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Ouch! Stop Pulling My Hair

by Christopher Caile

Getting caught in a hair pull can be dangerous and painful, and you can end up in a vary precarious position. Suddenly the head goes forward and down in front of your body -- balance and strength are lost.

For this reason, the hair pull is a preferred way to control someone. Women are especially vulnerable because they tend to have longer hair.

So, what can you do? The most important rule to remember is to follow the energy and not fight it. That means when someone pulls, you don't pull back, using your strength to fight their's. This might work if you are big and strong, but it just sets up a pulling contest and eliminates any tactical advantage that you might create.

How to get out of the hair pull depends on whether or not you saw it coming. In a perfect world you would be alert all the time, so if attacked you could easily thwart the attack. But unfortunately, you may not see it coming; you may find yourself hit first, or pulled from behind. It is therefore valuable to know how to counter a hair pull in either situation: first, if you see the attack coming and can respond, and second, if the attack comes as a surprise and the next thing you know you are bent over. We also discuss escaping from a hair pull if the attack is just a playful fooling around by a friend or relative. (1)

If You See It Coming And Are Prepared

Again, the first rule is not to pull back. This means that as the attacker pulls, you move inward.

If you see the hair pull coming, instead of allowing your head to be jerked forward, you follow the attacker's energy and move yourself toward him or her. In this case, you also step and turn your body so that you are in a small horse stance. This way you are in a wider, more stable stance over your feet while the attacker's feet are not as well aligned. Thus if the attacker continues to pull, he is more likely to pull himself toward you. At the same time that you step, strike with your elbow against the attacker's floating ribs. The attacker's pull will only give your attack more power.

At virtually the same time the opposite hand should reach up and grab the attacker's hair, pulling the head toward you (alternately this motion can be a palm heel strike to the nose, or a strike to the eyes - only to be used in a life threatening situation - followed by a heel strike to the chin). At the same time, the opposite fist (back fist) strikes the nose or chin. When done together with speed and power, this combination can be devastating.

You can finish the technique with an arm bar. The attacker's grip on your hair will be loosened, or the arm will be pulled back toward his or her head. In either instance lift both your arms (almost like the first move in the karate kata Pinan four) under the attacker's arm. Your left hand grabs the attacker's wrist and rotates the arm while your right forearm circles up and over the attacker's arm to rotate the elbow upward for the arm bar. Be sure to keep some bend in your right arm in order to keep downward pressure on the arm. (2)

If You Don't See It Coming

In this case you find yourself being pulled forward by the hair (see lead photo in this article). Here again, don't fight the energy. Your attacker's energy is pulling you forward, so accentuate it.

Instead of resisting, take a quick step or two toward the attacker into his motion of energy. This nullifies the pull and will actually allow you to get close to the attacker. At this point you can move your head up inside the pulling hand and follow with your body. The attacker is suddenly vulnerable to a variety of attacks. Here I follow up with a punch to the attacker's face.

If Someone Is Just Fooling Around

Then there is the case where a friend or relative is just fooling around or testing what you know. Here, you don't want to hurt them, but still want to make them to stop. One effective technique is to reach up and pinch the underside of the attacker's forearm -- being sure to catch just a little skin between your first finger tip and hard second knuckle of the thumb. Another method is to run forward, as in the second example above, and show your "playful" partner that you could have devastated their groin. A simple pinch to the inside of the leg just above the groin also works.


(1) Of course, if the attacker pulls your hair and punches at you at the same time, or pulls you forward while trying to knee your head, your first priority is to defend against the attack. We have not discussed defenses in this article, but here are a few to keep in mind. In the first example where you see the hair pull coming and step in with an elbow strike to the attacker's ribs, your left open palm hair grab can easily turn into an open hand block against the shoulder of the punching arm or a block of the punch itself. In the second situation where your head is pulled down, a knee strike to your head can be stopped by a cross arm "X" block. Ideally the forward arm of the "X" block should be the opposite side of the kicking knee, so after blocking the knee attack your forward arm can scoop under the knee from the outside while your other arm moves up to the trunk and pushes across in the opposite direction -- the combined move off balancing the attacker.

(2) I personally prefer another variation of the arm bar in which your left hand is placed down on top of the grabbing hand while your right palm comes up under the elbow of the same arm. This particular technique is typical of Daito Ryu Aikijujtsu, but is also seen in other forms of jujutsu.

The attacker's arm is then placed in an arm bar while your left hand simultaneously presses down on the bent wrist, your weight pressing down into the attacker's arm forcing his shoulder downward. But, if the attacker withdraws his arm after being struck in the face, this type of arm bar is difficult to effect. Thus in the body of the article another arm bar was illustrated. The technique discussed in this footnote will work, however, if the attacker's position allows you to go right to the arm bar (without a face strike) or if only a light strike is made to the face so the attacker is still grabbing your hair.

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About The Author:

Christopher Caile is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of He has been a student of the martial arts for over 40 years and holds a 6th degree black belt in Seido Karate and has experience in judo, aikido, diato-ryu, boxing and several Chinese fighting arts. He is also a long-term student of one branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong. He is a personal disciple of the qi gong master and teacher of acupuncture Dr. Zaiwen Shen (M.D., Ph.D.) and is Vice-President of the DS International Chi Medicine Association. In Buffalo, NY, he founded the Qi gong Healing Institute and The Qi Medicine Association at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has also written on Qi gong and other health topics in a national magazine, the Holistic Health Journal and had been filmed for a prospective PBS presentation on Alternative Medicine. Recently he contributed a chapter on the subject to an award winning book on alternative medicine, "Resources Guide To Alternative Health."

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

Self-defense, hair pulls, karate, arm bars, kung fu, women's self-defense, grabs

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