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Techniques Table of Contents

Joint Locks: Capturing the Hand

Hook Kick

The Cants: Vertical - Parallel - Horizontal

By Bob Duggan




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.

I learned joint locks in the Dojang under the instruction of the greatest Grand Masters that I ever met. In addition, during the ten years that I directed the Aspen Academy of Martial Arts I had the opportunity to meet and deepen my understanding of dozens of joint locks with masters from other disciplines. Yet, the many years of instruction failed when there was resistance from powerful opponents who wanted to test the application of many of these techniques.

In the early years, I proffered the excuse that I still hear from many today which goes something like this, "Well, if it doesn't work, I move to a different counter-attack." Now, there is nothing wrong with this premise in the broad sense because a good practicianer must be prepared to move instantly to an alternate technique when you are countered by an opponent. But it rings a little hollow when you are practicing a technique in the "Sanitized" conditions of the Dojang where your opponent is handing you his limb so that you can practice on it, and the technique still fails.

We have all experienced the "Willing Opponent", the big guy in the class who willingly offers up his limb to you and in accordance with the Dojang protocol quickly submits to the slightest pressure. Sometimes these submissions are out of respect for the instructor; I have done this myself in many situations. My overall experience, however, was a little different. Both at the Aspen Academy in the 70's and the last 16 years at ESI. I constantly have met Big Guys who all seem to be from Missouri and want to test the technique. If it fails, they are unimpressed, and I either find a solution or drop the technique from the Syllabus. But being something of a martial arts archivist by inclination, I truly hate to drop a technique. Consequently, I studied variations with as many Big Guys as I could convince to allow me to experiment at their expense. From time to time, it still fails, but not nearly so often as it once did.

My earliest insight into variations on the methods I learned came from two close friends, John Clodig and Mits Yamashita about 1975. They came from a little known school of Daitu Ryu Aiki Jujitsu (clsoely associated with the origins of joint locks in our own system of Hwa Rang Do and Hapkido). They demonstrated a simple solution to one of the MOST common joint lock failures that I term a Forward Wrist Lock. This technique is very common in Aikido, Hapkido, Hwa Rang Do, and Kuk Sool Won where the wrist is pressed towards the body, cocking the arm into two angles at the elbow and the wrist. The technique is commonly taught to press straight down the center of the body which rotates the wrist clockwise and downward, causing pain to most people. The problem occurs when you run into a carpenter, fisherman or a gaggle of guys who can extend out of the downward twist and stare you in the face.

Clodig and Yamashita taught me to execute this technique in a spiral so that the rotation is not towards the ground, but down the center of the arm so that the Radial and Ulnar bones rotate. The rotation is a Spiral down the Center Axis of the forearm. They called the technique, a Fan because it was an effortless wave of the hand and an extension of the line beneath the arm pit, and the results were remarkable. Suddenly the Missourians and all the other Big Guys dropped. It was clear that the subtle difference here was in the understanding of the mechanics of the muscles and skeleton of the arm. The Fan rotated against very small muscles of the forearm as opposed to pushing against nearly all the muscles of the arm including the Triceps.

From this point forward, I began to look at Joint Locks differently. I well understood the mechanics of Kicks since I developed the Unifying Principles of Power Kicking in the early 70's. It was obvious that the same critical examination of the Joint Locks would produce new insights that were lacking in the instructional methodology under which I trained. Over the next ten years, I changed the way that I executed Joint Locks, and the common denominator for most was the Spiral down the Center Axis of the limb. The Cants were no exception.


The Cants are a series of techniques that are variations from a well known Come-Along in nearly all joint lock systems. In Aikido, this grip is called Sankyo and is illustrated here by Koichi Tohei. Since neither the Japanese nor Korean terms translate very well in English, I decided to refer to this technique as a Cant, meaning that the forearm is rotated or canted around a Center Axis. There are three variations of the Cant. They are called the Vertical and the Horizontal meaning that the rotation or Spiral is around the Center Axis of a line that runs between the Radial and the Ulnar bones of the forearm while the Parallel rotates parallel to the ground. Each variation has a different purpose and the instructor must be very cognizant of what he or she is teaching.


There are three basic elements to an effective Joint Lock: The GRIP, The ANGLE and The LINE. These are very precise elements and failure of a technique can frequently be attributed to one of these there aspects.


The Primary Grip of the Cants starts with the Fingers. I prefer to hold three fingers rather than four because it permits for a stronger grip. Large hands with fat stubby fingers will open the grip too wide, allowing the opponent to form a fist. If the opponent can form a fist, he can not be held, Period! The grip around the fingers is Primary because the opponent can be held (not advisable) with one hand. This can not be done by holding the Blade Edge single handedly

The Secondary Grip is wrapped around the Blade Edge of the hand. Many consider this to be the primary grip because the slack is taken out of the arm quicker by rotating the wrist at the Blade edge. However, as long as the opponent can form a fist, the grip is easily broken. This component of the grip must be deep into the palm until the your fingers touch the "Life Line" of the hand. The thumb can wrap over the opponent's wrist line or press into the metatarcels. The grip must reside below the crease in the wrist, otherwise the grip results in re-enforcement of the wrist as if you were casting the arm.


The Angle for the Vertical and the Horizontal Cant is 90 degrees at the elbow joint. The angle can vary within a small range, but if the opponent can straighten his or her arm or bring the hand into the body, the technique can be defeated. This angle must be manipulated during the execution of the technique to avoid either extreme. In the case of the Vertical Cant, pain compliance is managed by rotating the wrist directly beneath the elbow in an upward spiral.

Horizontal and Parallel Cant

The Horizontal Cant must not only be kept at a 90 degree angle, but the three joints: wrist, elbow and shoulder ... must be manipulated on the same plane. The take down is to the rear. The opponent is sat upon their heels or back and rolled over onto their face. The angle must be maintained throughout the execution of the technique.

The Parallel Cant Angle can be thought of as right angle box or a 45 degree angle at the elbow. The range depends on flexibility of the person you are holding.


The line is the most subtle of the three elements. The rule is "The smaller the circle, greater the pain." As the circle tightens, the joints lock and lose their ability to flex. This implies that Spirals = Brake> Large circles= Throw. In the Parallel Cant there is no room for launching the person into space. The Spiral is too tight, and will not allow escape. It's only purpose is to brake the joint.



Entries to Joint Locks

Entries will be discussed next time. There are numerous variations on the official version of the entry into a joint lock. It is also one of the most frustrating aspects of the joint locking systems.

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


Copyright © 1996, Bob Duggan