Posted by on May 14, 2019

One of the more dangerous attacks is what we identify in our Krav Maga curriculum as headlocks from behind. Basic Level Two includes three variations.

  1. Arm-bar on front of the throat (windpipe)
  2. Arm-bar on the neck (carotid artery)
  3. Hand/s covering the mouth.

These assaults are particularly dangerous as they are from behind, making prevention extremely difficult. You are very likely to feel the attack before you see it. Also, the first two holds cut off air or blood flow to the brain which could lead to loss of consciousness or worse. The latter – hand covering mouth – might cut off air but is most often a technique used to prevent the victim from yelling for help.

In these situations, the attacker is likely pulling you backward. Why? Because he often wants to bring somewhere else or to the ground. Escaping these holds is very challenging. Let’s look at each one. For the sake of clarity, we will assume the attacker is right-handed, meaning his hand and wrist will be on the left side of your head.

Arm-bar on front of the throat (windpipe): The primary problem is getting air. We also want to turn to face the attacker to avoid being pulled backward or down. To do this we throw both hands over your left shoulder, fingers flexed with the intent of hitting eyes and distracting the attacker. This motion also begins our body turn as we are pivoting on our right foot. On the recoil, we are plucking at his hands/wrist to get air. As we pluck, our elbows pull straight down, close to our body. We want to turn around so as not to have our back to him, to avoid being pulled back or to the ground, and to facilitate the release of the hold by using our core strength (via the body turn). As we turn and release we knee and strike as needed to get away.

Arm-bar on the neck (carotid artery): This attack restricts the flow of blood to the brain. The attacker’s arm is in a V position, putting pressure on the carotid artery on the side of your neck. Compared to the attack on the windpipe his right hand is further back on the left side of your head. This means you will be reaching with both hands but the primary pluck is with the left hand. The right hand might anchor on the left forearm for support. As you pluck your left elbow is coming down on your left side. Turn as you would for the windpipe attack, strike, scan and leave.

Hand Over Mouth: Here, the attacker is covering the mouth to prevent you from yelling for help. You can likely still breathe and have blood flow to the brain. Bring both hands to the hand(s) covering your mouth holding tight and turn as fast as possible. It is the body turn rather than your hands that facilitate the release. The attacker might threaten you e.g. don’t yell or I will kill you. If he tries to take you somewhere else don’t go. Fight!

These attacks are very dangerous as they are essentially ambush attacks that catch us by surprise. During training, it is essential to learn to identify (by feel), and defend against, these attacks as soon as possible. Consistent and focused training can better your chances of surviving.


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