Defending Against the Bear Hug - PASS vs. FAIL

Jumped from behind? Your opponent got position on you? No matter how it happened, it's a bad place to be. Join me and my special guest Sensei Ando as we show what to watch out for, and how to make one of the most commonly failed escapes, succeed.

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First thing to do is to drape the hands to defend the choke, and drop your stance to keep your center of gravity lower, making it difficult for your adversary to pick you up. 

Next, it is important to realize that standard escapes with splitting the arms do not work unless your opponent makes a mistake. The objective of holding you from behind, unless a multi-attacker scenario, is to pick you up and slam you. This means, our adversary is going to grab us lower, around the elbows; making it impossible to split the arms and slink out.

After establishing control of the arms and a good wide base, start using your hammer fist attacks to the groin, combined with foot stomps to rattle your opponent and get them moving around. Remember to always use the 'outside' foot to stomp. Never the inside.

Since our opponent has widened their stance for stability and to avoid the attacks we are making, we can now make our first attempt to escape using the underhook to the single leg takedown.


Be careful not to walk out and stop. This is transitional only. We have to immediately move to the takedown, or re-establish our base and position if something went awry. 

As you shoot for the single leg, if the opponent moves, or you do not have enough mobility to get a strong hook/position, then we can abandon that and use the elbow splitting escape that previously did not work. After all the moving around, chances are that the grip they had before, has slipped higher on our arms and we can make our secondary attempt a success. 

Where to? 

Once we're out of the bear hug, we want to look for a follow-up move to secure our position and turn the tides. Sensei Ando has a good go to he shows, followed by a variation I would use.

After the elbow split - immediately snag the neck hook position to keep control.


Attack the head with a knee to the face to soften them up. Maintain the neck hook and do not give up a strong position. Immediately follow up with a shoot underneath using the elbow in the groin to bring them over the back for a Fireman's Carry Takedown.

Tips: Sensei Ando makes note to watch the danger of the headlock as we're slipping out. Good tip. He also points out to tuck the foot so they don't land on you and break your toes.


I start off the same way and attack the head with a knee. I'm anticipating the block, but if they don't, even better. We're done here. If they do block as planned, then I shoot over the top and thread my arm under the neck all the way to the other underarm. Clasp the hands, and we have a nice guillotine setup. Use your shoulder to drop weight on them making it difficult for them to posture up and move. Follow this up with a nice reaping leg takedown variation for the finish.

The finish is up to you and your skillset. You can chuck them and go to a ground and pound, pound the ground package, or you can hold on to the guillotine, keep a solid position on the same side of the body as you started on, and finish the choke you already have.

Randy Brown

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