A Beginners Guide to Krav Maga: Basic Elbow Strikes

If you’ve set the intentions to start your journey as a martial artist, want to learn an adaptive self-defense system, or have experience in other martial arts or fighting system, Krav Maga is an excellent self-defense system to add to your arsenal! Read on for the history of Krav Maga and some basic elbow techniques which are based on your body’s reflexive movements.

History of Krav Maga

Imi Lichtenfeld, the father of Krav Maga, was born in 1910 in Budapest, Hungary. When Lichtenfeld was a child, his family and himself relocated to Bratislava, present day Slovakia. Lichtenfeld began studying boxing, wrestling, and gymnastics. All of which he was so skilled, he won countless awards in Slovakian national boxing and wrestling championships.

With the rise of the Third Reich in 1930’s Europe, the rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes and riots began taking place. Many of the skilled wrestlers and boxers in Czechoslovakia began defending the local Jews. Lichtenfeld became the leader of his own group of fighters to fight members of Bratislava’s national socialist party.

World War II grew throughout Europe, Lichtenfeld caused enough trouble with the local authorities to the point where he had to relocate his family to Israel.

Once Lichtenfeld relocated, he became established with the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary group which lead to modern day Israeli Defense Force. While serving for the Haganah, Lichtenfeld gained combat experience and realized an imperative concept which lead to the birth of modern day Krav Maga. The concept is the dynamics of hand to hand combat differ significantly from the more traditional competition based martial arts.

Krav Maga vs. Everything Else

Krav Maga differs significantly from let’s say boxing or judo, which are based on points or knockouts and other debilitating chokes and joint locks. Krav Maga focuses more on quickly eliminating a threat as efficiently and swiftly as possible. Most Krav Magas attacks are aimed at soft and vulnerable areas. Some of the more advanced techniques are designed to injure and even kill your aggressor.

Krav Maga practitioners learn how to use the body’s natural reflexive movements in counter attacks. So naturally, students learn how to defend themselves against a variety of attacks.

As a martial artist, I have spent years learning all I could think about Judo, Kali, and Muay Thai. Learning Krav Maga has been a fascinating system to add to my personal arsenal. I have found it to be beneficial because I can apply techniques from various martial arts and still implement the defensive, primal aspects.

Krav Maga’s philosophy is one with the fundamental basis of threat neutralization through remaining defensive, yet dynamically offensive and aggressive. There is no wasted movement in Krav Maga; every strike has conviction. Counter attacks are quick, compact movements that inflict maximum damage with minimal effort.

In today’s article, I will explain how to do a few basic techniques and how to defend yourself by having a very aggressive offense. Simply put, there are no rules in a fight. Krav Maga was developed and refined through Israel’s War of Independence, so it’s a very efficient system that takes both armed and unarmed principles and boils it down to into a simplified system, designed to work against any attacker. Let’s get started.

Combative Fundamentals

There are some basics to discuss before we get into specific techniques. I can’t stress the importance of having a thorough understanding of the fundamental aspects of any martial art or self-defense system before getting into the specific techniques.

If you practice martial arts with discipline and build a solid understanding of the philosophies, you will eventually become proficient, it just clicks, and you become self-aware, and the basics become muscle memory. Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Krav Magas principle for upper body combatives is using all of the hard parts of the body as personal weapons. These weapons include your head, your hands, your forearms, your elbows, your shoulders even. Attacking vital, soft tissue areas are the most efficient ways to win any fight. Some of these areas include the eyes, the nose, facial tissue, the ears, vital nerve centers in the face and neck, the throat and major veins and arteries in the neck.

Using the proper footwork and hip movement will extend your reach and maximize the power of all of your strikes. If you have good hip and weight displacement, you’re going to deliver powerful, debilitating attacks that will stop any attacker in their tracks.

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Krav Maga Elbow Strikes

Most close quarter strikes are generated from torque and pivoting. These include elbow strikes, headbutts, and hooking elliptical strikes. Make sure the head always leads the body in close quarter combat when delivering an effective elbow strike.

In Krav Maga, there are several variations of elbow strikes. Some of these variations include:

Elbow #1- Horizontal Elbow Strike

The horizontal elbow strike is a good offensive attack for taking down taller opponents and covering longer distances. Delivered the same way as a hook, open your hips on the side you’re striking with and hit the attacker with the last two inches of your elbow, where it points. A powerful horizontal elbow can shatter the small bones of the face and head when delivered correctly.

Elbow #2- Lateral Elbow Strike

The lateral elbow strike is best for defending from an attacker from the side. This elbow strike is useful for extremely close quarters such as an elevator, a bar, in a vehicle, and any other scenario where your attacker can come at you from the side. This is accomplished by moving your hips backward by stepping into the opponent and delivering a strike to the area where the longer head of the tricep meets the elbow.

Elbow #3- Rear Horizontal Elbow Strike

The rear horizontal elbow strike is bust utilized if a threat is behind you. To deliver a powerful rear elbow strike, you open your hips, make sure your head is lead the body. Pivot your torso followed by your elbow backward into a target. This technique is a massive elbow strike and requires a lot of practice so train this one for precision. Also, rear elbow strikes are excellent for defending against bear hugs and in grappling.

Elbow #4- Uppercut Elbow Strike,

The uppercut elbow strike is ideal for targeting the chin, the torso, and if you’re grappling, the groin. The key to delivering an explosive uppercut elbow strike is by engaging your fast twitch muscle fibers at the very last second, giving the most power.

To start, generate all of your power into your hips, plant the toes on the side of the body you’re striking with and pivot your hips and elbow upwards and make contact with the last few inches of your elbow. A few of the reasons why I love the uppercut elbow is because you use can both leading and rear uppercut elbows to split an opponent’s defenses.

Elbow #5- Vertical Elbow Drop

This elbow strike is best used when you have lowered the level of your attacker, and you want to continue engaging. Most vertical elbow drops target the base of the attacker’s skull or the back. Mind you this is a very dangerous technique to use and should only be used in self-defense.

To begin, bring your arm straight up into the air, pivot the toes of your lead foot of the side you’re attacking with like you’re putting a cigarette out. Drop the level of your hips and drive your elbow forcefully into the base of the attacker’s skull or vital areas of their back.

Elbow #6- “The Subway Special.”

The idea of this elbow strike is the someone is pushing against you from behind. You decide you need to send a message or even deliver a powerful strike to the attacker from this disadvantageous position. The elbow strike starts by slightly open your hips and a half step backward, head leading the body, and pivot your torso and drive your elbow into the attacker’s chest or groin.

Elbow #7- Uppercut & Vertical Elbow Drop

This strike is an incredibly powerful combination that adds insult to injury by delivering a powerful uppercut elbow (Elbow #4) to the opponents chin then immediately delivering a vertical elbow drop (Elbow #5) into the base of the aggressor’s skull. This one is highly dangerous so use good judgment when utilizing this strike.

Bonus: Elbow #8- Over the Top Elbow Strike

This is my favorite elbow strike because of the way my shoulders are set up. Most of my weight is in my upper body; I can generate a lot of power when I need to strike with a lot of power at a downward angle. This elbow strike is delivered the same way as an overhand punch.

To start, lead with your head and hips, step forward with the foot of the side you’re striking with and as soon as you’re within close quarters striking range, pivot your lead foot into the ground like you’re stomping a cigarette out and pivot your torso up and over with your elbow following. As always, strike with the harder, last few inches of your elbow.

Here is a great Video by Krav Maga Uyted on Elbow Strikes 1-7!

Krav Maga is a beautiful, brutal self-defense system which will keep you alive and safe in the fray of the modern world. Utilizing elbow strikes is a huge force multiplier in hand to hand combat because of the tremendous power of using proper hip and weight displacement and how hard and sharp the elbow is.

You may not learn these overnight, but practice makes perfect! I hope you’ve learned a lot about Krav Maga elbow strikes to add to your toolkit. Stay tuned for the next segment of A Beginners Guide to Krav Maga where we will discuss the fundamentals of fighting at the intermediate range, which covers knees and punches! Train hard folks!