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What Is Trapping In Self-Defense?

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Core JKD trapping is range-independent. It is a process of limiting or denying the direct functionality of an attacker’s reach, techniques, tools, movement, or thought process.

What are different types of trapping?

Trapping is used to deny an attacker stability or advancement in their attack. Meaning, it can inhibit or outright deny them their progression from a thought, emotion or intent to the execution of the intent.

Thought trapping

Thought trapping could simply be a method of interrupting someone’s progression to anger or making them believe that the path of resistance is simply not worth the effort or is too costly for them to pursue. Essentially, you hold them in abeyance to where they have time or have to pursue other pathways of thought because you’ve cut off certain paths.

Firmly saying “No” is an example of this. This declarative is stated without any hint of wiggle-room. It has to be backed up with everything you are and then can be followed up with other options you define as acceptable.

The success of the former would depend on the situation, but it can come in handy with narcissists and others who are not allowed their typical progression of walking over people. When people are denied their usual paths, they either give up their attempts or try to navigate around the inhibition.

Saying “No” or “Stop!” can be quite effective with many human beings. Law enforcement does this to varying success, but so does the parent of rascally-infused children. Humans, for the most part, respond to shock statements issued from authority figures. And, like trapping a person physically, it can hold a person in a frozen state long enough to give you time for your next opportunity.

Emotion trapping

Emotion-trapping is a strategy many have used throughout history. But we will stick to those things associated with the progression to physical attack.

Suppose you are about to start a confrontation with someone who dispassionately proceeds to reveal a long, thin blade you didn’t know they were carrying. You might have an emotional change of heart at that very moment. You might even think that what you were about to start might not be worth it in the end.

Mind you, an enraged person may only escalate their emotional state when another person essentially one-ups them, as in the above example. I knew a friend who was so enraged in a traffic incident that he got out of his car at a stop. He approached the car behind only to find the other person with windows up, calmly looking ahead. Well, this enraged my friend further, and he actually punched the person’s window—only to break a bone in his hand.

This enraged him even further. But through all his cussing, he did have the awareness to notice that the calm person shifted slightly. My friend looked down into the car to see that the person had one hand on a rather large gun sitting on the center console. Calm as you please. And still, not once looking at my friend cussing outside his window.

Well, something in my friend clicked at the sight of the gun. With a final swearing (the ego wasn’t quite finished), he left to return to his car. Later in the day he recalled to me how stupid he was to have done all that. Calm as you please.

Physical trapping

Physical trapping can come in a lot of different forms. It can be as simple as positioning yourself up an incline to reduce someone’s effectiveness at reaching your head. Or moving to a position with the sun behind you to interfere with another person’s vision.

Trapping can happen when you move so that one attacker is blocking the path of another attacker or where some environmental obstacle does the same.

Trapping, as in Wing Chun applications, can hold in play an attacker’s punch or transitioning limb on the upper or lower line. Pak sao, the slapping hand, is an example of this as well as a good lop sao, grabbing hand, that closes one attacking limb over another, effectively “trapping” them.

On the low line, it can be a well-placed foot or leg that interferes with the attacker’s footwork, stability in transition or balance, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the upper body tools because their base mobility is lessened or denied.

What trapping is not

Trapping is not binding in Core JKD. There is a distinct difference.

Trapping, while able to interfere with or deny the progression or movement of an individual, does not hold them in the position indefinitely. That’s binding. Trapping usually can be relieved simply by the trapped person’s easing their own restriction—essentially just moving out of the trap by taking a different path or using a different technique or mindset.

Binding is a hold position that, generally, does not release until the binding person chooses to let go or fatigues or proper leverage from the other person breaks the bind.

Binding is more akin to wrestling holds, body tackles, rear naked chokes, etc. Trapping is usually a positional interference that can be resolved by moving in a different way. An example of this is pushing someone’s arm against their waist. The other person only has to shift to the side or step back to make the trap ineffective. With regard to Wing Chun trapping, by the time you step back or shift out of the trap, you should have been hit 3 times.

Can trapping be a bad thing?

Trapping can be a bad thing when it is used without the end game in mind: survival.

Some people get caught up in trapping and miss the reason for it. It’s to provide you time or opportunity for your escape or other defensive attacks to succeed. Period.

Trapping is an interim part of an overall progression toward the success of bringing your opponent gracefully or indignantly to unconsciousness or to removing yourself from a situation that could bring you harm or death.

If you focus on trapping as the end-all to your survival, then you are no different than those who believe that a groin kick is the end-all to success in a life and death confrontation.

Closing thoughts

Trapping has some wonderful effective uses for the martial artist who values mobility and functionality that expose opportunities toward survival. Much of our knife and karambit self defense uses trapping and binding in a synergistic flow that is highly functional against resisting attackers with harmful intent.

Just remember not to put yourself in a position where you believe your martial art, your present stage of development, is absolutely superior to all others. That’s a trap of which some people aren’t even aware.

The informed martial artist knows that most limits are self-imposed and that success is just a matter of diligent study and training both body and mind past their ignorance.

—Ming
Founder, Core JKD

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