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The MASTERCLASS gives key information on how to optimise a Krav Maga strike or technique.

This MASTERCLASS covers the BEARHUG FROM THE SIDE (ARMS TRAPPED), a situation where you effectively is attacked from the side through a close range around-the-body (upper arms) grab. The attack may be to control you or move you, possible as a grab from behind that became misdirected towards your side during movement. If a secondary attacker is involved, the situation is especially precarious, as both your ability to exit and fight back using your hands are severely limited. You must release yourself from the bearhug as soon as possible.

This defensive solution is multi-purpose. It can equally be deployed as described against a choke from the side (arms trapped high near shoulders) or a knife threat to the neck from the side (knife on far side neck to the attacker with knife hand on your front).


Optimise the defence by:

Rebalance yourself by stepping sideways with small steps if the attack if either pushing or pulling you from your stationary position. Make your smaller steps with feet solidly on the floor to rebalance more quickly. You’re not likely to commence any other defensive motion until your brain is satisfied it has regained sufficient balance. It will be its immediate priority.

Picture: Rebalance yourself as quickly as possible if pushed or pulled. Your brain will not prioritise self defence actions until this is done.

As soon as you can, send your far hand (to the attacker) up in a ‘scooping’ or ‘swan neck’ shape (fingers and thumb together) to hold the attacker’s wrist and squeeze it tight towards your body. Keep your elbow low and tight towards your ribs for optimal power.

Simultaneously, move your close arm to the attacker behind their arm at your front and as you hold and squeeze the other hand towards your chest, use the crook of your close arm elbow to push the attacker arm in the same direction. As you do this, slap the palm of your hand onto the other side collar bone.

Squeezing the attacker’s arm towards your upper chest with both your arms for friction to exert better control, keeping both your elbows close to your ribs for more power, send your head to deliver a head butt towards the attacker’s face, aiming ideally at the nose or chin bones, if reachable. The connection should be your temple area. Retain your head close their face to deliver both continued pressure onto their face and to keep it away from a knife in the case of a knife threat scenario.

Picture: Secure and squeeze the attacker’s arm to prevent it coming up towards your neck/throat with your far arm (to the attacker), pulling it across with your near arm crook of the elbow. Head butt as soon as possible.

Immediately step with your far side leg (to the attacker) very close to your near side leg, unless it is already in this position. Now send your near side knee sideways and in between, but below the groin of the attacker, connecting with your lower quad area. This should be a sudden, sharp and aggressive move, not a pushing motion. Exhale as you strike.

To repeat (if pain is detected and to move the attacker further backwards to disturb their balance to combine with the pain), land your leg slightly forward, step very close again with the far leg and repeat the strike.

Picture: Deliver one or two knee strikes to the groin. Contact with your lower quad to have a bigger striking area.

If the bearhug is now loosened, step with your far leg towards the same side of the frontal hand of the attacker, sufficiently far back that their frontal arm is moved outward to a position directly out from their shoulders, limiting the strength and power in this arm. You must retain the grip of the other arm/wrist and pressure onto your chest as you step, leaning slightly forward as you land with this step.

As you make the step, release the other arm until it forms a 90° angle at the elbow joint with your hand and fingers facing straight down. Just before you land with your step, start to move your elbow upwards, connected to and guided by the chest of the attacker, in a aggressive elbow strike aimed at the bottom part of the jaw of the attacker. You may or may not connect, dependent of the position of the head of the attacker and height relativity between both of you, but your key intent is to release this arm for further strikes.

Picture: Step onto the shoulder line, lean slightly forward as you squeeze and control the attacker’s arm and strike with elbow up and towards the attacker’s jaw.

Lift the arm up between your heads, creating a just over 90° angle again, but with your forearm lifted high and moved behind your head. This arm frame should be locked and really solid.

Start to move, still holding the outstretched arm of the attacker tight to your chest, around towards the back of the attacker. For each step, send the locked frame of the close arm down towards the attacker’s neck in a brutal and aggressive motion, connecting anywhere between your lower forearm and elbow joint. Aim to strike just below the skull and onto the high end of the neck. Repeat several times as you step, each repetition through a big upwards motion of your arm behind your head, before sending the locked frame down to connect with the neck again. Do not ‘chop’ with your forearm only or make smaller upward/downward motions. You need the big motions to create power.

Pictures: Strike hard with your locked-at-elbow forearm towards the neck area just below the skull for optimal impact.

If there is height disparity between you (so reaching the attacker’s neck is more difficult), open palm strikes to their face (break nose) combined with strikes towards the larynx are also effective. If their head drops lower, it may also be on your knee strike to face range. Whichever strikes are chosen, keeping moving continuously around the attacker, maintaining the grip of their arm, to avoid them grabbing you again or striking with their free hand, making them rebalance continuously.

Continue to strike until the attacker is unconscious or you’re able to escape, which ever comes first.

Sounds raw and brutal? A bearhug from the side is an an illegal assault and you are entitled to defend (release) yourself, especially if you believe the situation may worsen into more aggressive violence or you suspect additional attackers may be involved. Your reaction can therefore be significant in return.

Further strikes are then available if needed. See our MASTERCLASSES and MASTERCLASS PRO for options.

Find all our MASTERCLASS PRO articles by clicking on the theme selection on the website home page. Chose MASTERCLASS for individual strikes and techniques.

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