The Wonderful World of Wrist Locks
When people think of “Dirty tricks” in jiu jitsu, they are often referring to moves that are much easier than the effect they accomplish would imply. Moves that are simply beyond the pale of what we expect to actually have effect on an opponent. When people think of “dirty trick” moves, they often are thinking of leg attacks, that can quickly end a match from anywhere, but leg attacks are highly limited in many jiu jitsu and grappling competitions. Do you want a move that will upset just about everyone you use it on because of its simplicity? I am of course referring to wrist locks.
In order to secure any position while grappling, you need a least one grip. The vast majority of grips involve use of the hand, which is attached to the wrist. In order to escape any position you similarly need some sort of grip in order to temporarily control your opponent or training partner. The wrist is one of the weaker joints in the body, having mobility in all directions but that range of mobility is limited, and once you are able to push it past that range, it can be very fragile.
The wrist lock is available anywhere that you can touch the other person’s hands. Granted it can be readily defended in many positions but the act of defending any given move can be in and of itself an opening to other attacks. Just because you will not likely finish the wrist lock from certain positions does not mean you can not use it to transition to a better position or another submission.
Likewise, if you are in position for certain submissions, you may find it easier to put pressure on the small fragile wrist than to continue attacking wherever you are. Some people are hard to arm bar or triangle, but if you are in position to do either of those two moves, there is very likely a bunch of wrist locks available to you from those positions.
Wrist locks are so powerful that they can even be found in inferior positions like inside the closed guard, back mount or bottom mount. Granted, the likelihood of finishing a wrist lock from any of those positions is low, but they are a good way to make the other person nervous enough to present openings to other positions, avenues and ultimately submissions. Never underestimate the power of a valid threat even when presented from a tactically inferior position.
You may have heard of Travis Stevens, he is considered by many one of the best modern American Judokas. He also received his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt from John Danaher in what may be record time; 18 months (it generally takes people around 18 months to go from white belt to blue belt…) Travis heavily favors the use of the wrist lock.
Take a look at this video of Travis teaching a fantastic wrist lock:
Perhaps even more than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo heavily relies on grip. Most judokas are able to obtain, retain and break grips probably better than most jiu jitsu practitioners because of the explosive nature of Judo. Being aware of grips is the only way to make it in the sport of Judo, and those skills translate well to other grappling arts including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Given these important details, Travis Stevens has a superb understanding and mastery of wrist locks. He has to, because when a Judoka wants to submit their opponent they have a limited time, and have to contend with opponents who also have an innate understanding of grip. This understanding means that Travis has to know how to be sneaky with what he does.
Recently, Travis put together a two DVD set explaining and outlining the details of some of his wrist locks. As a high level judoka who has become a high level jiujiteiro, he is in a unique position to help viewers of his DVD attain a high understanding of what it takes to execute wrist locks and to add to the viewers’ wrist lock arsenal. This DVD covers everything from simple ways to get to the wrist lock and break the naturally strong positioning of an intelligent grappler’s hands, to complex BJJ techniques like transitioning to wrist locks from various positions and submissions. Check it out here!