I know the title sounds funny, but after training in mixed martial arts and brazilian jiu-jitsu for years, there are few elements of grappling that just keep getting more and more amazing to me. It seems that as I develop as a martial arts instructor, my focus has changed from techniques to concepts and elements of the game.
One element of grappling that I feel is both under-utilized and under-appreciated is the “under” hook. At first glance, it seems just like any other grip but what I am fascinated by is just how effective the underhook is and how versatile as well. I am on my journey to discovering all I can about how this single element in combat sports can be so effective and although I am nowhere near attaining that goal, I feel like I have discovered so much.
Proper Underhook Positioning
The underhook works as a lever to pull inwards while lifting. In order to maximize its effectiveness, you should reach under your opponents arm and curl your hand back over their shoulder on the same side of the body. From there, pull their shoulder towards yours while squeezing your elbow in toward your ribs. This will prevent your opponent from reaching around your arm and getting and “overhook” or the half-sister of the underhook. if possible bury the top of your shoulder under your opponents armpit so their arm is forced to dangle over your back or wrap around the back of your neck (Don’t worry if they do try to headlock you from that position, it will almost always allow you to take your opponent’s back). The next step is to angle your body perpendicular to your opponent’s so you can control their hips and/or weight more effectively. Please note that double underhooks give you a very powerful position which is optimal for takedowns or butterfly guard, but with double underhooks, you arm and body placement will change.
Obvious Uses of an Underhook
The underhook is used in grappling basics from wrestling to Brazilian Jit-jitsu and Judo. As I teach my students, the obvious power or motion in an underhook is to lift while keeping your own elbow close to your body in order to counter your opponent’s arm strength with your core strength. This is seen in many half guard maneuvers, takedowns from the clinch, and in working for a balanced and effective butterfly guard. A great example of a takedown using the underhook is a classic knee pick. By locking in the underhook, your opponent is trapped while your free hand moves to the opposing knee, The underhook then lifts the same side while you run past the blocked knee. This is one example of the power of the underhook and how the technique would be useless without this one piece.
On the Hunt for More Underhook Techniques
The applications are seemingly endless when using underhooks. I am going to continue looking across the horizon for more and more grappling techniques that utilize underhooks, and I challenge you to do the same. Please comment below with your favorite underhook takedown, sweep, pass, or submission technique. Feel free to add links to a Youtube video or to your website so that others can try to integrate it into their arsenal as well.