The Wrist Lock: Playing By Prison Rules

Last updated on 18.08.2022 by

Loved by those who use them and hated by just about everyone who gets put in one, wrist locks are one of the best submissions you can add to your arsenal… as long as you’re OK with your training partners being upset when you catch them!

We’re playing by prison rules in this write-up as we’re going in-depth on this effective but despised submission.

The History of Wrist Locks

Wrist locks have been around ever since humans began grappling. Every martial art that includes submissions has wrist locks within its teachings.

The reason for this is because of how effective wrist locks are. Your wrists are one of your body’s most vulnerable joints, and opponents often forget to protect them.

When you lock on a wrist lock, the pain is instant, resulting in a quick tap and a pissed-off teammate.

In the earliest days of BJJ wrist locks were not common – they simply weren’t part of the body of knowledge brought over by the first generation of Japanese instructors. Osvaldo Alves was key to introducing the technique into BJJ, bringing them back to Brazil after spending time training Judo in Japan in the late 1950s.

Wrist locks in High-Level BJJ Competition

Whenever a high-level competitor hits a wrist lock in competition, you’ll see it posted on social media. One of the most unexpected wrist locks recently happened between Wagner Rocha and Marcin Held.

At Kasai Pro, Rocha grabbed a collar tie and locked hands with Held. The two grabbed hands in a curious grip, interlocking their fingers together. This grip is something rarely done, and Held soon learned why.

Rocha faked a foot sweep as he pulled Held’s head down with the collar tie. Held reacted, forgetting his hands, and Rocha immediately slapped on a wrist lock in the match’s opening seconds.

Here is a highlight of that match, along with other high-level competitors hitting different wrist locks. 

Why you don’t see Wrist locks in MMA

We don’t ever see wrist locks in MMA, and you may wonder why that is. You don’t see wrist locks in MMA mainly due to the gloves and hand wraps the fighters wear.

They provide the fighter’s wrists with extra support when they throw punches. Another bonus to this additional wrist support is that it removes the threat of wrist locks. The padding of the gloves and wraps stops a fighter’s wrists from being bent to extreme angles. 

Another reason you don’t see wrist locks in MMA is the threat of getting hit. Nearly all wrist locks require two hands, leaving your face exposed to strikes.

Why Are Wrist Locks Considered “Rude”?

Many grapplers look down on low down dirty wrist lockers and find attacking wrists rude. Wrists are the most vulnerable joints on the human body (that the rules allow us to attack in BJJ) and are easy to isolate.

The pain quickly forces opponents to tap or get their wrists wrecked. This is why some grapplers hate wrist lockers, but it’s honestly their fault for not protecting their wrists.

Wrist lockers are unfortunate victims of their success.

Wrist Locks From Closed Guard 

There’s a wide variety of wrist locks from the closed guard that you can attack. Here are two steps that most wrist locks share and an effective option from closed guard.

Break Opponent’s Posture 

Wrist locks are like any other submission from the guard, where you must break your opponent’s posture during the setup. You won’t get a wrist lock if your opponent has good posture.

Two Hands On One

Just about every possible wrist lock you can do from guard involves controlling an opponent’s arm with two hands. No matter the setup, you will most likely need a two-on-one grip on an opponent’s arm.

Wrist Lock From Opponent Grabbing Your Wrist

Whenever your opponent grabs your wrist, it gives you a setup for a wrist lock. Grab the back of their arm with one hand and push it to your hip. Next, re-grab their hand and fold it upward to put on your wrist lock.

Standing Wrist Locks 

Just like from the guard, there are a wide variety of wrist lock attacks from standing that only have 1-2 steps.

The Handshake

When the match starts, grab your opponent’s hand like you’re shaking hands and bring their hand to your chest. Make your opponent’s wrist fold and finish the sub by cupping their elbow with both hands and pull them into their folded wrist.

Another variation of the handshake wrist lock involves over-hooking the arm you’re attacking. Loop your arm through, chop your opponent’s wrist to bend it, and take a 2-on-1 grip on their wrist.

The Push Wrist Lock

This wrist lock presents itself when your opponent either tries to push your or grab your gi. Once your opponent touches your chest, grab their elbow with both hands, step forward with the outside leg, and lock in a tight wrist lock.

Arm Drag to Wrist Lock

Off an arm drag, you can grab your opponent’s wrist or sleeve if they’re wearing a gi. Step in as you pull your opponent’s hand to your chest and lock your hands behind their elbow.

Pete the Greek details all of these standing wrist locks with Bernardo Faria in this quick instructional.

Side Control Wrist Lock 

There are many ways to hit a wrist lock when in side control, but here’s one of the simplest variations:

Opponent Puts Hand on Your Chest/Neck

This wrist lock starts when your opponent makes the grave mistake of putting their hand on your body. Doing this puts them in place to be hit with a wrist lock.

Trap the hand

When your opponent pushes on your neck, you can trap it by dropping your chin on their arm. They won’t have enough time to get it free before you put on the sub.

Two Hands on the Elbow

Finish this wrist lock in one step by holding your opponent’s elbow with two hands and driving downward. Don’t drive down 100% on a teammate’s wrist, or you may break their wrist!

Mount Wrist Lock

This wrist lock setup is a sneaky one from the mount and works when your opponent’s arms are crossed. This defends them from chokes and arm locks, but exposes their wrists!

Top Hook Arm

Start this setup by hooking over the top of the arm you’re targeting. Your opponent will assume you’re going for an arm lock and continue defending.

Close Elbow & Take the Wrist Lock

After hooking your opponent’s arm, close your elbow to your body and take a 2-on-1 grip. Grabbing your opponent’s hand/wrist with your free hand and gripping your wrist with your hooking hand.

Roger Gracie walks you through this wrist lock setup and other possibilities from hooking the arm.

Wrist Lock The World by Pete ‘the Greek’ Letsos

If you want to dabble in the dark arts and learn wrist locks, BJJ Fanatics has the instructional you need: Wrist Lock The World by Pete ‘the Greek’ Letsos.

Wrist Lock The World By Pete Letsos

Pete the Greek is one of the world’s most respected wrist lock experts. He was taught by the late legend Osvaldo Alves, who taught him everything he knew about wrist locks.

His wrist lock expertise led to BJJ Fanatics inviting him to make the most in-depth wrist lock instructional ever made. The Greek will show you how to wrist lock your opponents from every position.


You may love wrist locks or even hate them, but it’s a must-know submission that’s open from everywhere. There are thousands of ways to hit this submission, and opponents always forget to protect them.

If you don’t have any qualms about being labeled a dirty wrist locker, then you should look for wrist locks. Going after wrist locks will open up your game, creating different openings to land other subs and sweeps.

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