What is the meaning and origin of this idiom?
Internet searches are confounded by the many headlines and jokes that allude to the phrase superficially (e.g., “repetitive strain injury – it's all in the wrist”).
The earliest reference I found was about tennis in 1898, but the importance of using the wrist to control a movement instead of placing all bets on the strength of the arm predates it by at least a hundred years in fencing.
Basically, although it might not be an "official" idiom you'd find in a reference book, I've seen it constantly used to mean – metaphorically or literally – that you can achieve your result using less strength but more control.
In the absence of any clear reference you might never know for sure, but I'd say there's a good chance that it originated with fly fishing. The technique for properly casting the lure requires skillful wrist action.
Another possible origin I can think of is Bowling, but I'd give more weight to fly fishing because of its age.
In the Hungarian language they say csuklobol which means from the wrist! In English it is in the wrist, but both mean the same thing. It is a way of saying or declaring that someone is a master at something. They are so good at whatever that they make it look easy. They can whip or just shake it out right out of their wrists.
Everyone has something that they can master.
It's cliche' sports advice that dads and coaches give when mentoring young athletes... "keep your eye on the ball" and "it's all in the wrist" are sort of the "tastes like chicken" of sports advice.
Want to hit that home run? Just remember, 'It's all in the wrist'. Want to become better at tennis? Just remember, 'It's all in the wrist'. Trying to toss that perfect pitch?
You know the deal -- It's all in the wrist.
Remeber that sentence in the older Bond movie "Octopussy" surrounding a backgammon (tafla) match between Bond and the evil Khan. Always understood it as "in a game wih cubes, everything is possible" because one throws cubes from his wrist.