Orange Belt Wrist Grab Releases

One of the most common types of attacks is a wrist grab. Sometimes an assailant will grab you with one hand. Sometimes the hand will be positioned so their palm is up, but yours is down. Sometimes both palms will be up. Sometimes both palms will be down. The assailant might grab both of your wrists. There are eight possible palm positions in this type of grab. How can you possibly know how to instantaneously get out of each of these varied holds? We will learn several different ways of gaining release from these types of grabs. Please keep in mind that there are hundreds of different ways in which you might affect a release. Those provided below are fairly common, but please experiment to see how many others you might discover.

Fortunately, we can use basic human anatomy for the most part (other factors are involved also, but are less obvious) to help escape from these grab attacks.

Thumb and Forefinger Release

One of the weaknesses of the human grasp is that there is not much gripping strength in the area where the thumb and index finger come together. It is relatively easy to apply pressure between these two appendages to allow your arm or hand to escape between them. This works best if the grasping thumb and finger do not completely encircle your wrist. Obtaining a release is a little more difficult if the attacker has large hands or you have a relatively small wrist which might enable the attacker to completely encircle your wrist or arm. These releases will still work, but they can be more difficult to accomplish.

To accomplish this type of release you simply move your wrist or lower arm directly toward the tips of the assailant’s thumb and index fingers. This pushes against the weakest part of their grab. It helps immensely if you also apply another directional force, such as raising or lowering your arm slightly, moving your arm to one side or another, or applying a twisting motion of your arm. All of these movements help to break through the grip between the thumb and index finger.

One of the simplest and most humorous ways to generate this type of release is to quickly move your relaxed trapped wrist upward and then use that hand to gently scratch your head just above your ear. Smile knowingly, but be ready to use a Tate Tettsui Uchi.

Leveraged Releases

We can increase the force applied between the thumb and index finger by using some simple leveraging techniques. One simple technique is to configure your hand into the form of a Shuto. Now bend your wrist and raise it either to the inside or the outside of the attacker’s wrist. As your fingers rise above the attacker’s arm, twist your wrist to apply pressure against the attacker’s wrist. If possible continue rotating the wrist until you can apply downward and sideways pressure against the wrist (or possibly apply upward and sideways pressure for some writ grab positions). This increases the force applied and results in a faster release, even when the opponent has encircled your wrist.

This type of release can also be used to counter the grab so that you wind up in control of your opponent’s wrist (from which they can, of course, readily escape)

Positional Releases

When an opponent grabs you they normally and automatically assume the most optimal structural alignment to support their grab. Therefore there is likely no way for them to obtain a better grabbing position. This means that any movement of their structure will result in a less advantageous grabbing position for them. We can take advantage of this by moving our arm, center, or body to misalign the opponent thereby weakening their grasp. Moving your center (especially) or arm to the left, right, up, down, in, or out will all lessen their gripping strength. Now you can move your arm against their finger and thumb to create a more expedient release (but of course you must do this before the opponent repositions and establishes an alternate grip).

Two-Handed Releases

You can, of course, use your other hand (if it is free) to aid in the release of your trapped wrist. One way to do this is to position a Shuto to the outside of your restrained arm and then slide the Shuto down your arm and into the attacker’s arm or wrist while you simultaneously pull back briskly with your restrained arm. This push-pull action will often (but not always) create a release.

Another related release is to position a Shuto from your free hand outside of your trapped wrist and in contact with the attacker’s wrist. Now rotate both of your wrists simultaneously such that the Shuto will come on top of your attacker’s wrist. You will likely have both an escape and a counter grab.

If your opponent has grabbed both of your wrists then several different strategies can be used. All involve forming a Shuto with both hands.

  • Move both Shuto so the fingers on both hands first point down, then in toward your center, and then upward. Your wrist should then continue rotating to push your attacker’s hands out and away from their center. The entire motion encircles your opponent’s arms from the inside out, forcing their arms outward and downward.
  • Move both Shuto so the fingers on both hands first point down, then outward and away from your center, then upward, then inward and toward your center (your wrists will now be above your assailant’s arms), and finally downward. This encircles your opponent’s arms from the outside in, forcing their arms inward and down to effect a release.
  • Turn both of your Shuto so they are face palm up and then press them up and under the elbows of your opponent. This straightens their arm, misaligns their wrists, and forces them to release their grasp.
  • Move one Shuto as in the first example above, and move the other Shuto as in the second example above. This inside-out, outside-in motion twists your opponent’s arms and torso, moves their center away from you, and generates a very effective release. Practice this in both directions.
  • Press one Shuto into the top crease in the opponent’s opposite elbow. Press down and pull inward to generate a release of both wrists. Why does this work?
  • Perhaps the most obvious release of all when you have been grabbed by one wrist is to use the other open hand to drive a Shotei Uchi directly into the opponent’s face. They will likely release your hand. And of course, even if you have been grabbed by both hands you may be able to use a well-placed kick to your advantage.

Rotating Releases

You can use a simple Stepping Pattern to rotate to one side and then apply pressure with the top part of your elbow into your assailant’s elbow (similar to some of the elbow blocks in Pinan Sandan) to create a very effective release. Essentially you are rotating and then using your elbow to Check against the opponent’s elbow, pressing their arm inward and making it impossible for them to hold onto their grip. This will fail if the opponent is simply able to follow you around and maintain their relative position and grip. You must therefore either perform this maneuver quickly or cause your opponent to become rooted in some fashion before rotating.


The best way to handle a wrist grab is to avoid it in the first place. This is quite easy to accomplish in most situations either by simply moving your hand up, down, left, right, in, or out so that the grab attempt misses. Often simply rotating your wrist will be sufficient to move it out of the way. Even if a grab still occurs, your movement will place the opponent in an odd and weakened structure that will allow you to more readily escape.

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