I was reading this one: Isshinryu karate - seisan kata - opening move bunkai

and there is all the usual stuff I've seen in quite a few styles over the years about: "The drill sequence begins opponent opposite holding your right wrist/forearm with his left hand."

I've seen "they grab your wrist and then..." type moves in a variety of styles. Certainly a lot of Aikido stuff, but other places as well.

But I've never seen a style start a technique with an actual wrist grab. I'm sure they must exist in Aikido (right?) but generally in self-defense, dueling based martial arts, grappling, etc, I don't see this.

So if no styles teach attacks that start by grabbing the other guys wrist ( which makes sense to me because why would you do that?) then why are there so many defenses against it?

So my question is: What's what all the wrist grabbing?

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    How else would they keep you from drawing your sidearm before they stab you several times ... the 21 (or 10) foot rule. Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 23:35
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    Yah, this frame shift from, "so let's say somebody grabs your wrist!", to, "so let's say you're in close quarters, and the shit goes down, so you're at an ambush\conversational distance, and while you're trying to go for your weapon the other guy grabs your wrist" is significant. Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 5:02

4 Answers 4


What's what all the wrist grabbing?

  1. In violent situations (as opposed to competitive situations), your assailant is likely to grab you. Grab and hit is one of the most common attacks. Being number 2 behind the haymaker according to the statistics I have seen. Also grab and stab btw. If you have a guard or fence raised they'll grab it to control and clear the limbs.

Contrary to popular belief, these aren't sports. They're not martial art vs martial art. You will almost never see any sportsman grab and hit. It's generally against the rules and gets trained out early.

Grabbing before striking is the single biggest advantage you can give yourself. It increases your accuracy dramatically. It removes the opponent's ability to evade. It increases the power you can hit with, and it appears to be an instinctive behaviour given the prevalence among untrained violent offenders. It's also why almost all karate, TKD and kung-fu punches are grab and strike.

  1. Wrist grab is shorthand for lower arm; anywhere elbow to wrist behaves similarly and sometimes can apply also to upper arm grips as well.

  2. Historically, as a member of the military caste which developed the techniques, you would likely have been armed. Grabbing your wrist prevents you from drawing your weapon.

  3. A convenient common entrance method to many of the early techniques. It isn't all wrist grabs by any means but in early training it's useful to begin from a familiar point. I think this is how Itosu used it in the Pinans.

  4. What makes you think it's a wrist grab? Whether your opponent grabs your wrist/forearm or you have grabbed theirs, arm positioning is near identical. It's likely that many of the techniques in TMA originated within the military castes, and "No first attack" philosophies not withstanding, were probably formulated as active attacks on opponent's limbs, which were then later justified as wrist grabs.

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    I agree with all of this, but it suggests that wrist grabs that uncommon in all competitive martial arts. Wrist grabs are absolutely routine in no-gi BJJ for example... Commented Jun 21, 2018 at 19:02

There are plenty of grappling attacks that start from wrist grabs. Wrist grabs are a basic element of eliminating your opponent's attack/defense. It's much easier to attack if you can move the opponent's arms out of the way. Wrist control is one way to start this.


  1. Jimmy Pedro (judo) on grip fighting with wrist control
  2. wrestling takedowns
  3. more wrestling

Wrist control is rarely as static as counters make it out to be. Usually you exploit wrist control quickly to get a better control, strike, throw, takedown, etc. It's hard to actually control an opponent's movements with only wrist control, which is why you also need speed.


I would like to offer an answer from traditional aikido point of view (Iwama ryu/Takemusu).

There are lot of grabs on body or clothes: kata dori, kosa dori, hiji dori, morote dori, riote/hantai dori, katate dori, mune dori, sode dori, eri dori and so on, plus grabs from the back ushiro eri dori, ushiro kata dori.... you get the picture.

Grabs are considered dangerous, more dangerous than punch attempt with distance.

If one is grabbed, it means that grabbed person already made a mistake in budo sense; he didn't respect distance maai and left himself in a situation to be grabbed. He now can't move freely, or draw a weapon; there are always other attackers around, so if you are grabbed it means you are almost dead and you have one chance to save yourself. If you are grabbed, you don't have the initiative, so you are reacting to someone else's initiative, which is a really difficult situation.

This is the reason why are defence techniques from grabs are so important.

Most Japanese sports descend from arts that were common in samurai life. In that life, there were no rules or honour in a sporting sense; it was the "business" of killing without all the romantic elements we imagine.


I hypothesize that it is an outgrowth of sword culture. In a CQC situation, a common tactic would be to control the opponents sword hand (preferably before they can even draw a weapon). A lot of disarming techniques begin with a wrist grab to prevent the weapon from being brought to bear against you. The holistic approach to martial arts would include techniques for both disarming your opponent and preventing him from doing the same to you. Flash forward a couple hundred years, and you still have this defensive element being taught but without any context. In the West, we usually only see a wrist grab being used against someone considered to be a minimal threat (like a child or slightly built adult).

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