Gouges, Head Butts, Elbows, Bites & Sprawls (diary entry)




The 5:30 a.m session today is the first of two anti-grappling lessons I will be covering today. It is this particular client’s seventh hour of his basic course on Self-Protection and time to start putting the pressure on. We began with the warm-up, where he placed strikes within a grappling context. This is a light form of pressure testing. It helps convey the dynamic of the asymmetrical, encourages striking whilst being grappled and is also a good way for my client to look for realistic targets he had only trained on focus mitts at the end of the last lesson.


Next we covered the first of five anti-grappling techniques. Grappling is a natural and effective form of fighting. It is the default method that many attackers will go in order to control their prey. A person engaged in a grappling assault is likely to reply in kind should they defend themselves and, if they don’t have solid grappling experience, lose out to the stronger, more confident fighter. Another problem with grappling is that it ties up a fighter and increases their time. As time goes on, so risks escalate. Therefore, although grappling is a part of my Self-Protection course and I am a huge supporter of grapple-based arts I don’t teach it as a priority self-defence strategy unless we are concerned with mid-level threats or striking is no longer an option.


We first looked at the eye-gouge as an anti-grappling tactic. This was trained as a means for better facilitating control of the head and, as a secondary consideration, to prompt the attacker to release their grip or clinch. Such a move isn’t a panacea to a grappling attack, but a temporary support tool. The defender uses it to get into a better striking position.


The first strike taught was the head-butt. Head-butts should be used sparingly. They are an incidental support tool or weapon used when an attacker is at very close/clinching range. The head-butt is applied as a short ramming action, striking with the surface area above the eyebrow, targeting anything below the eyebrow.


The second strike taught was the horizontal elbow strike. Like the head-butt the elbow is used to take advantage of the space that has been facilitated. All the time the initial eye-gouge technique has allowed the defender to keep a reference as well as a controlling factor on the target. Once more space has been presented my client went back to the default tactics of using straight hand strikes and incidental combinations, maintaining forward pressure.


We then briefly addressed biting. Bites can be psychologically damaging and painful in a fight. They can even end fights if they are severe enough and the person being bitten is mentally traumatised by the action. However, this is make a huge assumption. The type of violence being addressed in this course is a high-end risk. We should assume the worst. Therefore, any technique that isn’t designed to concuss or effectively unbalance an enemy is not going to be high on our primary attack tools. The bite is an add-on that should be combined with other techniques. We teach rapid short bites that are better designed to hit pain sensors regularly. This was trained under similar circumstances as the striking at the beginning of the lesson with my client claiming bites as targets presented themselves.


Finally we looked at the sprawl. This is a very effective wrestling technique used to defend against low level take-downs. Although your average predator isn’t likely to be profecient in double and single-leg takedowns, tackling and lifting up from below are fairly primal forms of grappling. The sprawl teaches a fighter to hold a very solid base and get into good position to counter-attack. I combined this defence with a spear-knee strike.


Next lesson will continue with anti-grappling and move onto combat grappling

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