Joint lock

Last updated
Joint Lock
Style Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Sambo, MMA

A joint lock is a grappling technique involving manipulation of an opponent's joints in such a way that the joints reach their maximal degree of motion and hyperextension


In judō these are referred to as, 関節技 kansetsu-waza, "joint locking technique" [1] ) and in Chinese martial arts as chin na , which literally means "catching and locking". In Korea these are referred to as 관절기(gwan-jerl-gi, joint skill) or 관절꺾기(gwan-jerl-kerk-gi, joint breaking).

Joint locks typically involve isolating a particular joint, levering it in an attempt to force the joint to move past its normal range of motion. Joint locks generate varying degrees of pain in the joints and, if applied forcefully and/or suddenly, may cause injury, such as muscle, tendon and ligament damage and even dislocation or bone fracture.

In judo, the combining of standing locks with throws is forbidden due to the risk of physical harm to the falling opponent, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, jujutsu, taijutsu, aikido, sambo, and hapkido allow their use.

Joint locks can be divided into five general types according to which section of the body they affect:

These general types can be further divided into subtypes according to which specific joint(s) they affect, or the type of motion they involve.


An aikidoka applying a wristlock and armlock combination as a pain compliance hold. Nikyo omote.jpeg
An aikidoka applying a wristlock and armlock combination as a pain compliance hold.

Joint locks are commonly featured in all forms of grappling, whether it be in martial arts, self-defense, combat sport or hand to hand combat application. The variants involving lesser levering on a smaller joint (such as wristlocks) are often featured in law-enforcement or self-defense application, where they are used as pain compliance holds. Joint locks that involve full body leverage can on the other hand be used in hand to hand combat to partially or fully disable an opponent, by tearing major joints such as knees or elbows.

Common martial arts featuring joint locks include Aikido, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Catch Wrestling, Eskrima, Eagle Claw, Fu Jow Pai, Hapkido(Korean variant of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu), Hung Gar, Jujutsu, Judo, Sambo, Ninjutsu, Shoot wrestling, and mixed martial arts. They are usually practiced in a maximally safe manner, with controlled movements, and releasing the joint lock once it is apparent that it has been effectively applied. In combat sports, joint locks are used as submission holds, and are intended to force the opponent to submit; the lock will be controlled and held until an opponent submits or a referee recognizes the threat of injury and intervenes. The types of joint locks allowed in competitions featuring them varies according to the perceived danger in their application. Armlocks are generally considered safer, while small joint manipulation and spinal locks are banned in nearly all combat sports.

See also

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Grappling, in hand-to-hand combat, describes sports that consist of gripping or seizing the opponent. Grappling is used at close range to gain a physical advantage over an opponent, either by imposing a position or causing injury. Grappling is a broad term that encompasses many disciplines. These various martial arts can be practiced both as combat sports and for self-defense. Grappling contests often involve takedowns and ground control, and may end when a contestant concedes defeat, also known as a submission or tap out.

Hapkido is a hybrid Korean martial art. It is a form of self-defense that employs joint locks, grappling, throwing techniques, kicks, punches, and other striking attacks. It also teaches the use of traditional weapons, including knife, sword, rope, nunchaku, cane, short stick, and middle-length staff, gun, and bō (Japanese), which vary in emphasis depending on the particular tradition examined.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu Brazilian martial art focusing on grappling and ground fighting

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defence martial art and combat sport based on grappling (Newaza) and submission holds. It focuses on the skill of taking an opponent to the ground, controlling one’s opponent, gaining a dominant position and using a number of techniques to force them into submission via joint locks or chokeholds.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to martial arts:

Submission wrestling Fighting style

Submission Wrestling, also known as Submission Fighting, Submission grappling, Sport grappling, or Combat wrestling, is a form of competition and a general term for martial arts and combat sports that focus on clinch and ground fighting with the aim of obtaining a submission through the use of submission holds. The term "submission wrestling" usually refers only to the form of competition and training that does not use a gi, or "combat kimono", of the sort often worn with belts that establish rank by color, though some may use the loose trousers of such a uniform, without the jacket. Not using a gi has a major impact on the sport : there are many choke techniques which make use of the lapels of the gi, thus rendering them un-usable and grappling in general becomes more difficult when the opponent doesn't have a gi to grab hold of.

Guard (grappling) Position in grappling

The guard is a ground grappling position in which one combatant has their back to the ground while attempting to control the other combatant using their legs. In pure grappling combat sports, the guard is considered an advantageous position, because the bottom combatant can attack with various joint locks and chokeholds, while the top combatant's priority is the transition into a more dominant position, a process known as passing the guard. In the sport of mixed martial arts, as well as hand-to-hand combat in general, it is possible to effectively strike from the top in the guard, even though the bottom combatant exerts some control. There are various types of guard, with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Ground fighting

Ground fighting is hand-to-hand combat which takes place while the combatants are on the ground. The term is commonly used in mixed martial arts and other combat sports, as well as various forms of martial arts to designate the set of grappling techniques employed by a combatant that is on the ground. It is the main focus of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is featured in varying amounts in Catch wrestling, Judo, Sambo, Shoot wrestling, Dishuquan Dog Kung Fu, some schools of Shuai Jiao and other styles of wrestling.

An armlock in grappling is a single or double joint lock that hyperextends, hyperflexes or hyperrotates the elbow joint or shoulder joint. An armlock that hyperflexes or hyperrotates the shoulder joint is referred to as a shoulder lock, and an armlock that hyperextends the elbow joint is called an armbar. Depending on the joint flexibility of a person, armlocks that hyperrotate the shoulder joint can also hyperrotate the elbow joint, and vice versa.

A leglock is a joint lock that is directed at joints of the leg such as the ankle, knee or hip joint. A leglock, which is directed at joints in the foot, is sometimes referred to as a foot lock and a lock at the hip as a hip lock. Leglocks are featured, with various levels of s]] such as Sambo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, catch wrestling, mixed martial arts, Shootwrestling and submission wrestling, but are banned in some sports featuring joint locks such as judo. The technique has been seen across a wide range of different combat sports and is reportedly over 2,500 years old, having been seen in the lost art of Pankration in the original Olympic Games.

Small joint manipulation

Small joint manipulation, in grappling, refers to twisting, pulling or bending fingers, toes, wrists and ankles to cause joint locks in the various joints in those appendages.

Grappling hold

A grappling hold, commonly referred to simply as a hold that in Japanese is referred to as katame-waza, is any specific grappling, wrestling, judo, or other martial art grip that is applied to an opponent. Grappling holds are used principally to control the opponent and to advance in points or positioning. The holds may be categorized by their function, such as clinching, pinning, or submission, while others can be classified by their anatomical effect: chokehold, headlock, joint-lock, or compression lock. Multiple categories may be appropriate for some of these holds.

Spinal lock

A spinal lock is a multiple joint lock applied to the spinal column, which is performed by forcing the spine beyond its normal ranges of motion. This is typically done by bending or twisting the head or upper body into abnormal positions. Commonly, spinal locks might strain the spinal musculature or result in a mild spinal sprain, while a forcefully and/or suddenly applied spinal lock may cause severe ligament damage or damage to the vertebrae, and possibly result in serious spinal cord injury, strokes, or death. Spinal locks and cervical locks are forbidden in IBJJF Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions, amateur MMA, multiple forms of no Gi Jiu Jitsu, Judo, and other martial arts. However, professional MMA and some Brazilian jiu-jitsu competitions do permit spinal locks and, particularly, neck cranks, and such moves are trained in various MMA and Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools.


A wristlock is a joint lock primarily affecting the wrist-joint and possibly the radioulnar joints through rotation of the hand. A wristlock is typically applied by grabbing the opponent's hand, and bending and/or twisting it. Wristlocks are very common in martial arts such as aikido, hapkido and jujutsu where they are featured as self-defense techniques. They are also used as submission holds in martial arts such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu and catch wrestling. While being an illegal technique in modern sambo and judo competitions, it is still practiced in judo forms of self-defense kata kōdōkan goshinjutsu. Wristlocks are also widely used as pain compliance holds, often in police, military, and residential treatment centers.

Compression lock

A compression lock, muscle lock, muscle slicer or muscle crusher, is a grappling hold that causes severe pain by pressing a muscle into a bone. A compression lock can cause a joint lock in a nearby joint when it is applied by squeezing a limb over a fulcrum. A forceful compression lock may damage muscles and tendons, and if accompanied by a joint lock, may also result in torn ligaments, dislocation or bone fractures. Compression locks can be used as pain compliance holds, and are sometimes featured in combat sports as submission holds.

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German Ju-Jutsu is a martial art related to traditional Japanese Jujutsu, developed in Germany in the 1960s using techniques from Jujutsu, Judo, Karate and various other traditional and modern martial arts. Its governing body in Germany is the DJJV. Its competitive sport aspects are coordinated internationally by the JJIF ; Ju-jutsu under JJIF rules is a part of the World Games and World Combat Games. The system is taught to the German police forces.

Jujutsu techniques include joint locks, chokeholds, strikes, grappling, throwing and other self-defense techniques.

Combat Hapkido

Combat Hapkido is an eclectic modern Hapkido system founded by John Pellegrini in 1990. Taking the next step in 1992 Pellegrini formed the International Combat Hapkido Federation (ICHF) as the official governing body of Combat Hapkido. Later, in 1999, the ICHF was recognized by the Korea Kido Association and the World Kido Federation, collectively known as the Kido Hae, as the Hapkido style Chon Tu Kwan Hapkido. The World Kido Federation is recognized by the Government of South Korea as an organization that serves as a link between the official Martial Arts governing body of Korea and the rest of the world Martial Arts community. The founder of Combat Hapkido was very clear in his statement that he did not invent a new martial art. He stated "I have merely structured a new Self-Defense system based upon sound scientific principles and modern concepts. For this reason Combat Hapkido is also referred to as the "Science of Self-Defense." Combat Hapkido is a new interpretation and application of a selected body of Hapkido techniques. The word "Combat" was added to Combat Hapkido to distinguish this system from Traditional Hapkido styles and to identify its focus as Self-Defense.

Jujutsu Japanese martial art

Jujutsu (English:joo-JIT-soo; Japanese: 柔術 jūjutsulisten  also known as jiu-Jitsu and ju-jitsu, is a family of Japanese martial arts and a system of close combat that can be used in a defensive or offensive manner to kill or subdue one or more weaponless or armed and armored opponents. A subset of techniques from certain styles of jujutsu were used to develop modern martial arts and combat sports, such as judo, sambo, ARB, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and mixed martial arts.


  1. Ohlenkamp, Neil. Classification of Techniques in Kodokan Judo. Accessed February 26, 2006.