To grab or not to grab, there is no question

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by Please reality, Feb 18, 2015.

  1. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    I was thinking the other day on the different reasons we don't grab when doing locks and throws, and even pins. In the beginning of training, we do learn how to grab the opponent to conduct various techniques, but as you improve, you are admonished not to grab. Instead, you are told to hook or use other means to control the opponent. Why is that? Here are a few reasons why we don't grab:

    1) When you grab, that's all you can do. If I grab and then want to strike, I first have to let go the grab(of course if you are grabbing the chest or throat, it is possible to strike from there, I am thinking of where you are grabbing their elbow in let's say an arm bar and want to hit their face from there) before I can do so.

    2) Grabbing requires grip strength, and strength fails eventually. Of course the people who created the martial arts were in shape, they used weapons and tools since a young age, and trained their bodies to be tough. Yet they still realized that brute strength had a finite capacity. There are ways of hooking and clamping that use more tendon strength than the way most people grab(using muscular strength), that are as or more effective and don't tire out the muscles as quickly.

    3) We are taught to respond to grabs, and when you grab, you send a signal to the opponent that something is wrong. It is entirely possible and plausible to control them without sending the same signals, thus preempting his defense. Just as weapons should be felt before they are seen, locks and throws should be near completion by the time they know they are about to go for a ride. If somebody grabs you, it triggers a reaction, usually to resist or to strike out.

    4) Grabbing is slower and requires more effort. Though it is more intuitive and primal, you lose time and energy by grabbing. It also requires more intention.

    5) Grabbing means you lose freedom. Similar to the first point, when you grab, you lose flexibility. Take a sword grip for example. The pinky and ring finger help lock the sword in place with the palm heel. This is leverage and allows the sword to move freely. The grip is like wringing out a towel, not like gripping it into a fist. If you tried the latter, you would not be able to cut as effectively.

    In Kukishinden and Takagi especially, there are some arcane throws and variations of basic lock techniques(oni kudaki for example) that require you to move around the opponent in seemingly inane ways. If you try to grab their elbow and wrist while doing such techniques and "put" the lock on, you will find that there are times when it is impossible to do the technique properly. 9 times out of 10, it is because your grabbing action is actually blocking the technique, taking the opportunity to use your elbow and body to help with the throw.

    I will try to find some videos that illustrate this point, as it is a bit hard to imagine by words alone.

    [ame=""]Kasumi gake, Kukishin ryu Dakentaijutsu - Ninjutsu technique for Akban wiki - YouTube[/ame]

    Forgetting the differences in how you may have learned this technique, the obvious errors we see are him lifting the hand over his head when he enters and relying on grabbing and dragging the arm to take the opponents balance. All of the exertion and displacement of the attacker is excusable for a beginner, but greater effect can be had with simpler technique. In the time it took him to grab and physically move his opponent around, he could've been countered or struck. Though his technique appears fast, it is actually pretty slow comparatively.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  2. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    There are

    1. hard grab - used to tie your opponent up.

    Here are examples of hard grab. You try to disable your opponent's body function. Most of the time, you try to guide your opponent's arms so one of his arms will jam his other arm.



    2. soft grab - used to guide your opponent's arm away so it won't give you any trouble during entering.

    Here are examples of soft grab. Your opponent can release that soft grab so fast before you even notice it.


    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  3. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    You can tie his hands up without grabbing by using your forearms or body rotation to move in. If you stand square and maintain a set distance, grabbing may seem like more of a necessity.
  4. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    I'd also add a couple things to your initial list:

    1. Grabbing is clothing dependent - i.e. you get different control on a t-shirt, jacket, or naked body (hence gi and no-gi grappling)

    2. Weapon transfer - when you go to cut angles and do the equivalent of traps using large weapons (about a foot and longer) unless you're using a flexible weapon you can't entirely encircle an opponent's weapon. You will end up hooking, jamming, or doing angled insertions with the weapons anyway. You don't have to change your method whether you're using blades sticks, etc. although you may end up grabbing a weapon for certain disarms/manipulations anyway.

    3. Sticking - as much as you gain control over the opponent they gain control over you. If they understand how to take advantage of that connection point via something like judo or aikido you may be in more trouble than when you started.
  5. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    Good points.

    1) We actually do a lot of pinching and clamping of flesh, the rib area, arm, collarbone area, ears, and face so that is actually common in our kata. Here again though, if you grab you have to use your own force whereas if you hook and clamp, leverage and his weight will be added to the effect.

    2) Exactly. We have a lot of locks with the bo staff and you are exactly right. Even in hanbo(3 ft stick) or jo(4 ft stick), you can clamp or pinch the stick and use your elbow with better effect than trying to grab.

    3) True. By clamping or hooking though, you can stick to him so if he retracts his arm, it will pull you in with his motion and allow you to control him. If you grab and he pulls back violently and you don't let go, you will go on a ride instead.
  6. Dean Winchester

    Dean Winchester Valued Member


    Just what do you have to say for yourself?

    What next? Katana sword? Nunchucks?

    This is what living in Japan gets you a?

  7. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    Being redundant sometimes isn't a bad thing. I've been warned before about using Japanese words without the English meanings. Don't make me smite you with my tessen iron war fan or shoot a hole in your eye with my fukiya blow arrow thingamabob.;)
  8. Kframe

    Kframe Valued Member

    When you say grabbing are you also throwing in gripping such as the Gable grip or other grappling grips? Such as the White belt basic way of doing oni kudaki? (figure four arm lock)

    You would think with the amount of sparring they do in the Akban they would have a better grasp of basic throwing. You wouldn't see a judoka screwing around with a throw like that..
  9. philosoraptor

    philosoraptor carnivore in a top hat Supporter

    Anyone else really distracted by the random jump kick a dude does in the background?
  10. holyheadjch

    holyheadjch Valued Member

    In what world does gripping (what I assume you mean by 'grabbing') require a greater degree of strength or offer a lesser degree of control than no-gi clinch holds?
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
  11. Kframe

    Kframe Valued Member

    I wonder if he is talking about over/under hooks?
  12. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member

    Well as I pointed out in my thread on staffs there are variants... ''jo'' ''bo'' and everything under the sun depending on the system... 6 sided, 8 sided, wax wood, oak etc etc etc...

    Don't be sooo hard on the poor ninja guys eh!!

  13. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    By grabbing, I mean grabbing. Bringing your fingers together into a ball with some body part of theirs in between. We do variations on that theme, often with the palm heel going forward towards the fingers or using a twisting motion, but often the hand is rotated and the fingers are kept open or just a few fingers are used to hook instead. These kinds of hooking and clamping motions rely on different muscles and tendons than regular grabbing motions and create different effects.

    Like I said, we have lots of body part "grabs," but the effect is usually to lift the other guy up or sink him down, both possible because we aren't really grabbing.

    However, you will find little clinching movements in the normal sense in Ninjutsu. There are a few neck controls and body controls, but we don't do motions where your arm ends up in a bicep curl position. There is too limited a range of motion for bending your arm(due to the bicep contracting), and it is leads to fatigue quicker. You will find motions where the arm is still bent(like a bicep curl) with more of an acute angle and the hand rotated down(think of a handshake position as opposed to a beckoning orientation) when we do clinch. This allows hooking motions and a different use of the shoulder and twisting of the arm to capture the opponent. This is hard to describe, but with your arm bent, the thumb orientation will determine the amount of contraction of your bicep. Right arm bent, thumb to the right leads to more contraction than thumb facing yourself.

    With body clinches, we usually use the thumb to drive into a pressure point, so more of a clamp and dig than a grab. There are a few "clinches" but usually you are clasping onto(or reinforcing) a striking surface, not just trying to hold onto the guy.

    We don't underhook/overhook in a way that creates a holding kind of motion. Again, this tires out the bicep and is limits your range of angle. Mostly I was thinking about different arm bar positions when I was writing, but it is universal to all the techniques we do.

    An example would be muso dori, which is a basic arm bar that attacks the elbow and shoulder. It is not an elbow lock, and it is not a pulling motion. If anything, it is more of a pushing motion(though we don't push), you basically lock his arm into place and use your body to change the angle of the arm and move his body in the direction you want to go.

    Sadly, none of the top hits on Youtube show this technique correctly, but you can get the idea of the rough orientation of you to the opponent and the fact that it's a straight arm lock.

    [ame=""]Elbow lock, muso dori, basic - technique for the Akban wiki - YouTube[/ame]
    [ame=""]Bujinkan Muso Dori - YouTube[/ame]
    [ame=""]How to Do the Muso Dori Technique | Ninjutsu Lessons - YouTube[/ame]

    There are a lot of variations on the straight arm lock and others with bent arm locks, they all have in common the same idea, don't grab whether it be at the wrist or the elbow.
  14. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    There is usually some random nonsense going on in the background of the Akban videos. I hope that isn't what they mean by "sparring" or randori, because it is as bad as their techniques are flawed.:eek:
  15. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    If you have passed your opponent's "wrist gate" and into his "elbow gate", or even his "shoulder gate", the wrist grab will no longer be needed. The arm wrap, under/over hook, head lock, bear hug, waist wrap, ... are what you are looking for.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
  16. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    The "soft grab" does not require much grip strength. Let's just talk about the "wrist grab" here. The

    1. grab - temporary control your opponent's wrist.
    2. redirect - redirect your opponent's arm to a temporary place that won't be in your entering path.
    3. release - let go your grip and move your hand to where you truly want to move to.

    should be executed in a proper sequence and flow one into another nicely.

    In the following clip, he was in his opponent's front door and his opponent's right arm is in his entering path. By using arm drag (wrist grab, elbow grab), he can redirect his opponent's right arm away, move into his opponent's side door where both of his opponent's hands won't give him any trouble. In other words, the "soft grab" is just part of your "entering strategy".

    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
  17. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    You do clasp your hands in basic versions of oni kudaki and other throws, but more advanced versions of oni kudaki rarely does so. Much better to leave the hands free to strike or pull his hair while you still have the lock secured.

    Not sure what you mean by gates, we have the Golden Gate and the Bill Gates where I come from.:)

    Seriously though, why give up a perfectly good lever(control of his wrist and elbow), and move into a tackle or clinch position? You can throw him without doing so, and you can potentially be countered during your transition.

    If you just trying to redirect his arm away, there is no need to grab in the first place. You see that kind of thing in Wing Chun videos all the time but it's unnecessary and leads to a time lag.

    In the video you posted, as the defender is rotating his torso in the first movement, the attacker can still hit him with his left hand. Once he has the opponent's wrist and elbow, he can lock his arm and throw him already, why give that up and rise up to do a body lock clinch? There is a lot of moving the opponent around that takes time, can be countered, and gives up the advantage you've already gotten. The arm drag and clinch shown are also bicep contracting movements, so you are relying on muscle instead of your body and leverage to move him. Also, throughout the entire encounter up till the throwing part, the opponent's balance is pretty much unaffected. This goes against the philosophy of most traditional Japanese martial arts, where kuzushi(off-balancing) is the first thing you do. I am aware that a real time arm drag could take his balance, but the direction is off at an angle to the final throw, so again you are creating extra work for yourself if you do things that way.

    We do have some transitions from one lock to another, but if we are entering in, he is usually already getting struck again or is going airborne from the first locked position. No three or four moves to throw him stuff. Too intricate and time consuming.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
  18. PointyShinyBurn

    PointyShinyBurn Valued Member

    I suppose it would be nice if you could throw everyone directly from control of their wrists (Olympic medals await you in wrestling if you can). But arms have lots of degrees of freedom, they're easier to recover and harder to use as levers, than if you get the body or hips directly.
  19. Please reality

    Please reality Back to basics

    Wouldn't disagree that arms can be difficult to control. However, the culture these arts were developed around were heavily weapons centric so bypassing the arms to go into the body and throw was not as common a theme.

    The freedom of mobility in arms is another reason for strikes being used to set up a lot of the throws. Even when you are grabbed, you usually strike the arm, throat, eyes, or somewhere else to distract while you are taking the lock.
  20. SWC Sifu Ben

    SWC Sifu Ben I am the law

    Unfortunately that is a substitute for poor technique.

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