations on what Craig Jones uses), as well as weak side 411 attacks and finishes, this is version 6.0 and will be released soon.


The Modern Leg lock Formula is approximately ten hours long and I’ve watched every second of it multiple times. I intended to publish my review months ago however as I watched, I kept rewinding because I so often recognized spots where I was getting caught or areas I wanted to develop.

While watching, I felt that many of the concepts and techniques were immediately applicable but some I wasn’t so sure of.  Over time, I have found myself using things I had seen but felt weren’t for me during rolls. One example of this is the Recovery from Smashed Outside Ashi. I just didn’t think I could use it if I was being smashed because I’m so small but it’s actually quite effective.


You can see a full list of the material covered here. As I watched, I noted the following:

  • Rob doesn’t call it invisible jiu jitsu, he calls it visible physics, however if you are dense, like I am, you will need someone like Rob to show it to you.
  • I recommend watching the Taxonomy volume right away if you are brand new to leg locks because when I first started, I felt trying to figure out the new terminology was half the battle.
  • The series is organized the way it is for a reason. Working through it from start to finish is the ideal progression for learning.
  • The series transitions logically through the entire leg lock hierarchy, meaning it begins with ashi, the lowest level of control, and progresses to the 411, which offers the highest level of control.
  • Rob explains that it is in the flow of transitions that the skill level of practitioners displays itself.
  • Instruction emphasizes the use of angles / wedging mechanics to immobilize the hip and lever controls to control the legs, all while maintaining base, posture and structure as you  simultaneously take it away from your opponent.
  • Rob recommends solidifying position and control before even thinking about submission. He stresses the importance of isolating related joints when applying a submission hold. Sloppy control and hasty submission attempts can lead to injury.
  • I have found Rob’s digging mechanics to be very effective and easily employed.
  • Rob demonstrates three different grips. He explains that he began working on heel hooks with the standard gable grip but evolved towards the reverse butterfly and butterfly grip.
  • Rob prefers to enter into leg entanglements from the bottom (defending guard, recovering from guard pass) rather than the top because in top position, he’d rather not give up a pass, side control, mount.
  • The series provides a comprehensive volume of tactics to get to whichever leg entanglement you’re aiming for from the most common positions of jiu jitsu.
  • Rob presents a number of transitions for when you are not finding success with your leg locking strategy and you chose to attack the upper body.
  • The “placeholder system” is frequently demonstrated in advancing position.
  • The defensive concepts provided have been invaluable to me. Rob demonstrates how to break grips, separate the legs, achieve base, posture and structure to either escape or counter.
  • Rob also recommends that practitioners do not try to escape a fully applied heel hook or armbar to decrease the risk of injury. The defense starts in trying to escape the position before the submission is fully applied. He recommends that athletes do not rely on pulling out as their sole method of protection for leg locks or in life.
  • Included in the Defense DVD is a segment called Secret Concepts that I found particularly useful and that blend well into my style of jiu jitsu, particularly the kidney heel.

I actually  have nineteen pages of notes that I took over the year I spent studying this instructional, however I feel you will see most of my observations for yourself.


I have a lot of Stephan Kesting’s instructional material and what I like about all of them is they follow the same format. The coach, in this case Rob Biernacki, is given the floor to share his insight and Stephan comes in with questions he feels the viewer may like to ask. Most times, these questions provide clarification and I prefer this style to one where the instructor is the only person speaking.

Rob provides very technical and anatomically detailed instruction. His teaching style is suited to beginners and more advanced students alike. Biernacki does not make assumptions about viewers; he not only demonstrates the fundamental concepts of leg locks, he also demonstrates the fundamentals of jiu jitsu, as they relate to the material being presented. For some students, this may be the first time they really understand things they have been doing for years.

Trivia: Rob actually filmed this instructional twice! He did a practice run before going to film with Kesting to make sure he got it right.

Throughout the instructional Rob recommends that students reference his previous Grapplearts instructional, The BJJ Formula, for further study. I have also watched that set and feel that it should be a prerequisite for The Modern Leg Lock Formula.


Kesting explained that he chose to present this series with Rob because he “thought Rob’s highly analytical style worked really well for conveying the complex web of positions and transitions that is at the core of the modern leg lock game.”

He said, “I think he has a really good way of taking a situation or technique and  breaking it down to the underlying principles. Plus he essentially turned a couple of my friends into leg locking machines, so I knew his approach worked.”

Rob is a very polished speaker and although he does speak at length he is on topic and his quick wit and sarcastic humor add much needed oomph to the lessons.  Rob could be the Deadpool of BJJ. I feel as though he would be really great at rap battles and impromptu speaking.


Overall, I prefer the lengthy explanations as I watched the DVD set initially but when I went back to review steps in particular techniques, I found myself skipping ahead over a lot of material, trying to find the particular instruction I needed.

The beauty of the iPhone app is that you have a very user-friendly and organized resource you can take with you on the mats for quick reference. I was able to scroll to the technique I needed, organized by category, and fast-forward to the desired point.

One thing I wish the app had is the ability to “favorite” a technique, though you are able to download particular videos. There have been a few occasions where I was looking for something that I wanted to use but forgot the name of and I couldn’t find it.

Apps are definitely the future of the BJJ instructional world. If I had the choice between two similar products and one was available in an app and the other was DVDs or streaming, I’d get the Grapplearts app, no question. 

All of the Grapplearts apps are contained in one master app, which keeps your app space nicely organized.


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Biernacki recommended a number of resources throughout his presentation. I made a note of them and have listed them for your convenience:


I assume that if you’re reading this review, you train leg locks. Sometimes it is hard to retain everything we learn in class so I look at this instructional as the textbook I use for home study. I was so impressed by the material that I traveled across the country to train with Rob at Island Top Team, four thousand kilometers away!

You can read my review of his Visiting Student Program here. I highly recommend both this instructional series, his academy and his online academy

Additionally, I have a number of Grapplearts instructional series and I frequently recommend them to other BJJ practitioners. Kesting is a master of both teaching and finding specialists to share their insight in a high-quality, comprehensive format. The Modern Leg Lock Formula is one of his best products and he remains the leader of BJJ instructional products.

Get The Modern Leg Lock formula on





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