Locking refers to the procedure of restricting access to certain resources like objects or files on your hard disk. Such a restriction might be necessary to guarantee validity and consistency of data in concurrent scenarios. E.g. consider two independent threads trying to write to one and the same file. The result would be undefined unless same sort of restriction on access applied.
Java already offers the powerful and flexible high-level monitor concept. Every object can be used as a monitor and an associated (invisible) lock is used to protected critical secions in your code. Java 1.5 even introduces explicite locking as an alternative. This may sound like there really is no need for additional locking classes - at least when you can use Java 1.5. If you can not it might be nice to have something like a well tested read/write lock. Such a lock allows many threads to acquire access when reading, but only a single one to write. Or a critical section that is protected by synchronized is not suffient for your needs and you want to lock a certain resource for a longer period of time. Of course you can get all this done with Object's wait and notify methods, but this really is error prone and unpleasant work.
All this can be done with the locking package of the Transaction Component. It offers multi level locks that allow you to dramatically simplify many locking scenarios. In this locking package you are not restricted to the usual lock types like e.g. an exclusive lock or a read/write lock, but you have simple, but powerful mechanisms to customize which lock types are compatible. Maybe even more important, you are decoupled from threads as the locking agents and are completely free to ascribe the lock to a process, a request or any other Java object you would like. Both the transactional maps and the transactional file system of this component make heavy use of them.
To learn more about multi level locks and how you can use them continue with the introductory tutorial. It explains how Jakarta Slide's WebDAV layer uses them to deadlock free avoid conflicts. New features introduced in 1.1 are extended transaction support and general preferences for locks. You can also find information about deadlocks and how they are handled in the Commons Transaction package.