I love elbow strikes just like I love knee strikes. They can be extremely effective when utilized in the proper range. Elbow strikes are truly close-range weapons—more so than the punch. And though they can often be used like a punch, the closer range must be kept in mind. I trained elbows for years in Muay Thai, and they became part of my arsenal early on in the game. Horizontal elbows, in my opinion, take a lot of practice and repetition to get the right body mechanics and accuracy. This was true for me, and I have observed it is true for a lot of other folks. If I have not done them in a while, I find I get pretty rusty. I find elbow strikes on other angles of attack much easier to do, and we can put them in our toolbox much faster.
In Krav Maga, they recognize and utilize seven different elbow strikes: horizontal high, sideways, horizontal backward, vertical backward low, vertical backward (high line), vertical forward and upward, and vertical forward and down. The horizontal high is similar to the horizontal or snap elbows in Thai boxing, with the head being the main target. In Thai, we use the “snap” with a little bit of hip movement and the horizontal with the additional quick expansion of the chest before striking. Because Muay Thai includes stand-up grappling, we often grab the crown of the head to feed the skull right into the horizontal strike. Krav focuses on stepping in, projecting forward and pivoting while landing the strike. The sideways elbow strike, as its name implies, is applied sideways towards the throat, in the direction (leaning into the strike) of an assailant standing perpendicular to you. With the horizontal backward elbow strike, the elbow is thrown back on the high line, towards an attacker at the rear. The body torques violently into the strike. The vertical backward low elbow strike is also used against an attacker that is behind you, and it involves a straight thrusting motion into his torso. Turning the body with a pivot makes this strike much more effective. Arcing upward with similar body mechanics, and clipping his chin, you have the vertical backward elbow strike. Turn to face the opponent, and you can throw the vertical forward and upward elbow, utilizing the same target, and driving all the way through. This one works really well if you are sinking your weight a little, with a lower center of gravity, and driving up through the target as you would with a chin jab. I personally prefer upward diagonals, but those are what I trained more frequently in my years in Muay Thai. Some practitioners even teach the chin jab from an angle—it’s good to cover all the bases and find out which mechanics best fit you and your body. Lastly, and I really like this one, is the vertical forward and down elbow strike. If you have already dropped him down a bit with a low line strike, finish him by driving your elbow down into his body. This one is going to be very damaging if applied to rear of his cranium, near the occipital nerve, or even the cervical vertebrae. If this makes you squeamish, and you really have to consider the context of your encounter, you can certainly strike between the shoulder blades.