I once accidentally hit a student with an elbow, and heard a sickening crack as they fell to the floor with a broken temple, eye socket, cheek bone, and a caved in face. It required a metal plate to fix. Hitting someone in the face with an elbow is nothing nice. It’s like hitting them with a hammer. Unlike a punch, palm, or many types of kicks, there’s no padding or joints to disperse the force of the blow. Yet, most people seem to emphasize punches and palm strikes far more than elbows.
It’s harder than most people think to take an opponent out with a punch, especially when you’re unable to nail them completely unprepared. And if you’re not the one attacking (which you generally won’t be in a self defense situation) your opponent probably won’t be unprepared.
In self defense you need to use the most powerful tools at your disposal, and if you’re unarmed, elbows are very high up on that list. Of course no one is going to stand still and wait for your elbow. You’ll need to get control of them first. The smack and hack (offensive) and the crash (defensive) are two great ways to do that. Using either of those “entries” you should end up with either an arm-control that you can use to pull your opponent into a vicious elbow (or knees and elbows) or a head-and-arm-control leading to knees and elbows. If you’re not already, consider putting a real emphasis on getting in close and nailing your opponent with an elbow.
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