I am a Blue Belt in BJJ and High-Green Belt in Hapkido, and recently I have been trying to integrate some throws that require manipulating the wrist (Outside Wrist Throw). This technique is from Hapkido and Aikido, and to me, I think it's a great idea as soon as someone grabs your lapel.

Well, I can't say people love it. But instead of accepting the technique, it seems as if people see it as cheating or unsportsmanlike. Why is that? The wrist is a joint like many others we attack in BJJ. And there is no striking involved either.


4 Answers 4


First, you need to ask your instructors and senior students about anything you see them turning their noses up to. Do this reflexively. Always ask why.

If they have no good answer for you, other than that they just don't do it, then that's your answer. Otherwise, this is the sort of question that will lead to a much better understanding of Brazilian Jiujitsu, because it could reveal something to you that you hadn't considered before.

Wrist locks and wrist take-downs are allowed in most BJJ competitions, with restrictions on children and for some belt ranks (typically not allowed until purple belt).

Wrist locks are in the official Gracie Jiujitsu syllabus, also. They appear in its classical self-defense drill sets. And there are some BJJ black belts who specialize in it and even put on workshops detailing wrist locks in BJJ.

If wrist techniques are legal to do and part of the art, then why would some BJJ people be uncomfortable with them?

One answer is that some people have never seen them, because they either do a sport version of BJJ, or they just haven't reached the rank where wrist locks are introduced. Naturally, they're not going to know what to do right away when you do your wrist lock on them. It might take your instructor stopping class to demo what to do in this case. Then after that, you might find your wrist lock becomes ineffective on others in your class.

In sport BJJ, wrist techniques are considered "low percentage" and may be excluded from practice altogether from a particular school. In other words, they're risky to do and put you in jeopardy of losing your positional advantage or getting submitted.

That being said, even if you do a self-defense based version of BJJ, you might find that your instructors are reluctant to use wrist manipulation. There are good reasons for that.

In the case of the Hapkido "outside wrist throw" that you mentioned (which I think is the same as the Aikido "kote-gaeshi" technique more or less), there are many ways this can go wrong for you. First, realize that someone who is fighting you isn't going to give you their wrists. In fact, the hands are typically the fastest moving body part on your opponent. They flail around so fast your eyes can't even see them. So if you're actively targeting them, trying to capture them and then do your wrist lock throw, you're likely going to fail miserably. You'll miss.

Instead, one of the principles of BJJ is to concentrate on the body first during a take-down, not on the extremities. The body (torso) is the slowest part of your opponent. That's why BJJ is so successful at diving under punches and doing a two-arm grab of the torso before the take-down. Even if you end up eating that punch, you still find yourself holding on to that torso, which allows you to take your opponent down and win the fight on the ground.

Second, the way this wrist throw is done, you typically have to get some distance between you and your opponent, and turn perpendicular to your opponent or turn your back against your opponent while applying force to the hand and wrist. This is problematic for you.

Getting distance implies you were close to your opponent already and then got out of there. There are easier ways of taking him down if you managed to get close. You just lost that advantage if you broke away. And you took extra time to get that distance, during which time your opponent can follow you and take you down. Also, at this distance, you're vulnerable to being struck with punches and kicks (and your opponent has a free arm and two free legs). BJJ likes to quickly get in and control the torso, because in that short distance, your opponent can't generate as much power in his strikes.

If you never got close in the first place prior to performing the wrist lock, then see my first point, above: People don't just let you grab their flailing wrists, unless you get lucky, but luck isn't something you should train to rely on.

Also, turning your body perpendicular to your opponent like this technique does means you are opening yourself up to being taken down. It's not a solid, defensive stance.

And using both of your hands to apply the wrist lock throw means both of your arms are busy doing something, while only one of his arms is captured. If you're doing the math, that means he has one more arm than you do free. Those are bad odds. And as I mentioned before, he still has the ability to kick and punch you, whereas your arms are tied up trying to do a wrist throw, unable to guard and block.

There are many Hapkido and Aikido people that just cringed upon reading that, I'll bet. They're recalling all of the times it worked for them in class, (typically against lapel grabs from stiff-armed people who are told to keep holding onto that lapel).

The key thing to realize is that these arts don't typically involve actively resisting opponents. When that element (sparring) is added, these wrist throws are almost never done. People don't let you take their wrists without punching or kicking the crap out of you, basically.

All that being said, do a Youtube search for "BJJ wrist locks". You might be surprised by what you see. There are a lot of videos showing them. But pay attention to the fact that none of them look anything like the outside wrist throw like you mentioned. Instead, they tend to be done from very close in when it's safe for them to do so.

BJJ people can be very sneaky about their wrist locks. You might not see them unless someone pointed it out. It's not that they're illegal moves, so people are trying to disguise them. No, they're all perfectly legal moves in BJJ. It's just that the wrist lock is generally not the only thing they have going on in the technique. It's like a cherry on top or the icing on the cake. It can and has been used to tap opponents, but it's most often used transitionally, to move into a better position.

It's probably something you should work on at black belt level. Until then, you might want to stick with the things your system is trying to teach you.

As for other techniques which come from other martial arts styles, besides wrist locks, this depends on the school and the instructor. People are there to learn BJJ, and so if you come into the school with stuff from other martial arts, it might be seen as, "That's nice, now how about you concentrate on learning what you're here to learn?" (But definitely follow-up on it with your instructor asking him why those techniques are frowned upon.)

The BJJ schools I've been to have all seemed to welcome other outside martial arts techniques. For example, one school I visited had a high ranking Judo student. So the 3rd degree black belt instructor asked the Judo student to show the class the proper way to throw. And apparently this was a regular part of their class, to ask her for correction on their throws.

I've seen other BJJ schools that have ex-wrestlers, muay-thai people, boxers, and kali people who demonstrate their stuff for the class. In general, it's a small part of the class, but the instructors welcome it.

The etiquette is very important, though. You can't just yell, "Hey everyone, look at me. I'm going to show you this cool Hapkido technique." Instead, it has to be something the instructor has seen you do before, asked you about, and had a chance to test you with it. Then in class, if he sees merit to the technique and thinks you're particularly good at it, he might turn to you and ask you to demonstrate it. Otherwise, it's best to keep it to yourself in class and work on it only when you're rolling outside of class time.

My perspective anyway. For what it's worth.

Hope that helps.

  • 1
    Very detailed answer. I appreciate this. The Outside Wrist Throw wouldn't work for the reason you stated. No one will just give their wrist, but, the times I have executed have been from a low lapel grip (about chest-height) while still standing up. It's basically the same idea as someone pushing you or shoving you, only their hand is on your chest long enough for you to grab it. This is what had me wondering the most about this. Why havent enough people been attacking that grip?
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 16:01
  • 1
    The reason you're able to get it from a lapel grab in class (not in competition, right?), is because people are more relaxed there and are working on what they've been told to work on. They're not expecting it. And most of the colored ranks haven't even seen it before. You're right to at least try it every now and then. Your classmates will improve their grip and strategy because of it. Just realize, though, that at some point this will stop working for you, and you'll find that it will actually cause you more grief than you want later on. So you'll probably abandon it eventually. Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 20:04
  • 5
    I would argue Aikido itself is a "low percentage" martial art.
    – Tom
    Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 16:52
  • 1
    @Tom I would tend to agree. I go over the strengths and weaknesses of Aikido here: martialarts.stackexchange.com/questions/4732/… Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 17:18
  • 2
    @HuwEvans If you're so sure in your wristlock technique in the context of BJJ, then go try it out. Most BJJ schools offer a handful of free classes and they'll be happy to give you a blue or purple belt to try your wrist manipulations on. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 13:32

Most throws in BJJ descend from western wrestling, or Judo. In both of these arts, the focus is on taking the opponents balance. Resisting one of these throws does not matter much: if someone is good, you can strain all you like against their seio nage, but basic physics cannot be violated, and if your balance is taken you will end up safely thrown to your back.

Kote-gaeshi relies on a different principle: uke falls down because they have to fall down to avoid having their wrist broken.

There is a culture in BJJ of applying submissions slowly enough that your opponent can tap without injury. Kote-gaeshi violates this expectation: you apply a submission quickly to provoke a response other than tapping.

This idea is probably foreign to most BJJ players. They see you as cranking a low percentage submission, and trying to break their wrist. To them, this technique is a lot like cranking on an armbar - it makes you a dick.

If you want to start training this technique, it needs to be introduced to your training partners carefully. They need to learn the ukemi, or they are at risk of injury. They need to know what you are going for, so they do not see it as irresponsibly dangerous.

Follow the rules of your academy. If heel hooks are banned, do not use them. If wrist locks are banned, do not use them. You can try to make an argument for a rule change, but I would advise against "civil disobedience" in a context where people's joints are on the line.

If you get permission to experiment with kote-gaeshi, I would ask some of your friends to drill it with you first. Learn the ukemi together. When you play standup, only go for wristlocks with those people you have drilled with. You might even give them a heads up that you are going to try and attempt them during the practice.

Eventually, if you have a lot of success, and there are no injuries, you might find that the culture of your academy grows to accept these as a normal part of training.

  • 2
    @HuwEvans If you think that you can reliably "take someones balance" with the wristlock, in a technical way, which does not put the opponent in danger, then I would ask you to film some sparring matches and put the results on my other question... Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 22:00
  • 1
    Question: if the wristlock throw is about taking balance, and not about avoiding injury, then why do you need to bend the wrist? Could you not throw someone with the same mechanics just by holding their wrist without bending it? Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 0:58
  • 1
    @HuwEvans I believe that in each case, if uke was willing to have his wrist broken, he would not have to move. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 5:56
  • 2
    @HuwEvans Unfortunately, it would seem that the nearest WSKO school is several hundred miles away from me. In any event, I think the burden of proof is on those making extraordinary claims. There are ample forums to prove the efficacy of these techniques. Simply enroll in BJJ, Judo, or Sambo tournaments locally, in the white belt division, and see if you can score such a takedown. This would be a huge service to your art. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 20:14
  • 3
    @HuwEvans Without a competition, there is no way to know what works and what does not work. If you claim that you can use these techniques on resisting opponents, then the only way to back up that claim is to do so publically. This is the definition of a competition. By saying no one in kempo cares about competitions, you are saying no one cares about proving the efficacy of their techniques. Best of luck in your martial arts journey. Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 21:10

I find wristlock throws to sometimes be frowned upon because they are somewhat dangerous due to the speed with which they must be applied to be successful, and their unfamiliarity.

Unfamiliarity can be fixed, just like leglocks are currently undergoing a normalization process in the community, or like wristlocks-as-a-submission are better recognized in BJJ. Recognize that with familiarity comes defenses and counters--in fact, showing someone how to avoid, defend, roll out of, and counter your wristlock throw is probably the fastest way to getting them to accept it. (And your technique will improve too!)

The fact that a wristlock throw has to be executed fast is tough to fix. People are going to be justifiably angry if you crank their joint in order to throw them, whether you're doing kotegaeshi or a Kimura-ripping sumi gaeshi or a waki-gatame. It's impolite in BJJ to apply submissions fast with the intent to make the opponent move instead of tap.

  • BJJ has evolved probably ten-fold since the early days of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. And it has grown that much more due to the influence of other arts. Like you said, leglocks were a big no-no. Now they're not. Then the focus shifted to slicers. Now, not so much. I understand a violent change of direction on the wrist hurts, but it can be trained
    Commented Jan 3, 2016 at 20:26

Wrist locks are the new leg locks. Close-minded know-it-alls sometimes wear black belts:) Experiment for yourself. Stay open-minded and free. Have no style but your own - if that appeals to you. They used to frown on wrestling, leg locks, judo, striking and everything else they aren’t familiar with. I know. I was there. And, I used wristlocks to high percentage levels. When you figure out how to apply them in your JJ game, be really careful, and never “snap”. Keep it slow and steady. The wrist does break. If there’s a good reason to not do it… it’s because it’s dangerous like a heel hook. Luckily, most people are doing the aikido style wrist folding, and abandon that as useless. It’s not totally a bad thing. I’ve felt a wrist break in my hands. I don’t want to feel that ever again. Oh, and, starting to do a wrist-lock is a great set-up to more standard moves, when they pull away. Be sure to integrate.

  • 2
    If you pull off wrist-lock throws (which the question is about) with high percentage in actual BJJ competition I'd like to see footage and a detailed description of the technique, as this is completely unheard of as far as I am aware. We are not speaking about some small dojo training in some shady style in a compliant fashion here but full-resistance BJJ competition. Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 16:03

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.