What is trapping in martial arts and what is it for?

Trapping is a type of interaction widely used in Wing Chun (under the name Phon Sao) and in Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do:

  • It consists of “capturing” the adversary through a tactical mobilization of our limbs (not necessarily grabbing him with our hands)
  • It is not only a defensive or evasive action, it can also indeed foreshadow or include attack and counterattack
  • It allows to block, to divert, to unbalance, to move, to dampen, to block, to strike, to put in lever (etc., read also A free home study Chin Na course for beginners)
  • Although it could suggest only a play of arms, it can also include the legs and the rest of the body

The basics of trapping in 6 Dragons Kung Fu

The necessary skills

Outside a collaborative training context, trapping is not easy at all, we need:

As anyone can understand, a beginner cannot manage such requirements, only after long training, it is possible to start to see the first few results.

Trapping goals samples

Outside a self-defense context (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method), in combat, the core goal is obviously to prevail but to be more specific, trapping can lead us to:

  • Temporarily immobilize the opponent (not necessarily causing him damage)
  • Reach a position favorable to execute a technique (eg. a Chin Na)
  • Create / exploit an opening to hit a focal target (eliminating any barrier)
  • Intercept the opponent’s action
  • Unbalance the opponent
  • Avoid being hit (even counterattacking)
  • Gain space / time to act
  • Bring the opponent to the ground (read also The 3 phases of a throw)

Trapping interactions samples

in 6 Dragons Kung Fu, we look at the human body as a set of weapons. When we talk about trapping there are no limits in relation to the elements that we can implement.

For example (beyond the normal interactions related to striking) we can use:

  • Hands / fingers – To grab, push, channel (etc.)
  • Forearms / elbows – To divert, control, capture, transfer inertia (etc.)
  • Shoulders / back – To unbalance, move, block (etc.)
  • Feet – To anchor, slide, hinder (etc.)
  • Knees – To deviate, push, capture (etc.)

The “weapon” that we instinctively choose to use must always be the one that, in the context of a specific fight scenario, responds best to the need for:

  • Speed
  • Economy of effort
  • Effectiveness

The trapping distances

Trapping exists when there is contact. The first thing to understand is that there are basically 2 distances (read also Ideal distance from the opponent during a fight) that we must learn to manage:

  • Short distance – When we are closer, our guard shrinks to protect our body; in this case the trapping contact does not provide grabbing as a first action, we should prefer to deviate and control through the forearms (grasping only in a second time, when we are surer of not being exposed to the opposing action)
  • Middle distance – When we are at a middle (or long) distance our guard widen and one of our arms try to catch the adversary limbs; as it happens for Wing Chun (through Man Sao, “searching hand”), in 6 Dragons Kung Fu we use a similar method of catching the opponent’s action (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///), the extended arm is bent at 90-120°, ready to hit and grab

A note by Master Kongling – In both cases, there is always a hand (similar to the Wing Chun’s Wu Sao), a leg, a knee and an elbow ready to protect / defend: genitals, chin, liver, ribs, jaw…

In the next articles of this series, we will see how to develop trapping attitude (the exercises) and the basic techniques.

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In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • In light of the above, how would you define (in your own words) trapping?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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