Elbow Strikes, Part 2

Kelly McCann includes elbow strikes in his combatives, and talks about their shorter range, but I must say his look longer range than what I am personally used to training.  There are many ways to skin a cat.  He really drives his bodyweight forward, into the target.  Kelly uses diagonal elbow strikes, and he designates “long” and “short” versions.  He does not like the horizontal elbows at all because he feels if the guy leans back slightly, he might miss.  Interesting point, especially if you don’t feed the guy’s head into your elbow.  The short does not involve too much hip movement, whereas the long involves a fake, then a step and strike.  Lots of hip movement with the long elbow.  He also checks the right arm of the opponent, which he does with a lot of other techniques.

The target is the junction of shoulder and neck, or the chest—especially if the opponent moves away from the strike.  The elbow is still a very powerful weapon when hitting the chest.

Kelly also uses a “spearing elbow”, which he likens to a “high guard”.  It looks a lot like the Thai cover we use to block hooks to the head.  He projects his body forward, using the very tip of the elbow like a spear, and thrusts it into the chest.  He discusses the advantages of projecting forward when the assailant punches, because you move inside the arc of the punch, where it is weakest.  The natural reaction of most people is to flinch and move away from the punch, thereby putting themselves in danger of receiving the most damage from the punch at its highest point of velocity, torque, power, etc.  He demonstrates the spearing elbow as a stop-hit for the typical haymaker punch; this is both defensive and offensive.  I’m not certain how effective this is against a straight punch.  I always had difficulty with this kind of maneuver in Thai boxing.  It is extremely difficult to beat a straight punch and cut it off while moving to the inside.  We would use the cover, spear ahead and try to clip the chin.  Very fancy and cool, but again, difficult to have the speed to pull it off.  Having said that, if his straight punch meets my elbow, it is really going to hurt and possibly break his hand.

Geoff Thompson sometimes uses elbows instead of hooking or uppercutting with the fists.  He emphasizes the power of elbows, though they often lack the “tactile accuracy” of hand strikes.  He likes the downward elbow, like the Krav vertical forward and down, against an opponent grabbing at the leg or waist.  Geoff uses the side elbow as well as the reverse elbow (like the Krav horizontal backward) towards the solar plexus, throat or face

Peter Consterdine talks about being in a “separate channel” from your opponent when you strike, i.e. stepping offline, beside him, to deliver the strike most effectively.  He talks about the “one shot” capability of an elbow, if delivered correctly, though he always follows up with a second, even if the first was successful because he prefers a rapid firing of strikes for insurance.  In his opinion, more is more, though he disagrees with striking to the face in most instances, and believes it is excessive force in most situations.  Again, I would have to leave it to you to decide your context.  If it is a lethal encounter and you fear for your life, or if he is brandishing a weapon, striking to the head could be exactly what is called for in that instance.

More in Part 3. . .


Consterdine, Peter.  (1997).  Streetwise.  Leeds: Protection Publications.

Grover, Jim.  (1999).  Jim Grover’s Combatives Series: Power Strikes & Kicks, Vol. 1.  [Videotape].  Paladin Press.

Thompson, Geoff.  (1997).  Dead or Alive.  Boulder: Paladin Press.


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