Shao tran / Nikkyo in Seiyunchin kata

Seiyunchin is a kata that contains many locks and holds within its bunkai.  This is hardly surprising when one considers the meaning of its kanji: to control and pull in battle.

For me the "king" of all qin-na wristlocks is the one I know as "shao tran" (or more accurately, "xiao chan" meaning "small wrap") - also known as the "z-bar" and (in aikido) as "nikkyo/nikyo" (although I avoid using the latter since the wristlock is only a small part of the particular series of techniques described by that name and which translates as "second lesson").

Seiyunchin covers many variations of shao tran in its applications.  I was recently asked to describe these, so I prepared the following short video in response:

When practising shao tran you should take care not to use brute force: shao tran is a technique that requires very little pressure.

The late ju-jutsu master Jan de Jong used to tell me that the weight of one finger was all it took to produce excruciating pain - and he would then proceed to demonstrate this most ably. I have never in my life experienced such pain. While I was pain, furiously tapping my thigh, he would say, in polite terms: "So you see sir, it takes very little effort" (he called everyone "sir" despite being arguably one of the greatest living masters of jujutsu at that time).

Twenty something years later I've got a fairly good feel for shao tran, but still nothing like Master de Jong had with his 60+ years of experience.

The golden rule is, if you have to push hard, you're not doing it right.

When you get it right (ie. just the right angle of the z-twist, just the right angle of pressure) your opponent should collapse like a sack of wheat, tapping his/her thigh furiously. It's very satisfying.

In the end, it's all in the angles. And every opponent's angles are subtly different due to his or her unique physiology. 

I always say to beginners that one day they'll be able to "feel" the subtle differences in a new opponent when they apply the lock on him or her, a bit like an experienced safe-cracker.

For the time being, if you're not getting an easy response from your partner, back off or you risk damaging his wrist joint by using brute force. Just keep practising...

Copyright © 2008 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. There were a couple of guys I trained with that had thick and strong wrists. Partially from hands on manual labor, woodcrafting, martial arts, etc. But one particular individual, with a background in TKD, noted to me that nikkyo never worked on him, in a realistic sense, from the people training with him.

    I thought it might have to do with the fact that a lot of the people around us were not yet to the advanced yet, so didn't have quite the fine grasp of internal joint alignment yet in 3d. So I tried out the hold, got the wrist in position, but he retreated his elbow immediately into a bent position. Good for if I was going to use ikkyo, but it completely negates the joint leverage of ikkyo, thus requiring ikkyo or sankyo or kote gaeshi to acquire sufficient leverage. I then physically popped his elbow back into the straight position, and explained what was going on. Certainly if he had his elbow bent like that and someone was attempting to apply ikkyo leverage on the wrist, most of the force would bleed off into the void.

    Based upon the thickness and feel of his hand, however, I decided that my single hand was too weak to transfer the force into the leverage. I thus got a stronger point of leverage by bringing his hand to my chest, and using body weight sink due to gravity to apply a steady force until he motioned that he got it.

    With some more practice, perhaps I might have gotten it using less power via one hand, but I had just started nikkyo practice that week and was the first one applying such a technique against that body mass.

    But generally speaking, the joint felt very different from the hands of teenagers, females, or smaller males. And I think it was a good experience overall, for the other guy to get a feel for how the technique should work, rather than always faking a response because everyone expects it. In that place, excess force was not allowed at all. With maybe one karateka having issues with his full force habits.

  2. "Certainly if he had his elbow bent like that and someone was attempting to apply ikkyo leverage on the wrist, most of the force would bleed off into the void."

    Sorry that should be changed from ikkyo lev to nikkyo. Same for the one above too.

    I always called it 3 or 4 myself.


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