Brian, if I understand correctly, I think you and Joss are saying the same thing. A "virtually failsafe" technique would be using an elbow strike where an elbow strike is needed. Not looking for the hidden special magic ear lock! The "failsafe" technique should just work, period. As you said, you can't force it. If the appropriate technique happens to be an advanced break or trap then fine, but it HAS to work, without a lot of fuss.
The more I learn, the more everything is the same.