Yesterday I had the opportunity to work with a couple of advanced (7th and 8th degree) instructors who were visiting the school on a foundational aikido wrist lock. The 8th degree was good. You couldn't even really see him apply the lock; there was a subtle motion with his hands and then all of a sudden the attacker was lying on the ground. That's especially impressive considering that us beginning students were struggling to get the lock at all even with completely compliant partners. You could at least see the 7th apply the lock, but at one point he made me flop myself all over the floor just by twisting my wrist in different directions. Hence the title of the post; I occasionally forget that there are people out there who are not just better, but orders of magnitude better, than I am.
The lock we worked on was interesting. Way back in the dark ages I learned the same, basic wrist lock that everyone learns: Push the metacarpophalangeal joints of the hand in question towards the inside of the arm. When done correctly this places tremendous stress on the wrist and, pardon my french, hurts like a motherfucker. Of note is that the discomfort feels like its distributed more-or-less evenly across the wrist joint.
So the one we worked on was a little different and, perhaps, more effective. I say more effective for two reasons:
- A beginning student about ⅔ my size was able to successfully apply it against me a couple of times with minimal visible effort.
- It seems to hurt more with less physical force on the defender's part.
The difference is that the variant we worked on causes all of the discomfort at the outside edge of the wrist, in the vicinity of the head of the ulna. If all the force is being concentrated at one point rather than being distributed across the entire wrist joint that could explain why it takes less force to achieve the desired effect.
The complication is, of course, that the mechanics of the lock aren't obvious. As I alluded to above all the students ended up failing to successfully apply it as often as not. There seems to be a very small range where the locks works as intended; minor changes in hand/wrist position can cause major changes in efficacy.
As near as I've can tell, based on the lesson and self-experimentation, the basis of the lock is bending the metacarpophalangeal joints of the little and ring fingers towards the inner forearm. But I believe there are two additional pieces as well:
- While maintaining pressure on the joints and keeping them at ~90° to the forearm, rotate the hand between 15-30° around the axis defined by the middle finger, towards the outer edge of the forearm. This should result in an increase in discomfort at the head of the ulna.
- This is the part I still don't quite grasp. While in this position the hand needs to be rotated around the axis defined by the forearm. If done correctly it, too, hurts like a motherfucker. If not done correctly it doesn't hurt that much. I'm still trying to grok the difference between "correctly" and "incorrectly" in this case.
There are some other, macro elements in play as well, such as the position of the attacker's wrist relative to the defender's body (closer is better) and the angle of the arm grasping the attacker's wrist (vertical is better).
That I, and other students, were having trouble applying this lock in a repeatable manner represent a (minor) failure of pedagogy on the part of the instructors; they either didn't, or couldn't, show us how to get the lock consistently. Rather, when one of us was having trouble they'd either demonstrate the lock themselves or make subtle adjustments in the student's positioning which all of a sudden made the lock effective. I didn't find that either of these methods helped me find the small "sweet spot" for the lock. I would have appreciated something along the lines I described above, demonstrating the component rotations for the lock in sequence and showing how the application of each on in sequence increases the discomfort of the lock.