Standing Control Holds

In some circumstances you may want or need to constrain an opponent until help can arrive or to prevent the person from causing future damage or injury. This requires some form of restraint that can be instantly applied, that requires little effort to maintain, and that is very difficult for the person being constrained to facilitate an escape. In other words, we want a simple to apply effective lock that is easy to maintain yet hard to escape.

In this article we will cover some of the more common ways in which you might constrain a belligerent person. Keep in mind that you will need to have direct contact with the person in order to perform these controlling maneuvers and nothing lasts forever. Even the best constrain can be overcome before, during, or after its application. A knowledgeable martial artist is more likely to escape a lock or hold than someone with little experience. Be vigilant about someone who attempts to get out of a lock. If they are going to escape, abandon the lock in favor of something else before the other person places you in jeopardy.

Finger Locks

Finger locks can be a very effective lock or constraint mechanism. These locks can be extremely painful making the person willing to act in a compliant manner. These locks can be a bit difficult to apply and there is definitely a methodology that should be employed when applying these locks. You may want to review the article on Joint Distress (a link is found at the bottom of this page). That article will discuss the methods by which nearly any finger joint lock can be applied. You might want to study or review some of the material on the skeletal system as well for this will provide added insights into how and why this type of lock works.

While finger locks can be effective they may also be tenuous. Since many locks (not all) involve some form of void between yourself and the person you are constraining, the other person will likely, over time, find a way to escape from the lock. This may take a minute or two, but any relaxation of the lock may provide the person with an opportunity to escape. It is hard to hold a lock in perfect position for a long time if the opponent is actively seeking ways to relax and escape from the hold. So I would consider most finger locks to be temporary measures to be employed until a more enduring solution can be found.

Work with your Uke to find secure ways to apply joint locks to every finger on both hands. Take things slowly, these can indeed be very painful locks. Be prepared to tap out and to instantly comply with a tap out request for your Uke. You will, after some time, discover which locks you prefer and which are easier to apply. These are the locks you would want to initially perfect as they would be the ones you would most likely use today. But continue to experiment with this type of lock. Over time you may find that other locks that you did not particularly like initially become much easier to apply and more effective than you first thought.

Wrist Locks

Wrist locks come in primarily two varieties. Those that lock the wrist downward and those that lock it upward. Either can be quite painful, though pain is a bit more acute when the wrist is locked downward (or more accurately, into hyperflexion).

When performing a wrist lock one of the primary considerations is how the overall lock constrains the arm so it has little or no opportunity for movement. If the arm can move then the wrist can be positioned so that the lock is no longer effective.

One of the simplest and most effective wrist locks can be applied by stepping to the ear side. For simplicity of explanation, let’s examine this lock applied to Uke’s right arm. We will step to Uke’s right ear side and use our right hand to grasp Uke’s right wrist on the little finger side of the hand. Our left hand will be placed under Uke’s right elbow and will lift the elbow up and outward until Uke’s arm is roughly parallel to the floor. Now we will step behind Uke’s right elbow, pulling the elbow into our chest while reaching under Uke’s arm and grasping his or her right wrist on the thumb side of the hand. Pull down and inward with both hands to force the wrist downward (into hyperflexion) while pressing Uke’s elbow firmly into our chest wall. This firmly locks Uke’s wrist in hyperflexion. It is also quite painful.

If you review the article on Joint Distress you will find other simple ways to perform wrist locks using both hyperextension and hyperflexion. You should become very familiar with both of these simple forms of wrist locks as the general approach to these locks is applicable to many other wrist lock techniques.

An inverted wrist lock can be initiated by turning Uke’s hand so it is facing palm up. Uke’s elbow should point toward the floor. Now simply press Uke’s wrist into hyperextension by pushing the back of Uke’s hand toward his or her chest. The position of the arm will make it difficult for Uke to escape this simple lock that can be initiated as a counter to a wrist grab, shoulder grab, or punch. Applying slight outward twisting pressure on Uke’s wrist will increase the pain in the wrist while concurrently forcing Uke’s elbow inward, making it more difficult to escape from this lock. Applying extra pressure may result in Nage (which can be used by Uke to escape the lock). Experiment with ways in which this counter can be executed against a variety of different attacks.

A wrist overturn lock can be accomplished by grasping the top of Uke’s opposite hand from above. Rotate Uke’s hand over so it crosses your center and then use your other hand to also grasp Uke’s wrist. Use the forearm if this second arm to press into the back of Uke’s forearm to force Uke to lean forward and to straighten Uke’s elbow. While keeping your forearm in place to control Uke’s arm, pull Uke’s wrist into hyperflexion and then pull both of your hands tightly against your abdomen at your center line (your elbow will no longer rest on Uke’s arm). Uke will readily escape from this lock if you do not root your hands against your abdominal wall and maintain pressure against Uke’s wrist.

If you can grasp Uke’s wrist with one of your hands on the back of Uke’s hand and your hand on the palm of Uke’s hand, then you can press Uke’s wrist to the side causing an alternate lock form. Here you will press Uke’s little finger in the direction of Uke’s elbow. This requires both hands to hold Uke’s wrist in a locked position. You will also want to pull both of your hands tightly in toward your center to maintain the lock, which can be quite fleeting. If the lock begins to deteriorate then you can simply shift the lock into a hyperflexion lock by a simple rotation of Uke’s wrist. Be careful, Uke will experience a sudden surge of pain to accompany this shift.

You can perform an effective hyperextension lock by forcing Uke’s elbow upward and then grasping Uke’s wrist with both hands. Pulling the wrist back into hyperextension will cause Uke to stand on the balls of his or her feet in an attempt to alleviate the pain and discomfort of this lock. Uke’s elbow must be positioned so it is above Uke’s shoulder.

Work with your Uke or your instructor to experiment with different hyperflexion and hyperextension locks. Also work to understand different ways in which each of these locks can be initiated and maintained. Maintaining a lock is as important as establishing one. You must be able to maintain a lock long enough to accomplish your next goal, whether that is Nage, Atemi, or waiting for a police officer to arrive.

Wrist Chest Press

This is a variation of the wrist locks we discussed above. These locks can be used to take advantage of someone grabbing your clothing, shoulder, or other part of your upper torso. To accomplish this lock you trap Uke’s wrist against your chest wall with one hand and then reach behind Uke’s elbow and use the elbow to force Uke’s forearm toward your chest. This puts tremendous pressure on Uke’s wrist. The wrist may be forced into either hyperflexion of hyperextension. This also works well if Uke has grabbed the lapel of your clothing. Uke’s fist may be entrapped in your clothing making it difficult to escape the lock and allowing the clothing to twist and apply additional pressure against Uke’s wrist.

You may lean forward slightly to ensure pressure is maintained on Uke’s wrist. You must maintain your center line so that Uke’s wrist does not slip to either side of your chest wall, affording Uke a chance to escape or regain enough structure to strike you.


A Z-Bar (which is also discussed in the article More About Kansetsu Waza) is another form of a wrist lock, but it might better be classified as an entire arm lock. In this lock Uke’s arm is held parallel to the floor at Uke’s shoulder level. Uke’s elbow is pressed outward and Uke’s wrist is placed along your center line as you grasp Uke’s wrist with both hands. Uke’s wrist is then bent into hyperextension. Now Uke’s wrist is twisted such that his or her little finger is moved toward Uke’s chest. This applies almost instantaneous pain (in most people). Keeping the arm parallel to the floor will allow you to force Uke down onto his or her knees.

An alternate variation of this same lock can be applied as a counter to a wrist lock. If Uke grabs your right wrist with his or her right arm then you might trap Uke’s hand with your left hand. This will allow you to release your right hand from Uke’s grip and then place your right arm over the top of Uke’s right forearm. Maintain your grip on Uke’s hand with your left hand. This locks Uke’s wrist in hyperextension allowing you to apply Z-Bar pressure to Uke’s entire arm.

Arm Bar

An arm bar is a very common lock that can be used to temporarily control an opponent. Let’s assume someone has reached forward with his or her left arm in a strike or grab attempt. Step to the ear side and use your back arm to press the opponent’s arm inward. Now grab Uke’s wrist with your left arm and twist Uke’s arm so that his or her elbow is turned upward. Also pull your back hand so that Uke’s arm to stretched straight. Now use your front forearm to press into the back of Uke’s elbow. You can use the insertion of your front forearm to further turn Uke’s arm if required so that Uke’s elbow is generally pointed upward. Now pull inward with your back hand as you press forward with your right forearm to lock Uke’s elbow joint. Uke will usually be forced to lean forward while heavily rooted on at least one and probably both feet. You will likely want to quickly move into some other action because this type of lock will eventually weaken. But it can be a very effective way to initially control someone, initiate Nage, or position your opponent so that the face, neck, and kidneys are readily accessible. Also note that using Otoko No Atemi Waza while employing your elbow might result in major injury to the other person’s elbow.

See Also

Joint Distress
More About Kansetsu Waza

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