This past Sunday marked the beginning of the Year of the Snake, one of the 12-year cycle of animals appearing in the Chinese zodiac.  According to HanBan.com, “People born in the Year of the Snake are reputed to be thoughtful and wise and to approach problems rationally and logically, seldom instinctively.”  

These are also characteristics found during the effective use of the “Snake” series of disarms (although we’d also like them to become instinctive).  There are some that refer to the live/empty hand application as “snake” disarms and when using the weapon a “vine” disarm.  For our purposes, we will refer to them both as a form of “Snake” disarm, since they follow a common principle – the weaving or intertwining/wrapping of your limb around your opponents limb/weapon in order to effect a disarm or immobilization.   These can be applied empty hand to empty hand (for example versus a wrist grab), empty hand
vs. weapon, or weapon vs. weapon. 

Scenario 1 - Hand vs. Hand
If the attacker grabs my R. wrist with his L. hand, I have 2 primary options.  I can start to circle my hand either Clockwise or Counterclockwise.   If I circle CW, usually I get a release or I end up in an outer wrist lock/throw position (kotegaeashi).  If I circle CCW, I either release or position myself for an inner wrist lock position.  Students ask –  Which way should I circle?  It really doesn’t matter.  If you get flustered or confused, just start circling.  At some point they won’t be able to maintain their grip and you should achieve a release.  What if they are significantly stronger, bigger, taller, etc.?  First, don’t let them grab your wrist and clamp down (Duh).  But, assuming they have grabbed you, then you might have to take their mind off of the grip by applying some form of“diminishment”.   Any strike to the face/nose/eyes, a kick to the knee or groin, either of which may accomplish the release without any further snaking. Lacking that release, it may give enough time or distraction to allow you to work on a snake release.  As a wise trainer once
said: “All jiu-jitsu/locks/holds/throws work after you break someone’s nose.”

Scenario 2 - Empty hand vs. Weapon
If an attacker strikes with his R. hand using a stick/club towards the L. side of my head (Angle 1 strike) and I am unarmed (and assuming I have to stay to defend and can’t pull a Sir Robin and “Run away!”), then I should jam or block his swinging arm with both of my palms.  I can then use my L. hand to perform a CCW snake around his wrist, then making a “hitchhiking” motion with my arm.  This should leave the stick either trapped under my arm or ejected.  
Scenario 3 - “Weapon” vs. Empty hand
Using the setup from #1, if someone is grabbing my R. wrist with their L. hand (or R. hand, it doesn’t matter) and I happen to be holding a Tactical pen in that hand (in this case a Timberline Lightfoot Tactical LCP, although I also really like the Schrade Tactical), I can use the same CW or CCW snaking motions and use the pen for added leverage or pain compliance.  If it’s especially pointy you get the added benefit of sticking it in their arm (Hey, they grabbed you, remember?).   This same approach can be used if you are holding a knife (as a weapon, although I suppose someone could attack you while you’re chopping onions for dinner) and they grab your wrist.  The length and the edge of the knife now give you added leverage and pain compliance tools at your disposal.  Circle the tip of the knife either direction while sawing and levering down on their wrist. Chances are they’ll let go.  
Scenario 4 – Weapon vs. Weapon
If we’re both armed with sticks and they attack with an Angle 2 (high backhand) towards the right side of my head, I can block it with my stick, tip pointing up.  As I start to snake the tip of the stick CW around their stick hand, I feed the end of their stick into my Left hand, trapping it.  As I continue the stick snake, I will reach a point where I can push on
the back of their hand with the stick, while pulling on their stick with my hand, accomplishing the disarm.  (It’s easier to do than describe).

Those are just 4 basic scenarios that demonstrate the versatility of the “Snake” disarms.   With a “rational and logical” approach to your practice of these techniques, you too will appear “wise” in the ways of the Snake.  
{Note – the Rattlesnake picture was taken during a hike last October near Bear Meadows Natural Area, Rothrock State Forest, CentralPennsylvania}

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