WATCH: How to Effectively Use a Bear Hug in a Bar Fight

This is a new self-defense series with pro MMA fighter Sullivan Cauley. Sully is a Skillset guy and he knows his stuff. Don’t believe us? Check out his Bellator debut, which he ended with a quick first-round TKO. Watch Sully’s video on the push kick first. Today’s topic is using the bear hug in a real-life scenario.

How to Use a Bear Hug

A classic wrestling technique, the bear hug works well in cramped spaces. It’s minimally risky, and very hard for untrained people to stop. It’s very common for two fighters of any level to enter a clinch when trying to punch each other. Also, untrained combatants almost always find themselves in this situation. Some good wrestling offense from a clinched position can put you in a dominant position and help you avoid a lot of damage. 

While the move does take some physical strength, a good bear hug is far from just squeezing your opponent and hoping he falls over. First of all, you need to have double under hooks. If you find yourself in the very common over/under position, you need to pummel inside and lock your hands.

Next, you need to lift your opponent and re-grip lower on his back. You may need to lift and re-grip several times. The lower you can grip down the back, the better. Then, after you’ve re-gripped, suck your opponent’s back to you and push your head into him to break his posture backwards. Note not to push toward an opponent when you have double unders as it opens you up to tosses.

In order to learn this basic bear hug and the other variations of it, head to a wrestling club or wrestling practice at your local MMA gym. Watch my full demonstration above. Also, if you want to read more from me, pick up the most recent issue of Skillset Magazine at


  • Great stuff just what i need for my short stocky 5′ 6″ body!!

    • Don’t get in fights bro

    • I agree. I’m 5-7 and 56 years old; technique is important to make up for short stature, lack of muscle, fighting experience, etc. I haven’t been in a fight since elementary school and I want to keep it that way!

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