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Jeet Kune Do Kali Association

Trapping 101

By Tim McFatridge and Cory Smith


Let us start off by explaining what trapping is. Trapping is just what the name says, trapping. You trap your opponent’s hands or arms to prevent them from hitting you. You do this by pinning his arm against his body and “trapping” it so he is unable to use it. If you are lucky you will be able to trap both arms, either way the point is that your opponent will be at a disadvantage.

There are several factors involved in order to be successful with trapping.

  • The first is YOU MUST PIN his arm to his body.

    If it is not against his body or if you are not applying forward pressure the entire time then he is more likely to counter you.

  • The second is your footwork.

    You need to be moving forward while trapping.  This means you have to move you feet in a forward motion in order to get close enough to pin his arm.  Also, just for the record, you can trap when your opponent is moving in on you forcing you backwards.  We know this and understand it but for the sake of this article we are only dealing with you trapping while moving in a forward direction.

  • The third is timing.

    You must have proper timing in order to have a successful trap.  If you try to move in and trap while your opponent is moving back or angling off to one side or the other then you will be less successful and will be more likely to eat a punch.

  • The fourth and final one that we will cover is speed.

    You can not afford to be slow or hesitant when trapping.  Also you do not want to telegraph what you are about to do.  You just want to do it.   Everyone has heard the saying “you snooze, you lose,” well this is true with trapping as well.  By this we mean if you are slow and are not 100% committed to what you are doing then it will never work. 

Now the way you ensure that you are able to put all of these factors together is very simple… you train them and you train them a lot.  Every martial artist you will ever see who is good at trapping has spent hundreds and hundreds of hours training it.  You have to train it until it becomes what we call muscle memory, second nature or instinct.  You will train it so much that you will literally be able to do it with your eyes closed.  All of this training for something that will last only a couple of seconds in a real fight.  Some of you may be asking, “Why do I want to train something for so long if it is only going to last one or two seconds in a real fight?”  Well the answer is pretty simple, because one or two seconds in a street fight can mean the difference between life and death. 

So, how do you train your trapping?  Well to start you will need a partner to work with (Oh yeah, try to find someone that actually knows trapping to train with.)  You and your partner will start off in the same lead, for example both of you will be in a right lead.  Now hold out your right arm with your right hand open and touch the back of your partners’ wrist.  Take your left hand also open and place your finger tips very lightly against the inside of your right wrist.  Be sure to keep your shoulders relaxed breathe normal, also keep your arms and hands relaxed.  This is called the High Outside Reference Point also called the #1 position.  This is only for training, this does nothing more than give you a reference point or starting point for training your trapping.  There is also a High Inside Reference Point, a Low Outside Reference Point and a Low Inside Reference Point. Listen to the names, “Reference Points.” That is all these positions are. Remember them because you will move through these reference points during your sparring and you may not even realize it, but when you feel them use them. 

High Outside Reference Point High Inside Reference Point Low Outside Reference Point Low Inside Reference Point

Now you are ready to trap. Person “A” traps first, your left hand will move slightly before your right hand.  You will shoot your left hand forward hitting his right forearm with your open hand as your right hand moves forward to strike.  Your left hand will force his right arm into his body trapping it.  As you do this you will take a small step forward toward him, moving your right foot first.  You will need to start out slow until you get the feel of it then speed it up.  After a little while you will be going full speed.  Your opponent will also need to practice defending against the hit by using his left hand to parry or push your right hand off centerline and moving his head the opposite direction (don't just count on the parry to protect an attack to your face). 

Again, this is very basic and we know that everyone can understand what we just explained.  We have had several people ask us to explain the above in detail so we hope this works for you.

About the reference points, these are nothing more than training guides that will help you train your trapping in the beginning.  We know using “reference points” may not be how they teach trapping in Wing Chun but this is how we learned and this is how we teach it.  We figure if Sifu Larry Hartsell and Sifu Dan Inosanto teach it by using these reference points then this is how we will teach it to our students.  You will find these reference points when you are doing Chi Sao, Boxing, Hubid Drills from Kali, Parry/Salute from Panantukan and even when in the Tie Up Position and while grappling on the ground.  You know, grappling that includes striking...

To say this yet another way, "Reference Points" are a vehicle to get you from point "A" to point "B".  Once there, you will discard this vehicle as you no longer need to rely upon it.

So as your trapping skills improve you will train your trapping from a disengaged position.  By this we mean instead of using the reference points as a starting position you will now find them from boxing.  As an example while you are boxing and you throw a straight jab and your opponent parries the punch you will trap and hit.

There are three basic ways to trap, before the punch, during the punch and after the punch. The more you train the better you will become.  Also, dont forget to practice your foot placements.  Your foot positions for trapping is as follows:

  1. Foot on his foot (right foot on his right foot).
  2. Foot inside his foot (right foot inside his right foot).
  3. Foot outside his foot (right foot outside his right foot).

Stepping On Foot Low Inside Reference Point Low Inside Reference Point

You can also step up changing your lead while trapping.  For example, start in right lead, perform the trap, as you do you will step up with your right foot and then all the way through with your left foot.  Your left foot will now be on the outside of his right foot and you will be in a perfect position for a sweep. 

Remember, when trapping you can still utilize all of your weapons, your knees, your feet, your elbows, your head and your strikes.  You can also go from trapping to locking to grappling. 

We will have a video showing various trapping drills along with going from trapping to locking to grappling to takedowns and sweeps  posted on the site soon.

Train Hard, Train Smart and Never Stop.

Published Wednesday, April 19, 2006 12:01 PM by Cory Smith



Jeet Kune Do Kali Association said:

The Trapping 101 article has been updated to include a few photos and a short video clip.

November 28, 2006 8:03 PM

Tim McFatridge said:

just so everyone knows, the two people you see in the video clip doing the trapping is Cory and LaDell. LaDell is in the white shirt and Cory of course is in the dark shirt. Good clip.

November 29, 2006 7:23 AM

Tracy Frost said:

So in this kung fu scene Cory is the bad guy (black shirt) and LaDell is the good guy (white shirt)? It's a little bit of a canned story but the technique looks good....lol

Good job Cory vid looks good, next location shoot I will bring more light.

December 26, 2006 10:13 AM

Edward Frost said:

The reason Wing Chun doesn't use these "reference points' is two fold. 1) They are already and always there when you practice trapping and are unnecessary to refer to, and 2) Add to the already mired confusion concerning trapping (especially for combat) regardless of who uses them.

February 4, 2007 3:34 PM

Tim McFatridge said:

Ok, Eddie...I think you are taking the whole reference points and Wing Chun thing too personal...LOL. You are correct that Wing Chun does not use these reference points, however, as JKD/Kali practioners we do not fight nor train like Wing Chun practioners do. We fight from a left or right lead which looks more like a boxer's fighting stance and not a "horse stance" or "boxed stance" per say. There for we do not hold our hands in the same position as a Wing Chun fighter. We hold our hands more like a boxer. The reference points are used strictly as a way to teach beginners how to trap...or more importantly to give them and show them a starting point. After a short time they are then doing trapping from a disengaged position as well as doing training trapping from boxing. To me the issue is not a matter of how we teach them to trap but instead how we teach them to use and apply the traps they are taught in actual combat. The mired confusion you mentioned about trapping in actual combat seems to come from people who make trapping more difficult than what it is. Trapping is nothing more than pinning or trapping one or more of your opponents limb so you can do your thing and move on. Thats it. Also, the confusion comes in when people see someone doing "complex" trapping of two or more moves and think thats all of trapping. Trapping can be one move. In a real fight when your attacker starts to raise his hands to hit...BAM!!! you pak and hit him then move on to finishing him...thats trapping.  Lighten up brother...its just a starting point for beginners. You and I both know how to trap and how to use it...and more importantly we know how to teach it to other people...

February 5, 2007 9:34 AM

bjkd said:

it's easy to get caught up in the exacts of this and that...average joes don't care whats called what or the science of things....they just want to know why and how...and that in a fight does it work or is it functional............thank goodness trapping is the bomb in that range....however a wing chun pak sao is not the only thing to show a beginner. might want to address the attributes they will need to be able do a pak sao..not so much timing but more sensitvity..one might argue that you trap to hit.not to trap....or trapping gives you a means to occupy centerline and if you are in centerline your opponents not..therefore you hit him or her alot on your way to the goal-line...you when they lose...whatever that means .

February 11, 2009 10:05 PM

Tim McFatridge said:

Good points bjkd... and thanks for your comment.

We do actually have some video footage and some photos showing how to use trapping in actual combat. We just have not posted it.  We also like to use trapping in the tie up or clinch position. I will try to work on getting something together to show trapping from a disengaged position dealing with punches.

Thanks again for your comments.


February 12, 2009 6:35 AM
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About Cory Smith

training in 1994 with Guro/Sifu Mike Keller and was introduced to martial arts legends such as Larry Harstsell, Dan Inosanto, Ted LucayLucay, Herman Suwanda, Eric Paulson, Burton Richardson, David Gould, Aleksei Tchigirunsky. Joined the Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Grappling Association instructor program in 1995 and continues ongoing training with Larry Hartsell. Also currently training in BJJ with Mike Gunnlaugsson. Tim McFatridge (Co-Founder, Jeet Kune Do Kali Association) and I have been brothers in the martial arts since 1994 and continue training with one another to this day.http://