I have a grading coming up soon and one section of the test involves a series of wrist releases. Uke is supposed to grab me by the wrists several times and I need to display that I know and can execute several different escapes.

I don't know which wrist Uke will grab, or from which direction (same side, cross grip, left, right, or both wrists).

I know quite a few of these escapes, but I keep freezing in this exercise. As soon as Uke grabs me, I start trying to think how I can get out. All of a sudden, 3-4 second have gone by and I'm still standing there like a goose trying to work out which technique to use.

Can anyone suggest drills or something to help stop the freeze?

Or do I just need to do more practice at this?

  • 2
    Yeah, just more practice. Sep 24, 2012 at 3:31
  • Practice and keep things simple. If a person has a dozen ways (just picking a number at random) to grab your wrist and you have a specific technique for escaping from each one then yes, choking is very likely. Don't over think, do. Sep 24, 2012 at 15:19
  • Practice does not make perfect; only perfect practice makes perfect.
    – stslavik
    Sep 24, 2012 at 18:29
  • Thanks guys. Some great answers there. I'll let you know how it goes soon.
    – nedlud
    Sep 27, 2012 at 4:47
  • Hi Guys, just a note to say I passed my grading. Orange in jujutsu now :)
    – nedlud
    Oct 31, 2012 at 23:53

6 Answers 6


The other answers focus on practicing more. That's obvious, so I won't go into it.

It sounds like the freezing here comes from fear. Since you say that you "need to display that [you] know and can execute several different escapes", it seems like performance anxiety. You think you are thinking, but you're actually afraid, and using thinking of your options to avoid feeling the fear.

Here are two methods to work with this:

  1. Just move. You're afraid of making a mistake. Instead, move first, think later, and learn to accept whatever happens after that, good or bad. This is essentially what the other answers meant by "more practice."

  2. This one goes deeper, and can be a much more profound practice: Note the fear. Admit that you are afraid -- at the moment that it comes up. When you start thinking like that, let the thoughts go by and look for the underlying emotions. Most men these days are conditioned to reject and suppress emotions inside of themselves, so they'll even say, "I feel blah blah blah", but the "blah blah blah" are more thoughts, not what they are feeling. I'm talking basic emotions here: fear, anger, contempt, disgust, joy, happiness, surprise, etc. The kind of emotions that shows up as microexpressions according to Paul Ekman's research. Identify the emotion behind those thoughts, then don't do anything with that emotion. If you try to do something with it, you are no longer noting. However, you can note your reaction to having the emotion pass through your space.

The practice of (2) is where you'll find courage. Not the courage of bravado and swagger, but the courage to walk into a hellhole to do what you need to do, even when you're scared shitless. This is the courage that everyone drawn to the martial art desperately seeks.

To get the most out of this, you will want to do (1) with (2). After noting the fear, you just move.

This question is related to:


Here's a good sequence of things to overcome specifically this problem:

  1. Breathe. Practice getting grabbed and making sure your breath does not get interrupted.

  2. Move. Practice getting grabbed and moving instantly. Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

  3. Make sure 1 and 2 happen all the time.

  4. Now that you're moving and breathing, figure out what it is you really want to do, and determine what movements will get you where.

  5. Now, do 1, 2, and 4.

Slugster said something critically important: what is happening? If someone is grabbing your wrist and standing there, just pop 'em in the face or in the groin. You don't need a wrist release.

  • +1 - the wrist grab can be beneficial, you know where their hand is and what it's doing. If this is done to me then it's about a 75%/25% split between me either locking them up in return or just utilising their wrist grab to position them for a specific technique. Very seldom would I actually just disengage and then do nothing.
    – slugster
    Sep 24, 2012 at 7:14

This is one reason why various styles have kata/patterns/drills that are performed repetitively.

As you do the move during training, you need to be visualizing exactly what is happening - what the attacker did, and what you are doing to counter it. You play this in your mind as you do the move every single time. Doing this repetitively many hundreds or thousands of times means that when you come to do it for real no thought is required, you just do it. This also helps the flow when you are using multiple techniques.

All due respect, but I would suggest that if you have this "freeze" then you are probably not ready for your grading, as a grading should cover both theoretical knowledge and actual application.


The freeze comes from having too many options. It's easier to deal with any situation if you've got a few (3~5) options to deal with it instead of a much higher number. For the vast majority of wrist grabs, I find making a fist (less susceptibility to a wrist lock they might follow up with), and moving closer solves it. I'll also go for grabbing their wrist with the same or other hand (depending on how they grab). Pretty much any wrist grab, from any angle, for any wrist can be solved by combining those two things.

If your grading is expecting techniques that don't resemble anything like that, your best option is to figure out what certain techniques have in common, find out which of those commonalities you can use the best, and just practice those techniques. Don't even think about doing the ones that operate differently. That way you cut down on being paralysed by too many options.


The reason you pause is because you're reacting and reaction is slower than action. You react because you're thinking about what to do instead of doing it.

The most valuable tool in your arsenal is your ability to control the situation. When you practice, don't think about the technique; there is no technique. Instead, watch your uke; he'll tell you where he's going to grab. Watch how his nose points toward the side of your body he thinks to grab, or the direction his eyes flicker as he examines you for the attack. Everyone has a tell, even if it's just that moment when he starts to move (that you notice). You have all the time in the world.

When you start to see it, instead of passively waiting to be grabbed, move your hand a little forward to meet his grab; by doing so, you're able to take his momentum and move him before he realizes it. You're now taking control of the conflict, putting him into the defensive role.

As soon as you have contact, move. Move in the happo, the eight directions (4 cardinal, + 4 diagonal – any direction), and this will eliminate choices (after all, you've already started to move). As you step, move your arms with your body. Just move whatever manner feels natural; you're simply eliminating choices. From there, you should simply have something already forming, and you can complete the escape or counter.

The thing to realize is that it doesn't matter. Once that you force yourself to move, you're already breaking that freeze, and you're buying yourself a second. That second isn't the time to make a decision about what technique to use, but rather what your next move is going to be. Just move, and the techniques form themselves.


The honest answer is that I'm not sure what is causing the freeze or how to address it. Like many others, I'm going to assume that this is analysis paralysis.

My first answer is probably to relax and ignore the problem; it happens to all of us sometimes. (Of course, I'm not a "street" martial artist; I practice for the joy of it.) But if you feel like you aren't satisfied with your "freeze/respond" ratio. You may be able to escape the analysis paralysis with drill and practice. As others have said, the point of drill is to make the response part of your zombie state - where your conscious mind isn't involved. (Aside: I find it amusing when our sempai tries to demonstrate technique X, but winds up doing technique Y because the attack wasn't done correctly. His body has started the response before he is aware of it. He has to take a break and teach us how to attack correctly before he can demonstrate technique X)

If I were in your shoes, I'd do a structured drill; Uke grabs, respond with ikkyo. Uke grabs, responde with nikkyo, then sankyo and yonkyo. Then do release technique #1, #2, etc. (pick a sequence appropriate to your training level and the style you practice.) You don't choose a response, you just iterate through the sequence. Second time through the sequence pause for just a second to analyze whether the response felt natural/effective/appropriate. (it isn't always fluid to get to yonkyo for example). Third time through, ask yourself if another response would have been more convenient. Fourth time through try to let yourself go free - see if your body will select a response. If it doesn't, default back to the sequence.

My final bit of advice may not be appropriate for all styles, but Tomiki-Sensei said that more than half your responses should be the first five techniques. Sometimes the simplest is the best. If you wind up repeating the same technique 75% or even 90% of the time, that may not be a terrible thing. I think when I watch juniors during group attack/jiyu waza they're probably throwing the same technique 75% of the time. But I'm judging them as juniors. I'm looking to see if they move off the line, if they are positioning themselves for the next attack, etc. Your seniors will grade you against the standard that is appropriate to you.

Best of luck. Leave a comment and let us know how it goes.

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