Ground fighting

Why transfer the battle on the ground could be a hazardous

Ground fighting it’s extremely technical / strategical and absolutely fascinating but…

Before starting this topic it is important to say that, outside a ruled context (competitions, gym sparring, etc. read Declared techniques, sparring and sport competition), to transfer the fight on the ground is in 90%of the cases (not always, more about this later)  absolutely wrong:

  • We lose all of our speed and mobility – We cannot rapidly flee (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method) and if are suddenly attacked by other opponents we are simply lost (read How to fight with more than one opponent at the same time)
  • We exponentially increase the risk of injuries – Struggling in a so strict contact, we cannot avoid fighting and the risk of serious damages (trough joint levers, strangulations, etc. read Chin Na) is 10 times higher both for us both for the eventual aggressors (rightly or wrongly, it is not at all strange to incur burdensome complaints)
  • If the opponent is at our same level we will probably lose all of our energies – If there is a large skill gap, it is possible to prevail almost without “any” effort but if instead, the level of the opponent is similar to ours we will probably have to use (without space or recovery time) all our energies; the point is that when we  are on the ground without forces it takes very little to suffer  incalculable damages
  • There can be problems even if we prevail – Even the adversary is only one and even if we are expert enough to subdue and block him (that is relatively easy against the “not initiates” to this practice) we remain with a terrible choice, to cause him an invalidating damage (eg. breaking a leg) or to knock him out (eg. with a suffocation) with enormous risks in legal terms (and not only, read Best martial arts for self-defense)

A note by Master Kongling – I am stressing this because I have been in this situation. A few years ago, an improvised thief entered my house believing it empty. I found him suddenly face to face. I have been lucky: he was thin, unprepared and over the age of 50, I was half his age, double the weight and with a daily training behind me. The fact is, however, that we had a brief scuffle, where indeed (although he tried to pull a battered pocket knife) I managed to immobilize him with a joint lever on the ground but… the problem was: what to do next? Call law enforcement? How, if I was clinging to him? Cause him a fracture? No, after the peak of adrenaline, I was sadder than anything else and then who assured me that he was alone? Who that he did not have an accomplice? Who that he would not come back the next day to let me pay? This is the question: what to do next if you struggle on the ground? In a lot of cases you cannot escape, you cannot leave the grip (if you are interested in how it ended, write it in the comments, I will publish an article)…

If it can be so dangerous and counterproductive, why have we to study ground fighting?

  • Because it happens very, very easily (something near to the 60-70% of the times)
  • Because without the correct preparation, it is like being a fish out of water
  • Because even against a low-level Jiu-Jitsu practitioner (if he manages to close the distance), the defeat is almost certain
  • Because both when we face a street fight, both in a sportive fight (except when it is prohibited) is very easy to end up on the ground

It is for these reasons that we must address the study of ground fighting.

In which cases it happens to face the fight on the ground

The first thing to understand is what are the main causes that force us to move the fighting dynamics on the ground. Let’s se some of the most common situations:

  • We are not able to manage our balance (the opponent push us, etc.)
  • We are not able to escape from locks (and trying to escaping we reach the soil)
  • We do not know how to manage distances, spaces and obstacles (we fall accidentally, etc.)
  • We are too rigid in our posture, stances and gesture (and our body becomes extremely easy to manipulate)
  • We drop down instinctively (trying to defensively close our entire body, it’s a natural reaction)
  • We go to the ground voluntarily (we think that going down could be a winning choice or our only option)
  • The opponents lead us to earth with technical skills (we are not able to react or counter the adversary’s grounding techniques)
  • We bind with the opponent too much and / or try to use only muscle power (power against power is a classical situation where the effort leads to arrive at the soil)

Why does this happen? It is a matter of natural instincts:

  • When we (want to) fight our mind tries instinctively to close the distance, to catch, to block our target
  • Closing the distance we illude of being safe from beatings and at the same time, to be able to beat the others
  • The human beings are bipeds and in a force vs force context it is normal to try to lower our the center of balance

The ideas behind these thoughts are good but without correct preparation, we are not conditioned nor able to apply the theory. When a novice is too close he is not able to hit and then he tries to stand in an upper position to impose his muscular power, he searches for a dominant advantage, wasting a big amount of energy, so, inevitably he falls to the ground exposing his body to:

In general terms of self-defense to cling to the opponent is almost always wrong, it means to bind ourselves to what we should be away. If it is true that we can not always choose to go to the ground or not, it is certainly possible to:

  • Do not go there by spontaneous initiative
  • Consciously try not to go there
  • Try to free us to return in a standing stance (as soon as possible)

Is it always wrong to go for ground fighting?

If the fight is inevitable and the escape routes are foreclosed let’s see some of the situations when it could be a “good” idea to go to the ground:

  • When we have no chance to fight by standing (eg. a leg injury, read Always be ready to fight: extreme conditions)
  • When our opponent surely has no direct or indirect accomplices (eg. friends, neutral interventions, etc.)
  • When we have advanced technical knowledge in the fight to the ground (tested with high-level opponents)
  • When we are sure that the opponent does not have a technical background in ground fighting (eg. if we well know our aggressor)
  • When our opponent is more agile than us in terms of mobility (the ground could cancel at once all his speed and a significant part of the effectiveness of his reflexes)
  • When we are sure to be able to express a superior physically performance (when, with the same technical level, we exceed the opponent in strength, weight, resistance, etc.)
  • When we are less reactive in the exchange of blows (fight on the ground offers a little ‘more time for tactical reflection but we still talk about seconds)
  • When we can use some objects of the scenario to our advantage (a hole, a wall, a dress, a railing, etc.)

The logical combination of some of these factors can make “affordable” the choice of (temporarily) leaving a standing stance. In all the other cases, it is almost always an error and a serious disadvantage to end up on the ground.

In the next article of this series, we will see some techniques / ideas / tricks to avoid ending up on the ground (read How to avoid the ground fighting).

In-depth articles


Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever tried to face an expert in ground fighting?

Author: Master Kongling

Founder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.

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