The Most Under-Attacked Joint

Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling offer techniques to attack almost every major joint in the body. Attacks on the elbow, shoulder, neck, knees, feet, and ankles are all fairly common and have many high-percentage techniques associated with them. These should be your bread and butter submissions because they have a long, proven track record of effectiveness.

I think a bit of variety is a good thing, however, so let’s talk about a not-so-common attack: wristlocks. In my opinion the wrist is the most under-attacked joint in grappling. Just about every time you are attacking the arm you have access to the wrist as well. If your opponent is really good at defending the armlock, for example, you may be able to switch to a quick wristlock and get a submission that way.

There are lots of ways to compress, extend and twist the wrist. Just watch an aikido class or read a book and traditional Japanese Ju-jutsu. Typically these wristlocks start with both combatants in a standing or kneeling position, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t also work on the ground. In fact I think that a lot of them are easier to do on a pinned opponent than on a more mobile standing opponent.

I am not alone in my respect for the wristlock in grappling. Fernando ‘Terere’ and Fredson Paixao are just 2 of many BJJ players who have used the wristlock at the highest levels of competition. One the home front, one of my main training partners is a master of sneak wristlock attack. When we spar I constantly have to watch where I put my hands or he is going to trap a hand and lock the wrist.

Now for an important safety announcement: APPLY WRISTLOCKS SLOWLY!! Here is why:

  1. the wrist is a small joint and thus susceptible to injury in the first place;
  2. because they are relatively easy to counter the temptation is to slam them on quickly;
  3. if you slam them on quickly you WILL injure your training partners.

The good news is that usually failing at a wristlock submission doesn’t put you in a bad position, so you have nothing to lose by applying them in a slow, controlled manner.

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