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This week, we take a question from SOS Subscriber Stephen Wood (Leicestershire/UK), who asked the following question about simple fight moves:

*Q: What are the simplest hand-to-hand combat techniques to put down an attacker as quickly as possible in an unarmed encounter?”

For additional simple fight moves download this free video mini course on surviving any knife fight from an attacker!

We contacted experts in the field and included their responses to Stephen’s question below:

Name:  Lars Fidler

Bio: A student mainly of Hardy Holm’s (Chief Instructor at Students of Goju Ryu) multifaceted system of self defense, Lars Fidler has studied and practiced self defense martial arts since 1997 and has taught it regularly since 2007. Lars holds belted ranks and/or experience in other forms of martial arts as well. He holds a teaching certification from Stockholms Universitet and is a martial arts instructor, focusing on self defense, at Students of Goju Ryu in Mariefred, Sweden.

Response: Techniques are simple in different ways. Some are mechanically simple to perform, some are easier to succeed with, etc. That is, however, only when you look at the techniques on their own. The reality is that there is no technique you can say before the fight. “This will be an easy way to put my opponent down”. You can only look back on the fight and say,”Woah, that could have gone worse”, if you’re lucky.

It all depends greatly on your opponent, on you and your training (my own favorite techniques would probably not be the best tactics for you, for example, and many of the other content providers on this site probably favor techniques that I couldn’t rely on in a fight), and on the situation, but while there is a lot more to say on this, of course some things are more advisable than others:

-The sleeper-choke is not always the easiest technique to land against an aggressor, but it’s simple enough mechanically, can be very difficult to escape, and can end the fight very quickly.

Elbow-strikes are, when you’re in range for them, extremely fast, very versatile, relatively safe, and ridiculously effective.


Name: Eric Fletter

Bio: Eric holds a 1st degree black belt from The Degerberg Academy of Martial Arts where he is a multi-discipline and multi-level instructor across the four pillars of the DAMA Blend (striking, grappling, self defense, weapons). Holding formal ranks in BJJ, Muay Thai, Savate, and Shorei Goju-Ryu Karate, Eric has compiled more than a decade of competition training in Western Boxing, Full Contact Kickboxing, BJJ, submission grappling, Kali/Eskrima, and Judo. An active Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt competitor, training under 8x World Champion Robson Moura, he is a member of and beginning-level instructor in the Robson Moura Nations United association.

Response: Specifically to put down an unarmed attacker quickly, I find elbows and head-butts to be some of the most effective strikes you could utilize. This is because of how they play into some of the most important concepts of self defense, including my own favorite — the element of surprise. Along with being unexpected, both strikes (done correctly) are some of the hardest to absorb by an opponent. Knockouts and knock downs are common, while shattering noses, jawbones, teeth, and orbital bones can be debilitating outcomes, even when an opponent does not drop.

Elbows and head-butts can also be utilized without creating much of an opening in your own defenses. They are quick, short, and direct — allowing you to get back into a defensive structure in a split second. Both are also quite repeatable. This is because not only are the elbow and skull stronger than the bones in our hands and feet, but they also require less energy to throw.

Punches and kicks (not to mention grappling), especially while adrenaline is rushing and potentially dumping, can leave your limbs feeling heavy and misses can be exhausting. Even pro boxers have been known to break their hands when throwing bare knuckle to an opponent’s head. In self defense situations, it is important to protect and maintain as many of your weapons as possible. In unarmed attacker situations (and unarmed defender), I consider elbows and head-butts to be great equalizers.

Analyzing the Experts:

  • Takeaway 1: While your level of training and the size, skill and other attributes of your opponent matter (as voiced by Lars), chances are that almost anyone who finds themselves unarmed and attacked will want to use moves that are most effective in a minimal space and short amount of time. As Eric points out, if you move your limbs around a lot with punches and kicks – especially when you’re adrenaline is pumping – you run the risk of missing and hurting yourself in the process. Try to master a few core skills (see next takeaway) that are super effective at debilitating an attacker quickly and that conserve energy.
  • Takeaway 2: Lars calls them “ridiculously effective”, and Eric uses the term “great equalizer”, but one thing is certain: both experts agree that elbow strikes are where it’s at when it comes to simple and effective defense techniques against an attacker or opponent.

*The above question has been edited slightly by the SOS team for clarity.


John Bishop

Category Tactical

Type article

Duration 6 mins
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