The art of grabbing the wrist

So someone strikes you with his fist: go with your right hand turned and catch the stroke from the inside in your hand, hold it firmly; grasp his elbow with your left hand, raising it up, as depicted here; and step with your left foot toward him so that you throw him over the foot and break his arm.

Codex Wallerstein
A Medieval Fighting Book from the 15th Century on the longsword, falchion, dagger and wrestling.

Originally German Language – Printed 1549

If you look at Aikido, you will see a lot of wrist grabbing in addition to the different ways of using tegatana to apply Atemi-waza and/or defensive tactics.
There are plenty of explanations for catching the wrist. The capture of the wrist in Japanese martial arts dates back to the samurai era to stop the removal of the sword from the scabbard. Of course, many other cases can be found even in everyday life.


A parent may take the child’s wrist to go elsewhere if the child does not listen.

The wrist grab in Korean Drama

On TV, Korean men are always shown grabbing women’s wrists and dragging them either away from something or toward themselves. This may sound like borderline gender violence.
Grabbing a wrist is considered much more appropriate even among friends or colleagues as opposed to holding someone’s hand which is reserved strictly for lovers. Also, they grab it firmly but they don’t try to pull your arm off.

Aikido wrist grabbing

You often hear people asking why in Aikido there is an obsession with wrist grabbing. It seems like every technique starts with “grab my wrist.”
As mentioned earlier, the origin of Aikido is in the martial arts of supposedly samurai training. Grabbing the wrist is to prevent the opponent from using his sword. Examples can be found within the Iai-jutsu advanced training.

Another example is how to prevent of drawing the sword

Wrist grabbing in non-aikido martial art context

The kimura lock, also called double wristlock (catch wrestling), chicken wing or gyaku ude-garami (judo) is a grappling submission hold of uncertain origin, being catch wrestling and judo. The submission bears the name of “Kimura” after the famous athlete Masahiko Kimura who defeated Helio Graciewith this joint-lock in a legendary match for combat sports, which took place on October 23, 1951.

Wrist grabbing can be seen in the combat sport “wrestling”.

“Junte” and “Gyakute”

Fundamentally, there are 2 kinds of grabbing the wrist.

  • Junte, wrist grabbing with thumb and indexfinger in the direction of opponents shoulder
  • Gyakute, wrist grabbing with little finger in the direction of opponents shoulder

These methods are used in various situations. And it is not always the purpose of blocking the wrist into a situation where the arm cannot be used to attack you.
Grabbing the wrist can also be a set-up for a waza to control or throwing the opponent after Uke grabbed you by the wrist.

Examples of gyakute

How to grasp

Basically, wrist grabbing is similar to grasping the handle of a sword.
The basic rule is to grasp strongly with the middle finger and keeping contact withe the base of the little finger.

In martial arts with a stick, for example Jodo, grasping have similar rules.

Grasping the collar or sleeve

This type of grasping is fundamental in Judo or similar fighting sports. It is typical for martial arts practitioners wearing a strong dogi.

Wrist grabbing on a moving arm

Wrist grabbing when someone is trying to hit you with tegatana or fist is not so easy and will be the result of a skill with tegatana.
In Tomiki’s Aikido there is a training situation where Uke is using a mock knife, called tanto. Uke is striking to Tori, which avoid the strike with the proper foot movements and tegatana movement. Of course, the example is simplified and needs randori training to become a real skill.