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How To Use Pain To Escape Locks & Choke Holds

Updated on June 20, 2016

Don't let this happen to you!

I've been training in martial arts for a long time and in that time have done a lot of grappling. Something we do in our class is have one person in the middle who then has to fight everyone in the class one after another to submission. Three or four subs go by, then the next person comes in. Ideally you get the submissions and don't get submitted yourself! To survive you have to use technique as brute force can't work for long and in fact works against you as time goes on as you tire quicker. Training like this is good as it does force you to use only good technique.

Being in the middle is tough and gets tougher as the fresh opponents keep coming. Even if you have energy for the first few, then after a while you run out. Grappling is tough anyway against committed opponents, but there is something that tends to work well whether tired or not, which is why I thought I'd write about it here. I'm not claiming to be the worlds foremost expert on grappling, but I have grappled lots of times with people that have been trying their hardest to hurt or submit me and used these techniques with good effect, so I thought I'd share in case anyone else finds them useful.

Banned in the UFC. But not in real life!

There are a few moves that are banned in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). These include biting, gouging etc. Something else that is banned is grabbing, twisting or pinching the flesh. I don't know why it's banned to be honest as this is a very useful technique if used properly and something I often use. I am more concerned with training and practicing anything useful than not practicing things just because they are not allowed in the UFC.

A while ago a new guy started training at our place. He had a Jiujitsu background and worked in his day job as a prison guard. He was well built and obviously quite a tough guy. He was also physically bigger than me, I'm approx 175lbs and he was over 200. Anyway as I've been there a while, we were practicing something or other and he did something that I've experienced from a few people when starting out, they test out the black belts by putting something on full bore without notice even though you're just supposed to be practicing. Anyway, he had his legs triangled around my throat and was squeezing for his life's worth.

He was a big guy and I knew I didn't have long before I'd have to tap or pass out. Instead of doing this though, I stayed relaxed, grabbed some flesh on his inner thigh and pulled. The sudden unexpected pain meant that he reacted with a yelp and relaxed his legs involuntarily long enough for me to back my head out, scramble up his body, quickly mount his back and then put him in the rear naked choke. I didn't bother to choke him out, just got him into choking position and didn't put it on as there was no need, I'd escaped and there was no need to return the favour of a full on choke... After that we carried on training, but without any ego stroking or full bore choke attempts. He had been surprised at what I'd done as it was unexpected, which was why it worked.

Anyway the point of this not particularly interesting story is that a flesh grab saved the day there. It is not a technique that will finish the fight, you have to use it in the right way, but if used right it is a nice little technique for advancing your position.

How to flesh grab in the most painful & effective way

To implement a flesh grab properly, you need to cause maximum shocking pain as quickly as possible. To do this then do the following.

1. Find the right places to grab. Good places to grab are the inner thigh and the inside of the upper arm. Both of these places are sensitive and can be extremely painful. However most places will hurt, but ideally grab somewhere where there isn't a lot of fat.

2. Don't grab much flesh. If you grab a handful, then it won't really hurt. Ideally grab the skin and a bit of muscle with it. Then pull it away from the body hard.

3. Do it quickly. The whole idea is that the shock of the instant pain from the flesh grab distracts your opponent, causing them to lose focus for a second or two. If you've got something that really hurts, they may let go of their submission attempt with continued application, but they're more likely to just put it on harder. Shock them with the pain and use the small window of opportunity to escape. If you don't pull hard enough, then they will just adjust to the pain and the element of surprise is gone.

4. Put them on at the right time. If you're in a fully sunk choke, or armbar, then you're not likely to be able to use a flesh grab to get out, but they're a nice thing to practice and have in your toolbox if there are no other options. The right time to use them really is while the other person is trying to get their submission on. If you can get them on quickly, then you can often escape, but don't leave it too long as once a choke is fully on, then they may not work, although I have used them to escape in the past even when I'm in a bad position. You can often use them to shock the other person and then move them the way you want them to move.

Use the moment of surprise to escape

Other painful things to do when caught in a submission

As well as fleshgrabbing, there are other things you can do which hurt. The upper eye socket is a brilliant place to insert a finger for a lot of pain, you can put your finger in there and push upwards against the bone, rather than the eyeball and you won't cause damage. It's usually painful enough that it distracts your opponent.

A finger pushed into the throat, or a thumb pushed up under the chin also hurts a lot, especially if you can hold onto the chin to stop them pulling it away.

Another one I like is to use the ridge of the hand to push up and back under the nose. This doesn't sound much, but it hurts a lot. Try it now and put some force into it. It's difficult to concentrate when someone is doing that and both of these things are useful for escapes and also useful if someone has tucked their chin as they often put their head back a bit involuntarily to escape the pain, which allows you to sink a choke of your own.

Another extremely painful lock is another one that is banned from the UFC and with good reason as they can damage with ease, finger and toe locks. It sounds ridiculous in a way as they are so small, but if you lock someone's finger or toe, they really hurt! I have also used these to get out when I have been caught in chokes that have been applied with the legs. Of course it's not a good idea to go for a little toe lock in a streetfight or anything, but be aware that they are there and are another good distraction tool when grappling.

I hope this hub was useful for the grapplers out there! If you have never really considered flesh grabs before they are definitely useful and even if you don't use them in competition, they may come in handy if you ever get caught out. Just remember to grab a small amount of flesh and pull as hard as you can for maximum pain!


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