Friday, 4 June 2010

Kid-Fu: Defending Against A Wrist Grab

Swift and Safe

Occasionally, I'm taught a street survival self-defense technique in my Wing Chun class that translates easily into a kid safety skill. It's hard to know where to draw the line between teaching my daughters how to avoid being attacked or abused and letting them just be kids. However, in light of so many abductions (and attempted abductions), especially of small girls, I'm erring on the side of caution. So last week I taught my kids how to answer this question:

What do you do if a stranger grabs you by the wrist?
All of the following motions should be completed in quick succession and with decisive force. Of course you're going to scream and shout for help, too!

1. Flick the back of your free hand into your attacker's eyes. (His stinging, watering eyes may give you just enough of an advantage to get away.) NOTE: Make sure during practice that your opponent covers his or her eyes with a free hand, so you can practice your eye flick at full force without hurting your partner.

2. At the same moment, drop into side neutral stance, with your center facing you attacker's grabbing hand. Your drop and turn into side neutral utilizes the power in your legs and hips to provide torque (the power of a turning motion). As you're turning, quickly twist your hand over, palm up (into a tan-sao). This loosens and may even break the attacker's hold on your wrist. (You can see from this photo that the attacker has an awkward grip. He's holding on tightly, but this twisted grip will be difficult to maintain in a struggle.)

3. If your attacker's hand is still touching you, pak-sao the grabbing hand, hitting his wrist with the heel of your hand, using all of the force you can muster.

4. Run like a cheetah! (Some of my fellow students call this the "run-sao". Not pretty, but effective.) Don't tell a kid to stick around for some Spy Kid-style butt kicking. The longer the confrontation lasts, the more likely a bigger person might find a way to overtake a smaller one. Running and shouting for help should be priority one.

Who is controlling who?

Keep in mind, if someone is holding your wrist, you have just as much control over that person as they have over you. If the attacker's grip is tight, you can easily jerk your attacker off balance as you're breaking their hold.

Practice this with an opponent grabbing one hand repeatedly, then switching to the other, first predictably (the same hand 10 times, for example), then at random. Then try a random grab with your eyes closed.

Work slowly and methodically, increasing your speed over time. Ultimately, you want your reaction to be reflexive. You won't have time to contemplate I do this, then I do this, then I do this, as you're being dragged toward a waiting vehicle or into a building. Speed will also work to your advantage as a weapon of surprise.

Again--train slowly and methodically. If you are ever grabbed, adrenaline will kick in and give you the power you need to move quickly. It may also make you sloppy, so the more accurately you perform the motions in practice, the more likely you are to get them right when it counts most.

There are so many other things kids should know when facing "stranger danger". It's a good idea to have them take a self-defense course, even one that only lasts a day. The more you arm them with survival skills, the less likely you'll have to suffer the horrific pain of a lost or assaulted child. I'll be honest with you, it's the one thing that scares me most about being a parent. Nothing else even comes close to the amount of sleep I've lost over nightmares of this kind.

Protect yourself. Protect your kids.

Wishing you and your children peace and safety always.


  1. I found your blog through the mom renewal project. I just took my first Wushu/Kung-Fu class. I decided if my son is going so am I. This move is the very first thing I learned on saturday. Pretty cool! I would love to hear about your journey. This week is sparring week and I am a little intimidated. I want to learn the wushu you see in airbender not to fight...but I know its a part of it.

  2. Nice Blogging!!!
    have Great Time!!!

  3. There is another method to release a tight grip on your wrist-- it is found at the end of Sil Lim Tao. Twisting your (detained) wrist and pulling back (with the elbow, of course!) while forcefully "brushing" off the offending grip with your other hand. I have found this very effective for being the smallest person in my class and having a very small wrist that is easily held by huge, strong hands. And then of course, like you said, RUN!! :)