When Establishing Control, Grab Like You Mean It


At the recent seminar that Ed Hiscoe Hanshi taught as part of Lori O’Connell Sensei’s promotion to Godan, Steve Hiscoe Shihan was walking around providing assistance to the large class. A yellow belt was applying a technique often used in security and policing, often referred to as a bent wrist come-along. She was having some difficulty and Hiscoe Shihan told her to “Grab him like you mean it.”

It reminded me of something he had said in regards to escort locks several months ago when I first started focusing on my locks for the purposes of use in security work. The use of locks in security work is different than when using it for the purposes of self-defense, since the justification for turning a lock into a break is a much easier jump when you’re defending yourself when compared to trying to control a subject as part of your work.

He said at the time, “You need to grab them in a way that makes them know they’ve been grabbed.” He then proceeded to demonstrate just grabbing the wrist in an intense manner. He then took his time applying the lock. This stuck with me so much so that when I was doing my provincially mandated use of force course for my advanced security training, it was a complaint of my partners that I was grabbing their wrists too strongly. When a 300lb. guy is whining about how I am grabbing his wrist, I consider that a compliment. Knowing these guys didn’t train regularly like I did, I backed off not just the strength of the grip, but the intensity as well, and by the end of the 3-day course, no one hated me. What I didn’t realize was that I had re-introduced a bad habit. I was going easy on my partners, and had lost the intensity of the grip.

When we’re training with each other at the dojo, no on has any intention of hurting anyone else. If you’re spending a class doing wrist locks, after the first couple of locks, people tend to ease up quite a bit so no one goes home sore. But in the course of easing up on the application of the lock, we ease up on our overall grip and the intensity that is required to hold onto someone who is actively resisting. That initial grip doesn’t just give us a window into applying the technique, but it also conveys our attitude to the person we’re grabbing. When I am forced to grab someone at work, I want them to know I am fully capable of controlling them, and stop the fight before it really begins. I want them thinking, “Ok, this guy means business, I better cooperate.” And you can convey that in your grip.

I trained myself out of that “grab them like you mean it” mentality over those 3 days of training, and it became evident at work this past weekend. While I can’t talk about specifics, I can say, my initial timid grab of a gentleman’s arm did not convey the attitude I was looking for. Fortunately, the other guard I was working with conveyed his attitude in a much more convincing manner, and between the two of us we were able to verbally de-escalate the situation without having to bring force into it. As is usual with me, I analyzed the heck out of the event, wondering what I did wrong, and only a few days later, Hiscoe Shihan reminded me of what I forgot, I have to grab him like I mean it.

Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “When Establishing Control, Grab Like You Mean It

  1. Great article, appropos for me as when last in training were just looking at the opposite effect in class; avoiding grabbing uke because of the intent the action communicates. Two sides of a coin.

    1. That’s a great point, and does apply for security/law enforcement as well, since ideally we don’t touch them unless we are definitely going hands on, for the simple fact we want to gain voluntary compliance. Grabbing someone strongly tells them what you’re intending to do, allows them to feel your movement, and allows them to prepare and counter it. The less touching, the better. But when you have to grab, you need to grab like you mean it.

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