Understanding the basic control position within the context of strong arm attacks (and the common mistakes often made) can be summarized into three main issues: (1) bisecting the centerline, (2) properly securing control at the head and neck, and (3) tracking the nearside arm. This sounds pretty easy, but the truth is, nothing is easy when someone is trying to batter and beat you unconscious or worse.

Let’s take these one at a time and prioritize our focus on the controlling hand (as opposed to the hand attached to the attackers arm):

Pick a Side: While there are a myriad of control positions, the most utility from a self-defense perspective can be derived from “basic control” – that is, moving to the left or the right side of the attacker’s centerline. In doing so, we essentially bisect the attacker’s centerline with our side-body that remains inside the attacker’s frame.

If you move left, your right side-body bisects the attackers centerline – more or less. If you move right, your left side-body bisects the attackers centerline – more or less. This is important, as the position sets up the controlling arm and hand and takes the defender away from the attacker’s offside weapons (making the defender harder to access with those weapons).

Secure Control: Once you’ve bisected the centerline, true control is achieved by locking down control of the attacker’s head. Think about it this way, if I move the attacker’s head 3 feet in any direction, and his body doesn’t come with his head, the fight is clearly over.

For teaching purposes, I use the seam of the shirt that runs down the trapezium muscle as a reference. (1) Grab the shirt or skin just behind the seam and ensure your wrist is positioned beyond the seam of the shirt. (2) Turn your thumb up a bit, as high as ten or eleven o’clock, situating the blade of your forearm into the space where the head and neck meet the trapezium muscle. (3) There should be a gap between your forearm (as well as the elbow) and the chest of your attacker. In this position, you should be able to push forward, pull back (into you a bit), and hook the jaw and lift the head if needed. You may even develop the ability to turn or rotate the attacker – it just takes practice.

Track and Attack: Finally, you’ll need to secure the nearside arm by grabbing either the wrist or just above the elbow with a C clamp (or over/around the shoulder if you insist on the added risk). The idea of grabbing the arm or elbow is to track the arm and prevent, as you can, attacks generated by that arm. The grab can and should work in concert with the controlling hand (at the head and neck) to more effectively control your attacker for the purposes of defeating the danger (hold your attacker in one place and beat him down).

I often talk about the “control and finish” principles as two sides of the same coin. We control the attacker to ensure we have ample opportunity to finish the violent encounter on our terms, to protect third parties, and to ensure the attacker is not running to his car or elsewhere to retrieve a weapon. You certain wouldn’t normally control an attacker without finishing, and finishing without control can be much more difficult and dangerous.

Check out the short video. Take a few minutes to consider your basic control position. Make a check list and ensure you add these concepts into your training regiment.

For a fun drill, get into control position with a partner your size or bigger. Ask the partner to provide increasing resistance against your control. Run the drill for one, two, or even three-minute rounds. Your skill will increase dramatically in just a few rounds.

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