Wrist locks

What do you guys think of wrist locks?

I practiced Aikido for a while a long time ago (ikkyu) and I noticed the guys seem to be very good at them because they do them all the time... however since the uke plays a non-resisting role, it's difficult to perfect for real sparring application.

Do you think the application of wrist locks would evolve to a practical technique over time, if they were allowed in competition?

In BJJ we're not allowed to do heel hooks, due to the greater danger to the knee. However, since shooto guys practice heel hooks all the time, they are much much better at them.

I was wondering if wrist locks have become impractical to implement, just because we don't practice them enough...

In any case, it's always fun goofing with my sparring friends when I take them down with a simple kotegaeshi-to-side-mount.


You should practice wrist locks if only for the concept of it. But you'll never get them to work into an adrenal-stress response situation. It's too difficult to actually grab/control that little group of bones/muscles. That's why arm bars, etc are so much more widely used.

When I pull them off, it's usually in a light hearted manner during sparring with friends, I usually catch them totally off guard as them reach for my lapel or sleeve.

Wrist locks are used all the time in BJJ. Most notably in juji posistion, but there are many ways to use them..Keylocks are another area where wristlocks are still practical, and used by top level players...

For example, World BJJ champ Fabricio Werdun attacked wristlocks alot when I rolled with him.

They are great for setting your opponent up as well..They give a distinct reaction to each wristlock..I use em from my guard alot to set up juji and sangaku jime..

For non-competition, I was taught to use a wrist compression lock when someone was pulling their arm in from an armbar to make them straighten it back out again.
I made the mistake of doing in class one day out of habit. "So, it's like that, huh?", the BB said, and proceded to do bad things to my wrist for a while.

Actually there is a veriation of kotegaeshi (wrist turn) that works well in fast paced situation. Instead of doing a big circling motion to try and throw with a turned wrist you can simply thrust his wrist back towards him as you step to his side. It is not as fancy but result in putting them on the ground, I have used this effectively in randori situation where there was no cooperation. The key to this is getting the movement backwards when they are retracting their punch. This may look like trying to catch a punch in mid air to some people but you are not, you are guiding his wrist backwards as he is finished retracting his punch.

There's a gross motor variant of the kote gaeshi I've seen that's favoured by this Quebec provincial copper I ran into at a seminar back in the day. You trap the wrist with one hand like a stick, and press the top of the hand with the other hand. No fumbling around with the fleshy bit of the hand, you could do it drunk. But - you are tying up 2 hands on one, so you need to be beside the go to avoid getting clocked. This guy with Thalidomide poisoning at the same seminar came up with a variant where he trapped the wrist with the crook of his elbow and pressed his forearm on the top of the hand (he had no hands because of the poisoning).

I have been teaching police officers wrist locks and all the variations for the last 9 years. They are great for passive resistors and drunks. They are useless during a full knock down drag out, particularly pain compliance locks due to the fact that most people are greasy and sweaty during a fight and when under the influence of susbstances, don't feel pain. Typically, if one doesn't practice the techniques eneough, they will only serve to piss someone off enough to wriggle out and fight back or try to escape.

Just My Humble Opine

I don't know how legal it is or anything, but I have seen some grip fighting techs that involve related knowledge of the wrist, where you force the guy to let go, or weaken his grip. Certainly not a finisher.

poobear - what do you mean by "trap the wrist like a stick"?

Hold up your left forearm in front of you. Imagine it is a stick... no, better yet, a beer. Drink the beer with your right hand. Maybe "hammer" would be better. I should also credit my old JJJ sensei too, because he also mentioned it as a variation, but he never got into the tactical implications like gross motor function, etc. like the copper (probably because the copper, as a professional, needed to know).

In the case of the Thalidomide dude, he would hug the beer.

I must really be fucking slow but I'm even more confused about the wrist lock than I was before.

I've used a few wrist locks on a guys who were resisting my juji. The hands are clinched hand-to-hand or wrist-to-wrist and you basically grab the juji arm and apply a wrist lock. this will cause a major reaction and you will get them to release = juji = tapout.

The other one is something that's kinda similar to the aikido wrist-trap to a lapel grip. It's not a lock but a trap. I think Mike Swain shows this in one of his videos. I've used it when attempting osoto, yama, sode, and I'm sure that it can be applied to any number of throws where your opponent grabs your strong-side lapel. For example, right on left , he grabs your right lapel with his left hand and has the inside grip. You grab his left lapel with your right hand. pull him into you and trap his left hand with your right wrist/hand accross his. If you do this hard enough, it's quite uncomfortable.

I think you can do wrist stuff more during newaza. It's smoother, easier to transition, and you don't have to worry about breaking the guy's arm if he falls down.


A lot of grip fighting involves attacking the wrist, but not using a wristlock. Many grip breaks put pressure on the wrist, the thing is the guy can let go and relieve the pressure (usually).

Ben R.

"I must really be fucking slow but I'm even more confused about the wrist lock than I was before."

That's okay. Let's try again...

Grab the forearm with your thumb towards his hand, the pinky facing his elbow. The closer to the base of the wrist, the better (you can slide into place). Now take the palm of your other hand, and place it on the back of the hand whose wrist you're holding. Compress the hand to the forearm (with some torque - you know, like a kote-gaeshi). This is theoretically easier than grabbing the palm directly - the forearm is easier to grab, and pressing the back of the hand is easier than grabbing the fleshy part of the palm.

So for example, say he reaches with his right hand and you are facing him. Grab his right forearm just below the wrist with your left hand, and place your right palm on the back of his hack of his left hand, and crank down and to your left ( there's more to it than just that - you use your whole body for more power, you use footwork to avoid getting hit - but this is hard to explain over a forum). Try not to get hit by circling away from his left side. Or you could switch hands, it would still work, although the motion no your part is different.

While this method isn't bad from a mechanics pov, the one problem I have with it is that it involves tying up 2 hands on one, which is always a risk if striking is involved.

There is a 1-handed method which I favour more for sparring, but you need to practice a bit so you can recognize the feel of the hand without looking, so you can slide into the grip. An easy way to practice on yourself:

1 Put your left hand in front of your face, palm facing you.

2 Slide the palm of your right hand along the back of your left forearm until you feel the thumb. Grip the thumb at the base. Using the grip on the thumb as the fulcrum, compress the left wrist with the heel of your right hand. All or most wrist locks can be escaped if the other guy is sensitive enough to feel it before they go on. So you have to be very subtle getting the grip - a light touch is needed so he doesn't notice what you're up to. This works best using your right on his left an vice versa.

In sparring, I'd say I have maybe a 10-20% 'success' ratio with kote-gaeshi, success meaning the guy went to the ground.

But they can be used to set up other stuff, and as Ben mentioned, break grips.

I would really hesitate attempting a wrist lock against a much stronger guy, expecially if strikes were "allowed", like in mma or on the street. You have next to no control and next to no leverage.