Elbow Strikes, Part 3

I went out to one of my favorite sites, Dennis Martin’s Combatives Community, and checked out what Den had to say about elbow strikes, since he lists elbows as a “classic strike”.  He boldly states: “If I was limited to just one hand strike it would be the elbow.”  As I have stated in previous posts, the elbow is a VERY close range weapon, not to be launched from far away—you don’t want to telegraph do you?

Dennis uses it from different fence positions, especially the Jack Benny Stance, and he often targets the head and neck.  I like the grab-to-strike, from Muay Thai, which he also utilizes.  Grab the opponent’s head and feed it right into the elbow!  In addition, he will use an arm drag to move into the strike.

I love the versatility of the elbow and Dennis would agree—so many angles to work.  One of the things I see students struggle with when they first begin training it is what to do with the hands on the horizontal and downward diagonals.  I just fold my hand, while pointing my fingers toward the ground.  It gets my hand out of the way and keeps the strike from being so awkward.  Every other angle seems pretty straight-forward and it is fairly easy to get proficiency quickly.  Train it in the air, train it on Thai pads, angled pads, focus mitts, and on BOB (though it is always a little more awkward on BOB because his head is so soft).  Train using both elbows (left-right, right-left) in succession, and use it in combinations with other techniques.  Learn its specific range, especially in comparison to punches—use it wisely!


Martin, Dennis, et al.  The Classic Strikes.  Dennis Martin’s Combatives Community.  Retrieved June 2009, from http://combatives.forumotion.com/skills-f5/the-classic-strikes-20.htm?sid=cd6b2a67001b1d3d3951ea0d38f96a7f.


Blog Post on Home Invasions

Here are some good reminders for home security as it applies to home invasions, posted by Sherry McCourt, on her blog entitled “Security in the City”.  I believe these would apply toward making your home safer, in general.  Home should be a haven from the world.  What a violation to have that safe zone penetrated, AND be brutalized at the same time.  I have to go back to what Al Peasland says in Fence Concepts: we have to be aware, in Condition Yellow, whenever we are awake.  The only time we can be in Condition White is when we sleep, so we have to have other modes of security in place when we cannot be the eyes and ears.  Make yourself AND your home seem like too much trouble for criminals:


Great Post on the Possible Effects of Concussions

Here is an interesting post I wanted to share on concussions.  If some of you spar pretty hard in your training and sustain regular hits to the head, you might want to check out this post by Dr. Randy Borum (also in the June issue of Black Belt Magazine):


Elbow Strikes, Part 2

Kelly McCann includes elbow strikes in his combatives, and talks about their shorter range, but I must say his look longer range than what I am personally used to training.  There are many ways to skin a cat.  He really drives his bodyweight forward, into the target.  Kelly uses diagonal elbow strikes, and he designates “long” and “short” versions.  He does not like the horizontal elbows at all because he feels if the guy leans back slightly, he might miss.  Interesting point, especially if you don’t feed the guy’s head into your elbow.  The short does not involve too much hip movement, whereas the long involves a fake, then a step and strike.  Lots of hip movement with the long elbow.  He also checks the right arm of the opponent, which he does with a lot of other techniques.

The target is the junction of shoulder and neck, or the chest—especially if the opponent moves away from the strike.  The elbow is still a very powerful weapon when hitting the chest.

Kelly also uses a “spearing elbow”, which he likens to a “high guard”.  It looks a lot like the Thai cover we use to block hooks to the head.  He projects his body forward, using the very tip of the elbow like a spear, and thrusts it into the chest.  He discusses the advantages of projecting forward when the assailant punches, because you move inside the arc of the punch, where it is weakest.  The natural reaction of most people is to flinch and move away from the punch, thereby putting themselves in danger of receiving the most damage from the punch at its highest point of velocity, torque, power, etc.  He demonstrates the spearing elbow as a stop-hit for the typical haymaker punch; this is both defensive and offensive.  I’m not certain how effective this is against a straight punch.  I always had difficulty with this kind of maneuver in Thai boxing.  It is extremely difficult to beat a straight punch and cut it off while moving to the inside.  We would use the cover, spear ahead and try to clip the chin.  Very fancy and cool, but again, difficult to have the speed to pull it off.  Having said that, if his straight punch meets my elbow, it is really going to hurt and possibly break his hand.

Geoff Thompson sometimes uses elbows instead of hooking or uppercutting with the fists.  He emphasizes the power of elbows, though they often lack the “tactile accuracy” of hand strikes.  He likes the downward elbow, like the Krav vertical forward and down, against an opponent grabbing at the leg or waist.  Geoff uses the side elbow as well as the reverse elbow (like the Krav horizontal backward) towards the solar plexus, throat or face

Peter Consterdine talks about being in a “separate channel” from your opponent when you strike, i.e. stepping offline, beside him, to deliver the strike most effectively.  He talks about the “one shot” capability of an elbow, if delivered correctly, though he always follows up with a second, even if the first was successful because he prefers a rapid firing of strikes for insurance.  In his opinion, more is more, though he disagrees with striking to the face in most instances, and believes it is excessive force in most situations.  Again, I would have to leave it to you to decide your context.  If it is a lethal encounter and you fear for your life, or if he is brandishing a weapon, striking to the head could be exactly what is called for in that instance.

More in Part 3. . .


Consterdine, Peter.  (1997).  Streetwise.  Leeds: Protection Publications.

Grover, Jim.  (1999).  Jim Grover’s Combatives Series: Power Strikes & Kicks, Vol. 1.  [Videotape].  Paladin Press.

Thompson, Geoff.  (1997).  Dead or Alive.  Boulder: Paladin Press.

Elbow Strikes, Part 1

Hey Folks!  It has been a little while since I have posted and I apologize to the regular readers who enjoy the site.  I’m getting back on the ball and will attempt to post much more regularly.

Ahhh.  Elbow strikes.  I love elbow strikes just like I love knee strikes.  They are a little different from the usual fare that we train so often, and they can be extremely, brutally effective when utilized in the proper range.  Elbow strikes are truly close-range weapons—more so than the punch.  And though they can often be used like a punch, the closer range must be kept in mind.  I trained elbows for years in Muay Thai, and they became part of my arsenal early on in the game.  Horizontal elbows, in my opinion, take a lot of practice and repetition to get the right body mechanics and accuracy.  This was true for me, and I have observed it is true for a lot of other folks.  If I have not done them in a while, I find I get pretty rusty.  I find elbow strikes on other angles of attack much easier to do, and we can put them in our toolbox much faster.

 In Krav Maga, they recognize and utilize seven different elbow strikes: horizontal high, sideways, horizontal backward, vertical backward low, vertical backward (high line), vertical forward and upward, and vertical forward and down.  The horizontal high is similar to the horizontal or snap elbows in Thai boxing, with the head being the main target.  In Thai, we use the “snap” with a little bit of hip movement and the horizontal with the additional quick expansion of the chest before striking.  Because Muay Thai includes stand-up grappling, we often grab the crown of the head to feed the skull right into the horizontal strike.  Krav focuses on stepping in, projecting forward and pivoting while landing the strike.  The sideways elbow strike, as its name implies, is applied sideways towards the throat, in the direction (leaning into the strike) of an assailant standing perpendicular to you.  With the horizontal backward elbow strike, the elbow is thrown back on the high line, towards an attacker at the rear.  The body torques violently into the strike.  The vertical backward low elbow strike is also used against an attacker that is behind you, and it involves a straight thrusting motion into his torso.  Turning the body with a pivot makes this strike much more effective.  Arcing upward with similar body mechanics, and clipping his chin, you have the vertical backward elbow strike.  Turn to face the opponent, and you can throw the vertical forward and upward elbow, utilizing the same target, and driving all the way through.  This one works really well if you are sinking your weight a little, with a lower center of gravity, and driving up through the target as you would with a chin jab.  I personally prefer upward diagonals, but those are what I trained more frequently in my years in Muay Thai.  Some practitioners even teach the chin jab from an angle—it’s good to cover all the bases and find out which mechanics best fit you and your body.  Lastly, and I really like this one, is the vertical forward and down elbow strike.  If you have already dropped him down a bit with a low line strike, finish him by driving your elbow down into his body.  This one is going to be very damaging if applied to rear of his cranium, near the occipital nerve, or even the cervical vertebrae.  If this makes you squeamish, and you really have to consider the context of your encounter, you can certainly strike between the shoulder blades.

More in Part 2. . .



Levine, Darren, and Whitman, John.  (2007).  Complete Krav Maga: The Ultimate Guide to Over 230 Self-Defense and Combatives Techniques.  Berkeley: Ulysses  Press.