One of the most interesting and esoteric submissions in Jiu Jitsu today is the wristlock. Wristlocks have undergone sort of a revolution since being introduced to the art of Brazilian Jiu JItsu. A couple of decades, ago, it was very common for wrist locks to be laughed at as a technique that is “impractical” and that would never work. Today, there are instructional videos detailing how to slap on a wristlock submission of an unsuspecting opponent or training partner.
So how did this evolution happen? It is an intriguing history. The answer lies in the fact that there have always been martial arts styles and systems with fanciful techniques that are not known for working in real life “live” situations – whether in self-defense/street situations or in sparring against a resisting opponent. Wristlocks were a technique that suffered such a categorization my association. They are or often were associated with another grappling art – Aikido. Aikido is know for cooperative flowing movements, but no other movement is synonymous with Aikido that the wristlock which is usually used to takedown opponents and submit them in standing positions.The dichotomy is that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu does most of its work on the ground. Because of this, it was assumed wristlocks wouldn’t work on the ground, due to the connection to Aikido.
Aikido however has some flaws in its execution; the “attackers” are encouraged to attack only with wrists grabs, which are frequently double-handed. This is a perfect example of techniques that need to be eliminated. No-one attacks a person on the street with a double-handed wrist grab. It simply does not happen. It used to happen in ancient Japan when peasant warriors would immediately grab the wrists of the samurai swordsmen, in order to prevent them from drawing their swords and slicing their heads off. The samurai had to come up with defenses that would counter the peasant’s wrist grabs, hence the defenses against wrist grabs were born. Since no-one walks around with swords on their hips today, those attacks and its defenses are obsolete.
As time went by however, due to the proliferation of mixed martial arts and the fact that many people new to BJJ had also previously trained in Aikido and other martial arts, it was inevitable that creative minds would start to look for ways to implement wristlocks on the ground. As Brazilian Jiu Jitsu developed, this problem was solved. Now there are ways to do just that. The lower arm has to be stabilized in order to make it work, but it can, and has been done.
This is a lesson for other styles’ techniques. Some arts may not be completely effective, but some techniques may be just as effective when train with the setups and “entries” of other styles that train live or spontaneously. Wristlocks are but one example, while fancy kicks are another which were once laughed at but now find their use in full contact mixed martial arts bouts.