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Michael Rust
Michael Rust's picture
Ground Fighting/Training for Self Protection

I wanted to get different views from people on ground fighting/training.  I think we all can agree that ground fighting is an important part of one's training for self protection. When I say ground fighting I don't mean we all need to become experts in BJJ or Judo but, I do think it's critical that all serious martial artist have knowledge of how to defend themselves if a confrontation ever hits the ground.  Take note, I said if it ever goes to the ground.

Not to long ago I heard a very senior BJJ black belt state that in order to defend yourself the best way to do that is to take the fight to the ground where the person can be controlled and submitted. I have to respectfully disagree, in reality I would never look to take a fight to the ground intentionally where there are some many different variables at play. If a conflict ends up on the ground then we must have a certain level of skill to deal with the situation. I personally would try and take my opponent out and end the confrontation on my feet if at all possible.

So my question is how do you train for the ground ? Do you just work escapes and getting back to your feet ? Do you work all aspects of ground fighting ? Does anyone disagree that in reality a fight should not be taken to the ground and if so why ?

 

 

mike23
mike23's picture

Hi,

At the basic level of logic, I can agree with the BJJ blackbelt and here's why. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a system of fighting on the ground. With the many knees, elbows standing it becomes MMA hence something different. The Brazilian Jiu-jitsu guy is well trained in taking the striker out of his element to beat him. The old saying holds true here. Never strike a striker, never kick a kicker.  By taking the opposing view you are actually  "agreeing" with the BJJ Blkblt in a sence, by saying don't take the fight to the ground, you'd like to stay in your element and finish the fight standing up.  To me this is the very beginning. However, people discuss variables in every situation. The multiple attacker vairable is the first question the BJJ person must address. In a one-on-one fight a person of my small size could have trouble fighting another who is much taller, bigger or stronger or even another martial artist bigger with the same skills. It might be better for me to not stand and bang with him but get in close where I'm safe and pull him to the ground where he loses all his power and comfort.

I couple my karate training with basic BJJ knowlege, meaning  defensive guard, mount reversal, just basics, but I learn BJJ for the science of body movement it contains, not the MMA/reality.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Basic positional grappling to learn how to get away, operate from bad positions etc....personally I think detailed submissions hunting is an absolutely wrong-headed notion for self defense.

Part of the issue here is that most of the people I see advocating BJJ or newaza-based strategy for "self defense" aren't actually talking about self defense, but about fights proper, where evidentally no one is there to interfere, you know your environment, and there is no need to simply get away ASAP. Obviously this kind of situation is not neccessarily 'self defense' proper. In addition the "90% of fights go to the ground" thing is bunk. I think you have to be able to make a distinction of what is actually a sound strategy for self defense before you cna say what tactics fit well.

A thing on the guard work..IMO there are some issues with pulling guard as a smaller person when outside of a safe competition environment, one of the biggest being that you can easily get picked up and dropped onto something, up to and including the back of your head, which should be a huge priority to protect when dealing with "self defense' and someone who actually wants to injure you. I mean obviously you pull guard when you have to, it's preferable to having the opponent in a dominant position, but IMO there's no denying that it's MUCH safer in competition to operate this way than it ever will be in a real situation.

I think maybe in a a truly dangerous situation the point is you do not know what you are facing and the best gaurantee of not getting seriously injured is simply not being there, the more time you spend trying to 'beat someone' in a fight (whatever skills you are using) when you could be fighting  to get away the more likely you are to be the one who gets injured. Certainly some knowledge of ground skills will be vital  to self defense, but applied in a different way, escape/ disengagement taking a huge priority over any kind of submission attempt, or desire to maintain contact, IMO

All that being said, in my experience the best way to learn to this stuff (and I am certainly no expert here) has been to train with someone who actually does a grappling art, and adapt it to self-defense needs. Even better when you have access to someone who does a grappling art AND already puts the material in that context for you. If you just try to practice some positioinal grappling stuff without the help of a trained grappling person you can do ok from manuals, DvD's and whatnot I imagine, but in my expereince there will be layers of stuff there that simply aren't known by someone who doesn't do this stuff as a primary skillset.

mike23
mike23's picture

Hi Zach,

Posted:....personally I think detailed submissions hunting is an absolutely wrong-headed notion for self defense.

I too believe that “detailed submission hunting is absolutely the wrong headed notion”. Knowing that in any martial art there are hundreds of techniques but that in any given self-defense situation, a person will use between 3 and 6 basic techniques. Wouldn’t you agree BJJ/ground fighting would hold the same theory? Beating your opponent with the simplest techniques first is always preferred. Only a beginner would begin a fight with a flying side kick!

Posted: … most of the people I see advocating BJJ or newaza-based strategy for "self-defense" aren't actually talking about self-defense, but about fights proper, where evidentially no one is there to interfere, you know your environment, and there is no need to simply get away ASAP. Obviously, this kind of situation is not necessarily 'self-defense' proper.

Can you elaborate on this? People you've seen are talking about some other self-defense different than your kind of self-defense?

Posted; In addition, the "90% of fights go to the ground" thing is bunk. I’ve seen many different numbers thrown into this quote. %90 sounds like a lot but %80, or even %60 or half? of all fights possibly go to the ground , but %100 percent start standing up!!  I agree that- “some fights go to the ground”. Although a jitsu person hopes he will take the fight to the ground.

Posted: A thing on the guard work..IMO there are some issues with pulling guard as a smaller person when outside of a safe competition environment, one of the biggest being that you can easily get picked up and dropped onto something, up to and including the back of your head, which should be a huge priority to protect when dealing with "self defense' and someone who actually wants to injure you.

 Many people are misinformed about Jiu-jitsu and the myths propagated by the “striking” community are still out there. 

   I am a Shorin-ryu practitioner who also enjoys being a beginner BJJ enthusiast at age 55. I am not an MMA fighter.  First, BJJ people do not “pull guard” in a self-defense situation. When the fight goes to the ground a smaller person may end up on their back, think man VS woman. It would be a great idea to learn to survive from the worst position…the guard- possibly being able to end the fight…From the worst position.  Second, using leverage and angles-just like standing up- makes it much more difficult for someone to lift you up and slam you. Most often the larger person CAN NOT even sit up much less lift you up. If the person you were fighting- or defending against- did pick you up the beginner BJJ practitioner just lets go by opening their legs.    Many people unfimilar with ground fighting cannot see this simple “bunkai”.

Posted ; I think maybe in a a truly dangerous situation the point is you do not know what you are facing and the best gaurantee of not getting seriously injured is simply not being there, the more time you spend trying to 'beat someone' in a fight (whatever skills you are using) when you could be fighting  to get away the more likely you are to be the one who gets injured. Certainly some knowledge of ground skills will be vital  to self defense, but applied in a different way, escape/ disengagement taking a huge priority over any kind of submission attempt, or desire to maintain contact, IMO

I don’t think you are saying that a person who knows jiu-jitsu is wasting their time trying to beat someone any more than a “karate” person is trying to waste their time trying to beat someone when they punch an assailant in the temple or apply a neck crank, a wrist lock. Are you saying that the use of a "stopping technique" should not be used while standing up? No KO punches should be used? Then why wouldn't you allow a person on the ground to use a "stopping technique" in the form of a choke? A fight on the ground holds the same theories, principles, concepts as a fight standing up.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Quote:
I too believe that “detailed submission hunting is absolutely the wrong headed notion”. Knowing that in any martial art there are hundreds of techniques but that in any given self-defense situation, a person will use between 3 and 6 basic techniques. Wouldn’t you agree BJJ/ground fighting would hold the same theory? Beating your opponent with the simplest techniques first is always preferred. Only a beginner would begin a fight with a flying side kick!

Not really about the techniques themselves, it's a question of overall strategy, not individual tactics, IMO of course. Trying to create opportunity for submissions is a bad overall strategy for self defense because it creates undue risk and involves a counter for counter game that is unlikely to be there in serious situations. I'm not saying submissions are completely useless, but seriously..watch a video of a prison attack sometime and see how relevant Juji Gatame looks to that kind of violence.

 

Quote:
Can you elaborate on this? People you've seen are talking about some other self-defense different than your kind of self-defense?

Gladly. I've both talked to people in person, and seen people on the internet allude to the possiblity of using their grappling skill in fights against multiple opponents, up to and including the claim that they could choke someone out fast enough to move on to the next guy. This is almost as ridiculous as some of the stuff you hear in the more ridiculous corners of the TMA world. It's not that the skills themselves don't function for sefl defense, only that if one is training the groundfighting mainly with rolling with another MAist, hunting for submission, I think it's reasonable to say this is an approach that is beneficial to self defense only tangentially.

Quote:
re you saying that the use of a "stopping technique" should not be used while standing up?

No, i'm talking about strategy, not individual tactics...those are always fluid. Things change when your strategy is based on getting away, the same tactics exist, but the training is context-specific, and if you are training the grappling skills with a preference to obtaining submission and maintaining contact in order to secure a win, this is different than training them to get away, regain feet, continue striking, and/or flee. You are using an entirely different strategy when you roll against another MAist to submission than you would for self defense.

 

Quote:
any people are misinformed about Jiu-jitsu and the myths propagated by the “striking” community are still out there.
Quote:
Many people unfimilar with ground fighting cannot see this simple “bunkai”.

Well, I am perfectly able to "see that bunkai", I simply don't agree with some of your points, noting personal, just speaking from my own experiences too.

I train in Jujutsu in addition to my Karate, have about a year of casual Judo, and my teacher is a Shodan in Judo... you probably don't need to worry about me "propagating myths" :), I have done a bit of 'normal' rolling and standing Judo randori, and some groundwork where the goal is to regain feet, (nadmittedly a novice them mind you) and while they spring from the same skillset, I really feel it is a different application, even as a rank beginner there are some noticable differences when the people decide to engage and maintain contact, and when they don't.

 

Quote:
ost often the larger person CAN NOT even sit up much less lift you up

That has  not been my experience,  but it is good, and normal that we have different points of view, and I am in no way trying to put down BJJ.

 

Quote:
o KO punches should be used? Then why wouldn't you allow a person on the ground to use a "stopping technique" in the form of a choke? A fight on the ground holds the same theories, principles, concepts as a fight standing up.

How many self defense situations do you imagine will allow you to safely get your choke on the ground? If you have someone's back, side mount, etc. depending on position there are sometimes simpler ways of dealing with stuff than applying a choke, if one's goal is 'self defense'.

Not sure where you're getting the "no KO punches" thing, but no i'm not trying to talk about not using specific tactics, just the dfirection that using a certain strategy will point us in.

Michael Rust
Michael Rust's picture

 I think the issue of the Judo Black belt or BJJ black belt trying to take a real fight to the ground may be that most schools out there are geared towards sport. So it's a training issue for some.

In fact I've heard one of the Gracie's in a documentary express his concern that most BJJ schools are now geared towards sport and all the self defence techniques and training are being lost. He went on to say at his school he doesn't let that happen. We have the same problem in Karate a lot of the good throws, grappling, locks get lost in the name of sport karate.

With that being said I think it's the instructors duty to make it clear to students what is sport and what is not. That way students are not being mislead in their training. Furthermore, a student can't say "this is the way I've been taught for 20yrs", I guess if the Instructor doesn't have the knowledge to differentiate that is a whole other issue/topic.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Another thing if I can throw this out...

This is really a question of what violence actually is, what you are and are not likely to face, and what tools will be most relevant to those situations. What martial art beats what art etc. etc...all that is great for the dojo but honestly I think it becomes increasingly irrelevant when you are trying to put stuff in this 'self defense' context

One of the things I have learned from Rory Miller, Kris Wilder, Iain, and others that think critically about this stuff is that you really cannot know the solution until you define the problem, and I think that really holds true here. You can take whatever sport/art/system/ you want, and most of them can be effectively applied to self defense, as long as you understand what the needs of self defense actually are.

And this is of course without touching any of the non-physical stuff.

mike23
mike23's picture

Posted: ..Trying to create opportunity for submissions is a bad overall strategy for self defense because it creates undue risk and involves a counter for counter game that is unlikely to be there in serious situations.  

I agree. Just so we are on the same page, my strategy for ground fighting with BJJ is to land on the ground in a top position; punch the guy in the head. His counter is to reach for my hands. The punches to the face cause him to counter by rolling over and trying to get up. And He gets choked.  If I’m on the ground on the bottom I’m trying to reverse the position to get on top.  Any deviation from this leads me to another simple strategy. You’ve got to remember a street fighter knows punching but hopefully not ground fighting. If a thug on the ground is going to counter the grapplers techniques is it because they now know grappling? The same thing can be said standing. If the attacker punches and a karatka parries and strikes, couldn’t the thug now counter that leading to the “counter for counter game that is unlikely because it involves undue risk to the karatka? If we’re worried about countering a counter why not ban all strikes and just teach block/escape and run classes? Sometimes a standing fight last 30-45 seconds. That’s plenty of countering and re countering.

Posted:..watch a video of a prison attack sometime and see how relevant Juji Gatame looks to that kind of violence.

Prison attacks! Nice! The worst of the worst. You’re talking about when they get stabbed in the back and didn’t see the attacker or when they get stabbed in the neck 20 times in 3 seconds, or when they’re lifting and have 200lbs on their chest when they get attacked? Are you talking about when a huge guy hits another and the other guy doesn’t fall down? How about Don Frye and Ken Shamrock trading punches. Will stand up karate be ready for that? When you give an attacker your best punch and he’s still standing?   All I’m saying is the argument can be used against ground OR against standing just by changing the word BJJ to ‘karate’. 

Posted:.. I've both talked to people in person, and seen people on the internet allude to the possiblity of using their grappling skill in fights against multiple opponents,… claim that they could choke someone out fast enough to move on to the next guy. This is almost as ridiculous as some of the stuff you hear in the more ridiculous corners of the TMA world.

Yup! I hear this sometimes too! LOL. Sometimes the BJJ people believe their style is the best like a cult following!  They need to wake up and smell the roses. You’re on the ground against 3 hoodlums and you’ll be getting the boots put to you! Don’t listen to those people. No style is the end all style. Like we’re all saying, you need a little of both.

Posted: Things change when your strategy is based on getting away, the same tactics exist, but the training is context-specific, and if you are training the grappling skills with a preference to obtaining submission and maintaining contact in order to secure a win, this is different than training them to get away, regain feet, continue striking, and/or flee. You are using an entirely different strategy when you roll against another MAist to submission than you would for self defense.

I see know what you’re saying. While standing, you’re not staying around to “finish” the guy. Once on the ground, there’s no getting up till the guy is disabled, but when standing you can run when you get the chance. FYI, if I’m winning I’m going for the finish….If I’m losing, I’m running! LOL!

Posted:How many self defense situations do you imagine will allow you to safely get your choke on the ground?

Well my friend! I hope %100 percent!! LOL!!! Just like my stand up! LOL

You’re right, these days much of BJJ is sport and it’s taught as such. Karate did the same thing with “point” sparring tournaments. That’s not a true view of arts. Some people think the only tool they need is BJJ and it’s simply not true. You can only apply techniques according to the applied science that rules them. For example, I can snap an arm using leverage but at some point If I don’t have enough strength to pull the lever down…it won’t break. At some point, size does matter.

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

Quote:
Prison attacks! Nice! The worst of the worst. You’re talking about when they get stabbed in the back and didn’t see the attacker or when they get stabbed in the neck 20 times in 3 seconds, or when they’re lifting and have 200lbs on their chest when they get attacked? Are you talking about when a huge guy hits another and the other guy doesn’t fall down? How about Don Frye and Ken Shamrock trading punches. Will stand up karate be ready for that? When you give an attacker your best punch and he’s still standing?   All I’m saying is the argument can be used against ground OR against standing just by changing the word BJJ to ‘karate’.

Valid points, but in the end I still have to disagree, the fact is you have  a better chance of getting away, and being able to respond to the unknown (no matter what level of force you have to use) on your feet, that alone makes it preferable to try to keep things standing. Of course it also makes it neccessary to know how to deal with stuff should you not be standing. As far as it being "the worst of the worst", you are right..it's an extreme example, but I posted it more because these are habitual acts of violence instead of theoreticals about "what would you do vs. this style/MMA fighter" what have you....which I don't see as having any common real life reference...most "self defense" encounters are not fair fights between equals looking to ply their skills (in my own experience and opinion of course), and as such an example like a prison attack - while admittedly on the extreme end, are much closer to the sort of physical attacks we are likely to face...in as much as it's even possible to predict of course.

I think we cannot call every kind of altercation "self defense", keep in mind the thread is about "Ground Fighting/Training for Self Protection", not is "Is practicing sub Grappling/BJJ/Newaza etc. good for self protection".

To my mind these are two slightly different questions, one is asking whether or not practicing a ground-oriented combat sport could help an individual with self defense (answer is some degree of yes), the other is asking more specifically what are good practices for groundfighting that are  geared towards self protection skills, this is an important distinction I think.

The problem with saying "well the BJJ guy is best on the ground, so it's best for him to go there" is that regardless of his skill level, we know that there are some factors in violence such as multiple opponents, weapons, general unknown environment that simply make ti a more risk strategy because it is harder to get away. Much of what Iain and others have written deals with the fact that once things enter the realm of self protection, we are no longer looking at a 'game' between two people looking to gain the advantage by overcoming one another's skill, especially since in many of the situations, you have no way of even knowing what your attacker does and does not know. So, it seems like the set of rules you operate onmight  have to be a little more nuanced than simply "Do what you are best at".

After all, we could just as easily say the competitive TKD guy should go ahead and focus on his large array of head kicks for self defense, in both cases it's certainly possible to use these strategies for self defense, but it might not be the most prudent, or probable choice.

At least that's my take on it,

Anyway, thanks for the conversation!

mike23
mike23's picture

True, true and true. thanks. Back on the origional post by Mr. Rust.

So my question is how do you train for the ground ? Do you just work escapes and getting back to your feet ? Do you work all aspects of ground fighting ? Does anyone disagree that in reality a fight should not be taken to the ground and if so why ?

As a jiu-jitsu student, I learn defense of punchs standing then take the person to the ground as well as ground work. However no learning of blocking punches while on the ground/ MMA training. Hey! I'm already 55!

   In my karate training I practice the very basic techniques of surviving a position, then escaping or reversing the position.  My strength and time are in stand up, kata,weapons,drills. There is no ground work in the curriculim/requirments of my style at this time.

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

If you train for self defense then to not train both striking and grappling would be foolish--you cannot necessarily control where you end up in a self defense situation, and to only train for one means you have a gaping hole in your ability to end a threat and escape to safety.  We can say "don't strike a striker, don't grapple a grappler" all we want, but the fact is that in a self defense situation we are going to respond whatever threat we are given by doing whatever we have trained to do, for better or worse.  If you train both striking and grappling you can respond to a threat naturally and without hesitation regardless of whether they punch you, grab you or tackle you to the ground.

Personally, I have a bit of judo training (4 years of routinely training and now a year and a half of simply incorporating it into my karate) and I use it for escapes, control, offense and defense in conjunction with the striking and grappling contained in karate.  It has been nothing but helpful to me and whether I am faced with a striking situation or a grappling situation, should I ever have to defend myself, I feel that I am well-versed enough in both aspects to end the threat and escape to safety.

Drew Loto
Drew Loto's picture

The other week, I was listening to one of my MMA coaches talking to a couple of girls in the club.  The club organizes the classes between striking and grappling.  We have certain sessions that are dedicated primarily to striking and others in which we hone our grappeling skills.  These girls had so far only attended the striking sessions and our coach was trying to convince them to attend the grappling.  He explained that training to be comfortable on the ground was particularly important for women because a normative situation in which women encounter violence involves extremely close distances and going to the ground (such as in a potential rape scenario).  This strikes me as an important point, that it is definitely beneficial to learn how to best manipulate another body in that context.  When actually experiencing ground and pound drills or sparring, I quickly realized that grappling isn't as easy as I thought, once someone is free to punch you in the face.  Therefore, I don't believe grappling should be trained in isolation, but it definitely seems to have its self-defense benefits.

The other point of contention, as far as I can tell, is the question of fishing for takedowns.  I find this a difficult one to address, because I think it depends in large part on the attributes of the individual.  A larger guy with more bulk and durability may be comfortable with taking down his opponent and finishing him quickly.  A smaller guy (or one of less skill), who may need to take down his opponent, but then spend five minutes trying to actually disable him, might not wish to do so.  This issue isn't necessarily related to grappling itself though.  I've seen strikers go for take downs too.  It so happens that knocking your oppnent onto his bum, however you manage to accomplish it, is a great way to get you into a dominant position from which you can rain down blows.

Regardless of those two issues, take downs and grappling are part of our martial arts reality today.  Even if you don't want to bother deeply studying them, you should know how to respond to them.  All strikers should study how to sprawl or avoid being taken down and how to get back to their feet.

Finlay
Finlay's picture

submitting some one in a 'street fihgt' i think is a flawed concept for a fews reasons

- who calls the submission, there is no judge to stop you, and likely you are not going to be i that frame of mind, even if you watch sport submissions the ref has to jump in

- how will you know when the guy has submitted, does everyone on the planet automatically tap when they are in pain?

- of course the idea of other people of weapons being introduced

- drugs and alcohol makes submittingosme on a lot tougher

- what happens after the submission? you both stand up and shake hands, or he fakes a submission(possible by screaming i guess)  to get out of a bad position the starts on you all over again

mike23
mike23's picture

All your points are well take, however there is no submissions in a street fight. Only one person would stand up if things went well. The other person is unconcious or disabled in some way that make it difficult to stand up or even want to continue an attack. An example would be a broken wrist or shoulder. All the other points are valid.

mike23
mike23's picture

I will add that the older Jiu-jitsu was lacking in any weapons defense and even today as we watch the Jiu-jitsu style grow, they are very far behind in any practical weapons defense. Possibly they are picking up stuff from the Krav styles and applying it to their style but thta's just my opinion!

Zach Zinn
Zach Zinn's picture

mike23 wrote:

I will add that the older Jiu-jitsu was lacking in any weapons defense and even today as we watch the Jiu-jitsu style grow, they are very far behind in any practical weapons defense. Possibly they are picking up stuff from the Krav styles and applying it to their style but thta's just my opinion!

Not sure what older Jiu Jitsu you are talking about, but from what I have seen the old Koryu stuff from Japan has plenty of empty hand techniques against Tanto etc...you can see some of the influence of this in Judo kata like Goshin Jutsu No Kata. Not gonna speak yay or nay for the practicality of them today, but the "original" Jujutsu is what fighters did when they were bereft of weapons, but their opponent was not neccessarily.

Also worth noting (and maybe relevant to the whole conversation) I am unaware of any battlefield or civilian defense type of art that contains anything like the ground submissions seen today, I get the distinct impression that fighting willingly on the ground might be considered a bit insane by the standards of their world. I've always assumed (though i've never directly seen) that you can find ground submissions in older combat sport, but I don't know.

Anyway, here is a Wim Demeere post i've always really liked on similar subject matter: It's nice to get his perspective on it, especially as I believe he has had his "feet in both worlds" as far as sport vs. street stuff goes.

http://www.wimsblog.com/2009/08/mma-sucks-traditional-martial-arts-suck-...

mike23
mike23's picture

I'm thinking of the Brazilian systems like the Gracie stuff.

JWT
JWT's picture

Hi

Reference the ground statistic, you might want to read this article:

http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncframe.htm

Fights generally go to the ground in particular contexts.  

Should we practise ground skills?  As all round fighters, yes.  How much time we spend on them will depend upon the situation we think that we might need them for: the problem defines the solution.  

nielmag
nielmag's picture

JWT wrote:

Hi

Reference the ground statistic, you might want to read this article:

http://ejmas.com/jnc/jncframe.htm

Fights generally go to the ground in particular contexts.  

Should we practise ground skills?  As all round fighters, yes.  How much time we spend on them will depend upon the situation we think that we might need them for: the problem defines the solution.  

Great point.  Last week I had opportunity to train with some BJJ friends, and a few days later I trained with a Karate instructor who happens to also be a police officer who trains other officers in self defense.  When I was with the BJJ guys the instructor openly acknowledges what they train for is sport jiu jitsu and did drills to prepare for that arena: one would pull gaurd, the other would pass, and almost all of the training we did was strictly on the ground, position, transition, then submission etc.  When I worked with the karate instructor/police officer, his goal was to train his students in self protection.   We did ground work, but the whole point was to escape a bad position, and get up on the feet to strike or flee. 

I thought this was a great example of 2 instructors clearly defining their goals, and tailoring their training to meet those goals.