A defense against a rear bear hug calls for raising your arms and poking your opponent in the eyes, bringing your elbows down on his wrists and loosening the grip, and counter-striking with a back elbow to his chin and a shin rake and stomp to his foot. In theory, this technique makes sense. But consider this:

1. How much time is available for completing the technique? If you miss with your initial strike, what will you do next?

2. What will you do if your opponent is grabbing you so forcefully that you are unable to move? What if he is shaking you or throwing you off balance simultaneously?

3. Many martial arts teach only the technique itself, which normally consists of a variety of strikes and kicks. But is it possible to throw an accurate strike to the eyes or knee or foot of an opponent when grabbed from behind? Will the element of surprise and the adrenaline rush prevent you from responding quickly?

4. How powerful are your strikes? Since a small person is not likely to grab a bigger person, you must examine the usefulness of your techniques against someone who is bigger than you. Can you strike with enough force to stop a much bigger assailant?

When a friend tried to sneak up on me as a joke, I sensed the threat, and instinct from my long training took over. I swung around and struck him with a 52 Blocks hooking punch to the temple. It wasn’t until after it was over that I understood he was a friend who presented no real threat. Is it a good idea to train to the degree that you react to a perceived threat before you have evaluated the situation? Had the threat been real, would this one strike have stopped the attacker? What would my next 52 Blocks move have been? Would I have continued with more strikes or kicks? Whether or not the attacker stops after taking the first strike may depend on his motives.

1. If he wants to snatch your purse or wallet, he might stop when the element of surprise is gone.

2. If he wants to kidnap you and no one is near, he might become more violent when you try to defend yourself. However, I still recommend taking the active approach and defending yourself, rather than hoping that compliance will make your opponent less likely to harm you.

Let’s say that your first blow is successful. It lands and stuns your opponent. But it doesn’t knock him out, and it doesn’t hurt him so much that he begins to fear you. What will be his next move? What will be your next move? How quickly must you react? It is interesting to consider whether a single well-placed and forceful strike is better, or if a combination of many strikes to different targets is better. In theory, many 52 Blocks strikes to different targets have the ability to split your opponent’s mind and body focus and create sensory overload, and are therefore considered effective. But how much power can you generate in your strikes in a real-life threat at very close range?

If relying on strikes to end the fight, you might have to strike your opponent before he has grabbed you. Personally, I like techniques that unbalance the assailant. For example, if he chokes me from behind, I would rather do a forward throw, using the assailant’s choking arm as leverage, than striking his eyes. A throw buys you time even if it does not hurt your opponent. If he goes to the ground while you remain standing, it may even buy you a considerable amount of time. As long as your hands are free, you can defend a frontal grab by forcefully striking your opponent’s chin. If your hands are tied up, your opponent’s hands will most likely also be tied up. Learn to use your legs as the driving force when pushing an opponent away. If he is heavier than you, pushing with your hands against his chest may simply result in straightening your arms rather than moving back your opponent.

Consider your habits and past experiences when learning defensive moves against grabs. Carefully select the most effective techniques for the amount of time you have available.

1. Evaluate the effectiveness of each technique you learn based on how intent the attacker is. For example, if a technique employs several strikes, you may only have time for one of these strikes before the assailant grabs you.

2. Learn how to finish the fight. Don’t do only one 52 Blocks move and then pause to see what happens. Stay a step ahead of the assailant.

3. When the assailant grabs you, think: Break free, counterstrike until he backs off, and run.

A strike or grab may be more effective than it initially appears. For example, if the assailant pulls your upper body off balance prior to applying a rear choke, your rehearsed defense may not work. Likewise, if an opponent grips you tighter than you expected, the grip will limit the use of your arms and legs. When practicing rehearsed defenses, think outside of the box. Do not stay with a technique that doesn’t work.

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