Anyone who has a big brother or schoolyard bully has experienced a headlock. They aren’t fun and the person performing the headlock is in a position of dominance. However, when you learn how to properly escape headlocks, you’ll find that you are the one in the dominant position. Let’s clarify.

Learn How to Escape Headlocks

Before we start, keep in mind that everything done in self-defense training is necessarily slow, methodical and under control. However, in real-world situations things are chaotic, violent, move fast and your attacker will not be compliant. As you train, prepare yourself mentally to perform your technique with the level of escalation and aggression required to end the conflict.

There are two important things to remember when you are in a headlock. Your right hand and your left hand. Both remain free and one is conveniently behind your attacker’s back. Conversely, at least one of your attacker’s hands is occupied. Although keep in mind, if his support hand is not holding the headlock tight, it is probably punching you in the face/head. So, you have to act fast.

Fight Dirty

If you find yourself in a headlock during a street fight, it is time to fight dirty. Especially in today’s volatile social climate. The first thing you want to do is get close to the attacker’s body, with your hip/leg behind his hip/leg. Don’t let yourself get thrown around. Once you lose control of the situation it is very hard to get it back. Not to mention, as with any technique, the closer you are to the body, the more control you have.

Next, with the hand you have free to the inside, start striking the groin like you are cracking walnuts. Just start punishing them like they owe you money. As a result, you will put your attacker on the defense. Even if he closes his legs to block your strikes, he is acting defensively, distracted, and slightly off balance.

Next, reach your other hand (the one behind his back) up and around his head and grab face. For example, you can stick a finger in his eye, grab his nose/ear/hair, whatever, and pull up and back. Do not grab his mouth unless you want to lose a finger. There is an old adage in all combatives, “where the head goes, the body follows.” This is especially true here.

As you pull back on the head/face, raise your hip into his hip, thereupon acting as a fulcrum. Continue to pull the attacker’s head/face down until you have thrown him over your hip and to the ground. In addition, while he is leaning backward over your hip, his mid-section is completely open for punishment. A few blows to the solar plexus, while he is extended, will cause the diaphragm to spasm, making it difficult for him to breathe. Thus, giving you ample time to get out of there.

Front Head Lock

Escaping a front headlock is a little different than a standard headlock because you do not have anything behind him—like a hand or your hip/leg. Additionally, striking the groin is more likely to make him drop to his knees, putting you in a worse predicament.

In the event of a front headlock, grab the attacker’s hips and forcefully pivot them to one side. If necessary, which is most likely, punch the side that you want to the back while pulling the opposite side forward. While at his side, adopt a wide stance for balance. Then, grab the leg that is facing front and lift it off the ground. As a result, your opponent will be off-balance to the rear.

As you follow him to the ground you are then left with whatever option suits you best. If you have done any MMA or Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, you can then work your ground training. However, if you don’t have formal training, you can opt to start raining aggression down like hail fire. Although, this might also be a good time to create distance and get out of there.

Proper Training Promotes Success

Whenever you learn a technique intended to counter a violent assault, it is important to practice it force-on-force with a qualified instructor. Violent assault must be countered with extreme prejudice, and you only know how to do what you have trained to do. As the Greek soldier, Archilochus once said, “we don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

Knowing how to escape headlocks is only half the battle. Escaping a headlock, full force, under duress, requires training and practice. Not to mention the mindset required to do what needs to be done. But that is a story for another day.

Keep it real and stay safe.

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