Martial arts Ezine Issue 43 Making Your Wrist Locks Work: A Training Exercise for Skeptics by Keith Pascal

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Making Your Wrist Locks Work:
A Training Exercise for Skeptics
by Keith Pascal

Are you a good martial artist? Are you proficient at striking techniques with both your hands and feet?  Do you think that wrist locks don't work either on you or for you?  Do you feel that you'd demolish anyone who'd dare try to snap a joint lock on you?
    If you answered yes to all of the above questions, then I'm willing to bet that you aren't as good as you think.  Sorry to have to burst your bubble.
    If you are still with me (you didn't just pass over this article in disgust), don't worry!  Take heart, or at least suspend your skepticism until you've read this article. I have a quick fix. This quick fix works for martial artists who have trouble using a joint lock as an effective move.

Note: Coincidentally, I offer the same remedy for the opposite person. This training application works for the mid-novice martial artist who constantly tries to force a lock, even when to do so would be extremely dangerous.

     Before we get into the actual exercise, let's talk about your wrist lock reluctance. I'll start by telling you that you aren't alone -- a  lot of martial artists out there are operating under the the same misconception that wrist locks, and even arm bars, don't work.  This is actually a good thing; in a short time you'll be able to pop a wrist lock on all of the other Doubting Thomases (and Doubting Thomasinas, too).
   So how does this misconception form? This myth develops when one's view in the martial arts is too narrow, and also when it's too broad.  The  too narrow view develops when some martial arts students of styles or systems that heavily emphasize locks have become disenchanted with their style. The students have been faithful to a single style -- they have studied the pure form, yet their wrist locks aren't effective in a real confrontation -- they keep getting hit. Not the most desirable outcome in an altercation. Why does this happen?
    This phenomenon can occur when their style is too limited, and the style itself isn't founded on realism. One of the reasons Bruce Lee developed his own system, was because of the limitations and lack of preparation for real encounters that he found in certain single styles. Disenchantment can also occur, when students quit a good style too soon. If they had the patience, they eventually would have found a system that trains for real situations. This becomes almost a "chicken and egg paradox." Did they give up too soon because they were disappointed, or did they get disappointed because they gave up too soon?
    They don't stick with the style long enough to learn how to make their wrist locks effective.  They never get a chance to learn from their instructor when to and when not to use joint locks. They never learn the proper preparation for a successful lock. Pity.
     The broader perspective people tend to practice progressive martial arts that combines styles into  broader systems. Often, they practice some variation or offshoot of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (JKD). These eclectic martial artists also sometimes have difficulties effecting joint locks. Why? Because their view isn't as broad as they might think.
    I use the term "broad" loosely, because I have encountered a slug of progressive martial artists who have pretty narrow minds.
    Recently, I attended a JKD Seminar (plus convention and banquet). A martial arts instructor asked my wife to introduce us. They had previously been discussing Wing Chun Dummies (my wife  and her father built an excellent one with myrtle wood arms)  -- within 20 seconds after shaking my hand, he blurted out that

                            "Wrist locks don't work."

     Obviously, he knew me as the author of the book on wrist locks (more information on this book at the end of this article). And obviously, he was trying to "get my goat." He even patronized me by saying that wrist locks might be the only option for someone not allowed to hit (like a police officer or a  security guard), but that he was a hitter.
     At first, I was a little annoyed, but my irritation turned to pity. Here we were in the middle of a seminar honoring Bruce Lee --- the man who popularized the notion of "emptying one's cup," so the cup will have room to  hold better and more effective knowledge. This martial arts instructor's cup was already filled. And he wasn't the only one.

Note: Actually, there is always something that the current "pop-teachers" are protesting.  One year, wrist locks don't work--so, they bad mouth Ju-Jitsu, Chin na, and Aikido. The previous year, trapping was no good, so Wing Chun--based styles came under attack. Not to worry, I have spent and continue to spend a lot of time helping people to make wrist locks work, and my instructor has spent a lot of time helping folks with their trapping techniques.
     From year to year it's the same story with a new theme. Those who can't make a technique work are obviously the first to claim that it's the technique that's at fault.  It's a great ego preserver.
     By the way, what was the conclusion to the story with the guy at the JKD Seminar? Did we fight?  Did we spar?
    Well, he and I had a "friendly discussion," which eventually turned to other topics. Later, we even talked about magic tricks. Why didn't I snap a powerful wrist lock on him and prove to him that he was wrong?  I was tempted -- for a split second, but...
   I love the code of ethics of our organization. Since both of us  were (are) recommended instructors in the organization, we knew not to bicker.  We conducted ourselves in a mature manner. And we agreed  to disagree.  Wouldn't it be great if other organizations could deemphasize their differences and share their love for martial arts....uh....umm... (sorry for the gaze through my rosey-colored glasses).

     So, for my Texas instructor from the seminar and all of you who haven't been able to snap your locks on at just the right moment, here is the exercise (drum roll please):

                      Hit at least three times first.

  That's right. Hit your opponent with at least three strikes before you attempt a lock.  Wait.  You stuck with this article and me this long.  Bear with me just a little bit longer. Sometimes it's the simple advice that's the most useful.
     Before I explain the rule in detail, I'm going to make three assumptions:

            1. You have some sort of a martial arts base. You know how and when to hit
                             and kick, and you can do so in rapid succession.

        2. You already know a few locks.       
                3. And you could do them effectively, if the conditions were "just right,"--even
                            though they don't seem to work when you really need them.

Note: If you don't have any martial arts skill (assumption #1), enroll in a good martial arts class sooner than later. And if you don't have any joint locking skill (assumptions #2 and  #3), you could start by getting my book Wrist Locks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert.
     And you should definitely continue reading the ***current publication***. It keeps you thinking about the arts. It strives to present informative articles that spark your enthusiasm. It definitely shows you an important aspect of what's out there in the martial arts.

 OK, why the three hit rule?
     Well, one of the main errors in wrist locking that I notice is the when of wrist locking. Believe it or not, some artists actually try to defend against a fast punch by going straight into a lock. They don't even slow the punch down. They try to grab at it. This is pure insanity.
     By forcing my students to hit three times first, I guarantee that they won't pull a dumb stunt like trying to grab a speed punch.
     Locking later also takes some of the heat off of the lock. My students don't think about it as much, so they don't get nervous in preparation for the "move."  Anticipation in martial arts can be a good thing, but it can also be very bad. Anticipation to the point of preoccupation doesn't fall into the "good" category. In other words, don't worry -- let the lock happen naturally.
   To do this, you need to know a lot of entry points into some good locks. You already know where I'd suggest you go to learn more.
    Another reason for the three hit rule has do to with the ease of effecting a lock. You have to admit, it's much easier to snap a tight lock on someone after you've punched the snot out of them than to try your wares on a well-rested, Herculean giant.
     I hear my skeptics almost shouting "why not just keep hitting?  Why bother to ever try a joint lock?"
     Hitting is good. But it isn't the end-all (pardon the pun). A joint lock is a control move. You use it to bring the encounter to a more efficient close. You can stop the fight, or at least pause it, until you decide to continue wailing on your attacker.
     Do you want more reasons?  Think of the standard action movie.  After the protagonist has defeated the bad guy, somehow the bad guy gets ahold of the weapon to make just one more attempt at killing the hero. A wrist lock would keep the attacker away from a weapon --remember, it's the issue of control. You control your opponent, until the police arrive.
    And speaking of police, it looks a lot better to the police, and the witnesses, when you have the situation locked down with a control, rather than to have them arrive while you're wailing on your assailant.  Hmmm, hit or lock?
    Do what you need to do. I would never  give you legal advice, since I'm not a lawyer, and also each particular situation varies greatly. Personally, I  like to hit and kick.  It's not  always practical to continue to do so.
     See, I wasn't so different from my Mr. Skeptic at the seminar.  I want to pound on them too -- then I want to wrap the encounter up in a tight, neat little package (tie 'em up with a good lock). Mr. Skeptic and I both have the same basic dessert; I just want a little icing on my cake.
     Now, go out there and start hitting first. Remember, strike at least three times.Whether you're hitting or kicking, fire them out in rapid succession. 
     Don't wait for your opponent to block. Just pick your targets and straight blast. And then bring the encounter to a quick close with a healthy wrist lock.
   Let me know how this works for you. Good locking.

Keith Pascal is the senior editor of the FREE e-zine
              Martial Arts Mastery: A Tell-All of Tips, Tactics, and Techniques                            

He is the author of  several martial arts articles, the special reports, and the critically acclaimed book: Wrist Locks: From Protecting Yourself to Becoming an Expert.

You can find out more about this book and read some special free reports on the Kerwin Benson Publishing Website at  
             (or e-mail them at

 © Copyright, 2000, Keith Pascal

Sensei J. Richard Kirkham is a 27 year martial art veteran. He is a dual certified teacher with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Physical Education with a background in Special Education, Exercise Physiology, Movement Education, and Behavioral Modification. He is presently an in home tutor, self-defense instructor, and body guard. Mr. Kirkham is presently teaching in Honolulu Hawaii. He can be reached at 808-528-5775 Ext. 5. He has one challenge which has yet to fail him, he can increase anyone's striking power 50% to 100% in one lesson. For those who cannot see him in person, he offers the same service with others on affordable custom video tapes. Sensei Kirkham has the unique service of offering in home classes so that people may learn self-defense in the privacy of their home without worrying about travel after a hard days work.

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Martial arts Ezine Issue 43 Making Your Wrist Locks Work:A Training Exercise for Skeptics by Keith Pascal

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