16 posts / 0 new
Last post
Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture
Wrist Grab Defence - Why bother?

Hi all

On one of my videos someone posted this comment,

"Can anyone post applications where it is not someone grabbing the wrist..this is a very clear and well executed video... I have never known someone to grab the wrist ...but as I say excellent and clear thanks you"

I made a shot clip explaining my position on this subject, do you agree with me or in fact there is no point teaching defence agaist wrist grabs?

deltabluesman's picture


I completely agree with you about wrist grabs.  It's essential to practice wrist grab defenses.  Too many martial artists overlook this skill or only pay it lip service.  It's especially important for women who are training self-protection skills (as you point out in your video).  It is also very important for anyone who carries a self-protection weapon.  

There was an older thread a few years ago where some people weighed in on this.  Here's a link to the discussion in case you're interested:  https://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/considering-wrist-grabs-karate-and-aikido

But to sum up, I strongly agree with you and really like the drills you show in the second half of your video.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Deltabluesman, Thank you and I agree with you the martial artist overlook those techniques. Thank you for the link.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Good video Les! 100% agree.

I think the problem when teaching wrist escapes is that they are often taught out of context … and that’s totally OK when first learning the technique. People see this initial phase and mistake it for the entirety of the process. I can see why people may say that is it very unlikely for some one to grab and wrist and then stand still (i.e. not pull or strike), but to say that people never grab wrists is false. It happens all the time in fighting (arm-drags, setting up throws, etc) and even more so in self-defence (attempt to remove fence; open up path for strike; counter an attack to eyes, throat or groin; prevent escape, etc.).

Definitely something that needs practised.

All the best,


Elmar's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:
.... People see this initial phase and mistake it for the entirety of the process.

One of the nice things about Nishio style aikido is that Nishio sensei insisted that the other hand (not the grabbing one) actually do something (like punch you in the face).  Now there is a reason to do something.  Wrist grabs are an easy teaching setup and a good place to start imho, but it does need to progress to grabs at the elbow, shoulder and lapel/shirt front, coupled with something else happening, i.e. why the grab is being executed - grabs rae generally means to the end of pummeling, after all.

PASmith's picture

One of the many lightbulb moments I've got from Iain' s approach to things was his context to wrist grabs whereby the wrist is grabbed because if it's not the opponents eyes are gouged/throat crushed/testicles seized! One very important context to wrist grabs we've lost I think is people habitual carrying of a weapon or blade. When weapons are very likely to be drawn in an argument then wrist grabs become more common to stop a weapon being deployed or used. When a culture like Britain (for example) becomes less about weapons and more about putting up your dukes and engaging in fisticuffs grabbing a wrist becomes less useful.

Heath White
Heath White's picture

I think I agree with everyone here that (1) wrist grab defenses are very important, and (2) the way they are usually taught--out of context--obscures this.  A couple lightbulb moments for me:

1) I realized that samurai were worried about their opponents drawing swords, hence would grab the wrist to prevent it.  Thus if you are a samurai you need to know how to get his hand off your wrist.  The same goes  today for anyone who might ever use a weapon.

2) I realized about the hikite.  If people are going to be pulling your guard down, etc. you need to be able to defend against this.

3) I realized how many arm bars there are in the forms.  Defending against an armbar involves defending a wrist grab.

What makes them seem dumb is lack of  context.  If you teach defense against grab-and-punch or grab-and-twist or he-grabs-to-prevent-your-strike then it makes much more sense.

Wastelander's picture

I actually wrote about this some time ago, and caught flak for it at the time. It's been long enough that I forgot it was an argument :P. Good points, Les!


JuhaK's picture

Nice clip. I think everything should be practiced. Ok, well if someone is practicing consensual fighting, like MMA or whatever, then there might be some things what can be excluded, because those are not needed in competition. But in non-consensual fighting, I think every imaginable scenario is possible and should be practiced. Someone can grab your wrist, hair or even ankle. And not just grappling other things too. Of course some are more likely to happen than others, but still needs to be practiced.

sarflondonboydonewell's picture

When Japan was an armed soicety grabbing wrist(s) was to prevent the swordsman drawing his sword or short dagger concealed inside the jacket. Some jutsu schools during that period techiques reflect that both to prevent the weapons being drawn and for the armed person to deal with the grabs and so as to then draw the sword or dagger to kill the attacker. Fast forward to today; people who grabs wrist tend to want control on the whole they are the 50/50 people; not certain if they want to fight so by going  for some wrist control they think  they can control the other person and prevent being punched and in the end the grabbed might give up; tends to work when they are up against 50/50 people them selves but against those that have committed themselves mentally  to fight then it tends to fail. Should one teach it? Yes in context.

Les Bubka
Les Bubka's picture

Thank you all, 

looking on comments across the Facebook, not many people understood what I'm saying on the clip :)

Kind regards

Tau's picture

I'm sure that I've discussed this on here and indeed relayed the story that I'm going to relay now. Wrist grabs have been the first grabbing attack that I've learned through both Aiki-Jujitsu and Aiki-Do. I was very dubious about this and questioned this probably for exactly the same reasons as you're being questioned now. I had two reasons for having wrist locks in the syllabus at a low grade:

1. it was a goood introduction to grabbing, spacial awareness, moving leverage and so on. But just an introduction

2. they corresponded to our supposed herritage in the Japanese feudal arts, specifically the art of the sword. Tori reaches for the tsuka. Uke arrests tori's wrist. Tori locks uke's wrist. This is illustrated in my YouTube video: 


Note that this is a nine minute video that is probably of no interest to most of you. The wrist grab stuff starts at 06:40ish.

I did a seminar with Iain a few years ago in which he taught bunkai to Chinto including wrist lock. This is illustrated on the link below and I think endorses Les's view and video.


At the seminar the critical mind kicked in and I remember thinking along the lines of "no-one would grab your wrist like that." Less than a week later a fight broke out in the waiting room of the hospital that I worked at. I stepped in to seperate the two fighters.... and one grabbed hold of my wrist exactly as in Iain's video! At that point in my mind I expertly and precisely followed Chinto kata. In reality I reigned myself in.

So I too have questioned the value of learning wrist locks. But there's my answer. I agree with Les wholeheartedly; they most certainly do happen.

Anf's picture

Wrist grabs do happen. I've seen it plenty of times in petty disputes that have escalated. I've also been on the receiving end of them.

However, I've also seen how in pretty much all cases, the person being grabbed very quickly, usually with a furious look on their face, escaped the grab, despite in most cases never having attended a single martial arts class.

For this reason, I too used to be skeptical about them in the class. But since I migrated towards grappling {aikido and jiu-jitsu} I have a new appreciation for them in training. As Tau has said, they are useful for teaching various principles of leverage, those same principles being applied to more plausible scenarios. My journey in the grappling arts has only just begun. I have nowhere near enough experience to understand it all, but so far I've seen that just as you think something is not that practical, you'll suddenly be moved on to another layer of practicality.

I think most people that write off a technique or principle or training method, largely, don't understand it. You'll always get that. It happens in every aspect of life, not just martial art.

PASmith's picture

One thing I see happening a LOT are grabs (wrist, arm, clothing) from friends and bystanders looking to break a fight up. Very dangerous as other people can tie up your arms and make you more vulnerable while your opponent is still dangerous or willing/able to fight. Their heart is often in the right place but can complicate things.

Wastelander's picture

I do feel that I should point out that there is a difference between techniques being done off of wrist grabs, and simply defending against our escaping a wrist grab. We teach simple wrist grab breaks to our beginners, before we even teach them techniques off of wrist grabs, because most of the time you can just pop your arm out of their grip and continue whatever you need to do. This would apply to things like bystanders getting involved, as PASmith mentions. There's no need to work actual techniques against them for just trying to break things up. It's the guy actively trying to control you so he can hurt you that you would use techniques against.

colby's picture

I think people forget sometimes what's it like to be a complete beginner. Like to most people on this forum it's a no brainer right cause your aware and will never let someone grab you to begin with. But for a beginner, it's something easy that you can teach anyone of all ages. And it's something that you can build off of. You can grab and punch, lapel grab, double grab, whatevs