You’re out and about at night, walking home from the pub and suddenly someone rushes up and grabs you from behind. In a moment of panic, you realize that you cannot see your assailant and have no idea how you are going to fend him off. With your arms basically tied behind your back, you only have moments to break free, so what do you do?

As this is real life and not some B-list movie, you’ll find it very hard to do a standing flip to place yourself behind your attacker and grab them instead. Luckily for you, there is an alternative, a Korean alternative that is designed just for this scenario, and it may just save your life.

kuk sool

Kuk Sool is a self-defense system that came out of Korea in the late 1950s. At that time clothes were getting baggier and fashions were changing, meaning there was generally more to grab onto. Kuk Sool was invented to specifically stop grabs from behind – a technique called dee eue bohk soo – while also adding a number of empty-hand-grabs in there for good measure.

Joe Burnett, a Kuk sool instructor based in Wolcott, New York, is a master of these techniques. “There are two critical parts to dee eue bohk soo,” he says. “The first is the escape, and the second is the defensive counterattack. Each one is as important as the other, and both utilize important basic fighting principles.”

kuk sool

Imagine someone has grabbed you from behind and is holding those wrists tight. Dee eue bohk soo teaches you to raise those hands as high as you can, twisting the attackers’ hands outwards. This causes him to loosen his grip, giving you the perfect opportunity to slip loose and defend yourself with kicks, punches and even some grapples of your own. In theory, it sounds simple, but it can be harder than it looks.

If they grab you by the waist, or by the chest, the system is the same. Raise your arms and try to loosen their grip or at least push them away from you. Check out this video to see it in action – even if it’s on mats, really slow and a bit sloppy.

The secret is, if you noticed, bringing your feet back so they are behind your attacker. This movement accomplishes several things. First, it places you much closer to the attacker and lessens his leverage. The assailant will expect you to pull forward in an effort to fight against the grab, and that sort of reaction would give him increased leverage and control. When you step backward, however, you reduce that leverage and take away much of his power. Second, stepping back as you move your hands forward positions them in front of your body. That means you will probably be able to see exactly how your attacker is holding you. Of course, if you so choose, you will also be able to see your own hands as they perform the rest of the dee eue bohk soo. Third, repositioning your arms in front of your body means you must exert momentary pressure against his muscles. That can give you a quick measure of his power.

Whenever you are forced to defend yourself against a wrist grab from behind, Joe Burnett says, you must make your escape and counterattack as quick and accurate as possible. It makes sense to us, so why not start trying it next time you’re in the gym, you never know when it may come in handy.