Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Cyril Connolly (1903 - 1974)


Self Defense Strategies: Attacked From Behind

What would you do if you are walking and the attacker comes up and grabs you from behind?

“Grabs you from behind” is sort of a general term….at least when talking about defending with a specific self-defense technique. Are they grabbing my arm? Are they grabbing my head? Are they grabbing me around the waist and body, like in a bear hug? I think we are talking about a bear hug scenario here, so let’s run with that. The first principal of using Krav Maga is to identify the danger or the most dangerous aspect of the attack…and we’ve already started to do that in discerning what type of “grabbing” attack this is – bear hug.

The big danger in a bear hug attack, especially from behind, is the potential for the attacker to control the body of and/or lift the other person. Once the attacker controls my body they can lift me and carry me away (into a van, to a place where other people can’t see what’s going on, to a place where friends are waiting to gang up), they can lift me and slam me to the ground (a HUGE risk of being knocked unconscious by the slam), or they can drag me around in similar fashion. Krav Maga Worldwide™ teaches students that the best defense against a bear hug attack is to start fighting back right away.

There are however two things you MUST do in order to effectively fight back because of the dangers inherent in the attack. The first step is to drop your “base” or make yourself heavy. The second is to “space” or create distance from the attacker. In this case, because the attack is coming on from behind, there is an extra step; I have to “turn in” in order to fight. Let’s breakdown each step.

BASE – Making your base heavier is relatively easy. When grabbed by the attacker in a bear hug the defender simply bends their legs and drops the level of their hips. Think of it as basically sitting down into a full squat (thighs parallel to the ground). If the attacker is behind me I will drop my hips and sit slightly back and into the attacker, with my head up, not folded forward. This immediately makes my center of gravity lower, which me more difficult to lift off of the ground. Dropping my base also puts pressure on the attacker as they now have to deal with my weight.  From here, I can start to fight without the danger of being controlled and lifted from the ground.

SPACE – I can’t let this person stay close to me in a bear hug. I especially cannot let them keep their hips close to me. Think about the last time you moved a piece of furniture, or a box of something heavy…you don’t keep your hips far away from the object and rely on outstretched arms to lift it, you scoot your hips and body close to the object and get underneath it. I know the attacker is trying to achieve this sort of posture in a bear hug attack.

With my “base” low, I will IMMEDIATELY begin sending strikes in a side-to-side motion at vulnerable areas on the attacker. Krav Maga Worldwide™ students will almost always look for a groin strike first. This strike can be thrown whether my arms are “trapped”/encircled by the attacker’s arms, or “free”/outside of such encirclement. The groin strike will often cause the attackers hips to reflexively move away thus creating space between my body and theirs. I will continue to strike in a side-to-side motion, targeting the groin, or if my arms are free throwing backward moving elbows toward the attacker’s face, stomping at the attackers feet, throwing uppercut kicks back at the attackers groin, etc.

The aggressive, and continuous, side-to-side motion also serves create space from the attacker by making me more difficult to hold onto. It’s more difficult to hold onto someone who is constantly wriggling, than it is to hold onto someone who is static.

TURN IN – When I feel that my solid base, and continuous side to side strikes at vulnerable areas have created just a little bit of space between the attacker and myself, I am going to “turn in” or turn toward the attacker to continue the fight. I can’t effectively finish the fight with this person on my back, and it’s certainly going to be more difficult to get away with them hanging on me. Krav Maga Worldwide™ students are taught to recognize when sufficient space has been created, and make their move to “turn into” the fight where I have full use of all my strikes.

I can turn either direction once the space is there, but whichever direction I turn, I am going to turn in behind my elbow. Which is to say, if I’m rotating to my left to turn toward the attacker, I am going to raise my left arm in front of my face so that the soft targets of my face (nose, mouth, eyes) have something slightly blocking them in case the attacker is looking to strike at me during the transition. I can also use this raised arm to deliver elbows and hammer fist attacks as I’m turning in.

Once I have turned “into the fight” I will continue to aggressively strike at all vulnerable areas until the attacker is broken and I can get away without being impeded. If I turn in behind my arm, and the attacker bolts, drops, backs away, or is in some other fashion “out of the fight”, I’ll get out of there. I am however turning into the attacker and into the fight with the intention of causing damage without relenting.

So, all things considered, the defense against a bear hug attack (from the front or the back) is to start to fight back right away…however in order to do start effectively fighting back right away, the defender must have “base and space”. In a Krav Maga Worldwide™ class that deals with defending the bear hug you will hear “base and space” over and over and over.

It has to become second nature. Each bear hug attack is going to be slightly different…like in this case we are dealing with an attacker behind us, so there is the extra step, we need to “turn in”. In our classes at Krav Maga Worldwide™ a student will work on bear hugs from a variety of positions (front, back, behind, arms in, arms out, etc) and with a variety of partners, so that the application of “base and space” is practiced under the pressure of numerous variables.

About Krav Maga Worldwide
Founded in 1997 to promote Krav Maga throughout the United States and around the world, Krav Maga Worldwide trains and certifies instructors and licenses over 150 authorized Krav Maga Worldwide training centers in the United States, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South America, and Europe, as well as over 800 law enforcement agencies and military units. Krav Maga offers the highest caliber of instruction to thousands of people, supporting the company’s core commitment to improving and saving lives. Krav Maga Worldwide continues to develop, promote and implement self-defense and fitness programs. For additional information, visit:

Colette is a busy mom of 2 kids focusing solely on being a mom. She hails from the Caribbean and now balances the full life of being a SAHM and dabbling in odd jobs to help around the home. She enjoys sharing her memories, hopes, food, travel, entertainment, and product experiences on her blog. Please read my disclosure 
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