In my self-defense classes, I teach different defenses from what I call “set positions”. These are not “boxing” fights where people are exchanging blows, but set positions where people are specifically attacking you. One example, is if someone chokes you from the front, most attackers will usually be a specific distance (i.e. the reach of their arms), and obviously in front of you.
I’ve written before on how to defend yourself against different choke holds, as that is a common way people get viciously attacked. Another form of a set position is that of “bear hugs”. To be honest, I’m not sure where the term “bear hug” came from, because whether I’ve seen brutal bear attacks caught on film, or even those depicted in movies, they are not “hugging” you, but biting and clawing you.
I assume the term came from being wrapped up in a strong grip of a bear, therefore escaping was going to be a challenge. When we think about defending this, we have to think about how we’re actually attacked. To simplify it, we’ll say there are frontal and rear attacks, but also mix in having our arms free or pinned to our body. This is in essence would create four different situations and defense strategies.
The first is a rear attack with the arms free. I’m starting here because it is the easiest defense. With all of these defenses, you’ll see that the first thing you always do is drop your weight. It lowers your center of gravity, helps you protect yourself, makes you harder to pick up and actually loosens whatever hold they have on you. From there we simply throw a barrage of rear elbows. Remember, we’re not just talking one, but several like four, six or eight until they let go.
The next scenario is the same position, as when they grabbed you from behind, but instead of your arms being free, they are actually pinned down. Our first response is the same at first, which is to drop your weight. From there we’ll use a “low-high-low” attack of a foot stomp, rear head butt and low groin slap. When you do that low groin slap, make sure you move your rear end out of the way and then slap hard with an open hand or closed fist. This combo makes these targets open and vulnerable, by putting their attention on multiple striking points.
Then we have frontal bear hug defenses, and assuming we simply can’t strike the attacker with numerous punches, here is what to do if they grab you from the front, and your arms are free. First drop your weight, and next, wrap your arm which is farthest from their face around for an eye rake. Next, use the hand which is closest to grab their chin, and with a big circular step back wrench their neck around, and spin them to the ground.
But what happens if our arms are pinned from this frontal bear hug?
Now we can’t grab or manipulate the face or head. Do not worry, we have a defense for this. First step as always is to drop your weight, bend your legs and drop your rear end down as far as you can. Next, push off their hips so you have an “open lane” to throw numerous knee strikes right to their groin. Let’s see how long they can still hold you, much less want to even be close to you as you repeatedly throw knee strikes at their low line.
There you have it, four of the most common bear hug positions and four brutal ways to fight like a lion to stay safe. My advice is to practice these individually for dozens of steps each, but then mix them up with a partner, or even close your eyes and decrease your reaction time with every “surprise” repetition.
To view a quick video I made on these four defenses, click here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/dxwi1uqjj8g0n0s/Basic%20bearhug%20defense.mp4?dl=0