Well, despite someone’s best intentions fighting pretty much always means that someone is going to get hurt, even in Martial Arts like Aikido that are supposed to specialize in ending a fight by simply defeating an opponent but leaving them uninjured. The idea is basically that if you prove yourself to be an insurmountable obstacle that they’ll give up and go away. This philosophy is very rooted in Shinto and it pretty much only works in Japan (if it works at all). For an example, you see this philosophy at play a lot in Japanese Anime with villains or anti-heroes who change sides after they are defeated by the hero.
In real life people usually aren’t that amenable. They don’t just give up and go away. A character just saying they are better, knowing they are, and showing they are isn’t necessarily going to be enough. The other character may assume that because they didn’t feel pain this time, that the character cannot cause pain. They’ll come back and try again, even in a losing proposition. They need an incentive to stop, something more than just “I’m better than you” and pain can be a very nice incentive.
So, holds. A hold means holding your opponent, so all holds have several different stages that a character can upgrade to if the person they are holding is misbehaving. There are loads and loads and loads of holds a character can use that don’t involve injuring their opponent and almost all of them can be upgraded into a broken bone, limb, or genuine choke. It’s a dual usage technique.
A character will always operate on the basis of what they know how to do, the point where they stop is ultimately up to them. Two different characters with two different outlooks can use the exact same technique to achieve very different results. Focus on what the technique could do and whether or not a character takes it there, not whether or not the technique is appropriate to the situation. Your character only has enough time to learn so many things, what they do understand how to do is the basis of how they fight. Always remember that what they want to do and what they can actually do are two different things. Also, what they want is not always up to them, a fight involves at least two people. Another character may force the first character to hurt them, simply because they won’t stop. Situations aren’t always amenable to our desires, even when we do everything right.
There’s one more thing to consider: after they have them in the hold, what do they do next? No, really, this is an important question. They can’t escape from the situation carrying the bad guy with them. The bad guy will probably still be fighting back and may not have realized yet that they’ve been subdued, or they may be playing for time until their buddies show up. Either way, your character is still going to have to call someone like the cops. This means (if it’s a two handed hold like a headlock), they’ll have to transfer the person their holding into a single hand hold, which gives the person the opportunity to escape. They’ll have to make the 911 call and talk to the dispatcher, they’ll be distracted, again giving their opponent the opportunity to escape. Today in the US it can take the police 15 to 20 minutes to show up, if they show up at all. This is a very long time to be holding onto someone, especially if you consider that the average fight only lasts about 30 seconds. The character’s legs and arms will begin to cramp, their muscles will start to protest, their hands will be slippery from the sweat, they may lose their grip. Again, giving their opponent the opportunity to come back around at them. This time, their opponent will be much fresher than they are because (assuming their opponent still has their wrist, arm, or leg intact) they’ve actually expended less energy over the long run trying to break free of the hold than the character has expended to keep them there. Ironic, isn’t it?
Finally, the discussion of escapes. To talk about escapes from holds, we’d have to discuss technique, theory, and practical application. We don’t really have time for that in a question format. But for the moment: the easiest answer to escapes is take the path of least resistance. In a wrist grab, roll the wrist against the thumb and yank, instead of pulling against the fingers. To escape from a two handed choke: drop your chin, bring the hands up between the opponent’s two hands (inside the wrists) and push outwards. In the bear hug, drop your weight. If someone has trapped you against the wall with two hands on either side of you: duck under one arm and leave.
This is the path of least resistance. For more information on holds (before we do an article ourselves), check out the Junkyard Aikido video under our Michael Janich or Michael D Janich tag. He goes over a lot of the different principles for holds and that might help get you thinking.