Saturday, August 30, 2008

Some Notes on Come-along Techniques

The come-along techniques of Jiu-Jitsu form part of the Restraint and Control syllabus. The come-alongs allow you to not only restrain and control an attacker, but also to escort him out the door: "come-along", "come-along".

A certain amount of pain leads to compliance, but part of the beauty of these techniques is that the pain goes away once they are released: We take the recipient into the region of pain that precedes injury, but work towards a level of skill where effectiveness does not require damage.

The various come-along techniques have different characteristics, leading to their suitability in different situations.

A come-along armbar

For example: The come-along armbar (pictured) targets the elbow joint, requires two hands to apply, and obliges you to stand to the side of the recipient. As well as subduing in place and leading the recipient along, this technique leads nicely into throws and takedowns.

As another example: The pistol grip technique (not pictured) allows you to not only compel the recipient to go to the ground, but also to stand up again.

Comparing the 14 come-alongs (not all of which are labeled explicitly) of the restraint-and-control syllabus I noticed certain patterns emerging:
  • 3 primarily target the elbow joint, 7 the wrist, 3 the shoulder, 1 pure pressure point
  • 11 comealongs are applied from the side; 3 from behind
  • Although "two-hands for beginners" is sound advice, several of the come-alongs can be sustained with one hand
Having learned the basis of a family of techniques, a good way to deepen your knowledge is to then make both an in-depth study of each technique and also examine commonalities and differences. For each technique:
  • How can it be effectively modified for use against attackers of different shapes and sizes?
  • Against which common attacks can it be used as part of a realistic self-defense response?
  • If I fail on an attempt to apply it, what back-up techniques can I easily flow into?
  • How does the technique interfere with my partner's balance and alignment?
  • What are the particular advantages and disadvantages of this technique?
I could list some more of my findings, but you will learn far far more if you make your own notes.

Later this year I plan to explore some of these questions with my students, and together devise a kata of come-alongs.


Anonymous said...

Very interesting article, come-alongs or taiho-waza (arresting-techniques) are fascinating to study but often an area that is poorly understood and consequently just glanced over. Probably because it's inherently dangerous to attempt to control a standing, struggeling opponent (always risky in terms of escape and counterattack) and very technical in nature. If techniques and body-mechanics aren't perfectly understood and executed the adequate pain-level will not always be maintained: either you'll injure him or he'll just slip out and since most people don't take kindly to such treatment you'll be in for one hell of a fight.

I'm training for my first dan in ju-jutsu, part of the requirements are two come-alongs while uke is standing, two when he's lying flat on his belly and two on his back (forcing him to stand up). I do think I have some notion of which techniques would be suitable for these tasks but I would appreciate it if you would write a follow-up post to this one delving a bit deeper and going over some appropriate techniques (preferably with photo's). If you'd care to elaborate on the whole kata that would be great but I know this is probably a bit much to ask. Any information and clues is more than welcome, from what I've read on your blog I can see you're a competent martial-artist. I'm not a master or sensei myself (not yet anyway) but I do think I have the capacity and background to judge whether or not someone is truly skillfull or just full of bs. Just how good they are is another matter entirely of course, you cannot see beyond your own skill-level but I've trained with and been taught by some rather scary people (all smiles and gentleness on the outside, icecold and with steel resolve on the inside) and while I don't know just how deep their skill and understanding goes (beyond my own in any case) something tells me I just don't want to find out. This doesn't mean they're bad people or agressive brutes(on the contrary: I've rarely met such easy-going, peaceful individuals), it just means they're dangerous and I wouldn't want to face them in a real fight.



Dan Prager said...

Hi Zara

Good luck with your first dan.

Presumably you should be working on this stuff with your training partners under the guidance of your instructor(s).

With regard to your specific request I don't want to teach online, because of the obvious dangers of attempting to learn martial arts without either adequate supervision or experience.

That said, I'll do a short post with some constructive comments, but no detailed instructions.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. Obviously I am training regularly and under supervision (how else does one get certified properly?), I have 8 years of experience in ju-jutsu, 4 in judo and I do know it’s fairly impossible to learn martial-arts online or through books or DVD’s alone (I’m not an idiot). However with experience it is very possible to pick up new ideas or find out new ways of executing familiar techniques from them, while my sensei is very knowledgeable and can actually hold his own in a fight come-alongs are not his strong-suit (our style is very much atemi-orientated) and since I’m not a student who’s content with just learning the bare minimum (I do know a few of the more common arresting-techniques) I try to learn more and expand my horizons. Hardly a bad thing, is it? I’ve looked for books and DVD’s to supplement my training but I found very little of actual value, there are a few good books on the subjects but unfortunately they’re out of print. A search on you-tube yielded the usual: either techniques I know already (ushiro-ude-garami, ude-nobashi or gyaku-kannuki-gatame are obvious candidates for come-along tactics) or ones that couldn’t possibly work under real-life circumstances. Obviously the best thing would be to find a dojo that has a more extensive curriculum (at least it that area) and train there but I can hardly find the time to train as it is and I’m not planning on leaving my current club. I’m quite happy with the quality of training: despite a few glitches (no person or style is perfect) what we learn is actual, effective street self-defense (meaning simple, effective responses to attacks that can happen now, not hundreds of years ago) and the add-on techniques from kali, BJJ and boxing/kickboxing are invaluable (if by some miracle I have extra time I’d rather train more in one of those than another JJ-style).

Since I didn’t really see what else I could do I thought I’d ask someone whom I expected to be more knowledgeable than me (a syllabus of 14 come-alongs is quite impressive) but if you do not want to assist that’s fine, I already know enough to pass the test anyway (and yes, I do practice thank you very much, up to 6 hours a week to be exact). As to your reason: you could just put up a disclaimer and appeal to common-sense, it’s what a lot of other clubs do when they post videos on their website. I think the real reason for your refusal is that you want to keep this information exclusive (for your own sake, not necessarily for the sake or health of others) which in itself is legitimate but why not be upfront about it? At the very least don’t insinuate I’m some kind of amateur or internet-warrior just because I’m trying to go beyond the standard requirements and try to learn as much as I can.

Granted, blogs aren’t the best source of information in the first place (usually the content is rather mundane, one-sided and superficial) but to be told to buzz off and ‘do your homework’ is a first. So much for common courtesy and cooperation in spreading martial-knowledge. A simple refusal would have been enough, I don’t need your condescending attitude, nor your useless advice.


Anonymous said...

As to your follow-up post: I pretty much knew that already. I do listen to my sensei and you’re stating the obvious. Kuzushi or breaking the opponent’s balance is a common principle to (nearly) all ju-jutsu techniques so it’s only logical it would apply here too. As to your advice that training is needed to make techniques work: by god, what a revelation! Jee, it must have been sitting on my ass for 8 years that got me to the level I’m at now (which is fairly high btw, I’ve trained with black belts from other JJ-styles and I was actually better than most of them). But then again I’m just a lazy student who shouldn’t be bothering high and mighty sensei, am I not? To most people asking questions is actually a sign of intelligence; to you it seems to be the opposite. If my sensei had all the answers I wouldn’t be asking you, would I?

One last question though, if you would be so kind as to actually answer this time: what on earth is the technique you’re trying to do in that picture? If it’s ude-giri your hand is too high up his arm (pressing down on his shoulder or the upper part of his arm isn’t going to do much), for waki-gatame you’re standing too upright and it can’t be just kote-mawashi since it’s impossible to put enough pressure on the wrist in that position. Besides that kiba-dachi, while traditional, is not a great stance for that position since he can just plant his knee into yours and you’ll collapse, losing the hold. Do enlighten me about that one, sensei, at least then I might actually learn something here.



PS: practicing locks very slowly might be good for beginners (they need to learn the technique first) but for advanced students it’s entirely inappropriate since the only way a lock will actually work for real is when it’s applied hard and fast. Control is necessary and you should be careful with your uke’s limbs but if you don’t train to be quick you can forget about using any locks on the street. Might aswell take up boxing or track, that’ll serve you much better when push comes to shove. As Bruce Lee put it: how can you be speedy if you don’t train for speed?

Dan Prager said...


You sound keen, and pissed off.

I'm happy to attempt a more substantive (and calm) discussion over email, but not on my blog, for the reasons I stated.

I understand that you took the follow-up as light weight: Just say the word, and I'll remove it.

You posted anonymously, so the ball's in your court. You can email me at

Dan Prager said...

Hey Zara:

Something more constructive.

Check out the video of Prof Wally Jay in this post (skip the text), taking his uke down and back up a few times in the second half. Some ideas in there ...