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by Bob Duggan
"First, capture the mind, then catch the hand"
Quote by Toichi Tohei 1974

Photograph: Koichi Tohei at Aspen Academy of Martial Arts, 1974

One of the most confounding problems in nearly all the joint lock systems is the capture. I know that my personal experience with learning joint locks started with a singular assumption: the opponent presents you with his hand as if it were a gift and you were expected to execute a variety of locks and throws. This practice is very similar in nearly all other throwing arts that I have studied or observed. In the original Hwa Rang Do Instructor's Syllabus, joint locks began with Yellow Belt.... the opponent grasping the hand. Joint locks are executed with the opponent cooperatively standing like a manikin while you perform a sequence of required locks and throws.

Then beginning with Blue Belt and continuing through First Degree Black, students escalate to offensive captures where the opponent stands motionless while you leap for the grab and take the hand or body and execute a throw. These are called Offensive Throwing Techniques. When we are first learning the technique, or the numerical sequence of the Instructor's Syllabus, we all appreciate this high level of cooperation by our opponent, and because our opponent must one day go through the same procedure, there is a "gentlemen's agreement" on the format of practice. The flaw in this method of training is obvious, but we continue to do it out of consideration of the "dangerousness" of the technique. We persuade ourselves that this is the WAY it must be done for the sake of the mutual safety of the students and ourselves. There is nothing in the Instructor's Syllabus that effectively makes the transition to "Spontaneous Captures", that is, captures that are executed while free sparing.

The Brazilians approach to joint lock captures begins from an entirely different point of view; they capture the body and methodically work their way out towards the joint. The ease with which the Brazilians and grapplers achieve a clinch is impressive and undoubtedly their ability to move from the clinch to the submission has produced the largest impact on the martial arts world since the introduction of Karate to the West by the Japanese in the 1950's. It is an indisputable fact that grapplers can penetrate the kicks and punches of most martial artists in order to form the clinch, and from there, the ground is always just a take-down away. Once on the ground, it takes great skill to acquire the lock against a stronger opponent, but the Brazilians have shown that their skill is unsurpassed in this arena. That is not to say that they will always hold this ground or that the ground is always the best place to be, but the Brazilians have demonstrated their ability numerous times against all comers.

While the Brazilians have not demonstrated their ability to secure the clinch and submission against a world class boxer, say, the caliber of Mike Tyson, the success of their strategy is difficult to dispute. While we are unable to settle the issue with absolute finality, a comparison of the different capture strategies is enough to admit that the grapplers have a distinct advantage over anyone attempting to catch a fist. In full force combat, it is not possible to capture the hand... The hand is just too fast to catch on the fly.

Photograph: Koichi Tohei at Aspen Academy of Martial Arts, 1974

I am reminded of an incident that occurred at the Aspen Academy of Martial Arts in 1974 which resulted in a small personal conversion. The incident involved Sensei Koichi Tohei and Fred Degerberg, an old friend of mine and an outstanding martial artist. The encounter occurred during a training seminar on Aikido at the Academy; there were many students in attendance. Tohei was discussing Blending with the opponent. Someone in the class asked Tohei how to catch a punch. His response was poetic: "First, you must capture the mind, then you will catch the hand". Everyone nodded knowingly and pondered the meaning.

To illustrate his point, Tohei picked out a big guy in the happened to be my friend Fred Degerberg. Tohei asked him to stand and throw a punch; Fred paused a moment and repeated the request, "you want me to throw a punch at you?" as if to ask, are we punching for real?

Photograph shows Koichi Tohei with seminar students at the Aspen Academy; the author kneels over his left shoulder in tank top.

 Degerberg is off camera.  Now, Fred Degerberg trained for many years as a boxer prior to taking up the study of the Eastern arts, his teacher was a heavy weight contender and an excellent trainer. The result of the many years of training was that Fred had a lighting fast Jab. But the request was begging for an opportunity, so Fred obliged. He threw three jabbing pulses in the direction of Tohei's head, (intentionally not making contact) and set up for the Right Cross. Tohei immediately threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, " throw a real punch." Fred Degerberg is not a complete spoiler, so said in a moment of insight, "Oh, you mean one of these." He obliged by dropping into a deep Front Forward Fighting Stance more familiar to the Japanese systems and launched a Reverse Thrust Punch. The hand was caught and Degerberg went to the mat, and I said, "aha ha...this is a Dance that I am all too familiar with in my own system."

The Dance is an illusion, and it would not have made a difference who was on the receiving end of Degerberg's Jab, I have never met the person who could catch it, at least I personally never witnessed it in twenty-eight years in this art. That includes the years that I traveled with my teacher, Joo Bang Lee to perform at tournaments an exhibition of Hwa Rang Do throwing techniques. I never threw a punch at him that was retracted, and if I did, he missed it. This is not a denigration of the mastery of technique by either Koichi Tohei or Joo Bang Lee. It is a simple observation that the hand is too fast to capture on the fly.

While conceding that the Brazilian strategy is far more reliable, I would like to discuss a series of MINIMAL RESISTANCE CAPTURES as a transitional phase to full force combat where these types of captures are impossible to execute. At a later date we will discuss grappling entries.


Joint locks apply to both defensive or offensive circumstances. Defensive Joint Locks possess a tactical advantage since they are designed to respond to the opponent grabbing clothing or your body. But capturing the limb often requires an offensive mind set, that is, there are times when the best defense is to move first, however, the provocation does not justify use of full force kicks or punches. Your purpose is to control and manage the opponent to comply with your command. This may require that you move the opponent from one point to another, like from the pool hall floor to the door. The opponent, while justifying control, has not launched an assault. You decide to move first.

The most common Capture, widely taught in the throwing arts, is the one I favor the least. For lack of better terminology, I refer to the "Traditional" capture as The Blade (Knife) Edge Grip. (Photo: Blade Edge Grip #1) This capture is typically executed with the Secondary Grip first grabbing the elbow, stabilizing the arm and rotating it towards the center of the body while the Primary Grip grasps the Blade Edge of the hand. As soon as the Grip is secure, the elbow is elevated and twisted in a spiral to the point that pain is attained and the opponent is jacked-up on to his toes. No emphasis is placed upon the finger grip and often is shown without a second grip on the hand or fingers.

While this technique may work on a large percentage of the Dojo or Dojang population, it will fail against a strong forearm and an unwilling opponent for whom the technique ought to be designed to control. To start with, failure to grip the fingers often causes the opponent to form a fist in reaction to the contact. It is a natural reflex. If the opponent can form a fist, he can break the grip on the Blade Edge on his hand, thus defeating the technique, and incidentally escalating the confrontation.

(Photo: Set-up from Blade Edge Grip #2)

The following Captures are organized according levels of resistance and susceptibility of the opponent: The Snatch, The Slap, and The Wedge.


The Snatch relies upon an unsuspecting opponent who has failed to clue into your intention to take control. The execution of the Snatch is achieved from either the side or the front.. The move is initiated from three positions: A well known entry from is a deceptive hand shake, sometimes called The Sissy Hand Shake; The Side Entry or The Rear Entry. It can be executed with one hand capture of the fingers or a more reliable capture is to use both hands with the rear hand hooking around the wrist and forming a "catch-base" for the capturing hand.

(Photo of two hand capture of Side Entry, close of rear hand hook)

THE SISSY HAND SHAKE - This capture is also widely taught as an alternative to the Blade Edge Grip and is achieved with a deceptive grasp of the hand as in a hand shake. When the hand is offered or taken offensively, the grasp of the opponent's hand is aimed for the fingers only; this is achieved by cocking the wrist down and extending into the floor. The instant that the fingers are grasped firmly, you explosively step through and under the arm. As you step under the arm, the opponent's forearm is both rotated and Shudder Punched with your shoulder into the muscle trigger of the opponent's forearm, raising his arm into an arc. As the punch is delivered, you pivot in place, resulting in a short Front Forward Fighting Stance and the opponent is set-up for one of the Cants.

Photos: 1. Close hand shake 2. Close on grasp and wrist angle 3. Th shudder punch 4. The pivot and set.

THE SIDE ENTRY - This capture is achieved with a blind-side entry. It is best executed with a two hand grip with the Secondary hand acting as a Base for the Snatch. The offensive in The Side Entry is taken with the Primary grab of the fingers just below the knuckles . The Index Finger forms a small fulcrum, around which the opponent's fingers bend. Three fingers are best, two fingers will due, but the instant that the grip is achieved, you shudder downwards into the fingers and begin twisting in a counter closkwise spiral, taking all the slack out of the three joints of the arm. The Secondary Grip then slips into the Blade Edge Grip. When the Blade Edge Grip is cinched down, the Primary Grip on the fingers must slip into the palm side and tighten the grip on the fingers.

Photos: 1. Grasp of fingers 2. Close of finger fulcrum 3. The drop 4. The arc 5. The second grip 5. The reset

THE REAR ENTRY - This capture is one of the fastest and unsuspecting. It is executed with two hands entering an opponent's open with the inside hand catching the thumb, and the outside hand pressing the fingers outward. It is an explosive pivot of the hand so that the hand is facing outward and touching your palm. As soon as contact is made, the grip is sized, trapping the opponent's fingers in your strong hand and the blade edge is grasped by the weak hand, and jacked-up into the Cant.

Photos 1. Rear position 2. Hand position 3. Close of right hand 4. Close of left hand 5. Jack-up into right angle 6. Switch hand position



Using the SISSY HAND SHAKE ENTRY, the explosive move under the arm is accompanied by a Shudder Shoulder Punch to the opponent's forearm (at the muscle trigger) and a pivot under the arm into a short Front Forward Fighting Stance. Simultaneous with the Shudder Punch/Pivot, the Primary Grip sizes the fingers tightly while the Secondary Grip is cinched around the Blade Edge. Swing the hand around at eye level in order to assure that the hand does not drop below the opponent's breast. Set the lock high until the control is stabilized, then the pressure can be relaxed by letting off on the spiral and lower the elevation of the elbow once you are certain of control.

Thinking of the Radial and Ulnar bones of the forearm as divided by a Center Axis, align the hand so that it is centered around this Axis, and rotate in a small upward spiral around it's Center. As the slack in the three joints of the arm are taken up, maneuver the hand so that you maintain a 90 degree angle at the elbow joint. Treat the joints of the arm as a chain-link, each joint will reach it's limits of rotation quickly. As the point of resistance is attained, it will put pressure on the next higher joint until you are able to control the opponent's movements.

The Vertical Cant derives it's name from the "canting" or twisting towards the center of the body, and is used primarily as a come-along technique:

KEY POINTS: The forearm is divided by a Center Axis or a vertical line that drops through the elbow, between the Radial and Ulnar bones and out the hand. THE LINE: Is a rising Canted Spiral in the smallest circle around the Center Axis. THE ANGLE: The arm is kept at a 90 degree angle at the elbow and elevated in a spiral which increases the pain-control. THE GRIP: The Primary Grip sizes the Fingers tightly while the Secondary Grip grasp the Blade Edge.



Using a SIDE ENTRY to a Horizontal Cant Take Down and Set-up for an Arrest. Seizing the fingers is key to an unsuspecting joint lock; rear hand acts as a base and stabilizer of the hand. As the fingers are gripped with the right hand, drop or Shudder body weight into the opponent's fingers, and immediately begin twisting towards the inside of the body and lift the arm into an arc. This should take all the slack out of the joints and should unbalance the opponent. The Left Hand slips from the base into the Blade Edge Grip. The opponent's hand is rotated into the Canted position, and the Primary Grip on the fingers is slipped to the palm side. Secondary Grip remains on the Blade Edge of hand, holding the forearm in a likeness of holding a sword. Again, thinking of the joints as a chain-link, each joint will reach its limit of rotation very quickly. As the slack is taken up in one joint, it will rotate the next higher joint until you are able to control the opponent's movement.

THE HORIZONTAL CANT is most effective as a take-down or arrest technique. Following the same method as the Vertical Cant until you have locked the opponent up and attained control. The take-down is executed by raising the Blade Edge of the hand straight up until the forearm and the bicep are on the same "Horizontal" plane. Keep the Blade Edge aligned straight with the not bend the hand towards the body. Pivot your body until you are lookig straight down the forearm.

Looking down the line of the Edge of the hand and forearm, twist the fingers in a small spiral around the Center Axis of the forearm and press backwards. As the slack is taken up, the opponent will feel pain and his balance will break to the rear. As the balance is broken to the rear, press down so that the three joints, wrist, elbow and shoulder are on the same plane and drop on a horizontal plane.

WARNING: The techniques illustrated on this Home Page or any other portion of the Society of the Hwa Rang Web site are not intended for instructional purposes. These techniques are inherently dangerous and should not be practiced without a competent and experienced instructor. The discussion and illustration on this site and  is intended for the purpose of discussion among members who already have the necessary training experience to understand the limits of any technique discussed here. No one associated with the Society will assume liability for the mis-use or untutored attempt to apply these techniques on the another person or yourself. Our firm advice is to seek out an instructor prior to attempting any technique discussed or illustrated on this Web Page. Consult the Directory for an Instructor in your area.

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Copyright © 1996, Bob Duggan
Designed by Bob Duggan July 1996