Many people go for joint locks or disarms with a preconception of what move they want to make. It’s good to have a clear goal, but sometimes that mindset means they overlook many possibilities along the way.
Another problem I see is people giving up on a technique when it is 99% complete, thinking it is a failure and looking for another option without seeing the opportunity to secure what they already have. The trick is to follow your opponent’s move until there is no more slack to take up.
A goal I have for my students (and myself) is to be able to respond naturally and intuitively using all our senses, so that we lose the notion of trying to “do a technique” but rather allow our opponent to lead us to whatever technique organically presents itself through his own direction. Bruce Lee talked of having “no technique as technique” and this was his point. If you preconceive what you want to do, it means trying to force that onto whatever is really happening, whether or not it is appropriate to the circumstance. It might fit, but could require more force than absolutely necessary. Work smarter, not harder.
An exercise I’ve been practicing lately is making every touch the opening for something to happen. For example, against a right-handed strike (such as angle #1) people often do a double block (left inward/right outward combination) while moving outside to their left, using their right hand to establish control for a lock or disarm. That’s fine, but how many realize what could have been done from the first contact of the left hand as well? It could grab and reverse with a high outward twist or parry inward to snake down and around into a lock.
Each hand has different moves available, so it’s good to develop aptitude with as many of those options as possible. To this end, take a single attack and practice all the ways each hand can set up joint locks. Some locks are single-handed; some bring both into play. However you set up your opening, you should recognize familiar positions along the way. Eventually all attacks begin to look similar, because once you touch, you are going to go left or right with it using either hand, and that becomes completely intuitive.
One way we practice this is continuous flowing disarms with our eyes closed. You feel a movement, you control with whatever touch is available, you finish. Your counterstrike is the entry for your partner to reverse the disarm on you. We never just hand a weapon back to our partner; we offer him opportunity to do a move.
I call Escrima “the art of making adjustments,” so if something doesn’t work, just move on to the next opportunity. This might sound like a contradiction, but really it is about being unattached to the particular outcome of any specific action. Wristlocks can transition into arm locks or finger controls; arm locks can flow into wristlocks or body locks. Wherever you are, you should know how to flow through whatever changes occur naturally until you are able to lead your opponent into a position from which he cannot easily escape.
At the rodeo, cowboys on bucking horses or bulls don’t direct the powerful animal beneath them; they just try to ride whichever way it moves. Practice with this in mind and see what you might learn.