Soft robotics requires technologies that are capable of generating forces even though the bodies are composed of very light, flexible and soft elements. A soft actuation mechanism was developed in this work, taking inspiration from the arm of the Octopus vulgaris
, specifically from the muscular hydrostat which represents its constitutive muscular structure. On the basis of the authors’ previous works on shape memory alloy (SMA) springs used as soft actuators, a specific arrangement of such SMA springs is presented, which is combined with a flexible braided sleeve featuring a conical shape and a motor-driven cable. This robot arm is able to perform tasks in water such as grasping, multi-bending gestures, shortening and elongation along its longitudinal axis. The whole structure of the arm is described in detail and experimental results on workspace, bending and grasping capabilities and generated forces are presented. Moreover, this paper demonstrates that it is possible to realize a self-contained octopus-like robotic arm with no rigid parts, highly adaptable and suitable to be mounted on underwater vehicles. Its softness allows interaction with all types of objects with very low risks of damage and limited safety issues, while at the same time producing relatively high forces when necessary.