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Self Defence

Getting the Point
Elbow Strikes

By Kevin O'Hagan

These blows again from close quarter grabbing attacks are extremely effective and hard to stop, they batter their way through. For a rear attack, the base of the skull and the kidneys are prime targets for the horizontal elbow.

Again from kneeling you can target the knee joint for a takedown or just deaden the thigh muscles.

Side elbow will come in from any angle. From the front with the lead arm it can piston out into sternum, solar plexus or throat. Or kneeling or crouched, into bladder and groin area. From the sides it can attack the temples, floating ribs or kidneys, coming over or under opponents guard. Once more it can strike the outer or inner thigh to buckle the legs.

Back elbows work to great effect when you are held or grabbed from the rear. The straight back elbow can be jabbed back from the hip aiming for sternum, solar plexus or groin.

Fire them out in rapid fashion to break a hold.

Back hooking elbow can strike the head if grabbed under the arms or into the floating ribs if grabbed around the neck. To execute, pivot from the hips firing the elbows in a hooking fashion. If attacker moves his head away from one hooking elbow, follow immediately with one from the other arm.


Also in the Combat Jujutsu system I teach we have some sophisticated and unusual elbow strikes. The upward vertical elbow is a beautiful unseen shot. One way to execute it is if you are grabbed from behind, you drive the straight back elbow into the solar plexus then immediately drop the elbow into a claw hand to the testicles. As opponent lurches forward, rip up on the groin, bringing the elbow in a vertical plane straight up under the chin, it is a great surprise knockout combination.

Spinning elbows are used to excellent effect and in many ways. Done correctly with proper footwork, timing and accuracy, they are devastating. Spinning into a front target offers you the sternum, solar plexus or face, sending the opponent backwards or forwards into a sweep, choke or neck lock. Spinning to the rear striking spine or kidneys sets up a multitude of take downs or strangles.

Spinning elbows can be very fast and carry a great deal of power from the body pivoting. One of the overlooked target areas for elbow strikes is the legs. In my system we exploit this fact often and painfully. Many leg take downs can be used from striking downward into the front of the thigh, deadening the muscle and setting them up for a crippling lock and throw. Blasting the inside or outside of the knee joints whilst crouched or kneeling will upend any opponent no matter how big.

Trapping opponent’s ankle and smashing front of knee with a horizontal elbow will send him crashing to the floor. Ducking a punch and driving a side elbow into the outside of the outer thigh brings a whole new dimension to the term ‘dead leg’.

Against a front kick, you can trap the leg and smash the elbows into thigh, knee joint or nerve points between calf muscle and shin bone. This can take the fight out of the best kickers. Combine it with a sweep or throw and the fight is over.


When the fight goes to the floor, dropping onto your opponent with an elbow certainly gives you the advantage. Downward blows to the sternum, solar plexus or ribs can give you the upper hand. Driving elbows again into the nerve points on the legs can break holds and render your opponent helpless in a floor grapple as can the muscle attacks to the arms, sandwiching the arm between your elbow strike and the floor.

As mentioned earlier on the ground the elbow can be a lethal fight finisher. The best positions to throw it are from cross body top and the mount. If you have good base and core power it can be thrown with great effective from kneeling in the guard.

The point and side of the elbow can affect deadly chokes and strangles on the floor when pressed deeply into the carotid arteries or the trachea.

Also grinding the elbow into the temples or sternum bone, will gain you a release in a wrestling situation. If you train the elbow it can be used from any position or angle. Standing, kneeling or prone on the floor, they will work for you.

If you have a large six foot punch bag you can train and sharpen all the mentioned elbow strikes developing proper accuracy, power and focus. Work to use them in quick blasting combinations right up close to the bag as if it was an opponent.

Use focus and Thai pads to hone your skills and also floor bags for ground and pound.

Full face helmets allow you to deliver an elbow shot but even then they have to be ‘pulled’ due to their undoubted power.

As mentioned they can be used in conjunction with many throws, chokes as well as being close ‘brothers to the head butt and knee strikes. Learn to throw them in a flowing and continuous fashion. They are so versatile, they can be delivered from most every angle and great to fight out of tight or confined spaces when your back is literally to the wall.

So if you are practising martial arts do not over look this strike. As most trouble in the street will start close up or in a crowded place (i.e. club, pub) you will be glad you have this natural and versatile weapon at your disposal to give your assailant the point!


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