March 6

Martial Arts- Trapping


Trapping – A different perspective! By Stuart Rider

What we are going to be looking at is Trapping and my thoughts, my take and ways of looking at it.  Before I get in to the nitty gritty of the article I will admit that I have limited training in Wing Chun, slightly more in Jun Fan and Kali, but I am no expert in these areas. So I will apologise in advance for any major errors in the information in this article. That is not my intention, my aim with the article is to get people looking at the bigger picture and thinking outside of the box.

In the martial arts Trapping is just one of the areas that creates a great deal of controversy, there are those that feel it is a valid method or range of combat, then there is the camp that are totally opposed to trapping, a common argument used by them is “well you don’t see trapping used in the cage, so it can’t be any use” In theory both camps are correct, trapping is a valid tool to have in your arsenal and depending on how you look at it, it is rarely used in the cage. But this all depends on how you view your trapping. So the question is, what do you consider trapping to be?

My guess, without doing any research is that when most people think about trapping within the martial arts, their immediate image is that of Bruce Lee crossing hands with Bob Wall in Enter the Dragon. Admit it that is what you’re thinking about right now, I’m right aren’t I!  I will freely admit that is the first image that comes to my mind and why not, it is an iconic moment in martial arts film history but I am digressing here.  This is generally referred to as reference point trapping and is a great starting point when learning this “range”. Often referred to within the JKD circles as Hand Immobilization Attack it is one of 5 ways of attack within JKD. It is my understanding that ultimately the aim of trapping within this frame work is to momentarily immobilize or “trap” one or both of the opponent’s arms, allowing you to strike into an open line.  Whilst researching this article though (yep, it is not just thrown together) I found that these are the most common reasons for trapping:-

Objectives of Trapping (Reasons to Trap)

1. To create space for a hit

2. To set up your major tools (a big shot)

3. To limit your opponent’s offensive potential

4. To use your opponent’s energy against them

5. You’ll end up there anyway

I am sure there are more but this will suffice.

From my experience, one of the reasons people say that trapping does not work, or you’re wasting your time with this type of training is because they are not looking at the bigger picture. What they fail to realise is that reference point trapping is just a starting point and a way of learning the mechanics and attributes necessary to develop ones trapping skills, sensitivity just being one of the attributes required. Nobody said that it was a quick fix deal. Too many people want the skills but are not prepared to put in the work ethic required, but don’t get me started on that. From different conversations I have had with people this is the type of trapping that they are talking about when they say trapping does not work, or you do not see it used in the cage

Now, one of the terms I use when teaching is “Applied Reference Point Trapping” (ARPT). I feel there should be a TM after that but hey ho, if you want to use it feel free, just acknowledge where you got it. Let me explain what I mean, when practising the pre-conflict material, say with an aggressor coming towards us being verbally aggressive, swearing, shouting etc. one of the threats we incorporate is a finger pointing threat, now with the attackers arm extended in this manner and with us in our passive stance, this could be seen as an ARPT. Another example, say your attacker throws a punch, any punch, you decide and you flinch, jam, wedge, block the punch (whatever term you use in your training), where you have made that point of contact is now a reference point for you to trap from. Simples! Well actually not so simple. It will take time to be able to make this work through the medium of hard drilling, sparring and putting it in to application but then that is why we train week in, week out, is it not? Do you now see how you can start putting your trapping or more specifically Hand Immobilization Trapping in to application?

Now looking at trapping from a different perspective and how I view it. Trapping is much more than just reference point trapping and for those that say it is not used in the cage I will argue that it is. Trapping is used all the time in combat sports; boxers clinching could be viewed trapping, a BJJ player holding someone in their guard, could this not be viewed as a form of a trap? A Thai Boxer using the neck clinch to use their knees and elbows. Or how about simply standing on some ones foot to disrupt their balance? All could be seen as a form of trapping or is it that we getting tied up (or trapped, sorry could not resist that pun) with semantics and are we just looking at the trapping, training even the martial arts in general from a narrow perspective? But who am I to say if this is the case.

I guess a lot of these problems come when you are training in “Traditional” arts which have a large usually international following with a long history and where you will find a techniques being defined by the same terms, were if you train or teach a more free style approach you can be less dogmatic in your approach.

I hope this article has given you something to think about, perhaps even started some debate not only on trapping but how to view your martial arts training in general. Remember one thing though that my old instructor Dave Turton says, “It does not matter what colour the cat is, as long as it catches mice”. In case you’re scratching your head wondering what he means by this, simply put, the name of your technique does not matter as long as it does its job.

Until next time them, stay safe, train hard and have fun and remember you can check out my website at




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