Saturday, March 3, 2012

Confidence- Will it work?

My last two posts were all about the effectiveness of joint locks.  There was a lively discussion over at My journey to black belt.  I enjoyed it thoroughly.  

My position, of course, is that joint locks are effective, and often superior to other forms of engagement in dealing with a violent confrontation.  Joint locks, to a large degree, negate or greatly reduce the inherent advantage of being bigger and stronger.  They also work on opponents who have certain advantages due to pharmacological assistance.  

I say this all as I have used joint locks successfully on several occasions in real encounters.  I have confidence in the techniques.  I have proved that they work.  I believe in the technique, and my ability to apply them.

As with any topic, we must always be careful not to be closed minded.  

This is actually a statement directed at myself.  Sue is one of the most open minded individuals that I have 'cyber' met.  She read my comments, and those of others, and carefully considered a variety of points of view.

What I need to make sure is that my belief or confidence in joint locks do not make me closed off to different points of view.  Sue made the following statement which I've been thinking about a lot lately.  
She said:

"Size differences between attacker and defender may or may not be relevant – but if you want to convince me they are not then you’ll need to provide me with a good rational scientific explanation and with some tips on how small people can make techniques work on big people because I’m not yet convinced ;-)"

This comment may warrant a scientific discussion on balance, fulcrums, inertia, and the makeup of the human body and joint construction, but I'm not going to do that, at least not right now.

The part that has stuck with me is the last part.  "...because I'm not yet convinced"

I could go on and on stressing how joint locks equalize size difference, but doing this would effectively close my mind to the real issue with anyone in the martial arts.  If you don't believe something will work, it won't.  I could put up diagrams of human anatomy, and write mathematical equations that would essentially 'prove' my point, but what good would that do?  If you don't believe or feel confident that a technique you are practicing will work, or even could work, then they're of no value whatsoever.  

The whole point of this post is to make sure that I remain open minded in the true spirit of Budo.  I'm quick to criticize martial artists who believe that their way is the only way.  While I pride myself on keeping an open mind to different points of view, I must remain ever vigilant that my own beliefs don't make me 'pushy' or close me off to conflicting points of view or underlying issues that I could miss in my desire to prove a point.  I don't think that was the case here, but I've done a lot of thinking since the discussion.

Sue discussed that she struggles to turn a larger opponent's hand over into a wrist trap, or a z-lock, or a chicken wing, whatever you want to call it.  She states she doesn't always have the strength to do so, depending on who she is working with.  Fair enough.  I offer (ed) up the idea of using a distraction technique to loosen him (or her) up to apply the technique.  I talk about isolating, or hyperextending the joint to a place it has no strength to resist.  This information I proffer is correct, and someone might agree on an intellectual level, but if they don't believe they can do it, or if their experience suggests it doesn't work, then it doesn't matter what I say.  

In Sue's case, I might suggest forgetting about that particular technique for now, and focusing on joint manipulations which might be easier to apply.  Any time you can use your entire body weight against a joint, you'll likely end up on the winning end of the equation.  A wrist throw from a hook punch or an elbow lock/break technique may be viable method to increase confidence and proficiency in certain areas.  This could lead to experimenting with more joint locks.  

Without having the opportunity to train with someone, I am limited to discussing concepts as opposed to examining the execution of a specific technique.  I will also say that some things just won't work for some people.  I, for one, don't have as much confidence in some throws as I'm quite tall and have some issues with dodgy knees.  A shorter opponent clearly has some advantages in this realm.  The important part for me is that I still believe in throws, I've just had to adjust my style to focus on the ones that work for me. If I had not been allowed the opportunity to make it my own, I might have given up on throwing all together.

I want to make it clear that while the discussion with Sue was the springboard to this article, I am in no way making any comment on her training or on the instruction she receives.  This is all about me and making sure that my own mind remains open to all points of view.  I must remain ever vigilant against the insidious thing known as ego.

Train with an open mind.


  1. I agree. I try to keep my mind open, and realize that my conclusions are tentative, pending new information.

  2. Hi Journeyman, like you I'm trying to remain open minded about techniques I have difficulty with - I've not given up with locks by any means. In fact I've been trying to think about what the problem may be and I'm thinking it may be something to do with motion (or the lack of it in a training partner). Many techniques are practised against a relatively static training partner. As you know, it is hard to move a heavy object from standing but that same object is easier to continue to push once it is moving. Heavy people are the same! Once they are moving they feel lighter and hence are easier to throw, unbalance or lock up. I think I need my training partners to be moving around more - it's probably more realistic as well. Mmmmmm....

  3. The 'distraction' to which you refer, I refer to as a 'facilitator.' Kuzushi (unbalancing) facilitates the execution of any technique. Kuzushi should refer to physical unbalancing, where the centre of gravity is moved outside of a base of support so that the person has to initiate a recovery strategy or fall to the ground. This then provides the opportunity to execute a technique with less resistance, if any. So-called 'mental unbalancing', which includes strikes, which you more accurately describe as distraction, serves the same purpose as physical unbalancing. This could be the source of SueC's problem in training. No unbalancing, and, the partner knows what's coming and is prepared to resist. This leads me to another of my bugbears - training with resistance. It's often said that you need to train with resistance in order to better prepare you for actual fighting. Well, resistance is often what it implies. The partner resists the technique, which is aided by the fact they know what is coming and how it works. Is that fighting? No. Unfortunately, what this form of training can do is lead you to question effective technique. As to an explanation concerning the physiology of joint-locking techniques - good luck. I tried and failed to find any authoritative explanations. I started to develop my own, but life is too short. Something for me to return to. One of the problems is that 80+% of all injuries that occur to the upper limb are as a result of a FOOSH injury - Fall On OutStretched Hand injury. So, the vast majority of the papers and literature on upper limb injuries are on FOOSH injuries. The forces are entirely different when falling on an outstretched hand than when joint-locks are applied. One that I did come to grips with was with an elbow joint-lock. Did you know there are three kinds of dislocations that can result from the forces applied when executing this technique.

    I cannot resist - you refer to wrist throw. I'm writing a paper for publication distinguishing between throwing technqiues and takedown techniques. Many people refer to the ubiquitous wrist twist as a throw. It is not a throw the way most people execute it. It can be, but it requires different forces to that of the standard wrist twist. A wrist twist is most commonly a takedown. And here is the paradigm shifting idea ofr SueC and others. What is the purpose of a joint-locking technique? Most refer to pain compliance, immobilisation, and/or injury and incapcitation. However, they are also commonly used as a takedown or a throw, and not necessarily due to pain being inflicted. The forces are applied to the joint to make that joint a lever so that the person can be made to fall to the ground. Another conception for SueC to consider.

  4. Rick,

    Always important. When the mind closes, learning stops.


    Happy to hear you're not giving up on joint locks. Movement is very important, for you and for your training partner during training. Fighting isn't static, neither should training be. I think you're on to something, changing a person's direction by turning their entire mass and inertia against a single joint will likely yield fast, effective results.


    Some great feedback. I share your frustration with unrealistic training. I find it's either a completely compliant partner, or one who knowingly resists the technique they are prepared for. Neither is particularly helpful. I think Sue's ideas on incorporating movement will likely be helpful for her technique.

    Wrist throw is one of my favorites. As my style is heavily influenced by Small Circle Jiu JItsu, I work on it and it's variations regularly. The idea of using a smaller and smaller circle really opens up the world of throwing, levers and fulcrums. When the circle is tight enough, the person is either thrown, or the joint or limb breaks. Most often, the joint lets go and the person crumples to the ground. In these cases, being thrown, and break falls for that matter, are for the safety of the uke, not really part of the technique.

    I would ask you then, is it a throw, takedown, or joint break?

  5. I don't know if the question was rhetorical, but I'll answer it anyway. I'll also share my 'definitive' distinction between a throw and a takedown, and subdivide takedowns into two different categories.

    A throw applies forces that cause an opponent to fall to the ground and both their feet to leave the ground. A takedown applies forces that cause an opponent to fall to the ground with one or none of their feet leaving the ground.

    Each type of technique targets a different biomechancial target. A throw is designed to elimate the opponent's entire base of support (BoS). A takedown that causes no feet to leave the ground targets the opponent's centre of gravity (CoG); forces are applied to move the outside their BoS. A takedown that causes one foot to leave the ground targets one of the opponent's support structures that form their BoS in order to reduce their BoS to the area bounded by one foot over which their CoG is not located. Three different types of techniques targeting different biomechanical targets.

    Wrist twist is most often used as a takedown technique. Forces are applied to move the joint towards but not necessarily beyond its range of motion in order to turn it into a lever so as to be used to cause a person to fall to the ground by moving their CoG outside of their BoS.

    The only way a wrist twist can ever be a throw, that is to be used to cause both feet to leave the ground, is through momentum. In which case, you don't even need to move the opponent's wrist to the limits of its range of motion.

    A wrist twist becomes a joint break if the forces applied to the wrist are designed to move the joint beyond the limits of its range of motion.

    Each different type of technique applies forces differently according to the designed purpose of the technique - even though we use the same name for each different type of technique.

    This is essentially the subject of the article I'm writing to submit to Journal of Asian Martial Arts. It is now in the editing stage, with one of the editors being the Chair of Biomechanics at a university in Europe.

  6. John,

    It was partially rhetorical, but I was also interested in your feedback on the topic. Thanks for the response. Interesting information. As for the 'wrist twist', I would suggest it can potentially be a throw if you slow it down just enough to allow the person to go with it. If they have the wherewithal to, for the lack of a better word, throw themselves into it, it is a throw. Sped up it is either a break or a takedown, or both.

    That's what I love about Jiu Jitsu, lots of different layers...