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MASTERCLASS | HEADLOCK FROM THE SIDE | by Orjan Pettersen

Each week MASTERCLASS gives you brief but key information on how to optimise a simple Krav Maga strike or technique.


With a slight misnomer (the attack is more likely to take place from behind you, with the attacker ending up on your side only once you’re head-locked) and being a more ‘innocent favourite’ from many young people’s school years, the head lock from the side is one of the first defences taught in many Krav Maga schools.


Aimed to either control you, maybe for further attacks, possibly even involving a secondary attacker, or as a flowing prelude to take you down to the floor by a trained martial artist, the attack is something requiring an immediate response, especially as it involves constriction of the neck.


Your response can therefore be appropriately severe (as you will discover).


Note: If caught unaware and by a trained practitioner, it’s highly likely you’ll be on the floor before you can fully commence this defence. More about the floor defence in a future Masterclass.


Optimise the defence by:


Rebalance yourself by stepping forward with the leg opposite to the attacker’s side. This will happen naturally with any physical impact. Try to land 90 degrees to where you where, with both feet solidly on the floor, akin to the leg position of a deadlift in the gym to maintain a good base.


Simultaneously to the step, move to place the hand closest to the attacker up and between your head and your attacker’s face, thumb facing downwards and fingers in a claw shape. The other hand goes immediately towards the attacker’s groin, hitting, then grabbing (if loose clothing and a male) the attacker’s testicles hard.


This full motion is similar to a front crawl in swimming, except for the hand shapes, done standing up.


The near hand to the attacker should as quickly as possible gouge one eye with your fingertips, using the thumb to also press the nose backwards, ideally at the same time as the groin attack to use the natural inclination of the attacker to bend when struck in the groin, increasing the pressure on the eyes. You must gouge the eyes with the tips of the finger(s). Pressing the face or forehead has no discernible effect.


Now, elevate yourself as you continue to gouge, by pressing the attacker’s head backwards until the head is locked fully back, then press the head downwards.

Aid their falling movement down to the floor by lifting the groin-striking hand up (removing the headlock arm in the process, if still locked, by a sharp downward scoping motion with the hand), then continue to strike the chin with open palm strikes until the attacker is floored.

A more aggressive option are clenched first strikes against the larynx. This can be lethal and carries a higher degree of legal self defence justification threshold, maybe against multiple attackers, male on female or clear disparity of power.


Crudely, imagine this falling movement as taking the testicles away and feeding them to the attacker to consume by mouth.

Step towards their head as the attacker drops down, avoiding being kicked and making sure you can keep striking the chin for as long as possible.


Continue with attacks if you cant escape or quickly remove yourself from the situation and run away.


Sounds raw and brutal? A headlock from the side is a potential lethal force attack as it sets up a potential choking motion. Your reaction can be significant in return.

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