Lebell's Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds 3rd ed

Gene Lebell has released the third edition of his Grappling World Encyclopedia of Finishing Holds. I call this book the grappler’s guilty pleasure because it is filled with tons of the most creatively painful holds one could ever want. It doesn’t hold even submission hold ever known, but it holds a lot and I’ve yet to find an experienced grappler that hasn’t seen something new in this book.

Anyone familiar with the Encyclopedia’s second edition with immediately notice lots of familiar features, but also plenty of changes. First, the organization is better than the previous copy, but still not perfect. In second edition there was an entire chapter of techniques Gene forgot in his gym bag and had to be added last minute – it was appropriately-named “Better Later than Never.” All these techniques are now in their appropriate home, but there are still a few organizational quirks. Second, there are a few new moves. Most chapters have at least two new holds, though the already-thin wrist lock section gets no updates. Most of the additions come at the end of chapters and are easy to identify because of their better photo quality, deletion of backgrounds and, well, an older Gokor Chivchyan doing the moves. Third, there’s even more personality added to a book that never lacked it. Lebell has added small portraits of pro and catch wrestling icons on pages where their techniques are featured. The small images of wrestlers like Karl Gotch, Lou Thesz , Ed “Strangler” Lewis and Gorgeous George add quiet of bit of charm and history to the already-funny book.

The real meat of the book is eight chapters of submission holds:
Chapter 6: Straight Arm and Shoulder Locks
Chapter 7: Bent Arm and Shoulder Locks
Chapter 8: Wrist Locks and Twists
Chapter 9: Straight Leg Locks
Chapter 10: Bent Knee, Hip and Back Locks
Chapter 11: Ankle Bends and Twists
Chapter 12: Chokes
Chapter 13: Neck Locks, Neck Cranks, Back, Stomach and Groin Pain

The holds are organized by type, and that’s the most organization that can typically be found. Any grappler who likes to frame their moves by control positions will probably have a coronary on their first read through.
Hold variations are sometimes grouped together, such as most of the figure-four knee locks being together, but that’s as organized as it gets.

The Cobra Chokes are by far the most organized. Most of variations are grouped together, and each entry has a cross-reference box with the pages for other variations.

A reader can easily find on the Cobra Chokes, plus where the hold was used in combination with a shoulder lock and when the Cobra Choke hold was used to applied a neck crank. Still, it looks like at least one page was shuffled in the printing, and a few finishing holds are sprinkled through other chapters to demonstrate other concepts, instead of keeping them in the relevant chapters.

The techniques themselves are a mix of everything from the grappling world. Imagine mixing Judo, Jujitsu, Sambo, Catch and Pro Wrestling, adding a dash of imagination and dollop of sadism and you get the picture.

Techniques range from basic holds, to flashy submissions to crazy applications that stretch credulity as much as cartilage. Some of the more exotic moves seem to stretch into “low-percentage” fantasy, but my experimentation has some them to be effective, but require a very specific set of body alignments to create the opportunity. Using a guy’s own are to put him in a knee crush isn’t impossible, you just don’t see the opportunity very often.

Each hold is demonstrated in a series of black-and-white photos with text descriptions and a few supplemental drawings. The moves are easy to follow and the descriptions detailed, even outlines what movements apply what kind of pressure in the hold. The instruction focuses on the finishing hold, which leave a few of the entries sparse on set-ups or control basics. Someone not familiar with basic leg control may be confused of several of the leg lock variations and novice grapplers will often ask “but how did they get there to start with?” It’s a small concern, considering the purpose of the book is to catalogue a large number of techniques instead of great detail on a few moves, but it makes the book of most use to experienced grapplers.

The remaining chapters contain a ton of the signature wit and personality of these editions. They cover some basic grips and holds, some limited take-down material and some control concepts. The end chapters cover a few dirty tricks and Gene’s “Grappling with a Club.” There are some interesting techniques, and a few finishing holds in the material, but the real goodies are the submissions in the middle.

The book runs $60 and can be ordered from Overall it’s a great collection of submissions and a real fun read too. You might not see the need if you already have the second edition. Of course you could always by the new edition and gift the old one to a dojo buddy.


JonnyTheHooker's picture

holy crap. i thought i was set since i had the second version. now i want this one for the catch wrestler shout-outs!