How to Escape a Full Nelson Hold

A full nelson from back when it was a legal Greco-Roman Wrestling move

The full nelson hold, also known as the double nelson, originated in Greco-Roman wrestling. It’s very effective at holding and preventing an opponent from using his arms, though it has been banned from wrestling or any other form of competitive sport or martial art because it places a great deal of strain on the neck that can lead to spinal damage. Its uses in combat are limited to immobilizing and forcing and opponent to the floor. An inventive and dirty fighter trying to do someone actual harm might take the opportunity to drive a knee into the back or stomp on the back of an opponent’s knee to drop them to the floor. In most cases, this is something a street fighter might use to hold someone immobile so that a friend can beat the poor victim senseless or worse. For this reason, here’s a good method to escape this hold as you will likely have need to defend yourself against one or more opponent in the moments to follow.

Begin with your opponent grabbing you from behind, snaking his arms beneath your armpits, and then interlocking his fingers back behind your neck. From here, your opponent will exert pressure to push your head down and forward. This can be done to force you into submission or to put you down to the ground. This hold keeps your arms up, preventing you from reaching back behind yourself to grab your opponent.

Raise your arms up, elbows out the sides, with the tips of your fingers touching the inside of your opposite wrists. Form your hands into hooks and clench them closed around one another to form a single horizontal bar out of both your arms. Place the back of one of your hands against your forehead and flex your arms, pushing backward with enough pressure to halt your opponent’s attempts to push your head forward. By doing so, you have partially thwarted this hold in that your opponent has less control.

Take a wide step to your left with your left foot, bending at the knees to drop your center of gravity. Place your weight on your left foot and take a step with your right foot. It should form a U shape, traveling to your left, around your opponent’s left foot, and then out to your right to extend behind both his legs. At this point, you are in a perfect position to break the hold as your legs are right behind your opponent’s knees. Often your opponent will realize the danger of his position and release you of his own volition. If he does not, simply continue to Step 4.

Bend forward, bending deeply at the knees and digging into the back of your opponent’s legs. Grab hold of your opponent’s pants just above his knees. Straighten your back while lowering your body as if you were sitting in a chair to pick him clean off the ground. His weight is being largely supported by the hold around your neck, so lifting his lower body should not be difficult, even if he is larger than you. From this position, your can pivot on your right foot while twisting at the waist. Release at the appropriate moment to send your opponent flying in a sideways spin off to your right. Alternatively, you could simply fall backward, squashing your opponent between your back and the ground.