As an objective of growth for 2023, my training group will be focusing on more close-quarter combat. One concept related to this is torite (捕手). Torite can be translated as grappling, catching, or arresting. In many ways it is similar to judō as a form of grappling system, but has many differences due to the purpose of usage, techniques allowed, as well as tools that can used to assist.
When learning the methods of torite, usually practitioners train in katageiko (型稽古), which is a drill that features one person as a defender and another as an attacker. The scenario used in katageiko generally consists of an attacker initiating a confrontation by grabbing the defender, while the defender reacts using specified techniques to defend against & defeat the opposition. It is very common for a student to learn the specifics regarding how to apply torite to defeat an attacker’s technique, as well as subdue them with their own. However, what is not covered in detail at the beginning of one’s training are the advantages the attacker has when performing their initial torite (grapple) technique. In theory, the initial action of a skilled attacker would prove difficult to stop if timed correctly, which is why the #1 effective defense is not to be there as a target.
For today’s article, I will cover various grapples an attacker may attempt that we train to defend against, and explain briefly the advantages of these if an attacker is successful in pulling this off.
SINGLE HAND WRIST GRAB
With a forward or downward pull, you can take a person’s balance as they stumble forward, leaving their upper body vulnerable to attacks. There is also a double hand wrist grab version.
Grabbing an opponent’s sleeve can be used as another variation of this. In similar fashion, you can manipulate an opponent by pulling downward, forward, or to the side. Depending on which hand you use, an opponent’s arm can be pulled across their body by their sleeves, leaving their side vulnerable and unable to defend themselves.
SLEEVE GRAB NEAR ELBOW
Grabbing the sleeve closer to the elbow gives more control in manipulating an opponent’s upper body, especially along their spine. Pulling here downwards to your hip, or outward, can take their balance, and leave them open for strikes or throws. Similar to the sleeve grab near the wrist.
SINGLE LAPEL GRAB
Seizing the lapel from the front with one hand isn’t just limited to a strike with the other hand. One can still manipulate an opponent by pushing or pulling while gripping the lapel to take balance, and can administer more weighted control by pulling downward at the same time. Of course, this is not done through just the strength of one’s arm, but has to be coordinated with movements by the entire body. Depending on if you grab the lapel on the same side as your hand or go for the opposite side, you can push or pull the opponent right or left.
DOUBLE LAPEL GRAB
A much more secure version, this offers the same results as the single lapel grab, but with even greater control. Shoving and pushing can greatly take balance, along with lower body techniques that are difficult to anticipate. It is also easier to execute throws and take downs since you are using both hands.
BEHIND LAPEL GRAB
This is usually done at an opponent’s blind side, which is typically from the back. When done correctly, one can quickly pull down the opponent to the ground, or push the opponent forward by striking with the same hand that grabs. Outside of this, one can use their free hand and legs to deliver strikes.
SINGLE SLEEVE-LAPEL GRAB
This is a familiar set up for specific throws, such as seoi nage (背負投げ, shoulder throw). Of course, we have to set up prior to make throws work effectively. As the aggressor, the hand that grabs the lapel can strike into sensitive areas around the face and neck to create opening, while the hand that holds the sleeve manipulates by pulling to take balance in different directions.
In closing, understanding the strong points of an attacker is critical in martial arts. It is often stated that the one who throws the 1st punch wins a confrontation. The same can be said with well-timed & well-executed grapples. That being said, there is a lot of value understanding how an attacker cam truly use the initial grapple to win. From this can we learn how to effectively defend against this.