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How to Defend Against a Half-nelson

Wrestler defending half-nelsonIt’s safe to assume that every time you find yourself in the bottom position, your opponent will try to slap on a half nelson at least once. This is because the half-nelson is one of the most basic, yet effective ways to pin an opponent in wrestling. For this reason, all wrestlers should know how to defend against it. The earlier you learn the simple defense to the half-nelson, the better.

Read the steps listed below closely, and learn how to take away major scoring opportunities from even the toughest opponents who use the half-nelson.

1. Head Up

The first basic step to defending against the half-nelson — and also the most crucial one — is to simply keep your head up off the mat. If you allow your opponent to force your head down towards the mat, he will have a better chance of being able to turn you.

2. Clamp Down

Next, use the arm that your opponent is attempting the half on to “clamp down” on his arm. Force your elbow in towards your body to secure his arm between your arm and ribcage. For example, if your opponent is attempting the half on the left side of your body (meaning, his left arm is underneath your left arm and over your head) use your left arm to clamp down on his left arm.

Hot Tip: Elbow In!

One alternative to clamping down is using the hand of your near arm to peel away your opponent’s fingers from the top of your head. However, this is not as effective as clamping down. When reaching to gain control of your opponent’s hand, you will have to raise your elbow upward — this makes it easier for your opponent to use your arm to force you over to your back. So,don’t reach for your opponent’s hand at this point – simply keep your elbow tight in towards your body. Once you defend your opponent’s initial half attempt, you will have the opportunity of gaining control of his hands.

3. Look Away & Post

It is important that you perform this step in conjunction with the previous one. The instruction below will tell you to look away from your opponent, and although it’s a literal meaning, you essentially look away with your entire body and turn away from your opponent.

Turn your head to the opposite side of your body from your opponent is positioned. As you do this, turn the hip closest to your opponent down toward the mat. This will turn your entire body away from your opponent, making it difficult for him to turn you to your back. For example, if your opponent is attempting a half on your left side, simply turn your head to the right and get your left hip to the mat.

With your body turned away from your opponent, post the hand you have furthest from your opponent on the mat next to your body. Next, bring the knee of the leg you have furthest from your opponent up to your chest. For example, if your opponent is attempting a half on your left side, post your right hand on the mat next to your body, and bring your right knee up to your chest. Posting your hand and leg in this manner acts like a “kickstand” on a bicycle; it will allow you to fight against the pressure your opponent is putting on you to keep from being turned.

4. Control Hands & Escape

Now you can begin to fight for control of your opponent’s hands in order to get to your base and escape. Use one or both of your hands to gain control of either of your opponent’s hands. Make sure to grab all four of his fingers; grabbing less than four fingers at a time is illegal and is also not as effective.

Next, maintain control of one or both of your opponent’s hands and use your forearms to push off the mat. As you do this, push your hips back and bring your knees under your body. This is called your base — it is a strong and necessary position to get into before you can escape.

For more details on how to escape from the bottom position, check out iSport’s guides, How to Do an Inside Leg Standup in Wrestling and The Tripod Escape in Wrestling.

Hot Tip: React Quickly

When turning your near hip down and posting with your far arm and leg, you open yourself up to a half-nelson on the opposite side of your body. This happens because you’re essentially looking into rather than away from your opponent’s half-nelson should he decide to position himself on the opposite side of your body. So, be ready to react to the potential half your opponent may try on the other side of your body quickly.

Defensive Instincts

You should now have a better understanding of how to defend against the half-nelson. Be sure to drill this defense regularly to ensure you have the basic skills down. Once you become familiar with this defense, it will become rather instinctual and eventually you will be able to defend against the half quickly and effortlessly. Now get out there and get drilling!

Nearly every opponent you face will try to pin you with a half-nelson. Learn its basic defense by checking out this must-read wrestling guide.
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