Te Kubi refers to the wrist. So Te Kubi Kansetsu Waza covers locks involving the wrist joint. The number and variety of possible wrist locks is quite extraordinary, but these locks are all based on a very small number of possible wrist movements. The wrist naturally moves in only a limited number of ways. These are specifically:
- The wrist can bend forward (Flexion). If the arm is held straight forward at shoulder level then the fingers would move down as the wrist bends forward. The range of this motion for Flexion movement is typically between 0° and 80°.
- The wrist can bend backward (Extension). If the arm is held straight forward at shoulder level then the fingers move up as the wrist bends backward. The wrist can normally bend in Extension over a range of from 0° to 70°.
- The wrist can rotate. If you extend your arm forward as though striking with a Nukite Tsuki, then the wrist can subsequently rotate so the palm will face upward or can rotate so the palm will face downward. The first movement is called Supination and the second is referred to as Pronation. You could, depending on your orientation and perspective, describe these as clockwise and counterclockwise rotations. The latter terms might work in many situations, but they are relative terms. To be specific about the movement you will want to use the terms Supination and Pronation. There are some practical differences in the way these movements can be accomplished.
- The wrist can twist with a stationary thumb. The wrist twists but the thumb is held in a relatively stationary position. There will, in truth, be some movement of the thumb. This movement can most accurately be described as the thumb moves around a very small circumference while the pinky finger (digitus minimus) rotates over a much larger circumference.
- The wrist can twist with a stationary pinky finger. The wrist essentially turns around a relatively stationary pinky finger position. The wrist twists but the pinky finger scribes a much smaller circular movement than the thumb.
- The wrist can twist so that the pinky and thumb both move about a relatively stationery palm. It is as if the fingers and thumb are moving along the surface of a ball.
- Side to side. The wrist can typically move about 20° toward the thumb (Radial deviation) or 30° toward the pinky finger (Ulna deviation). The image at the top of this article depicts Ulna deviation.
When performing wrist locks we will take advantage of, or perhaps constrain, one or more of these movements. When we do this the wrist is twisted into a position that is quite uncomfortable or painful. This naturally then causes the forearm, elbow, and shoulder to move in awkward ways. This, following the basic Indirect Movement concept, will cause the knees, hips, ankles, head, and other parts of the opponent’s anatomy to move to a disadvantageous posture as well. A good wrist lock affects much more than just the wrist.
Keep in mind that the wrist and the ankle are somewhat similar joints. Much of what you learn about wrist locks might also be applied to the ankle. Work with a partner to discover how various wrist locks might be employed against an opponent that is prone, in various orientations, on the floor.
Consider that you can apply pressure against a hand, and therefore the wrist, by using your gasping hand(s), the palm of an open hand, back of your hand, forearm, elbow, chest, head, leg, or foot. Any body part can be employed to cause the wrist joint to move in your intended direction. If you find a lock you like, see how other parts of your body might be employed to create or maintain the lock. You may find that enlisting the services of your chest (for example) to maintain a lock frees both of your hands so they can be used for other purposes.
Your goal should be to understand and appreciate that anytime you grasp an opponent’s hand or arm, or alternately, anytime they grasp yours, you have an opportunity to immediately employ a wrist lock. Study how the wrist moves (and doesn’t move) to appreciate that at any time you can force an opponent’s wrist into an uncomfortable and controlling position. Do not focus on learning specific locks, but rather focus on understanding the anatomy behind why locks work.
Many interesting wrist locks involve placing the opponent’s elbow in unnatural positions. Inverting the elbow, raising the elbow above the opponent’s shoulder, pulling the elbow up and forward, and a variety of other positions can help both solidify control of an individual and increase the painful aspects of a lock. When performing wrist locks pay very close attention to the position of both the elbow and the shoulder. Notice when a minor movement of either might allow an opponent to escape from a lock. Notice what might be done to constrain these joints so that the opponent cannot effect such an escape. Also note how you might wish to move should you detect someone trying to apply a familiar lock on you.
Hyperflexion (Forward Wrist Bend) Locks
A forward wrist bend lock is essentially stressing the range of motion the wrist naturally uses for flexion. At maximum normal flexion the wrist normally begins to experience some minor pain or discomfort. If the wrist is mechanically moved further into Flexion (beyond 80°) the wrist experiences hyperflexion. A wrist in hyperflexion experiences abrupt and substantial pain and discomfort. Depending on wrist orientation the remainder of a person’s anatomical alignments may be significantly altered as a result of this hyperflexion.
There are several ways in which this hyperflexion can be initiated and maintained. These are often treated as different locks in most martial arts systems, but in reality they are simply variations on a common theme; hyperflexion. How one accomplishes this and how the remainder of the body reacts are the only variables.
Because flexion represents the largest normal range of motion for the wrist it can create problems when attempting to use it as part of a locking attempt. You must position your arm(s) and your opponent’s arm so that an angle greater than 80° between them is possible. For example, if you reach forward and grasp a training partner’s hand, placing both of your hands on top of Uke’s hand and then pressing downward, you will be unable to achieve hyperflexion. Your wrists will not bend sufficiently to cause Uke’s wrists to bend into hyperflexion because you are attempting to use radial deviation to induce hyperflexion. Radial deviation is limited to roughly 20° of movement.
So you must create an opportunity for a greater range of movement. The most common method is to move both your arm and Uke’s arm upward. This creates an angle of perhaps 70° between your two arms. Now the 20° of radial deviation is sufficient to create hyperflexion.
Perhaps a better way to allow for hyperflexion is to cause Uke’s elbow to bend downward toward his or her waist substantially. This creates near hyperflexion between Uke’s wrist and forearm. Now your additional 20° of radial deviation is sufficient to cause discomfort and pain in most individuals. If you now immobilize the elbow then you can continue to apply pressure downward on the wrist. This has an extremely painful effect on an Uke (or opponent) and will allow you to slowly walk them around the room with little effort. They will gladly follow rather than experience increased pain. You might immobilize the elbow simply by placing one hand behind it while the other hand controls the wrist. You might also move to the side of your opponent so you can trap his or her arm between your two bodies. This latter method allows you to continue applying pressure with both hands to the person’s wrist.
Hyperflexion can be initiated in many different situations. If someone places a hand on your shoulder you might grab and spatially immobilize the hand while lowering your torso. This increases the angle between your two arms, allowing hyperflexion to work.
You could also trap a wrist with one hand and use the other hand or arm to force a crease in the opponent’s elbow. Now you need simply immobilize the opponent’s elbow to facilitate the lock.
Another strategy for employing this lock is to place your hands in full flexion position first. Bend one (or both) hands in flexion then press the opponent’s arm downward until you can grasp his or her wrist with your fingers on top of the back of their hand. You will now be able to further increase the flexion of the opponent’s wrist by small movements of your own wrist.
In general this type of lock is best accomplished by first immobilizing the opponent’s arm in some way and then pressing the wrist forward. Here are some specific examples you might wish to try.
- Assume someone has grabbed your left shoulder with his or her right hand. Reach up with your right hand and grasp the opponent’s hand, engulfing the pinky finger side of the wrist with your grab. Briskly rotate your hand toward your center causing the opponent’s arm to extend and straighten as his or her wrist is inverted. This will force the opponent’s head downward. Use your other hand to grasp the opposite side of the opponent’s wrist. Now pull inward with your fingers as you press your two thumbs into the back of the opponent’s hand, causing hyperflexion. Keep forward pressure on the hand and pull the hand directly into your chest so the opponent cannot bend his or her elbow (or they may escape). Because the hand is being pressed back toward the opponent’s elbow there will be increased discomfort and pain throughout the entire arm, not solely at the wrist joint.
- The opponent has pressed an open hand strike with the palm facing downward into your chest area using his or her open left hand. Use your left hand to force a crease in the opponent’s left elbow as you step forward with the right leg and concurrently place your right hand around and the opponent’s left elbow. Pull the elbow forward with your right hand as you press your chest down and into the opponent’s left hand.
- Grab the opponent’s wrist while pressing the opponent’s forearm up and backward (relative to the opponent). Simultaneously press the wrist into hyperflexion. The shoulder joint, wrist, and elbow joint will form a structure from which the opponent cannot easily escape. Keep downward (flexion) pressure on the opponent’s wrist to maintain the lock.
- Move to the ear side as an opponent reaches or strikes toward you. Place your front arm under the opponent’s arm and grasp the top of his or her hand. Pull the opponent’s elbow back until it presses into your shoulder, bicep or chest while forcing the wrist to flex downward. This hold is sustainable for some period of time but can be prolonged by using both hands to stabilize both the wrist and elbow position of the opponent.
- The opponent reaches forward with his or her right hand and grabs your left forearm just above the wrist. Raise your left hand and counter grab the opponent’s forearm from below while moving your arm toward your center. Move your right hand to center and press the opponent’s wrist into hyperflexion. The opponent’s fingers, in this case, will point to your left. Now release the grip of your left hand and move this hand to a position whereby it can control and stabilize the opponent’s right elbow.
You should explore these examples in some detail. Use different parts of your anatomy to initiate and maintain these locks. Explore related movements that might be employed to initiate one of these (or a similar) lock. Also pay a great deal of attention to how other parts of your training partner’s body reacts as the lock is initiated and subsequently while it is maintained. See if you can predict these movements before you employ the lock. This is a critical learning activity for all locks and you will benefit from these skills in future Tensoku Ryu training.
Extension (Backward Wrist Bend) Locks
Extension wrist locks are very similar to flexion wrist locks except the wrist is pressed and moved in the opposite direction (into hyperextension). In some ways these locks are more easily accomplished simply because of how an opponent might attempt to grab or strike you. Here are some examples.
- If a person grabs your jacket with a hand you can crease his or her elbow with one hand and step forward so you can trap and pull his or her elbow closer with your other hand. Now pressing the chest forward and down forces the opponent’s wrist into hyperextension. In many cases the person’s closed fist will become wrapped up and trapped in your jacket (or Gi) making it impossible for the opponent to release the grip.
- A shoulder grab can also be the impetus for this lock. If, for example, a person places his or her right hand on your left shoulder you might raise your right arm and grasp the offending hand at the wrist by engulfing the thumb side of his or her wrist between your palm and thumb. Step back slightly to pull the wrist from your shoulder as you place your left hand so it engulfs the opposite side of the opponent’s wrist. Now use your fingers to pull the base of the wrist toward you as you press your thumbs into the palm of the opponent’s hand. With even moderate pressure this will force the opponent’s wrist into hyperextension. This lock can easily be used to force an opponent down onto his or her knees.
- Assuming a similar shoulder grab you might initiate a crease in the opponent’s grabbing arm with your opposite arm while concurrently pressing the arm below your affected shoulder upward. Your forearm comes to rest in the palm of the attacker’s gabbing hand while your opposite arm creases and pulls the attacker’s elbow forward and into your chest. Your forearm then presses forward and down into the attacker’s hand to initiate a hyperextension of the wrist.
- An opponent steps forward with Oi Tsuki. You move slightly to ear side and place your front hand at the base of the attacker’s forearm. Place the opposite hand so your palm faces upward against the fingers of the opponent’s extended hand. Step slightly toward the opponent’s face side as you grasp the forearm with your front arm and press up and back with your back arm. This will force the wrist into hyperextension, but it may be a difficult lock to maintain over time unless you can somehow lock the opponent’s elbow in place (perhaps with your own elbow). This lock works well as part of Nage where the need for the afforded control is only temporary.
- Grab multiple fingers of the opponent’s hand and push the fingers back toward the elbow, trapping the opponent’s elbow against his or her abdomen. This not only causes hyperextension of the wrist, but hyperextends the fingers as well. Note that his can be done whether the opponent’s palm faces up or down. Once the lock has been initiated you may wish to use your opposite hand to check the opponent’s elbow in position. You might alternately place the opponent’s fingers near his or her shoulder and use your torso to trap the opponent’s elbow in place just forward of his or her chest. You will want to hold the opponent’s wrist in position with both hands so the opponent cannot twist out from under the lock.
- If the opponent has initiated a waist grab use your forearm on that side of your body to trap the opponent’s wrist against your torso. Rotate your center so you can grab the opponent’s elbow, pulling it in slightly. Rotate your center back again as you use your forearm and elbow to hyperextend the wrist.
- Place one hand on top of the opponent’s hand just forward of the wrist. Place your other hand just under the fingertips of the opponent’s hand. Pull the fingertips up with your bottom hand while using your top hand as a fulcrum.
- Use your right hand to reach out and grasp the fingers of the right hand of your opponent. Twist the opponent’s hand down in a manner that causes his or her right elbow to raise above his or her shoulder. Now press the opponent’s right hand to hyperextension by pushing the hand directly upward in the direction of the raised elbow.
- Someone grabs your jacket or Gi near the middle of your chest using his or her right hand. Raise your left hand to grasp and hold the person’s hand in place on your chest, ideally locking his or her fist in the closed position. Rotate your center to CCW as you extend your right arm over the top of the opponent’s right arm. Now circle your right arm under the opponent’s right arm and then upward while rotating your center CW again. As your right arm moves to the front of your opponent, place your right arm onto the chest or shoulder of the opponent. The opponent’s arm will be bent severely at the elbow and his or her closed right hand will be in hyperextension.
Supination (Wrist Outturn) Locks
While these locks use the wrist as the operating mechanism, the real target of the locks is the forearm as well as the elbow and shoulder joints. This is an extremely common way of performing a wrist lock and is widely used.
The basic mechanism involves simply grabbing the opponent’s hand and rotating the wrist such that the thumb moves toward the outside of the opponent’s wrist. This applies twisting pressure to the forearm while concurrently bending both the shoulder and elbow joints inward.
It is also common practice to then employ either hyperflexion or hyperextension of the wrist once the lock has been instantiated. This provides additional discomfort and pain which help to maintain the lock over time.
This lock can be initiated in numerous ways. Here are some of the more common methods.
- If the opponent throws something akin to an Oi Tsuki, step to the ear side and place your left hand above the opponent’s approaching hand (shadowing the movement). Grasp the opponent’s wrist with that hand and begin twisting the opponent’s wrist in supination. Allow your other hand to grasp the wrist when possible to provide added control and twisting force.
- When someone grabs your shoulder reach up with the arm on that side of your body and firmly grasp his or her hand with your fingers on top. Twist the opponent’s wrist as your lower your hand and move it to your center (in part by rotating your center).
- Use a parry to move an opponent’s attacking hand toward your center. Use your opposite hand to catch the opponent’s wrist and begin turning it outward in supination. Now use your first hand to grab the wrist as well to produce additional control and pressure.
- Step to the face side and grasp the opponent’s wrist with your front hand. Begin rotating the wrist in supination and then use your other hand to augment the motion. You must be aware of the opponent potentially striking into your back or pressing into the back of your legs.
- Step to the ear side and grab the opponent’s wrist with your front hand. Rotate your center away from the opponent so they are forced to step forward. As they step, reverse the direction of your rotation while concurrently being the wrist in supination. You will find it useful to step back slightly with what was originally your front leg. Use the opposite hand to augment the wrist turn. This usually results in Nage, but can be stopped short of the throw if you have other purposes in mind.
Wrist locks that employ pronation are less common than the supination lock, but are quite effective. They can be very useful because they tend to force the opponent’s elbow to rise and shoulder to lower. This then makes it easy to use the elbow or shoulder as a subsequent control or impact point. As with supination locks you may find it useful to utilize hyperflexion or hyperextension as an augmentation to this locking mechanism.
Here are some common ways in which this lock can be initiated.
- Assuming your opponent uses his or her right arm to grab your left shoulder from the front, reach up with your right hand to grab the opponent’s wrist by placing your palm on the top of the opponent’s hand. Use your thumb to press into the palm of the opponent’s hand. Pull your right arm down, in a circular motion, until it is in your center. It is quite likely the opponent’s elbow will project upward in front of you and his or her shoulder will be slightly to the right of your center. The opponent’s head will probably be down near your right hip.
- As an opponent reaches forward with his or her right hand step to the face side and use your front hand to grasp the opponent’s wrist. Rotate clockwise to apply pronation to the opponent’s wrist. You may augment your grasp on the wrist with your other hand.
- Step to the inside (face side) of an approaching arm and use your front arm to pull the attacker’s elbow up and inward, initiating a bend in the elbow. As the elbow bends use your back hand to grab the opponent’s wrist and augment the twisting motion of the wrist. Pulling the wrist into your center and applying hyperflexion results in a very effective control hold. This same lock can be initiated by stepping to the ear side instead. It results in a somewhat different yet very similar controlling lock. Just move the opponent’s arm in exactly the same way. Try it.
- If someone grabs your left wrist in a mirroring action of his or her right hand, reach your right hand over and place it directly on top of the opponent’s hand, locking it in place. Raise your left wrist up and outside of the opponent’s arm to initiate pronation then use both hands to work in unison to establish better control of the opponent’s wrist.
- When performing Nage in which you have control of the opponent’s hand, twist the wrist into pronation as the opponent falls. This will normally move and straighten the opponent’s elbow so that you can press the arm back into your shin or knee to form a lock while the opponent is on the ground.