Advanced Insights

Wrist Locks by Stephen Pellegrini


Many Kenpo self-defense techniques utilize joint locks as a means of controlling your opponents to set up them up for a finishing technique. Adding pressure points to your joint locking techniques will make them more effective at controlling an opponent, and it will turn them into potential finishing techniques on their own.

The Kenpo Encyclopedia by Ed Parker defines Locks as "moves that immobilize the joints or other body parts of your opponent, and restrain him from taking further action." Usually this is accomplished by locking a limb against a joint and inducing pain. In an effort to reduce the pain, the opponent will generally move in a predicted direction. By maintaining the lock and keeping the slack out of the hold, you can maintain control over your opponent and set him up for a finishing technique.

There are three basic wrist locks, two of which we use a lot in Kenpo self-defense techniques.

The one weíre most familiar with is a wrist reversal where the hand is positioned such that the opponentís palm is facing away from you. The fingers are pointing up with the little finger on the inside and the little finger is going from the inside to the outside of the body. Turn the wrist at the same time youíre bending it at a 45-degree angle and the person will go down.

The second one weíre familiar with is sometimes referred to as an ďS-LockĒ or a just a straight wrist lock. Itís where the fingers are pointed parallel to the ground with the thumb pointing down. There are other variations to this, but basically youíre trying to turn the wrist to the point where itís about three quarters of the way around with the arm extended; then you simply put the little finger straight up in the air and the person goes down.

The third one, the basis of this article, is called a palm turn. Many people are not familiar with this. It involves the situation where your opponentís palm is pointed straight toward you (as opposed to the wrist reversal where the palm is pointed away from you).  The fingers are pointed straight up. And the little finger, instead of being moved from the inside of the person to the outside, will go from outside to inside. The important part about this is that our hands are going to be at 90 degree angles from each other and most importantly we push his little finger behind the rest of his fingers. That really weakens the structure of the hand. Then we bend back as we twist on the wrist, trying to get a hold on the pressure points on the wrist, and turn them counterclockwise (facing him) while we turn the wrist clockwise (complex torque). This will cause him to go down. You should be able to bring him to one knee and restrain him. Alternately, if applied violently, this can dislocate the wrist and possibly break the bone.

Locks are similar to strikes in the sense that the ultimate goal is to transfer energy into your opponent. The more energy transferred, the more effective is the lock. Application of the following general principles will increase the effectiveness of any lock.

Power principles-Utilize height, width, and depth to increase energy transfer.

Establish a base-In joint locking techniques this is essential. The opponent will attempt to move away from the lock to alleviate the pain. A base must be established so you can transfer more energy to the lock. It is transferred directly to the joint and not diluted across the limb connecting the joint. Removing the slack in the joint is basically a component of establishing a base.

Stay inside your own gravitational sphere-For joint locking techniques to be effective, your hands and arms must remain close to your body. This performs several functions. First, it increases your musculature advantage. The closer your hands and arms are to your body, the stronger you are. Second, it increases the effectiveness of your base (see above) by adding your body to it. Third, by anchoring the lock to your body you add your body's own momentum to the energy transfer, increasing its effect.

Use a mechanical advantage-In most cases your base will function as a fulcrum. The lever is the opponent's limb being locked. Use common sense here. The further from the fulcrum you apply the lock, the more effective it will be.

Use two-way action-This is sometimes referred to as the "push and pull" rule. It is a fundamental principle in most jujitsu systems. It is based on the fact that your opponent cannot effectively resist being moved in two directions at once. This is especially true at the joint level. A perfect example of this principle is an arm bar. Pushing above the elbow to apply the technique will work; however, pulling on the wrist toward your hip as you simultaneously push down with the other arm is much more effective and difficult for your opponent to resist.

Use complex torque-This is sometimes referred to as the "bend and twist" rule. This principle is a special case of the two-way action rule. By bending and twisting the joint, you are moving it in two directions at once, making it very difficult for your opponent to resist. In addition, bending and twisting when applied correctly will often activate pressure points that control the joint.

When applying a Palm Turn, all power principles are applicable. If the person is pushing you, when you catch the hand and trap the wrist, keep him in tight ("keeping him inside your own gravitational sphere"). The further away you keep the person from your body, the weaker you are; conversely, the closer, the stronger. Next, drop your weight ("marriage of gravity"). Turn your body ("torque"). Also, step into the person ("depth" and "backup mass"), providing more force into the action. Also turn the wrist one way while turning the palm the other ("two-way action"). Finally, another principle that you can use is by locking your one arm around his as the fulcrum, using your main hand as the lever ("mechanical action"). This multiplies your overall force three or four times.

Activation of pressure points will often release the joint, making it susceptible to dislocation and multiplying the pain factor. Since this is a response of the opponent's involuntarily nervous system, it is extremely difficult to resist. Users should exercise caution and restraint when applying these techniques.

There are two main pressure points on the wrist. One is a "push point", which you activate by pushing into it. The other is a "rub point", which you activate by rubbing against. The following photos illustrate these points.
Push Point
SPWL_WrDnPrPt01.JPG (27301 bytes) SPWL_WrDnPrPt02.JPG (22434 bytes) SPWL_WrDnPrPt03.JPG (27947 bytes)
SPWL_WrDnPrPt01a.JPG (28214 bytes) SPWL_WrDnPrPt02a.JPG (20774 bytes) SPWL_WrDnPrPt03a.JPG (27789 bytes)
Rub Point
SPWL_WrDnPrPt04.JPG (28994 bytes) SPWL_WrDnPrPt05.JPG (25126 bytes)  
SPWL_WrDnPrPt04a.JPG (29732 bytes) SPWL_WrDnPrPt05a.JPG (24583 bytes)  

How to execute a Palm Turn

From a natural stance, raise your right hand up, palm facing out, fingers pointed straight up, about 12-18 inches from the right shoulder. The fingers of the right hand should be bent backward toward your right shoulder, then twisted in toward your left shoulder and down. Squeezing the little finger and index finger behind the other two fingers compounds this technique and makes it harder for the opponent to resist.

To apply the technique, face your training partner. As he raises his right hand palm facing toward you, reach out and grasp his right wrist with your left hand. Next, bring your right hand palm-to-palm with his hand, but rotate your hand 90 degrees so that your fingers are pointed directly to your left (9 o'clock). Point your right thumb down (6 o'clock).

With your left hand squeeze his wrist and rotate your right hand counterclockwise (activating wrist pressure points). With your right hand squeeze his fingers together pushing the little finger and index finger back behind the other fingers (activating finger pressure points). Pull his wrist toward your body (establishing a base) with your left hand while you push and bend back his fingers with your left hand (push-pull). Finally, as the fingers bend back, twist all the fingers down and to your right (complex torque).

If done correctly your opponent's knee opposite the hand being manipulated may give out slightly causing him to drop and effectively controlling his height, width, and depth.

If you want to practice this so as to minimize the pain on your partner, you can see if you have the correct hold by getting the person to go down and then asking him to try to get up rather than repeatedly attempting to take him down. Your practice partner can then apply the pressure himself without stretching his joints too much and getting hurt.

Applying a Palm Turn to Spiraling Wrist (a.k.a. Spiraling Twig)

The attack in Spiraling Wrist is a rear bear hug with your arms free. At the end of Step 1 in Spiraling Wrist the technique calls for "grabbing your opponent's right hand with your right hand and left hand with thumbs on top and fingers inside your opponent's palm."

Here is where you apply the Palm Turn as an alternate finish.

  1. Grab your opponent's right wrist with your right wrist on top. Try to get to the base of his wrist to be on top of his wrist pressure points.
  2. Bring your left hand across and slap your left palm against his palm.
  3. Rotate your right palm so that your fingers are perpendicular to his. Generally, this will mean that your left fingers are pointing towards the ground. Make sure you anchor your right elbow since this will establish your base for the lock.
  4. Squeeze his little finger and index finger back behind the other fingers. Bend the fingers back against the wrist with your left hand as you push down against his right wrist with your right hand.
  5. Finally, apply complex torque by twisting his wrist counterclockwise with your right hand as you twist his fingers down and to your left with your left hand.
  6. Step to 2 o'clock with your left foot and rotate to a right neutral bow facing your opponent. Make sure to slide your hands across the front of your body as you maintain the lock.
  7. Stepping forward and down as a finish will dislocate and likely break the opponent's fingers and wrist. Alternatively, you can step back with your right foot and apply the normal finish to Spiraling Twig (right snap kick and right underhand stiff-arm back knuckle).
Normally, in Spiraling Wrist, we step out into a horse, free the hand, apply the wrist lock, step away to gain depth and control the opponent, and bring him down. Itís a good technique and works well. However, with somebody whoís smaller or if you canít move out very far because you are in a tight space or if you have to get the person under control very quickly, we can use the Palm Turn instead.
Initial Moves
SPWL_SpWrist01.JPG (20726 bytes) SPWL_SpWrist02.JPG (23359 bytes)
SPWL_SpWrist01a.JPG (22313 bytes) SPWL_SpWrist02a.JPG (25894 bytes)
Traditional Finish
SPWL_SpWristReg01.JPG (17749 bytes) SPWL_SpWristReg02.JPG (16975 bytes)
SPWL_SpWristReg01a.JPG (18301 bytes) SPWL_SpWristReg02a.JPG (16617 bytes)
Palm Turn Finish
SPWL_SpWrist03.JPG (22229 bytes) SPWL_SpWrist04.JPG (23210 bytes)
SPWL_SpWrist03a.JPG (26881 bytes) SPWL_SpWrist04a.JPG (26353 bytes)

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