Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Joint locking - a follow up

I’d like to thank everyone for their very detailed comments to my last post (Joint locking – how useful is it really?) I’ve had over 3000 words of comments to read, think about and digest so I think your efforts are worthy of me writing another post in way of reply!

Having taken on board your comments I now have a few more thoughts to express on the subject of joint locking…

Situations when locks may be useful:

In my first post I was a little negative about how or when I would ever be able to apply a lock if I was attacked. Felicia pointed out that women, on the whole, are attacked by people they know and as Charles James correctly said this is a predator/prey situation, rather than a ‘monkey dance situation’.  The predator will often prepare/groom their prey before attacking. Identifying that you are being ‘groomed’ for an assault is obviously an important part of a woman’s self-defence training and thoughts about it are probably worthy of a future post.

Sarah pointed out that such situations occur in bars/public places, on dates, where the man over-steps the boundaries/gropes you etc. I think that this is an important stage in an assault i.e. at the beginning before it gets really nasty when a lock, quickly applied, may be useful even if it’s just as a warning to him that you are not easy prey…

I can also see locks being successfully applied at the end stage of an assault (or more correctly – to end the assault) i.e. to control and restrain. Clearly many of you, Journeyman, Open Hand, Rick and John Coles have used locks successfully to control people in a professional capacity. I would not dare to argue with your experience – if you say locks work in these situations then I believe you. I generally see this use of joint locking as the domain of the ‘professionals’ but I could also see a situation where I would attempt to restrain an attacker – if I was in a public place and I knew help was at hand or on its way to take the restrained person off me…

Applying the lock:

This is the area where I have the most difficulty visualising locks working in practice. I can see how I may get a wrist or arm lock applied if the attackers first move was a grab to my wrist, arm, lapel or even throat. If I was quick enough I could get a wrist or arm lock straight on. I can see that working, probably because it best reflects the way I’ve been training in joint locking techniques.

However, if I miss that opportunity and the assault continues I then have to wait for an opening or opportunity to get a lock on.  OpenHand suggests creating that opportunity rather than waiting for it but didn’t explain how one does that. Journeyman advised to always slap the attacker in the face before applying a lock to distract them from what you are about to do and therefore lower their resistance to the technique. I suppose this is a way of ‘creating the opportunity.’

It seems to me that though it may be possible to create the opportunity to apply a lock one shouldn’t merely wait for an opening.  If you are thinking too much about whether or not you can get a lock on then you may not remain ‘in the moment’ during the assault and respond with whatever technique is most appropriate at that point in time. Creating the opportunity to apply the lock seems the best way and I would welcome any other suggestions on how to do that…

Does size matter?

I suggested in my last post that I felt disadvantaged in a self-defence situation by my small size; that techniques, including locks, may not work effectively for me. A couple of commenters, OpenHand and Journeyman, disagreed with this view point saying that size and strength differences between attacker and defender shouldn’t matter. I have heard others say the same thing. However, experience, both my own and other ‘small’ people that I know suggest that size does make a difference.

In my opinion it’s not so much height differences between attacker and defender that matter (though they matter a bit) but differences in overall mass, particularly when it comes to any form of grappling technique. When I look around my jujitsu club the most proficient people are the ones with greatest mass, whether that mass comes from sheer height and muscle or just surplus body weight (i.e. fat). Even the black belt women in the club are stocky lasses, no taller than me but much heavier. Small skinnies like me just can’t cut the mustard in a grappling/throwing  art when we are pitted against a much heavier opponent.

In all sports and physical activities different body forms suit different sports. Sprinters and swimmers are generally tall and muscular, long distance runners are smaller and wiry, pole-vaulters are tall and slim, and jockeys are small and light. Good technique cannot make up for being the wrong body form for the activity you are doing. There’s a reason why wrestlers, boxers and MMA fighters fight in weight categories.

When it comes to locks my small, slim hands have a lot of difficulty applying a wrist lock to a large man’s muscular wrist. Journeyman stated that, “Just like you can’t flex your throat, you can’t strengthen your joints. Pounds of pressure required to dislocate a joint are largely the same, regardless of individual. It is for this reason that I recommend joint locks and manipulations for smaller individuals, regardless of sex.” 

I disagree with this – a lot of physiotherapy exercises are designed to strengthen the muscles that support joints thus making the joint more stable and resistant to injury. Though I agree that the amount of pressure needed to dislocate the joint may not differ between individuals the amount of pressure needed to initially twist a limb into position for a lock varies enormously. I often don’t have the strength to physically manoeuvre a muscular man’s wrist or shoulder into the position needed to lock the joint.  Also some men’s necks are so thick and muscular I cannot even place my hands around them or squeeze sufficiently hard to cause any discomfort at all!

Another problem I have dealing with a much larger opponent is applying a shoulder lock. I have to reach up to slip my hand under their armpit and onto their shoulder , and then push down from a very disadvantaged position – I’m actually pulling down rather than pushing because my centre of gravity is lower than theirs. “Bring them down to your height first,” you may say but honestly – that’s easier said than done!

So, what have I learnt about joint locking following your feedback?

1.       Locks may be applicable to me in some situations so I need to keep training with them (and learning counters to locks)

2.       Locks work best when you create the opportunity to apply them

3.       Size differences between attacker and defender may or may not be relevant – but if you want to convince me they are not then you’ll need to provide me with a good rational scientific explanation and with some tips on how small people can make techniques work on big people because I’m not yet convinced ;-)

Thanks again for everybody who contributed to the discussion on my previous post – a real team effort!

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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Joint locking – how useful is it really?

Learning how to lock up joints seems to be an integral part of many martial arts, both for self-defence training and in grappling sports. In my kobudo class we learn how to apply joint locks with weapons. I can apply wrist, arm, shoulder and ankle locks with a pair of nunchuku or lock you up with a pair of tonfa. It’s quite fun, though not so fun when I’m the one being locked up with a jo or tanbo – ouch!

In karate we also train with locking techniques, in fact we have a couple of lock flow drills that we learn. These are quite useful in helping us to remember how to apply a range of different locks. We start with thumb and finger locks, then wrist locks, arm locks, shoulder locks and eventually moving onto the floor with cross body arm locks and head locks.

After a bit of practice and an understanding of the mechanics of how locks work they are relatively easy to apply to a compliant partner (except for the few people for whom locks don’t seem to work on at all). However, if your partner is determined to resist being locked up then it is almost impossible to apply. Of course, neither total compliance nor total resistance is a very realistic scenario. In a real situation there will be neither compliance nor total resistance from an attacker. Instead there will be striking, constant movement, grappling, shouting, spitting…….how do you apply a lock to someone who’s playing out their own game plan and not complying with yours?

What’s the purpose of applying locks anyway? I can think of three reasons why people say locks are useful:

*To restrain and control

*To control and reposition the opponent to a more advantageous position to strike/ throw them

*To disable the opponent by injuring/breaking a joint

Restraint and control – I see restraint and control as the domain of specific groups e.g. the police, prison officers, mental health nurses, security guards, bouncers etc. I’m aware that there are techniques called ‘painless restraint’ techniques that can be used to control someone and prevent them from hurting themselves or others. However, I don’t see that this is of any value to me – why would I want to restrain an attacker? Even if I achieved it, which I doubt, what would I do with him then? Surely my aim should be to escape….

Control and reposition – This is based on the assumption of ‘pain compliance’; that the opponent, once locked, will be in so much pain that he will become putty in your hands and allow you to pull him into a position that is advantageous to you so that you can strike or throw him to end the confrontation and make good your escape. Though I can see some merit in trying to do this, I think the problems in actually doing it are twofold:  1. In the melee of a fight it may be extremely difficult to get the lock on in the first place and 2. Even if you are successful in applying the lock it may not cause pain in your adrenaline fuelled attacker.

Disable/injure/break joint – In principle this may be a good strategy in a self-defence situation but again it depends on the possibility of getting the lock on in the first place.

Theoretically, using joint locks as part of your self-defence arsenal seems a good idea. From a mechanical point of view they undoubtedly work. However, in practice, in the frenzy of a fight, I have my doubts as to their usefulness.  You could argue that you need to strike the opponent first to weaken them and then apply the lock – that may work if your aim is to restrain, but if I’m able to strike hard enough to weaken my attacker to the point that I could apply a lock unopposed then surely my work is done and all I need to do is escape?

It seems likely that bigger people can more easily apply locks to smaller, weaker people. This is clearly a big disadvantage to women as their attacker is most likely to be a bigger, stronger man. It seems more likely to me that my attacker will be the one applying locks on me to control and restrain me while he drags me off to some secluded place to continue the attack.

Wouldn’t it be more useful to learn how to counter a lock rather than apply it? At least for women.  Are there such techniques? If so, perhaps they should be taught in tandem with how to apply the lock…..

What do you think? Am I missing the point somewhere along the line? How useful do you think locks are for self-defence?

Now see 'Joint locking - a follow up'

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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Low carb eating - how did it go....

Do you remember a few weeks ago I wrote a post called 'Escape the diet trap' based on a book written by Dr John Briffa. This was about a low carb, high fat, high protein diet which Dr Briffa said was a more natural or primal way of eating.

In essence the diet works because by cutting out carbs you prevent insulin peaks in the bloodstream. Insulin not only pushes sugars into cells where they are metabolised for energy, it also pushes fatty acids into cells where they bind with gylcerol (sugar chains) to form tri-glycerides. Tri-glycerides are to big to diffuse back out of the cells so fat effectively becomes locked into the fat cells.

This means that if you continue to eat carbs, no matter how much you cut your total calorie intake, your fat will still be locked inside those cells and your body will preferentially metabolise sugars (and cry out for them by making you feel hungry) followed by proteins (from muscle). Weight loss will stall even though you still have a lot of excess fat on your body. Repeated insulin spikes also lead to insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and metabolic disorder.

If you cut the carbs (particularly grain based ones such as pasta, rice and cereals) and replace them with extra fat (eat full fat versions of products, e.g greek yoghurt, butter, cream but avoid all trans-fats) and protein (fresh meat and fish but not too much processed meat e.g ham, sausage, bacon and soya protein) then the result will be that you avoid insulin peaks (fat does not stimulate insulin production). Your body will now preferentially burn fat and with the lack of sugar in your blood the triglycerides inside fat cells will breakdown, releasing the fatty acids into the bloodstream where they can be metabolised for energy i.e you will burn up your own fat! You will not lose muscle bulk either.

Anyway, that's the theory and I've been putting it to the test for the last 3-4 weeks. The results...

Okay, I didn't have a major weight problem but for years I've had a stubborn 5-6 lbs of excess fat around my middle that just wouldn't budge whatever I did. It was as if my body had a set point at which it could lose no more weight but the set point was too high! I started the low carb eating plan from this set point. Three weeks later I have lost nearly 4 pounds, I am the lightest I've been since 2008. I think my set point is finally being lowered.

The other positive but unexpected effects I have experienced include a complete cessation of all 'gurgly gut' symptoms. My stomach is flat and stays flat all day! I didn't think I was particularly sensitive to grains but presumably I was. The other positive thing is that I no longer fall asleep in the evening in front of the telly - something I have been renowned for in my family. I used to put the tiredness down to it being the end of a busy day and relaxing on the sofa in a warm room just flipped my off switch. Now I have just as busy a day but my energy reserves seem to last me right until bedtime. I now enjoy watching the end of films as well as the beginning!

I am also sleeping better at night. As long as I can remember I have woken 2 or 3 times in the night, tossed and turned and had periods of wakefulness during the night. Now I am sleeping through until about 5-6 am and then still managing to get back to sleep for another hour - this is a new and welcome experience for me.

These positive effects mean much more to me than the weight loss - I FEEL so much better and I don't think I will go back to eating lots of carbs again. It has changed the way I shop, cook and regard food. It is a bit of a challenge to work out ways of filling that carbohydrate sized hole on the plate every day but there are plenty of low carb cook books out there to help with ideas.

I am a convert. Why don't you give it a try.....just for one week and see what you think?

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