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Defeating The Headlock

Part 2 - Against A Headlock Already In Place

by Christopher Caile

Editor's Note: This is the second of a two part article on how to defend against headlocks. The first article discussed how to escape from a headlock that was just developing. This second article addresses how to escape from a headlock that is already secured, as well as how to deal with someone who is just playing. Other, optional techniques are also discussed.

Some of the techniques shown in these two articles are very dangerous. Always practice carefully so not to injure your partner. Also be sure to practice under the guidance and supervision of a trained expert and teacher.

The Tight Headlock

The following technique is a natural continuation of the technique shown in the first article. If the first technique doesn't work, or your attempt to grab the opponent's forearm comes too late, this secondary technique can be effective.

Sometimes, however, people are surprised and find themselves suddenly in a tight headlock. It all happens so fast that there is no time to avoid the headlock in its initiation stage. Fortunately, it is not too late to escape. The technique below (and its variations) are all that is needed.

In this technique, reminiscent of a movement found in many karate kata, the defender moves his inside arm (the one facing the attacker) back and over the top between his head and the opponent's head -- the hand grabbing the attacker's hair, nose, or in this illustration, the chin using the thumb. To make the chin technique effective, the thumb must be bent (it looks like a fish hook), so it can hook under the chin bone (mandible), just before the angle of the jaw.

The tip of the thumb is pulled up into the nerve that runs up along the inside jaw line. (1) This can be very painful and is used to pry the head backward. At the same time the defender's outside arm hooks under the attacker's front knee and pulls the leg upward.

When done together, the two arm techniques pull the opponent backward and off balance (left). For comparison, a kata movement is also illustrated. Notice, however, that in kata, the technique is illustrated at the position of engagement (just initiating the counter) and not at its ending point, which is more extended.

This technique alone, however, doesn't always work. If the attacker is very determined and/or ignores the pain, the fishhook thumb nerve attack, hair grab or other technique used to pull the head back can be ineffective. So, now what?

(Continued next page)


(1) From a neurological viewpoint you are attacking the hypoglossal nerve at approximately an inch forward from the angle of the jaw (before the jaw turns upward toward the ear). This is where the nerve connects to the back end of the tongue. The best way to activate this point is quickly to penetrate with the thumb tip upward toward the top of the skull. When done properly the technique can cause acute pain and momentarily stun the opponent.

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

Self-defense, headlock, kata, seienchin, grappling, karate, judo, aikido, Kung Fu

Read more articles by Christopher Caile

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