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Elbow #1 – Horizontal High Elbow Strike Power Elbow vs. Cutting Elbow

The Horizontal Elbow to the Front (Elbow #1) is a relatively easy combative for most beginners to learn. However, one issue that does come up occasionally is students scrape the skin off their elbows while performing this technique on a practice target.

This video shows what the difference is between a “cutting” style elbow and a “power” style elbow. The cutting elbow is what causes students to scrape their elbow. By switching to a power elbow, they will avoid this while training.

In addition, the video explains why a cutting elbow is generally preferred in “sport” fighting but the power elbow is usually better for “street” fighting.


“How’s it going? This is Randall with KravMagaTraining.com. And in this video I’m going to discuss the Horizontal Elbow to the Front or what’s more commonly referred to as Elbow #1 in the Krav Maga system.

What I’m going to specifically discuss with this particular elbow is the difference between a ‘cutting’ style elbow and more of a ‘power’ style elbow. The reason why I’m going to discuss this is because the biggest complaint that beginner students have when it comes to doing this elbow, if they are delivering it improperly, or using what I refer to as a cutting elbow, is that they’re practicing elbows in class, they are doing them on the pads, and they start getting their skin scraped up. They start getting these little scabs torn up. You see them in their next class and they have a bandage on their elbow where it’s all scraped up. They got a nice, it looks like a rash burn or a mat burn on it. And I’m going to discuss how you guys can prevent that.

Overall, when it comes to Elbow #1, most students pick it up pretty quickly. I don’t think it’s a really difficult combative to do. But let me discuss how to prevent that one minor problem. Because it makes training unfun if you got your elbows all scraped up. Or for some people, due to their line of work, they can’t be having their arms all cut up and looking ridiculous.

Okay. This is what I mean is, first of all, the cutting elbow is you hit the target and then you slice through it like that. All right. Now, if you do that type of elbow, that’s the reason why you’re getting your skin torn up. In that, you hit the person or the pad like this. And then, instead of knocking the target backwards, it ends up ricocheting off to the side and you can hear this, that scraping motion. But if you’re doing it full speed, and then the skin on your elbow is getting caught on that material and after multiple reps, you know, of dozens and dozens of reps, that’s why your elbow is getting all cut up.

Now, before I get into explaining how to prevent that, I want to make sure that you guys know that this isn’t necessarily an obsolete way to throw an elbow. As a matter of fact, in a lot of sport type of combatives, such as Mixed Martial Arts or in a Muay Thai Kickboxing match, they actually prefer this type of elbow. And the reason why is because if you throw this type of elbow on your opponent and do that to their skin there’s a good chance that you are going to cut them open. You’re probably going to cut them, especially around the eyebrows where the skin is thin. There’s that sharp bone underneath. People get cut, blood gets into their eyes and impairs their vision. It looks, if the fight goes to a decision, it looks good to the judges in that it looks like you busted up the other guy pretty good. It’s going to increase your chances of winning by decision.

But here’s the problem is that in a self-defense situation there are no judges. There’s no decisions. And I don’t really care if I cut the guy open and he’s bleeding all over the place. That’s great in a sport fight. I might win the fight because of a doctor’s stoppage. But I guarantee that there isn’t going to be any doctor on the sidelines ‘Oh yeah. He’s bleeding a lot. Let’s stop the fight.’ Fuck that. That’s not going to happen. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want some bad guy bleeding all over me. At least in professional combatives, you and your opponent have to take a blood test to make sure you’re not carrying any transmittable diseases. The problem is if some junkie drug addict with AIDS attacks me, I cut him with this cutting elbow and he starts bleeding all over me, that’s not necessarily a good thing. Because the most important principle in Krav Maga is to ‘go home safe’. Not to just ‘go home’. Yeah, this junkie is attacking me, I hit him, he’s bleeding all over me and then I catch some sort of disease. Yeah, I got home but I didn’t go home in a safe condition. Now I have some explaining to do to my girlfriend if I end up with some weird disease. I don’t want to go through that shit.

So instead, if you want to prevent that, as well as prevent scraping up your elbow when you’re training, you want to do more of a ‘power’ style elbow. Okay, let me explain the difference once again. Here’s the cutting elbow, I’m only going to do it once because I don’t want my elbows all torn up. This is what it looks like. Here’s the power elbow. Okay, not only can you hear the difference but you can see the direction that the bag in this case is moving. When I did the first elbow, which is more of the cutting style elbow, I ended up hitting more on the side of the pad, side of the target, and then the target is going this way. So if I’m doing it towards the camera, right on impact, my elbow is more in front of me like this. Since the front of my elbow is pointed in this direction, all the power is going that way, forcing the target to go that direction. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. Especially on a situation where, instead of hitting the guy in the front of the face, you might end up hitting them more on the side. Which is fine. But, when you’re doing it on the pads, that’s what’s tearing up your elbow. Instead, what you want to do is more of a power style elbow. In that when you hit the target, instead of hitting with your elbow way far in front, notice how my body goes slightly off center. So before, I’m lined up perfectly. Now I’m moving a little bit in this direction. When I hit it, notice how my elbow is more off to the side in relation to me. So cutting elbow, which is more out in front on the side of the target. This one is a little bit more even with my hand here and I’m hitting more in the front of the target. So if I do it towards the camera, you’re going to see the difference. Once again, here’s the cutting elbow. Impact is right there. The power elbow is right here. A little more off to the side. Hitting on the front here. And now, because the front of my elbow is pointing in this direction, all the power is going to go that way.

And in a self-defense context that’s the preferred way to throw an elbow because the main purpose of throwing the elbow is, yeah, I might be able to hit the person really hard, cause them to get hurt, get concussed, that would be great. But the main purpose of the elbow usually is they are so close to you, you’re being attacked, you want to back them off of you. And if you hit them and it knocks them backwards in that direction, it’s served its purpose.

And more importantly, when you are training in class and you’re hitting the pads, if you deliver your elbow in this fashion, you’re going to avoid getting your elbow all scraped up. So, when you’re training the next time in class and you catch yourself getting scraped up, it’s because you are doing that cutting style elbow. So instead of like this, move a little bit off to the side and end up hitting the target more like this and make sure the pad goes this way. If you do that, you’ll find that your training is going to be a lot more fun because you’re not getting your elbows all screwed up.

So anyways, that’s the difference between a cutting style elbow and a power elbow. And now you know the difference of the two and which one to use. When you get really good at training you should practice both. But for now at the beginner level, Level I training, I suggest you use more of a power style elbow. It’s going to be better for you. And at the more advanced levels, especially when you start getting into sparring on your opponent, we will teach you guys more on how to modify against more of a cutting style elbow. That will be a little bit more applicable for that type of sparring. Especially for those of you who want to get into competition.

Anyways. Thanks for watching. I hope that makes sense.”

“Get in shape. Go home safe.”