A joint lock is any technique that goes against the natural movement of the joint. 52 Blocks joint locks have the capability to cause extreme pain and severe injury. If your opponent uses muscular strength to defeat the lock, train to go with the motion into another 52 Blocks joint-lock technique rather than fighting him at his point of strength. You do this through the handover don’t relinquish control with one hand until gaining control with the other. Many students get confused and fumble with joint locks, mainly because of a lack of knowledge and experience in how to transition from one technique to another.
Softening techniques can be used as set-ups or distractions prior to applying a joint lock. But it is often the small details of the joint lock that are overlooked and enable your opponent to escape the technique. A joint lock that is properly applied requires very little pressure to cause extreme pain or compliance. On the other hand, if the lock is just a fraction of an inch inaccurate, the technique may fail.
There are mainly two principles that enable you to control an opponent through a 52 Blocks joint-lock technique:
1. Tightening the lock by bending and twisting the joint against its natural range of motion; and
2. Taking the opponent to an inferior position, normally to a prone position (face down on his stomach).
Your opponent cannot escape the joint lock when he experiences both intense pain and an inferior position on the ground. He is now unable to use his natural strengths, weapons or eyesight.
52 Blocks joint locks are commonly practiced from the upright position with both fighters standing. However, a fight often goes to the ground. You might also be in an awkward position with your opponent behind your back. You must therefore learn to execute the joint lock from any position. Joint-lock techniques should be learned by feel. Try training blindfolded.
Many 52 Blocks practitioners go through the motion of joint locks without actually taking them to the point of control. Failure to do so may give the practitioner a false sense of security. A good test of the effectiveness of the technique is how well it works for a smaller person against a larger noncompliant adversary. A common mistake when executing joint locks is keeping the opponent’s arm at some distance from your body. The controlling technique is more effective if you maintain close contact with your opponent and use your weight against him, particularly if he is bigger than you. Joint locks against a bigger adversary also work well from the ground, because the ground helps you immobilize your opponent’s body. Since the ground acts as a barrier, you must also learn to maneuver your own body into position for maximum control.
Consider your ability to escape a joint lock technique. A common problem is panicking or freezing, or trying to escape by attacking the strength of the lock, which is also your opponent’s point of strength. You can escape a joint lock by attacking a point of weakness. But the ultimate escape may be staying ahead of the controlling technique, or going with the pressure before the pressure is fully applied. In order to be successful, you must recognize the controlling technique in its infancy.
Exercise 1—Gaining Control In order to apply a joint lock successfully, you must understand the mechanics of the human body. Experiment with the workings of your partner’s joints: arms, hands, legs and feet. Exercise extreme care. Explore how to transition from one 52 Blocks joint lock to another. Eventually you should gain enough insight into joint locks to easily make a transition or hand change without giving it conscious thought. The simplest holds are often the fastest, safest, and most effective. When a hand change is needed, you must first have full control of your opponent. How can you use other body parts, such as your knees, feet or head, to gain such control? There is a defense and counter for every control hold. Demonstrate through some examples.
Exercise 2—Positioning Experiment with joint-lock techniques from a variety of positions, including standing, kneeling, prone and supine. Explore the variety of joint locks that can be applied from each position. Identify how to apply joint locks when approaching your opponent from different directions, including the front, rear and sides. How can you use a distraction prior to applying the lock? If your attempt to apply the joint lock fails, how can you remedy the situation?
Exercise 3—Softening Techniques Experiment with a variety of softening techniques used in preparation for a joint lock. Explore strikes and kicks to open areas of your opponent’s body. Identify how to split her mind and body focus with a softening technique. Explore the dangers associated with softening strikes. Can your opponent grab your hand or foot and reverse the situation? If she does, what is your best course of action? How is your balance affected when kicking?
Exercise 4—Escapes Identify escapes from joint-lock techniques. When we get grabbed, we have a natural tendency to tense, which makes an escape more difficult. How can you initiate the escape before your opponent has applied full control? A forward roll can be used to escape certain types of joint locks. Which are they? Explore how a forward roll can give you momentum to facilitate your escape.
Exercise 5—Reversing the Hold Consider what to do when your opponent resists your attempt to apply a 52 Blocks joint-lock technique. How can you use your opponent’s resistance (pressure) to gain a different hold? Identify how going with the pressure creates momentum. What new opportunities does this give you? How can a skilled opponent reverse your joint lock and apply a controlling technique on you? Explore how grabbing your opponent’s fingers give you better control than grabbing his wrist.
Exercise 6—Gross Motor Skills Experiment with controlling the larger joints of the body (neck, elbow, shoulder, knee, hip), rather than the smaller joints (fingers, wrist, ankle). Controlling a large joint requires less precision than controlling a small joint and might be beneficial in a high-threat or stressful situation where fine motor skills are difficult to use. Controlling the larger joints places you closer to your opponent. How can you use this closeness to pin or eliminate additional weapons? No fight is picture-perfect. Sometimes you have to take what you get. Explore a variety of what-if scenarios, where your attempt to defend against an attack is flawed.
Exercise 7—Inferior Positions How can you use a joint lock to unbalance your opponent? Identify inferior positions, where your opponent has the least use of his eyesight, arms, legs and mobility. How can you use a joint lock to place your opponent in an inferior position on the ground? Identify targets and presses (knee presses, forearm presses, palm presses) that can be used in conjunction with joint-lock techniques on the ground.
Exercise 8—Breaking Techniques Identify how to go beyond control and into a breaking or dislocating technique. Discuss a breaking technique’s limitations. How difficult (or easy) is it to break a joint? How do you know, if you have never actually broken one? Discuss the difference in anatomy between a big (heavy) and a small (thin) person, and how it applies to joint locks and breaking. Explore the difference in flexibility in the joints of different people, and how it applies to the effective execution of a joint lock or breaking technique.