Structural Manipulation Technique: The Arm Drag

Science concepts: torque, force transfer

Things have been on the busy side.  So, I’m going to have to keep this one short.  In my martial arts class this week, we focused on the arm drag.  We looked at the principles of the technique and a number of easy, yet effective, follow-ups to it.  The main idea we focused on was manipulating the opponent’s balance and structure through controlling a limb.

In my absentmindedness, I forgot to get pictures and video to demonstrate the technique.  So, some YouTube video will have to suffice.

The Technique

There’s actually a lot of extra stuff in this video, but Billy Robinson is the man when it comes to CACC wrestling.  So watch at least from 2:00 to 3:00.

The Science

In a previous post, I talked about how force transfer applies to striking.  The same principles apply when you are trying to pull someone off of their balance.  Let’s imagine, very simplistically, that your opponent is a tall triangle and that you’re going to pull his or her right arm.

The base of the triangle represents the line between your opponent’s feet.  As pictured here, for optimal unbalancing, you want to pull perpendicular to the base of the triangle because there is no structure with which to transfer that pulling force into the ground.  Instead the force is experienced as a torque.  The torque has quite a long effort arm because it is basically the distance from the opponent’s shoulder to the ground.

If instead, you pulled parallel to the base, then the force could be transferred down into the ground, much like the way bridges work.

The Application

There are a lot of equations that could be used to describe the exact effect of a given amount of pulling force, but let’s just get down to business.  You get a firm grip, you pull hard in a motion that takes the opponent off of his or her base, and they will be forced to step forward.  In that moment, you can get behind them, you could follow up with a variety of chokes, takedowns, and joint locks.  There is a bit of finesse in the way you twist and pull with your body though.  I find that if I wind up my body at the same time that I’m getting my grip, then I snap back to center, which is structurally ideal, then I get good results.


So, I presented a quick technique for you to try out…short and sweet.  This idea of pulling perpendicularly to the opponent’s base is actually a fundamental concept in grappling.  Just look at some Judo throws to see the principle in action.  As always, generalize and apply.

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