This week we worked on the bent-wrist hammer lock. It’s taught initially off a wrist grab. Your attacker grabs your wrist. You circle your held hand around to the outside and grasp his wrist from underneath and then twist his arm to raise his elbow and create a “bridge”. You throw a hacking forearm strike into his ribs and go underneath the arm. As you pivot to face his back, your free hand controls his elbow, while your other hand locks his wrist. You then drive the arm up toward the locked shoulder.
There’s also an interesting variation that my Jujutsu instructor showed me where you direct the elbow straight to the ground. It’s a very easy takedown.
One of my students asked how she could circle her hand around for the grab when her opponent’s grip is very stiff and strong.
I gave a thoughtless response. I suggested a knee to the groin to distract or stun the attacker. As I thought about it later, I realized that a knee to the groin is only going to bend the attacker over and make the entry more difficult. A palm strike to the chin would be better, as it would drive his head back and not complicate your entry.
An even better answer is that if the guy is stiff-arming you, he’s inviting an arm bar. We don’t want to be emotionally attached to any one technique, struggling to make it work when the conditions are against it. We have many different martial principles at our disposal, and thousands of techniques. Flowing from one possibility to another is a part of Hapki (Aiki in Japanese).
Literally, Hapki means harmonious energy, or energy blending. Some consider this to be a philosophy of life, in which a martial artist harmonizes his own mind, body and spirit, so that no part of his being is in conflict with another.
Yet another part of Hapki is to use the attacker’s energy to aid your response. The hammer lock works better when your attacker is inviting your forward motion. For example, when he’s pulling on your wrist, or retracting his hand after a punch. In those cases you go with his energy and you’re under the arm before he knows what happened.
That’s Hapki. And that has always been a challenge for me. I don’t know why. Maybe because my martial arts upbringing was in Shotokan Karate (not exactly an Aiki art). Or maybe because I am a weight lifter. When you’re pushing the iron and you get stuck halfway, you don’t look for a way around it. You draw upon every ounce of will and force that weight to move.
From the very beginning my Hapkido instructor Erik used to tell me, “Don’t use your muscles.” When I began Kokodo Jujutsu, my Sensei Dave often reminded me to tone down the strikes and to focus on flowing from one lock to another. It has taken me years of training to understand this idea of Hapki/Aiki, and even now I sometimes forget.
So, for my students, if it ever seems like I’m advocating using force to overcome resistance, just ask me, “Is that Hapki?”
Wael Abdelgawad, Founder