At Krav Maga Swindon we’ve recently rotated into an area of the self defence syllabus that deals with whole-body grabs. The purpose of this article is to put some footage in front of you and demonstrate exactly why grabs of this nature – bear hugs, double-leg grabs etc – are so lethally dangerous. (Link to video at foot of article)

At first glance, someone grabbing you with both arms, around your body or legs, doesn’t seem that hazardous. They ruin their striking ability by using both their arms in this way and are far too close to use effective knees or feet. But, as this footage demonstrates, it’s not the grab that you need to worry about; it’s what comes immediately afterwards.

All throws carry a very high risk of injury. Instructors know this first hand – whenever there are throws or takedowns involved in training, injury rates go through the roof. That’s why we tend to only train them on thick mats or grass, and why in arts like BJJ or Judo, so much time is taken learning effective breakfalls that mitigate the damage. To be blunt, there is only so much mitigation you can do when you are being turned upside down and dropped onto concrete.

Let’s apply the principles of Krav Maga to this situation:

Your attacker grabs you from behind, both arms circling your chest. Your arms are trapped.

Krav Maga Combative Principle 1: Stop the threat.

What is the threat? Simple: you are about to be lifted, turned, and dropped on your head, neck or shoulders. If this happens, there is a high likelihood that you will suffer a badly broken shoulder, serious head injury or worse – compression injuries to the skull or a broken neck, leading to paralysis or immediate death.

The untrained response is usually to attack the grab. Both hands go down to where the grip is and try to fight the hands holding you. This is useless; in the time taken to even find the hands, you have been lifted off your feet and are already on your way to the ground, and hospital.

The trained, Krav Maga response is to drop the weight. You must get your weight down and change your body shape to create space between you and the person lifting you. Even a few inches away from their chest and the job of getting you up off the ground becomes much more difficult. It’s like trying to dead-lift with the bar held out from the front of your body. So you drop low through the knees, keeping the back straight, and you lean forward a little, trying to create that space. You don’t try to break the grip at all – it’s not relevant yet. You can also try to lift both arms up, which can sometimes loosen the hold, but again, this isn’t the most critical thing.

Krav Maga Combative Principle 2: Apply immediate, aggressive combatives.

Once your weight is down, you must do damage. This must consist of what we call Stopping Injuries. You must incapacitate the attacker now with immediacy and total commitment. With your arms trapped by your sides, this will be difficult. But not impossible. Shift your hips aggressively to one side to create a line to the attacker’s groin. Rotate in, turning towards them and us the forearm or the flat of the hand to strike the groin as hard as possible, with the rotation lending power to your attack. Repeat until you get a loosening of the grip. Then slip out and use further combatives to strike other areas as necessary.

Krav Maga Combative Principle 3: Disengage.

Don’t follow the opponent to the ground. Once incapacitated you must move on.

Krav Maga Combative Principle 4: Scan for further threat.

Look for the other ones. In our last survey, the likelihood of being outnumbered in a violent assault in the UK went up markedly from previous studies. 92% of victims surveyed were outnumbered at least 2 to 1. Once the first opponent is down, you have a 92% chance that is at least one more attacker. You must locate, close and engage this attacker with immediacy. Remember, if you do not have the momentum and initiative, they do.

In summary, double arm grabs to any part of your body are a far greater threat than is obvious. In a fraction of a second, they can lead to you being lifted off your feet and dumped on the ground. In part due to the proliferation of MMA and the growing popularity of UFC, takedowns are becoming more and more popular among the perpetrators of violent crime. As a result, no study of self defence is complete without answering this threat.

For a good look at this threat in action, check out this footage:

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For more info on the principles of Krav Maga, see this article from our sister site

Will Bayley – Instructor – Krav Maga Swindon – Krav Maga North Bristol – Bristol University Krav Maga Society.