How to Get Out of a Headlock? A Step By Step Guide

Defending yourself whether you are a trained fighter or not is important. There are a few moves that, if learnt, can come in handy greatly for anyone. Here, we discuss how one can get out of a headlock. It is not complicated in any way, and may help you greatly later on. Especially for a fighter, this move can come handy while in the ring.

A headlock is a tight hold when someone has their arm clutched around the other’s neck, and both of them are looking towards the same direction. So, the head of the person who is held is locked by the arms of the other person. It is not a death grip or anything but it definitely can put someone in a place where they will not be able to move freely. So Today we will learn how to get out of a headlock.

For fighters, using the side headlock in a fight may not be such a great idea. Because when two people are engaged in a headlock, the one who is more vulnerable to attacks is the one who has their arms around the other person, because they will be exposed to any other attacks from the other person who may even attack them in the groin area since their hands are free and they are at a bent level. So, such a headlock can actually put you in a situation where you can be vulnerable to attacks.

However, when someone has you in a headlock, it is a great submission of power, and if you know the right way of getting out of the situation, then even if your opponent is slightly too much larger than you, you can still escape the hold.

There are two kinds of headlocks that you may encounter, and each of them has their own technique of escape.

The Side Headlock

There are a few simple steps to getting out of a side headlock.

Turn your face towards your attacker. Turning towards your attacker will free your airway and open up a little space for you to breather. This will then allow you to go ahead and concentrate on freeing yourself.

Attack your attacker. Make use of the arm that is nearest to your attacker and jab them in the groin. Otherwise, using your elbows to tightly jab your opponent in the chest of the ribs will work as well. When using your hand that is closest, your other hand, the one that is on your open side, must be kept at guard in case you have to protect your face after stunning your attacker. If this is in case of self-defense, then you can even bite your attacker as hard as you can and catch them off guard.

If the attacker has a proper hold on you, that is, the joint of their elbow is vertically aligned with your oesophagus, the arm that is choking you is placed on the bicep of their other arm, and their free hand is at the base of your skull, then trying to bite them will only give them leverage to pull you closer by holding you at the neck, which may result in you becoming unconscious.

So, make sure to judge with a clear mind and only then go for hasty attacks, in case of self-defense. In a fight, stun your opponent with a powerful jab.

After stunning, use your arm that is closest to your attacker, and take it around them so that you can place it on their head. Put your hands underneath their chin and pull their head back.

This will make them lose their balance. If in case of self-defense, you can use your hand to gouge into their eyes or even place your finger in their nostrils and pull back as hard as you can. Make sure that your other hand is tightly grasping the hand of the attacker that they used to place you in a choke hold. The reason they will lose balance when you pull their head back is because the body follows the head. So, if you pull the head back, the body too will follow and lose balance.

Once you have made them lose their balance, their back will be curved and they will be vulnerable. Use your outer hand that was on their head to stand yourself straight up while they stand curved beside you, and use your other hand that was on their choking hand to punch and attack them as much and as hard as you can.

Attack the chest, ribs and groin area and push them away from you as hard as you can. Use this opportunity to run away from them as fast as you can (in cases of self-defense).

This is how you can get out of a side headlock. It is not complicated or hard to execute at all. With a little practice, you will be able to masterfully make your way out of such a grip. During a fight, this will help you easily get out of the chokehold and gain leverage on your opponent.

The Rear Headlock

The rear headlock, while having a few similar steps, still has a little variance. Either way, if understood well, this is not too hard either.

First step is to free your airway. For this, turn towards the side where your attacker is choking you. This will help you free your breathing. Then, make use of your hands to grab your attacker’s arm, specifically the one that has you in a chokehold, and place your hands over their arms, under your chin. This will set you up for the next step.

Next, prop your shoulders up so that you can make space for yourself to tuck your chin. Grab their arm near the elbow tightly, make space for you to tuck your chin into the space between your chin and their elbow joint, from where you will be able to easily wiggle your way out. Use your knees and bend them so that you can work yourself out of the arm’s grip. When you are doing this, it will also make it harder for your attacker to hold down onto your neck for any longer.

Use the leg that is to your dominant side, and place that leg around and behind the leg of your attacker. This will help you hold the attacker’s leg in place using your own. While doing this, make sure to not bend yourself backwards.

Otherwise, you will simply lose your balance and will also place you in a position where you will be defenseless. Keep yourself bent forwards when locking their leg. Do not make any side steps, simply move backwards, and place your foot behind your attacker’s foot in a manner that both your legs are touching at the calf.

Now is the step to tackle your opponent. Place your foot locking your attacker’s foot tightly on the ground, your hands clutched between your chin and their arm, and turn 180-degrees to the side of the leg that is tackling. Keep holding on tightly and pull your attacker diagonally across your own body so as to topple them down by curving them onto their back. 

While doing all of this, make sure to keep your other free foot firmly placed on the ground so that you hold your balance and so that you will be able to gain enough strength to tackle them down. Once you have thrown your attacker to the ground and have managed to free yourself, it is time for you to run away as fast as you can if you are in a situation of trouble. In a fight, this will signal you having gained a leverage and an upper hand over your opponent.

Freeing yourself from the rear headlock is a little more complex than it is for the side one. For this one, especially, you will need a lot of strength so that you can tackle your opponent to the ground. But with enough practice, you will be able to execute the steps swiftly and easily.

Important Steps to Keep In Mind

How to Get Out of a Headlock

The act of freeing yourself from either of the two headlocks can be identified by three distinct steps that, if you remember, will help you recollect your plan of action on how to tackle and break-free of a headlock. Remembering these three distinct points will help you go a long way, whether you are in combat or you are in a situation of danger.

Free your airway: Being able to properly breathe is the first and most important step in the process. It is important that your airway stays safe and free so that you can think and execute the further process with a clear mind.

In order to keep your airway free, make sure to try and keep your chin as close to your chest as possible, If the attacker’s arm is pressing down on your airway, then grab their arm tightly, and push your chin downwards to make space for yourself. If this is not possible, and you feel your breathing compromised, use both your hands and pull the attacker’s choking arm down as hard as possible to give yourself some space to breathe.

Employ defense: Once you are in a headlock, your face is exposed to being attacked and it is vulnerable to punches from the attacker. Because there is a high chance that the attacker may punch your face in, you have to protect yourself from harm. In order to do this, use all your strength and push your face into the direction of the attacker and bury it in their rib cage.

This will keep your face covered and will also give you the chance and the leverage to allow you to bite the attacker, which you can do to catch them off guard. Another thing that happens here is that even if the attacker decides to continue attacking you even when your face is buried in their rib cage, it will be your exposed skull that they will be punching. This will not be so bad for you, and it may even result in the attacker breaking their hand while throwing punches to your skull.

Free yourself from the headlock: The way of freeing yourself, whether with the side headlock or with the rear headlock has been discussed in detail previously in the article. There are a few key elements and actions that you must keep in mind whenever you are trying to execute the escape. Your balance is of the utmost important.

While trying to escape, if you were to lose your own balance, then your efforts will be rendered futile. So, remember this always. Another act that could make you lose your balance would be when you are pulling yourself away from the attacker, especially in the rear headlock, while doing so, make sure to keep your body bent forward rather than backward.

Because if your body is bent backwards when trying to break away, then you can easily lose your grip on the ground and be recaptured in the grip of the attacker. Another point to remember is that you have to make the attacker lose their own balance so that they will be rendered vulnerable and surprised which will give you enough time to run away from them.


Keeping these three actions in mind will help you free yourself from your attacker. Just remember to think with a clear mind. One thing to consider when freeing yourself from a headlock is that your attacker may be stronger and more skilled than you as well. This is what you will have to work against when trying to get out of a headlock. 

When you are under the attack, your swiftness and clear headed-ness is all that you can rely on. The only important thing to remember is to rely on your training and to not panic. With a little regular practice, you will be able to execute these escapes whether you are fighting an opponent or you are fighting for your life.

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