Special Forces Self-Defense Techniques


When military actions require small-group movements behind enemy lines, leaders call on the Special Forces. The elite operational unit of the United States Army, the Special Forces – also known as the Green Berets – practice all facets of close-quarters combat to prepare for missions off the grid. This training includes expertise with personal survival equipment, medical aids, high-tech weapons systems and, most importantly, self-defense techniques. Special Forces operators study skill sets from multiple martial arts disciplines to prepare for hand-to-hand situations – but they also learn how to translate that knowledge from the ring to the streets.

Combat Judo

  • A subset of jujitsu, judo is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes throws and sweeps from the standing position. An American version of judo, known as combat judo, further highlights the role judo plays in self-defense, especially for Special Forces members. Unlike jujitsu where the focus remains on ground technique and control, combat judo assumes that your goal is to dispose of your attacker quickly to prepare for the next one. Combat judo also teaches techniques that are otherwise illegal in judo and jujitsu competition, such as kicks and elbow strikes, while ignoring less practical moves, like wrist manipulations.

Muay Thai

  • While Special Forces soldiers do not want to engage in a lengthy boxing match with an opponent, learning powerful strikes and kicks is an asset when weapons are scarce. Thailand’s school of kickboxing, Muay Thai, combines shin and hand strikes with knees and elbows to create a stand-up fighting style capable of massive damage. Beyond the traditional Muay Thai style, Special Forces soldiers receive additional training on using the body as a blunt weapon – specifically, head butts and foot stomps complement the other striking movements to increase your options in self-defense situations.

Filipino Kali

  • The main self-defense system utilized by the Filipino army, Kali involves weapons-based techniques as well as empty-handed combat. While many styles of Kali exist with varying degrees of emphasis on bladed weapons, they all target self-defense as the primary objective. Like judo, Kali assumes a multiple-attacker scenario and emphasizes quick disarming and disabling techniques. Of importance for Special Forces soldiers in unfamiliar territory, Kali’s weapons-based training includes utilizing your environment as a source of blunt and bladed objects – car keys, an umbrella and even a piece of clothing can become a weapon with the right skill.

Krav Maga

  • The official fighting system of the Israeli defense forces, Krav Maga teaches offensive moves as the best defense. According to the Krav Maga Institute, this combat system emphasizes deadly force at all times while reinforcing the reality that there are no rules when you're on the street. Krav Maga offers techniques for avoiding confrontation, such as sensing increased tension and surveying your environment for higher ground. For Special Forces soldiers who cannot use avoidance as a strategy, Krav Maga teaches – and recommends – eye pokes, groin punches, hair pulling and throat strikes as ideal attacks.

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  • The Elite Forces Handbook of Unarmed Combat; Ron Shillingford

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