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Self Defence


In recent years the elbow strike has come very much into the forefront of the vast repertoire at the Martial Artist’s disposal, mainly due to the ever increasing popularity of MMA, Thai Boxing and the Filipino and Malaysian fighting systems.
But the versatile and powerful elbow has been around for a very long time in all martial arts, but I feel has not been used to its full potential by some systems.

In the Combat Ju Jutsu system I teach, the elbow is used in many unusual and extremely devastating ways. In fact I would say the system carries one of the biggest arrays of elbow techniques known in the martial arts world.

The system has no sporting elements whatsoever. Although it keeps the traditional values and disciplines of the ancient Ju-Jutsu, it recognises that times change and so do the threats of violence, so technique must be modified to suit the needs of our urban environment. The roots are in the goshin ryu, kodai ryu and Kempo ryu styles of jujutsu.

The system contains a vast syllabus of strikes, throws, takedowns, locks, chokes, breaks etc. and the elbow is one of its favourite weapons.

Most street fights go very quickly into grappling range or if you are attacked by surprise it will already be close up action. This is where the elbow strikes come into play effectively.

They are used in an accurate and flowing fashion, using linear and circular motion. They will come in from all angles and hit practically anywhere on the body, some totally unexpected and they can combine into bone breaking throws or locks. The elbows are literally the body’s battering rams, they are naturally hard and toughened areas and by honing them on the heavy bag, pads or ‘old school’ Makiwara boards they will become lethal weapons!


If anybody is in doubt as to how effective the blows can be, you only have to observe some MMA fights where elbows used from the standing clinch or from ground control positions have inflicted horrific cuts and also knockouts. Get caught under the mount with the top man raining down serious elbows you are in big trouble.

Also fighting sports have also been plagued by unprofessional use of the elbows, such as professional football. These incidents show footballers inflicting damage with the elbows. They were not trained martial artists who know how to strike with proper power, focus, accuracy and speed, but there have been many nasty injuries and again knockouts due to flailing elbows. That should tell just how dangerous and effective the strike can be.

Let’s examine the many different ways the elbow can be used in a serious self defence situation. As mentioned earlier, the beauty of the elbow is that it can travel at every conceivable angle to strike your attacker.


Firstly remember the elbow is most effective right up close, in clinching range. Many Martial Artists throw it from punching range. This telegraphs the strike and reduces its potency. Also it over balances you, which makes it easy to counter them.


The upward rising elbow at close range can be an unexpected and powerful shot. The target area is the end of the chin. It can cause your attacker anything from chipped teeth and bitten tongue, to neck whiplash or an instant knockout.
It can also be used as a strike to the sternum bone for a set-up to a throw or lock. A surprise move with this blow is either when you are on the floor or in a deep crouch. You bring the blow up in the same rising fashion to slam between opponent’s legs up into the testicles for a lovely finishing move.

The downward elbow can smash into the base of the skull and the cervical vertebrae of the neck or between the shoulder blades into the thoracic vertebrae of the spine, emptying the lungs of air.

Also it can strike the kidneys, all these target areas can be exposed when an opponent is pulled and bent over double, usually after a groin shot to set him up or from a sprawl to avoid being taken down.

The downward elbow can also smash into the face, throat or sternum when you lever your attacker slightly backwards. Grabbing the back of an attacker’s hair, then driving an elbow into the sternum followed by an inner or outer leg sweep is a great combination.

The downward elbow can also be used to great effect on the arms if grabbed by the lapels. You can smash the point of the elbow right into the top of the bicep, splitting the muscle to paralyse the arm instantly breaking the grip. It can also strike the triceps muscle on the back of the arm where it inserts into the elbow joint, again to paralyse the arm or to dislocate the elbow joint. It’s a great technique to disarm against a weapon.

To a kneeling or sitting opponent the downward elbow can strike the top of the skull, trapezius muscle at the junction of the neck/shoulder or down onto the clavicle (collar bone).

An unusually technique from kneeling is to drive a downward elbow onto the instep of the attacker foot. This is excruciatingly painful. If you target the laces on a pair of shoes or boots it is like a bullet going into the foot!

The horizontal elbow is next up. It can whip in to strike temples, jaw or neck from the front, also sternum or solar plexus. If you change the angle slightly it can cut in a downward arc across the temple to chin or the other way from the jaw hinge to nose.



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