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Headlock From Behind – Shoulder Position Details

Your chin positioning and hand pluck are the most important parts of this defense to survive the choke. However, the most important aspect of the defense to actually get out of the headlock is how you use your shoulders.

This video will show you the following important details to shoulder positioning:

  • How one shoulder weakens the headlock.
  • How the other shoulder allows you to escape the headlock.
  • Using the side headlock escape as a backup plan for this defense in case you make a mistake.
  • How to avoid getting stuck the side headlock.
  • Over-rotating the shoulder is better then under-rotating it.
  • A variation that works better on stronger, larger attackers.


“Hi guys. This is Randall. This is Nick. We’re with KravMagaTraining.com. In this video we’re going to go over the headlock escape from behind. And specifically, I want to address your, how you use your shoulders properly because, I believe, that’s the most important part to actually escaping or getting out of the headlock.

So this is what I’m talking about. Nick’s going to be the bad guy. He sneaks up behind me and he puts on the headlock. This is the bar arm style, forearm going across the throat. I’m going to turn my chin towards the hands. I’m going to pluck the thumbs and pin them down here. However, if he was doing the carotid artery version, chin goes down here. Let’s not do the rear naked choke. Just, yeah, there you go. I’m going to pluck two hands into this position. It doesn’t matter which headlock it is. It could have even been that rear naked choke. The point being is that they all funnel to this position right here.

Now, in my opinion, the chin positioning, tucking the chin down, and plucking the hands, what that’s primary purpose is for is to make sure that you don’t get choked out. So you don’t go, get unconscious and let this bad guy do what ever the hell they want to do to you afterwards. But in my opinion, that’s not good enough to get, actually get out of it. It’s just to survive. So as long as I keep my chin in the right spot, I pluck, pin, he can’t choke me out. It’s going to bide me time to get out of this.

Now this is where the shoulder movement becomes essential because, in my opinion, especially if you are dealing with a much stronger guy, this is how you’re going to get out of it is using your shoulders properly.

Now the first thing is, whatever arm is attacking you, in this case it’s going to be Nick’s right arm, the same side shoulder needs to raise up. I don’t like to keep my shoulders even because he’s structurally a lot stronger. As soon as I raise the shoulder up and his elbow goes up and his shoulder goes up, it weakens his position. It makes it a little bit easier to defend this.

Now the real important shoulder though is this one. My left shoulder. This is the one that’s going to allow me to get out of this. So what I need to do is I need to make sure the shoulder is in line with his sternum. The biggest mistake beginners make is they tend to crunch down like this and when they rotate their shoulder into the body they get stuck in the side headlock like this. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I can always go to that escape.

However, if I don’t want to get stuck in the side headlock, especially if there are other people around, he’s got buddies around and I need to get out of this quickly, to make sure that I get a clean escape this shoulder needs to line up with the sternum. So I need to stay tall. Especially, if he’s choking me and dragging me backwards, crunching down isn’t going to be an option anyways. That won’t work. So it just makes sense to learn from this position.

So shoulder up. Shoulder lined up with the sternum and watch how I get up on this ball of the foot. Twist my hips so it’s not just the strength of my upper body. It’s the strength of my entire body and I drive this shoulder into his chest. When he does that you can hear that he didn’t like that. It feels good. The shoulder slams into his sternum and it creates a lot of space. And it’s really important that you get perpendicular to them. So notice how my torso is lined up this way. His torso is going this way. It’s like we are creating an ‘L’. When I do this it makes the headlock nice and big. If we turn towards the camera like this here, you can see how the headlock is huge, and because it’s so big, my head’s not that big, it’s very easy for me to bend my knees, duck out and escape. Now, if you don’t mind again Nick. Make sure that, like I said, shoulder in line with the sternum.

Now here’s a variation you can use if the person is much stronger than you. If you can’t get your shoulder into that position, what you can use is small, quick, jerking movements. So instead of trying to do one big movement like this, which works on somebody your own size or smaller than you, if they’re too strong this is what I do. I keep doing that until I get perpendicular again. You use those small, quick, jerking movements then it works really well. And when you do them it’s not hit and go back. Hit and go back. It’s you do a little hit and hold your ground. Hit, hold your ground. Hit, hold your ground. Once I feel I’m ‘L’d’ off with him then I know it’s safe to duck out.

Another beginner mistake that people make is this. Is they finally get the shoulders in the right spot. The shoulder is lined up with the sternum. But they don’t go far enough. I only go about this far but I’m not completely perpendicular to him. When I do this, when I try to duck out, that’s when I get stuck in the side headlock. Make sure when in doubt, turn towards them more. I would rather see you turn too far towards them and basically face them like this because at least I know I won’t get choked out. If anything, we just look stupid. We look like we’re having a ‘bro-mance’ here. But at least I’m not going to get passed out. And from here I can at least defend myself. So if anything, I would rather see you turn too far towards the bad guy because, at least, I’m not getting choked out. Don’t try to duck out too early. If I’m not completely perpendicular with him or farther, that’s when I get stuck in the side headlock. I’m still in danger. So at least 90 degrees. When in doubt, you can rotate even farther. If you do that it makes the escape way easier.

So anyways. That’s what I want to cover with this video. Make sure you’re using your shoulders properly. Position properly in relation to your attacker. If you do that, especially if when you’re dealing with a much larger and stronger attacker, these techniques will become essential to escaping. And the truth is, most people if they are going to attack you on the street, they are probably are going to be bigger and stronger than you. You don’t see too many small, short, little wimpy guys running over and attacking big guys unless they are frickin’ nuts. If they’re nuts that’s a problem in itself too. So either way, let’s learn how to do these moves on larger, stronger opponents. If you can make it work on those guys then you’ll probably make it work on everyone else.

Anyways. As always, thanks for watching and I hope this tip helped out.”

“Krav Maga is heavy on the ‘martial’ and not much into the ‘art’. We aren’t always pretty, but we get the job done.”

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