Our classes address a surprise attack if you are grabbed by somebody attempting to put you into a headlock.  Of course there is a whole series of ideas against grabs that can be addressed.  Many martial art styles have pre-arranged scenarios for a whole variety of attacks.  Unfortunately none of those scenarios is going to be what happens to you in an attack.  It is impossible to know this ahead of time!  That is why we have to know and practice ‘principals’ that can be applied at will in any situation.

Almost all of the actions you can take to defend against a grab depend on firm and skilled footwork in order to “maneuver and carry your fight to the enemy” as paraphrased from the book, The Art of War by Sun Tze, the ancient Chinese General.  Great Grandmaster Leung Ting is a follower of this General’s ideas and I hear, is required reading for Generals at the Army’s West Point Academy.

Despite this, the best anti-grappling technique is still to hit your attacker NOW and FAST before he has a lock on you!  We of course hit with elbows, shoulders, knees, and feet as well as hands.  An attacker cannot adequately defend his whole body at one time and when all targets are fair targets and cannot pin all your elbows, shoulders, knees, feet and hands at one time – unless you give him a few minutes!

The next best anti-grappling technique is to learn the higher grade chi sau skills so that your body becomes almost like rubber and you can slip out of many grapples, mostly before the lock is 100% complete.  I have even seen some thin people at a high grade WingTsun skill escape from grapples when the lock was on!

Not every circumstance will allow you to react immediately. One example is if you are surprised and the attacker instantly puts a firm lock on you.  This is why we show the whys and wherefores for remedial actions in a class like one of our concepts classes.  Let us say you are lifted off your feet by a strong individual.  You cannot even get your feet to touch the ground.  You can train yourself to react by inflating your size, simultaneously spreading your arms and taking a deep breath as they pull your feet off the floor or ground. Then you suddenly let your breath out and collapse your arms.  The instant you do, you should have surprised your attacker by suddenly becoming smaller and creating enough space to use your elbow, shoulder, knee, foot or hand to strike!

– Sifu Keith Sonnenberg