Thursday, 9 October 2014

When the Fight Goes to the Ground - Guest Post


There are four general rules to follow when applying our skills for the purposes of self-protection and preservation:


If an attacker is trying to immobilize you and eliminate your defensive capabilities, the most dangerous targets are the head and neck. While defending from the ground, you should maintain a protective guard to protect these targets whenever possible. To do this, keep your arms up to form a barrier around your head. Keep your chin tucked with the shoulders raised to help prevent strikes to the chin and jaw. This also protects against chokes. If being struck, try to keep your head moving to make it harder for your attacker to land a solid blow.


Like in any defensive situation, you need to find, create and take advantage of defensive opportunities. When fighting from the ground, space is your friend if your goal is escape. Space opens up more defensive options, allowing you to use more of your body, which is particularly important if your attacker has the size/strength advantage.  Attacks to vulnerable targets, in combination with applicable body shifting techniques, can serve to create more space. The extra space can allow you to use more powerful strikes, apply body shifting more effectively, or simply give you the opportunity to escape.
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.”  Sun Tzu


If an attacker can get control of your arm or leg, it decreases the number of tools you have to use in defense, also allowing them to more easily apply joint manipulation techniques. When your limbs are fully extended, it is also easier for an attacker to gauge your reach, further minimizing your ability to defend yourself. To keep this from happening, keep your limbs bent and retracted close to your body. This allows you to use your body to help protect your limbs, while still being able to use them to attack back.


This rule is true of all altercations, but especially so when the chips are down, and you are at a physical disadvantage, which can easily happen on the ground. It means making your will to escape the situation stronger than your attacker’s will to dominate you. It is this kind of attitude that lets a small cat fight off a big dog like a Doberman. In a straight fight, the dog would win. But when the cat puffs up its fur, makes itself look big, hisses and spits, and scratches at the dog’s nose (an important survival tool for the animal), suddenly the dogs desire to dominate the cat vanishes and it cowers away. This was once called “survival mentality” but this term fell out of favor because the wording suggests that you are at a disadvantage. A “winning attitude” is preferred because it is more empowering.


The ground is a dangerous place to be. You greatly increase your ability to protect yourself and escape a conflict by getting off the ground as soon as you have the opportunity to do so safely. As such, it is important to train yourself to get back on our feet once you have escaped a ground attack.


There is no “one size fits all” approach to ground defense. Differences in height, weight and body type create different challenges for each person when it comes to ground defense techniques. The challenges also change depending on the size and body type of your attacker. Different techniques work better for different people. While in this book, we strive to present techniques that will work best for the widest range of people, inevitably there are exceptions that may necessitate an altered approach. Or you may find advantages that are unique to you that serve to improve your defensive capabilities on the ground. Whatever the situation, experiment and improvise using the materials in this book and any other useful resources to find what works best for your unique body type.


If you’re this body type, you are usually shorter, lighter, and weaker than the average attacker (for the purposes of this book, we assume that the average attacker is a man).  Because your legs and arms are shorter, you are able to strike more effectively and move more freely when your limbs are not immobilized. If you try to use strength to fight strength, you will tire out quickly, making yourself less capable of mounting an effective defense. If you’re fully pinned and there is not an immediate and/orly urgent need to escape, you may want to wait for opportunities in which you have more freedom of movement rather than fighting hard in a scenario that will exhaust you.


If you’re this body type, may find it more difficult to use your limbs strategically because they tend to be longer and harder to manoeuvre in the confines of certain types of ground defense situations. You’ll likely need to use strikes to create more space so that you can more effectively use your bodyies. Fortunately, when you have the space, the extra reach that your body type affords can make it easier to access targets that are farther away.


If you’re this body type, you probably won’t find ground defense all that challenging overall when facing an average sized man without a skill advantage. You may not have the speed and flexibility that other body types are more likely to have, but you are more likely to be able to make up for that using mass and strength. Because of your broadness, you can more easily off-balance an attacker that is on top of you without needing to use much strength at all. This is an ability that you should develop in your training whenever possible. Practice your ground defense skills against people who are closer to your own size (or bigger) whenever possible for the purposes of realism as this is more likely going to be situation on the street.

(For more information, or to buy her book, visit Lori O’Connell’s “When the Fight Goes to the Ground” web page.)

Robert Walther’s addendum:
Sensei O’Connell is a highly skilled professional instructor who has been giving seminars across North America on subject matter related to this book. Her next stop is New Zealand. If anyone would like to get in touch with her for seminars, classes, books, etc., the following is her contact information –
Lori O’Connell
604 724 5278
Her club website:

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