Grappling – Defence in general

To master a defensive situation it is important to have grasped the main principles. One does not need to learn specific techniques but should instead focus on understanding where the threat is and how it can be neutralized.

In order to become a successful grappler you must study theory and principles just as well as practise these to gain experience and skill. In order to become flexible you must switch opponents often and never fully trust that one particular technique can be the solution to a problem. There are always different conditions and there is no such thing as two identical fights. With experience you will increase your ability to predict your opponent’s moves and read his signals, but if you do not have a way to address the situation this will not help you. A general rule is to always expect the unexpected. When you handle a situation the most important thing is that you spend your time and energy on the things that matter and in order to do so you may follow the steps described below.


Sequence of actions

You should stick to a working process for successful defence and one example is:

  • First of all – don’t panic. Panic doesn’t solve anything. It only weakens you.
  • Breathe deep and relax to conserve energy!
  • Understand the situation you’re in.
  • Which part of me is being attacked?
  • How much time do I have to respond?
  • Is it an attack or a distraction?
  • Are there signs of further attacks?
  • Choose countermeasure according to your observation.
  • Implement the countermeasure decisively.


There are a number of important aspects to consider when you learn to break out of restraints.

  • Attack the weakest link of the threat.
  • Use technical skill before raw strength or you will be worn down quickly.
  • Never signal your intent.
  • Be aware that you can use feints or distractions to maximize your effect.
  • When you react – do so in a decisive manner.

Economic grappling

Every move you make will cost energy. Be sure to use your limited energy wisely. When you are stuck in a restraint, there is no need to just fight back. Follow the suggested sequence of actions when you defend yourself and you will have a favourable starting point.

Never use more muscles than necessary and adjust the muscle power to fit the purpose of your actions. Furthermore try to relax even if you are in a difficult position.

Let your opponent waste his energy to the highest degree as possible. When he is low on energy, you will have a clear advantage and the opportunity to do whatever you want without significant resistance.


It is sometimes desirable to keep the opponent at distance in order to breathe easier or prevent him from getting too close and entering some kind of restraint. It is important to use as little energy as possible in doing so and thus not relying on pure strength. Depending on the distance between the two of you, your body parts vary in suitability of use in a hold-off.

A hold-off can be performed in several different ways and the basics will be exemplified below. The main principle throughout the techniques is to hinder the opponent from approaching, in a way so that he wastes more energy trying than you do.


The forearms are placed against his chest when he is lying on top of you. This way you have a good contact area and will be able to let his entire body weight rest upon your arms. To achieve stability let your hands connect forming a 45 degree angle between your arms. The pressure from his body will be applied to your elbows, which are supported through your shoulders against the ground. This way it will feel a lot easier holding him off, than if you tried doing the corresponding technique with your hands against his chest. To further the technique you may place your hands around his neck either to apply a bent head lock or a finger choke.


Your shinbones may be used in accordance with your forearms and you may target either his chest as before or his hip. This will allow you to keep your opponent at a greater distance than if you use your forearms and you will be free to use your arms for other purposes such as locking, choking or punching. To further this technique you may grab his arm or neck, pulling him towards your leg and thus applying pressure to him. This will limit his ability to breathe and give you an advantage.

Hands or feet

These body parts can easily be focused on practically any part of your opponent. The most common applications are however his hip, groin, neck, armpit or directly against his chest. To maximize your resistance you should strive to keep your arm or leg stretched or even overextended. This way you will not need to use pure strength in your technique. Be aware however, that an overextended arm is an easy target for straight arm locks. Your awareness of this will prevent your opponent from locking you down if you always stay alert and notice his intent.



You can take advantage of your opponent’s clothes in order to perform a hold-off. For instance you may use your hands or feet as described above with his clothes as target areas. Grab his jacket collar with your hand and you will keep him hanging like a puppy. The same principle works if you put your foot on his belt.

Another effective technique is to pull his clothes towards you especially if you grab his left sleeve around his back and thus limiting his left arm movement capability. To get as powerful grip as possible you can fold his sleeve once and grab around the fold. The same principle goes for his jacket lapels.

There are several more ways to perform a hold-off with the use of clothes but they all require that the clothing is made from a strong and durable fabric. Consider this aspect before choosing techniques.


Distract your opponent to make him lose his focus on what he’s doing. This can be done either by sound or by pain. Shouting or talking can confuse him and thus lose his concentration. This opens up for a possible counter-attack or break-out in a defensive situation. If you were to humiliate him or annoy him, he may proceed without thinking his actions through. This increases the probability of him doing something stupid, that you can take advantage of. However you should be aware that a person, who is irritated or angry, is likely to get a rush of adrenaline making him temporarily stronger.

Offence in general

In offensive grappling it is important to be in control of the fight and to dominate the opponent. You should never stop planning ahead or let your opponent rest, but instead constantly force him to waste his energy on the wrong things.

Stay close and maintain contact and you will be able to predict attacks and moves of your opponent. The contact further increases the speed of your techniques and acts as a stress factor on your opponent.

To win a fight you can make use of several methods. The basics are the restraints to pin him down and force him to surrender, the strangulations to stop him from breathing and finally the joint locks to inflict pain or control him until he surrenders. This report will however also discuss the less common principle of scissor-locks as a complement to the basic techniques.

Before studying the mentioned methods it is important to understand how to make your opponent to what you want and to get him into positions of your choice.


There are a number of ways to make your opponent do what you want him to and three of them will be described below.

Shifting focus

As soon as you notice that the opponent is aware of your intents, switch and focus on something else. For instance, when trying to enter a wristlock, you notice that he is resisting. A simple technique is to switch to a twisting arm lock. Another way of shifting focus is to switch targeted body parts. Simply let go of the wrist and grab his head instead. This requires skill in choosing technique and demands great speed.


Fool your opponent into believing that you are trying to move to the right and when he buys the feint, switch direction and move to the left. The main difference between this principle and the principle of shifting focus is that this time you planned the shift from the beginning. Feints can be combined in great multitude. It is possible to plan the entire sequence of events so that you end up in a desired technique after any number of carefully chosen feints.

Pain infliction

To manipulate with pain is a great way to get results in both offensive and defensive grappling. If you are in a defensive situation, you can inflict pain in order to make your opponent stop performing the current technique. This will shift his focus from attacking to defending. That will give you the opportunity to do the opposite.

When you are in an offensive situation, use pain to make your opponent move into a position of your choice. The main principle is that you force your opponent to move, in contrast to feints, where you trick him into moving. Pain is best inflicted at pressure and striking points.


Just as clothes can be used in a defensive situation they can also be used offensively. Use them as support to increase pressure applied with for instance your elbow or knee against his chest. They can furthermore be used if you have trouble getting a firm grip of the arm or the leg. Fold the sleeve and grab around the fold to achieve good control. Pulling quickly can cause your opponent to lose his balance. Another way to use his clothes is to grab the lapels of his jacket and apply pressure to his belly with your elbow. This will complicate his breathing and disturb his mind.

Position switching

To become a structured grappler it is favourable to feel comfortable with different positions and to develop a skill in switching between them. How the switching is performed depends highly on the individual prerequisites and the characteristics of the opponent. There are however a number of basic positions, which are important to understand and they will be discussed below.

All position switching should be performed with a high degree of contact. Stay as close to your opponent as possible, at all times and work patiently and thoroughly to maintain control.


Sitting on top

The 360˚-revolution

Sit on top of your opponent and start the 360 by sliding down beside him entering a position where you are lying in a 45˚ angle with him between his right arm and his torso. Face slightly towards his arm and keep your right arm around the opponent’s neck. Your right leg is stretched for balance. The next step is to move into a 90˚ angle where you lie on top of his right arm and head while facing down. The third movement puts you in a 135˚ angle facing once again towards his right arm with the right leg stretched for balance. In the final position, you will once again lie on top of the head but this time in an 180˚ angle with one or both arms around the opponent’s neck. These positions are identical on the other side and the switching will be the same but in reverse order to complete the revolution. The corresponding movements can be performed when the opponent faces down.


The opponent is usually not comfortable when pinned down in this position and because of this it is enough to simply let him struggle to roll and then roll with him until you are underneath him


Sitting between the legs

In order for you to reach the position sitting on top you need to move either through or around the opponent’s legs.

Straight through

Should you choose to go straight through you can do so by using a bent head lock or applying pressure to the thighs or groin with your elbows.


The second alternative means breaking out of the position and throwing one of the opponent’s legs to the other side. Thereafter it will be possible to work into the 45˚-position of the 360 with the opponent lying on his side.


The final way to go is to focus entirely on the opponent’s legs and applying some kind of leg lock. This is done by simply leaning backwards and if necessary hindering the opponent from rising with one foot.

Lying underneath

You are in a position where the opponent sits on top of you according to the starting point of the 360˚-revolution. There are four directions in which you can move from this point and they are: rolling, moving from the opponent, moving through his legs and rising towards.


You can, by blocking the left arm and leg of your opponent, roll over and will then end up between his legs.


The second way means blocking the opponent’s legs and working away from him into a lying guard position with the opponent sitting between your legs.

Going through                 

The third direction requires that the opponent is positioned close to your head so that it is possible to either throw him straight over with the use of a powerful hip-movement or crawling through his legs and ending up behind or on top of him, facing opposite directions.


The final way is rising towards the opponent, but it requires much strength if performed only by pushing with the arms and using the legs as a counter weight. It can however also be performed by placing the feet in his armpits and throwing him backwards. In both cases you will practically end up sitting between his legs.


Lying in guard position


You can block or move the opponents supporting leg on either side in order to roll over and end up on top of him. Use your arms to block his and use your hips when you roll to get more power.


This mean that you move away from the opponent and it helps you to get him into an arm lock for instance. Another advantage will come up if you manage to force him to the ground as you will be able to move into one of the 360˚ positions on top of him.

Fighting makes you a more

flexible fighter/martial arts practitioner!