Fight and Flight
Arm Locks in Self Defense
Learn 15+ of the best arm locks in self defense with this lock-flow drill. It includes a variety of basic wrist locks, finger locks, shoulder locks, and other arm joint locks.
I learned these self defense locks as part of my Vortex Control Self Defense training in the Philippines. I present them here in the same drill format. These fighting locks are a combination of aikido joint locks, bjj arm locks, and other martial arts wrist locks.
For ease of memory and writing the following locks have semi-descriptive, non-official, names.
The Martial arts locks you will learn include:
- Shoulder lock
- Wrist twist
- Wrist twist variation
- Wrist lock
- Wrist pressure
- Overarm pressure
- Underarm pressure
- Bent arm lock
- One handed bent arm lock
- Reverse one handed bent arm lock
- Crook elbow lock
- Over shoulder arm bar
- Finger control
- Finger lock
- Forarm torque
- Lock flow drill alternatives
- Wrist twist alternative
- Crook elbow lock to figure-4 armbar
- Alternative ending
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Arm Locks in Self Defense
In a self-defense situation, you can use these locks alone or in small combinations.
Some reasons you may want to apply an armlock are to:
- Gain pain compliance, e.g., to escort somebody out of a room.
- Break an opponent’s limb which is likely to end the conflict.
- Disarm an armed assailant.
When practicing the following lock flow drill keep in mind the following:
- As you flow from lock to lock, as a general rule, always have at least one hand gripping your opponent’s limb. This helps to prevent escape.
- You can slide your hands along your opponent’s limb while still keeping a grip. You will get better at this with practice.
- Where possible, keep your elbows close to your body. This will enable you to best use your center of gravity to generate power.
- Use jerking, vibrating, strikes, etc., to “soften” your opponent up. This makes it easier to apply locks and/or to increase the damage done. Some examples of these things are below.
From the check-mate position use your left hand to move your opponent’s right hand down. At the same time, move your right hand towards your opponent’s left shoulder.
Move your left arm under your opponent’s arm to his rear. The underside of your elbow, which is facing up, “hooks” onto his/her arm. Apply pressure on his shoulder with your right hand to bend your opponent forward.
Here the shoulder lock is from the opposite side and aggressiveness is also added.
With the hand that is not hooking your opponent’s arm, strike his/her face on the way to grabbing his/her neck.
As you come back to grab your opponent’s neck do so with force using a cupped hand.
Follow up with another elbow to your opponent’s head. You can repeat these two strikes and you can also knee him.
Slide your right hand down your opponent’s arm to control his/her elbow. At the same time slide your left hand down and take a grip on your opponent’s wrist.
Your left hand is on the inside of your opponent’s guard with your palm facing out. Grip your opponent’s wrist and then pull his/her arm across your centerline. You can use your right hand to help with a push at your opponent’s elbow, although this is usually not needed.
As you bring your opponent’s arm across your centerline continue to slide your right hand down his arm. Meet your left hand at your opponent’s wrist.
Use both your hands to bring your opponent’s hand up and then over to the outside of his guard. Use the waterfall principle.
Applying the wrist twist in full has the potential to damage the whole limb.
Wrist Twist Variation
Release the pressure and then apply a variation of the wrist twist. Do this by pushing your opponent’s wrist down towards him/her.
Release the pressure from the wrist twist variation. Use your right hand to grip your opponent’s fingers.
Push your opponent’s hand into his/her face.
Move your left hand to your opponent’s elbow.
Push your opponent’s elbow as you pull his/her fingers down and towards your centerline.
As your opponent’s arm straightens grab hold of his thumb with your left hand. Pull his hand towards your center. Lock your elbows close to your body and apply pressure towards your opponent to apply the wrist lock. The pressure is a torquing one, a vortex.
Keep a good grip on your opponent’s thumb with your left hand while sliding your right hand up to his/her elbow.
Bend your opponent’s arm down at his/her elbow and use a circular motion to move it to the inside and up.
Use your right hand to help secure your opponent’s upper arm in the crook of your elbow.
Apply pressure on your opponent’s wrist with your left hand to cause pain and lock his/her arm in. You can use your right to strike.
The image on the right shows the Wrist Pressure lock from the opposite side. It also shows that you can put your opponent’s elbow either on your bicep or your chest. Putting it on your chest is more secure.
Also, instead of striking, you can use your spare hand to increase the pressure on your opponent’s wrist.
Grip your opponent’s wrist with your right hand and then curl your left arm underneath his/hers.
At the same time, pull your opponent’s arm straight with your right hand.
The end result is with your opponent’s arm straight and his/her elbow facing up. Apply pressure on his/her elbow with your forearm.
As you apply pressure down with your left, pull up with your right. At the same time apply pressure with your forearm as you roll it over your opponent’s elbow. Use the waterfall principle.
Here it is from the opposite side. You can see the waterfall action clearer.
Curl your left a little toward yourself and then underneath your opponent’s arm.
This rolls your opponent’s arm so that his/her elbow faces the ground.
The crook of your elbow applies pressure upwards on your opponent’s elbow. Your left palm faces up. Apply downward pressure on his/her hand with your right hand.
Here it is from the opposite side.
Bent Arm Lock
Return to the overarm pressure lock and then, without letting go of your right hand, bend your opponent’s arm towards him/her and grab your right wrist with your left hand.
Strike your opponent with your right elbow.
Here it is from the opposite side. From the position where your arm is on top, you can strike to your opponent’s eyes before bending his/her arm.
One Handed Bent Arm Lock
Let go of your right wrist and grab your opponent’s fingers from the side facing towards you. Your palm faces your opponent.
Now your left hand has control of your opponent’s limb. Move his/her arm away from yourself and to the outside of your opponent’s shoulder.
You can strike your opponent with your right.
Reverse One Handed Bent Arm Lock
Bring your right hand up on the outside of your opponent’s right arm. Pass it up through the gap between your opponent’s wrist and shoulder. Next, take hold of his fingers, replacing your left hand.
Grab your opponent’s hair with your right and pull him/her down by the hair and the wrist. Do these two things at the same time.
You can also stomp the rear of your opponent’s knee.
Crook Elbow Lock
Swing your left arm between your opponent’s wrist and shoulder. Do this until the crook of your elbow is on the crook of his elbow with your palm facing up.
As you do this release your right hand and capture his/her wrist under your armpit.
Apply upward pressure with your left arm.
Here is the crook elbow lock from the opposite side.
Over Shoulder Arm Bar
Reach over with your right arm, grab your opponent’s left wrist, and pull it towards yourself.
Pass it across your opponent’s body in-between his/her body and your left hand.
Use your right hand on the back of your opponent’s left shoulder and your left hand on your opponent’s left lower arm. Twist his body towards your left shoulder.
Drop your left arm and use it to attack your opponent’s neck. The twist and strike action is very fast. Use the momentum created by the twist of his body to gain more force behind the strike.
Turn your body to face the same way as your opponent and at the same time drop both your hands to grab his/her left hand.
When you drop your hands be sure to keep your opponent’s arm between them. Your left-hand grabs your opponent’s wrist and your right-hand takes hold of his/her fingers.
Continue to turn your body to the left as you straighten your opponent’s arm over your shoulder. His/her elbow sits on your shoulder with the underside of the elbow facing up.
Pull down on your opponent’s wrist to apply pressure.
Use your right hand to grab your opponent’s ring and pinky fingers. Bend those two fingers down back towards your opponent. As you do so bring his lower arm down so that it is on top of yours. Keep your left hand on his/her wrist.
Begin to spin your opponent so that you swap sides. Do so by bending his/her fingers back as you apply pressure to his/her left arm with your right arm.
Keep your opponent’s hand near your waist for better leverage on his/her fingers. Pain compliance will keep him/her spinning once your lower arms lose contact.
Towards the end of the spin use your left hand to grab his/her index and middle fingers.
The third image below shows the finger grab from the opposite side.
Keeping your opponent’s arm straight, bring his/her hand up with his/her bent fingers pointing up. Jerk your opponent’s hand down towards you.
Bring your right arm, with your palm facing up, under your opponent’s left arm. Place the crook of your elbow above your opponent’s elbow.
Grab your opponent’s right wrist with your right hand. Pull his/her hand down by the wrist while applying pressure on his/her elbow with your right arm.
At this point, your opponent’s forearm is vertical with his elbow pointing up. His upper arm is horizontal.
This completes the basic lock flow drill.
Lock Flow Drill Alternatives
Here are a few alternative movements to show how you can alter the drill depending on the situation at hand. The actual number of variations possible are countless, limited only to your imagination.
Wrist Twist Alternative
This demonstrates how you can go back to the formula from the lock flow drill. It also shows how you can flow from the rib entry to an upward chin strike as opposed to going to check-mate.
From the end of the wrist twist, release the pressure on your opponent’s wrist. Strike him/her in the ribs as you would in the rib entry.
Continue with the rib entry as normal by bringing your hand up to the outside of your opponent’s guard.
Instead of going into check-mate you can go straight into the arm pull. Follow this with an upward palm heel to your opponent’s jaw.
Crook Elbow Lock to Figure-4 Armbar
After releasing pressure from the crook elbow lock it is possible for your opponent to swing at you. Use a variation of the elbow entry to block the attack, i.e., raise your right elbow.
Capture your opponent’s arm by circling your right arm over his/her left arm. At the same time place your left hand on your opponent’s right shoulder.
Grab your left forearm with your right hand. Your opponent’s straight arm should be in the crook of your right elbow.
Apply the figure-4 armbar. Push down on your opponent’s shoulder while applying upward pressure on his elbow.
As you release the lock strike your opponent’s solar plexus with your right hand.
Slide your left hand down your opponent’s left arm and grab hold of his/her wrist. As you do this give him/her a right hook to the jaw.
Continue into the over shoulder armbar.
This demonstration gives a different ending to the lock flow drill. It starts from the finger lock.
Bring your opponent’s fingers up to the right side of your chest. With your left hand deliver an uppercut underneath your opponent’s left arm to his/her jaw.
Use your right hand to control the back of your opponent’s head so you can bend his/her left arm behind and down his/her back. You will need to adjust the grip of your left hand to do so.
Bring your right hand up underneath your opponent’s right armpit to grab his/her left hand. Use your right hand to help feed it down.
You can release your left hand.
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In this drill, you have learned a variety arm and wrist locks. You can use them in self defense or other martial arts, including combat sports like MMA. There are many more wrist and arm locks in the world of martial arts, but for practical reasons, 15 is more than enough. For my personal self defense training I include less than half of these, but also add a couple more suited for ground fighting.
Photo Credit: Senior Airman Stephanie Sauberan. Cropped.
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