Review of Master Ed Martin’s
“Joint Locks and Counters”
By: Master John Enger

Instruction on joint locks have become somewhat of a lost art of sorts. Well, at least those that are utilized for self-defense versus “sport” competition that is. What a shame! Ah, but not all is lost if you desire to learn this art for self-defense and learn it correctly with Master Martin.

Joint locks, if not taught properly, can be an ugly scenario. There is an “art” to the “art” – teaching is an “art” and some are more gifted in it than others. And quite honestly, some are just not “hard wired” to teach! I know a good teacher when I see one and Master Martin has a gift to impart the knowledge necessary to a student by thoroughly dissecting each technique so that when he is done with the examination of its parts the whole makes sense.  You can stand back and say…. “You know what, that makes perfect sense!” Combined with Master Martin’s easy going style you find that the teaching becomes fun. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing and what is being taught, then you will have gained very little in the long run.

Master Martin starts his instruction with a great comment. I will tell you why I believe it’s a great comment after I tell you what he had to say:

“Joint locks can only lock in certain ways, so there will be always be certain commonalities in all systems using joint locks”

So, why is this a great comment? Well, he’s being honest! I have watched and listened to many instructors who make the claim their joint locks are “unique” to all other systems…. “nothing like them” they claim. Really! So find Master Martin’s comment music to my ears. Really, there is “nothing new under the sun”!

Learning joint locks are necessary to give you a well rounded set of self-defense skills. There has been far too much emphasis on striking. As important as striking is to self-defense, there are a whole lot of other techniques that can be taken from your “tool box” – it’s not always a good idea to break someone’s facial bones or your own hand for that matter when a powerful joint lock can be utilized instead.

Master Martin believes “the reason we train is for our own perceptions”.  

He continues….. “If you train for speed and strength --- age will take it from you and injury will take it from you. But if you train for the way you perceive things, then you will always have value from your training.”

To get a real understanding on this concept you will need to hear the story Master Martin brilliantly recalls about the “Man Who Wanted Success”.

How to learn to apply joint locks:

Master Martin states that “when learning a lock the movement is often exaggerated. Once learned however, they are much more confined – much less motion, thus less opportunity for your opponent to counter your motion”.

“If you understand the lock, they can occur from almost any position. And when a joint is locked it has no strength”.

“Your movements must be relaxed, gentle – not with force. If you have to ‘muscle a technique’ you are not doing it right. It should flow easy with no effort. It’s all based upon balance and motion”

These concepts outlined above are very true. In today’s world of defensive tactics everything being taught it seems is hard and dynamic in nature – block hard, strike hard and talk hard. You will see Master Martin use just the opposite approach with skill that anyone can effectively learn to use if they genuinely desire to by putting in the practice time to accomplish it.


The techniques ranged from wrist locks, shoulder locks, elbow locks, knee locks and ankle locks – all shown from active defensive approaches. 

You will not find Master Martin stopping there. There is a good discussion and demonstration on the use of combining locks, e.g., moving from the wrist to the elbow. He emphasizes that there are “Lots of approaches to the use of locks – take the blinders off” Sounds like this could have something to do with the teaching on “perceptions” to me!

Master Martin gives a detailed discussion on how locks work the same on similar joints. One has to practice with various techniques to see how this principle works – and work it does.

Certainly a good instructor wouldn’t leave the student helpless in terms of how to counter the joint locks they have been taught. Well, Master Martin doesn’t and does a superb job in demonstrating these counters.

Just as he demonstrated through step by-step instruction on how to apply the joint lock he does the same on counters. This the type of “meat” that is missing in so many training DVD’s on the market today!


He states the following is the basic premise that works well.

“For an opponent to work a technique on you 2 things have to happen”:

  1. “They have to move their body through a certain pattern.”
  2. “They have to keep you in a certain space.”


If you stop that pattern or you move out of that space the technique is defeated”

 Now, when I thought Master Martin had about exhausted the topic, he decided to discuss and demonstrate how to defeat multiple attackers using locks on joints. In my opinion, this demonstration is worth the price of the DVD itself! Have to see the demonstration to believe the ability every person has if they choose to practice this art.

Master Martin ends his teaching with the “Sandwich Shop Story”. 

Yes, it has to do with: PRESUMPTIONS and PERCEPTIONS (ours and others).     

My assessment:

I took some time, three hours to be precise, along with another student of mine and went through each of the scenarios with the techniques demonstrated by Master Martin. I was quite familiar with most, but not all. However, what I had never done was to take the time to blend a lot of the techniques. Poor perception on my part had handicapped my learning new things. I actually learned that about half of my training in joint locks was taught improperly and I was “muscling the technique” in order to make it work – I’m not getting younger, so eventually the techniques would have never worked and from a defensive tactics approach I would have compromised my safety. The proper technique on body mechanics was most helpful and it corrected the problems that I was continuing to struggle with for a long time. I’m humble enough to take the correction and am that much wiser and a better “Sensei” because of it.

In my opinion, this is a masterpiece of training on “Joint Locks and Counters”. If you master the techniques in this DVD you will be able to adequately defend yourself from the average thug on the street.

So, what’s your PERCEPTION?