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Defense Against A Rear Bear Hug Attack -
Part 2

A Static Upper Arm Grab From The Rear

By Christopher Caile

Editor's Note: This is the second in a series of articles on defenses against various kinds of bear hugs. Part 1 discussed a defense against an attacker moving into the defender and who grabs him as he is going forward. This article discusses the defense against a static bear hug attack where a standing attacker grabs around the defender’s upper arms. Part 3 will discuss a similar attack, but with the grab lower, around the arms at the elbow level.

It is a simple truth that one defense rarely works against a whole category of related attacks, such as what is often called a “Rear Bear Hug.” The reason is simple: while the attacks may be similar looking, one attack may be significantly different from another so as to require a different defense.

In Part 1 the attacker moved in and grabbed the defender as he stepped or moved forward. In this case the defender used the opponent’s momentum against him. In this article, the attack is somewhat different. Here the attacker is more static (does not have a lot of momentum) and just grabs the defender high around the upper arms. (1) In this defense the defender uses a different strategy: to slip down and away from the grab and then to counter.

The grab from the rear: mid to high around the defender’s upper arms

The defender drives his elbows out to the side (to loosen the initial hold), while he sinks downward under it.

The defender drives his elbow backward into the opponent’s lower ribs.

In this defense the response must be immediate and hard. If you are able to slip away there are many counter attack options in addition to elbow strike shown here. You can then escape. (2)

If, however, you are well versed in jujutsu or aikido you may elect to control the opponent. If the opponent’s arms are still around you or near your side you could elect to do an arm control technique (called sankyo in aikido). Here your arms move from an elbow strike to grasp your opponent’s right hand.

You then move back under the opponent’s arm (while changing your grasp) and turning with your whole body to the left toward your opponent, lift and twist the opponent’s arm up (his elbow pointed upward) and to his back (the full details of this technique are left for another article). (3) This can be very painful.


(1) A high rear bear hug as illustrated in this article is not a very effective attack, but remember that many attacks are emotional reactions by non-trained people -- a physical manifestation of frustration or anger.

(2) If you are caught by complete surprise, however, you may find that the opponent has pinned your arms with sufficient strength so a not to be able to use the defense as shown. In this instance the defense shown in Part 3 would be used.

(3) My assistant in this demonstration was very sensitive to the technique, thus even the minimal arm manipulation shown worked very effectively. Usually when performing this technique the body would be more turned in toward the opponent so as to exert added pressure into the technique.

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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 43 years. He first started in judo. Then he added karate as a student of Phil Koeppel in 1959. Caile introduced karate to Finland in 1960 and then hitch-hiked eastward. In Japan (1961) he studied under Mas Oyama and later in the US became a Kyokushinkai Branch Chief. In 1976 he followed Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura when he formed Seido karate and is now a 6th degree black belt in that organization's honbu dojo. Other experience includes aikido, diato-ryu aikijujutsu, kenjutsu, kobudo, Shinto Muso-ryu jodo, kobudo, boxing and several Chinese fighting arts including Praying mantis, Pak Mei (White Eyebrow) and shuai chiao. He is also a student of Zen. 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. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from American University in Washington D.C. and has traveled extensively through South and Southeast Asia. He frequently returns to Japan and Okinawa to continue his studies in the martial arts, their history and tradition. In his professional life he has been a businessman, newspaper journalist, inventor and entrepreneur.

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

self defense, bear hug defense, attacks from behind

Read more articles by Christopher Caile

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