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There is a fairly wide spread belief within the Aikido community that all joint locks and some throws (or rather their break falls) are harmful to children. I am looking for actual evidence-based medicine justification to not do those joint locks/throws.

The question really focuses on medium to long term harm to the development of children's body. Adults can practice these locks for decades without any adverse effects as their bones, tendons, and so on are all finalised. On the other hand, kids bodies are still growing and might be much weaker to resist strain. That's the common view within the Aikido teaching world. I am looking for actual medical evidence of such.

For example, here are two common locks used in Aikido: kote gaeshi (supinating wristlock) and kote hineri (rotational wristlock). The former twists the write anti-clockwise, the latter clockwise if applied to the left hand.

kote gaeshikote hineri

Both can be very painful in the short term but once the lock is released the pain disappears. The goal of locks is to either cause the body to move in a predefined way (to set up for a throw) or to pin the target so they are disinclined to resist the pin. The locks are safe to practice on adults: they do not cause any short, medium, or long term damage if applied correctly. Of course, they could do grievous damage if applied in haste on unsuspecting targets. But damage is not the goal. Otherwise, we could not train! To be fair, pain is not the goal either.

Maybe martial arts experts be better at answering this question so I asked on martialart.se.

  • What is the goal of a joint lock? – user5582 Aug 5 '14 at 15:32
  • @Articuno To control or harm the opponent. In aikido there is a emphasis on control and non-destrutive dissuasion but the potential for rather a lot of damage is there. Practice starts slow and simple and is fairly highly controlled until all participants are quite sophisticated. Done standing to another aikido practitioner these two techniques result in the uke rolling out of the technique, but done to the unsuspecting or with a surface preventing escape they have some potential a pain submission techniques. – dmckee Aug 5 '14 at 16:50
  • @dmckee Can one exercise control of an opponent without causing harm if they do not comply? – user5582 Aug 5 '14 at 16:52
  • @Articuno There are some control holds where the opponent can't reach you and you can crank up the pain until something breaks. Colloquially called "come along" holds, you'll find them in a lot of martial arts and bouncers tend to know lots of variants. Neither of the techniques pictured here are in this category without first having the opponent up against a wall or the floor. – dmckee Aug 5 '14 at 17:05
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    In conclusion, it sounds like these wrist locks are potentially harmful to all who receive them, if "harm" includes "pain." I wonder if the question needs to be made more specific, for instance, addressing long-term harm, rather than simple pain. (Whether intentionally inflicting short-term pain to children is ethical would be an unrelated issue, and, I believe, off-topic here). – Flimzy Aug 6 '14 at 10:25
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As a martial artist of 10 years, and an ex-medical profession in the area of sports/physical therapy I have a fair bit of experience in the area and can safely say that joint locks categorically are more dangerous to children than they are to grown adults.

Despite my experience you're not here for anecdotes, so let's dive into the facts. When a child is born, they are born with their 'bones' made largely of cartilage. As we grow our bones Ossify, becoming harder and less prone to breakages (fracture risks peak in early adolescence). A similar process also occurs with our ligaments, which tighten and strengthen into maturity.

Because there are no direct studies done on joint locks in children (at least, not that I can find), I can concentrate on an example that mimics the forces you might see in a joint lock. The example I am going to concentrate on is radial head subluxation. A pulling motion on the elbow (imagine lifting a child up by the forearms), can cause progressive damage to the annular ligament in the elbow. This damage, as demonstrated by epidemiological studies, is much much more common in young children.

Now, this really concentrates on the effects of acute injuries. I can't justify with evidence the notion that any gentle joint locks (not causing immediate injury or tear to the ligaments), would cause any long term damage. But the point is, that any acute/traumatic injuries can cause long term problems, and these acute issue are much more common in children. As such, joint locks on children should be practiced only under strict supervision, but as long as you're careful I can find no evidence that the correct, careful and responsible practice of joint locks would cause any long term issues.

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    Regarding the last sentence, teaching children joint locks certainly creates a non zero risk that they will apply them on other children, sometimes in a matter that is not at all correct, careful, responsible, or under supervision. – Peter Oct 24 '17 at 13:00

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