Tag Archives: joint locks

Hey there, I hope it’s okay for me to add my perspective here. I practice a martial arts system that employs a lot of joint locks and I am very flexible. My instructors say ‘tap when you feel pressure, not pain’ for me. But I have come very close to getting injured before because I didn’t tap and it turned excruciating quickly when I reached my breaking point. So keep that in mind I guess that with feeling less pain in stuff like joint locks there can be a greater risk of injury when escaping

Thanks! I knew I forgot something.


You mentioned that joint locks are harder on double jointed people. I’m curious if being double jointed in the shoulders (as well as able to bend my elbows and knees slightly backwards) would allow me to escape some holds better?

In general, but it depends on the person performing the lock, the person in the hold, and how much they know about each other. It also depends on the locks themselves, different techniques do different things and rely on different angles to create pressure. Joint locks are, in large part, about creating leverage and putting the joint on an angle where it becomes painful for it to move. So, it follows that it’s more difficult to put someone with greater flexibility in their joints in a lock because you have to bend it further than you’re used to.

You create leverage, apply pressure, and that causes pain because the joint bends in a way it’s not meant to. And, yes, if you’re not in pain then it’s easier to escape. More so if you’re opponent doesn’t know and isn’t used to working with a training partner who is double jointed, since they’ll initiate the technique to the point they’re used to then stop. This can give the person who is double jointed (or any person who is not fully in the lock) a means to escape, since they aren’t actually trapped.

In short, yes.


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Hello! My main character (who has considerable knowledge of fighting) wants to incapacitate another guy without killing him, wounding him (considerably) or knocking him out (and she probably doesn’t have time to tie him up or drug him either), and she wants to do this with hand-to-hand combat. Is there any way in which she can do this?

It’s probably worth stressing again: there is no such thing as safe
violence. You can try to mitigate the harm done, but you can’t negate it entirely. When you’re
looking at a situation and saying you need a solution that ends without
anyone getting hurt, the only ones which can guarantee that are
non-violent. If you’re resorting to violence, it has to be with the understanding that harm is an acceptable outcome. As someone with “considerable”
combat experience, your character would know and understand that.

Note that, I said “acceptable,” not “desired.” You can get a lot of
mileage out of someone who wants to deescalate the situation, doesn’t
want to hurt their opponent, but is running out of non-violent options. The final duel in Return of the Jedi is a classic example of this playing out.

Responsible hand to hand combat is (usually) about balancing the amount of force you need to achieve your objectives, without harming your opponent(s) excessively. Unfortunately when your goal is to incapacitate, that’s going to require a lot of harm. This is also why you’ll see actual martial artists try to defuse the situation rather than resorting violence. It is the safest way to achieve their goals (of not having everything pear-shaped around them).

With that said, joint locks and submission holds come to mind. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t the solution you were hoping for, because it means you can’t just wander off, you need to stay there, physically holding your opponent in place. If your character wants to try to talk their opponent down, these do allow for the attempt, but it’s still better to start with talking, and only resort to locks when persuasion fails.

Locks work by manipulating your opponent’s body into a position it can’t escape from. Twisting the arm up behind the back is a classic example, you’ve probably seen in film and TV. This is mostly because it’s a very easy lock to fake for the camera. But, there are a lot of joint locks (particularly ones that start with the wrist) that can completely immobilize a foe from basic counters.

If you just need to hold someone in place to buy time for reinforcements or the police, then this is the ideal solution. Honestly, generally speaking, this is the best option in a self defense situation, when it’s viable.

Even then, this isn’t harmless. In a controlled environment, locks and holds can be practiced safely. But, if your opponent struggles against the more effective holds, and refuses to submit, they can seriously injure themselves. Also, if you misjudge the hold, it is possible to lose control. These are temporary solutions at best, not permanent ones.

If you need your character to stay mobile, that’s not an option. If their opponent is just an obstacle, they need to get around, then simply bolting past may be the best option.

If they need to immobilize their opponent, and stopping him is the priority, then one good option is restraints. These aren’t harmless, or foolproof, but it sets a good balance for neutralizing them without adding unnecessary force.

Zip tie restraints are pretty cheap, disposable, and allow you to “tie someone up” in a matter of seconds. Depending on the style, you can get them for less than $2 a unit, meaning even if they’re on a budget, your character can probably afford a few. They’re also fairly secure, unless you know what you’re doing, most people cannot get out of these on their own.

If you need something a little more secure, police handcuffs are going to cost, but unless you’re dealing with police, or an escape artist, getting out of these is probably not happening. Of course, they’re also a lot more expensive, so just leaving someone in cuffs is probably not happening, unless they’re very well funded.

Still, your best option is probably to try to talk it out, and, if need be, bolt. Or accept that if violence is necessary, someone’s going to get hurt.


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Is it possible for someone to break another one’s wrist with a single movement? Or is it posible for someone to break their own wrist by doing a wrong movement?

It depends on what you mean by “a single motion”, usually when the techniques are taught, they are broken down into several different stages to ensure the safety of the trainees. When they are done in live situation, then yes, they can be done in a single motion or, at least, they are done so quickly that it looks like it.

The most common joint locks/joint breaks in the U.S. are the variants that come off jiu-jutsu, these are the ones that were incorporated into CQC and are the basis for several different self-defense disciplines. The beginning one’s are fairly easy to learn and at least one or two will be taught in most self-defense classes, even ones that only last a few days.

The common rule of thumb in combat is this: it is easier to kill someone than control someone. It easier to debilitate someone, i.e. breaking their wrist, than it is to just threaten them with the pain and the potential that you might. This is part of why martial artists and other trained combatants face a higher level of scrutiny under the law. They do know how to kill and maim, so it’s important for the police to discover if they tried other means first before jumping straight to manslaughter.

Joint locks are tricky because they rely entirely on forcing the joint to move in a direction it doesn’t want to or can’t go in until the pain becomes too much. A joint lock transitions into a joint break when the joint is stressed past the breaking point and snaps. (This is why joint-lock techniques are difficult and sometime ineffective against someone who is double-jointed. The same is true of pressure points against someone with a “dead” nervous system.) It’s very easy to do with the wrist and it’s exceedingly easy to do accidentally, especially in combat when adrenaline floods the system and emotions are running high. It can also happen in training if the students are stupid or have bad oversight from their instructor. It’s ridiculously easy to have happen if the students start going too fast or one decides to be brave/tough (stupid) and refuses to tap out. If you don’t tell your partner that you’re feeling pain, they may push it too far and break the joint.

Joint breaks can lead to losing a limb, especially without proper medical attention. It’s important to remember that the joints are part of what allows your body to move, when they break or are strained, you can’t move that body part anymore. This is why joints are popular for stun locks, such as punching the shoulder. Someone cannot punch if they cannot draw their arm back. By negating someone’s ability to fight effectively, you negate part of the threat they pose.

Joint-locks and throws are always practiced with a partner.

Recommended Reading/Viewing:

Junkyard Aikido: A self-defense instructional vidoe by Michael Janich talking about how to use traditional joint locking methods on the street.

Small-Circle Jujitsu by Wally Jay. Wally Jay revolutionized American jiu-jutsu with his techniques and his instructional book is worth the read. You can see application of his methodology in the Junkyard Aikido video above.

Taiji Chin Na: The Seizing Art of Taijiquan by Doctor Yang, Jwing-Ming. Doctor Yang, Jwing-Ming has spent his life dedicated to Taiji and Shaolin, he has several instructional videos and has spent much of his time trying to revive the combat art of Taiji. He also has a book entitled Shaolin Chin Na if you’re looking for the difference between joint locks in a “soft” versus “hard” style. I like this book in particular because it spends so much of it’s time discussing how the techniques work, how the body works, and what they affect. It’s an incredibly useful read.

Martial Arts:

There are many martial styles that incorporate joint-lock/joint break techniques. You don’t need to just go with Japan. Much like wrestling and ground fighting, every culture that practices warfare develops their own methods to control and break the human body. However, outside of Japan, joint locks/joint breaks/wrestling/ground fighting tend to be components and aspects of a martial style, instead of what it’s entirely devoted to.

Japan: Aikido, Aiki-jutsu, Jiu-jutsu, Judo, Ninjutsu

China: Chin Na (Chin Na is a bit of a misnomer because it basically relates to “seizing” which is a component practiced in all Chinese martial arts as opposed to being a style of it’s own.)

Korea: Hapkido

Thailand: Muay Thai, Muay Boran,

Philippines: Eskrima


makomorimakomori said: Eskrima is Filipino.

You’re right. The sad part is I know better than that. Apparently, my brain just took a shit and died today.