The Combative Use Of Trapping

By Lee Morrison

First off let us define what trapping actually entails; from a traditional MA perspective trapping is basically immobilisation of one or both limbs/arms or in certain circumstances i.e. a grappling situation it is the immobilisation of part/s of the torso and body. In other words you are going to trap, jam or seize the said part of the body in order to prevent it being used against you in a Combative sense. Or as a means to remove a temporary obstruction.

In traditional systems this is often practiced from a reference point or from within the confines of a sensitivity drill such as chi-sau or Hubud. Such drills along with reference point trapping are very useful for developing the attribute of tactile sensitivity. Just take a look at some of old Chinese or Filipino masters whose speed and strength has long since left them and you will see that the attribute of tactile awareness has stayed with some of these guys into their 90's. This is of course completely secondary and irrelevant to the importance of gross motor Combative skill.

With that said I personally found tactile awareness extremely useful on the door particularly if I was working off the fence in a tactile way or actually escorting someone out in more of a coaxing manner with light touch. From here if they started to walk most would simply just keep walking, but if the subject decided to become Combative I would instantly feel their intention and more often than not found I was one jump a head of them, in terms of response simply because I was hands on.

Don't misunderstand me if the threat was high enough it would rarely get to the point of getting hands on in a tactile sense. In such a scenario I would make sure that my first touch to the recipient was significant, so ballistic striking was the order of the day there. In terms of actually trapping or immobilising the individual, anytime that you stifle someone's movement you are trapping.

Inspite of the fact that trapping is often ridiculed and dismissed as impossible to pull off in a live situation you will often see examples of the same in real fights. If someone punches someone else in the face and the shot has not put them down, then out of sheer desperation and instinct to prevent getting punched again the pair will quite often clash. This is an attempt to stifle movement which will often unknowingly trap limbs. You can see similar examples in the ring every time two boxer's clinch they do so in an attempt to stifle the action of getting punched. In a live confrontation such a clash is only there for a split second and as a consequence is often mismanaged and then ends up on the ground. Trapping can work in such a situation where a punch has been momentarily met with a flinch response, in other words the arm comes up and there is this co-heision for a split second.

This signifies about 2 percent of the confrontation, in other words it may or may not happen. If it does and you have tactile awareness down as a developed and instinctive attribute then this is the point that you might pull off a trap. Bearing in mind of course the objective is not to trap, the objective is simply just to hit; but in such an example you may have to remove a temporary barrier in order to do so.

Another example may be during the interview/dialogue stage of a potential confrontation where for example the aggressor might give you a prodding/pointing finger gesture as part of his threat display. If you practice good situational control i.e. the use of the fence (which of course you should) then this may cause an accidental or intentional co-heision which can then be immobilised and worked off as part of your pre-emptive response.

We often train this in class along with aggressive role play and the response is usually to power slap his arm clear and explode into a continuous attack off that. I have pulled off something similar on the door and quite literally blasted the guy clear off the entrance step and shut the door on him so yes trapping can work under certain conditions.

A less common example although I have seen it; is when two guys are still in the verbal stage of a potential confrontation and one of them will put up his fists in a kind of boxing guard and say something like ‘'come on then!'' Of course this is the act of an amateur as it shows the aggressor's hand and intention but it does happen more often as an act of intimidation than anything else, again providing you with a good opportunity to slap the hands down and strike or flank, trap and strike.

Example one:

In this example Simon is using a pointing finger gesture and his body language is aggressive. This kind of threat is often used as a probe preceding an attack; in this case a punch off the right hand. My hands are up in a natural non-aggressive fence which will allow me to operate before things escalate. My first motion is to slap Simon's hand aside momentarily trapping it to my shoulder; whilst simultaneously throwing a cupped hand blow to his right side high line, as I flank to avoid his right hand.

From here I snap him toward me into a tight clinch by pulling sharply from where my hands are. In this case my left is behind his neck and my right is in the crook of his elbow. Now I am in a strong position to control him and finish with my Close Quarter tools in this case multiple knees. Note that right from the off; my response is instantaneous and immediate for the simple reason that from this pointing threat display things can progress to the assault in a heart beat. Therefore as soon as the barrier is cleared my only objective is to rag him into the clinch and strike.


Example two:

Here my aggressor has suddenly thrown up his hands into a guard after my attempt to diffuse the situation has failed.

The indication is clear that my aggressor now wants to fight. Working from my same hands high fence I have taken a movement from Wing Chun called Jut Sau where I make a small and explosive slapping motion with both hands to take his guard hands down.

This acts as a momentary distraction whilst clearing the high line for a Thunder clap to both ears. From here I can clinch knee to the groin and snatch my opponent to the ground if the appropriate.


Example three:

Again here my aggressor has suddenly thrown up his hands into a guard after my attempt to diffuse the situation has failed. In this example I flank my aggressor by slapping his lead hand aside as I step forty five degrees to his flank.

If facing him puts me at 12 O'clock then I am stepping to 2 o'clock in order to flank him. This method of using your foot work was a favourite of Charlie Nelson as was the follow up I am about to demonstrate.

From here I maintain control of his arm and expose his flank and rear line for my attack. Which in this case; is a Tiger's claw to the side/rear of Simon's head and a knee strike to his thigh.


So as you can see, possibilities for trapping or immobilising part or parts of your opponent's body do exist. But in conclusion I certainly would not prioritise training it as a priority over my basic hard skills and developing the ability to hit hard. Gross motor movement under pressure is where it's at. Anything else is incidental if not accidental so look at trapping as a small part of the equation but where possible always stick to your game plan; if you can't avoid, escape or de-escalate then hit the bastard first and finish it before it begins.