Donald Trump is a strange man, to put it mildly. And if you have ever watched him shake hands with someone, you might wonder, “who the hell taught this man to shake like that?”. It’s a question we all want an answer to. Instead of shaking hands like a regular respectable human being, Donald pulls the other person in aggressivly and close to his body. It’s a power power move that he probably learned in some hokey business seminar back in the 80’s, and is a rude habit that he maintains today.
Even when he’s not trying to overpower and aggressively handle people, he doesn’t know what to do. Take for example the video of him shaking hands with Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan. The handshake was an awkward 19 seconds long, and it looked utterly bizarre. The Prime Minster’s reaction said everything.
Physical greetings like handshakes fall into two broad categories. Some, like bows or curtsies, acknowledge power imbalances and are used by an inferior to greet a superior. In such greetings, the inferior adopts a submissive position that lowers them, and the superior has the choice of acknowledging them or not.
Handshakes, however, are intended to be an expression of solidarity and goodwill. They also generally take place between two equals. Of course, some people do play dominance games while shaking hands. They might squeeze the other person’s hand, or pump their arm too hard. Some people will also rotate their wrist so the other person’s hand is beneath theirs. Such expressions of dominance are subtle enough to still be socially acceptable.
Trump’s yank-shake, however, is less socially acceptable. In addition to being blatant, it often deprives the other person of the chance to retaliate and try to assert their own dominance. Somebody who is getting their hand squeezed can always try to squeeze back. Somebody getting pulled off balance has to try to recover their balance first. That makes it hard for somebody to give as good as they got. Some people do manage that feat; the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, famously beat Trump as his own game by stepping in close when they shook hands so Trump couldn’t yank him off-balance.
Trump’s yank-shake thus allows him to claim dominance over another person. Psychologists call his pasts on the hand a “status reminder,” for they reinforce the message that Trump is dominant.
A Jiu-Jitsu master named Robin Gieseler also noted that Trump’s handshakes are neither friendly nor egalitarian. An instructor at the Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy, he posted a video instructing people how to defend themselves from Trump-style yank-shakes.
As per the video, when the person pulls on your hand, you keep your balance and step in with your outside foot and snake your arm between their arm and side, grab the offending hand and bend the wrist in. The result is a type of wrist lock called a goose neck.
In the interest of not attracting unwanted attention from the Secret Service, Gieseler stresses the fact he is only demonstrating the move. He promises, “If I meet the President, I probably won’t wrist-lock him.”
While using such a move on the President of the United States is a bad idea, other narcissists who try to overpower people with aggressive handshakes are fair game.