Should I Learn Ground Fighting?

First, let’s dispel the notion of “Ground Fighting”.  In real life self-defense, you don’t want to fight on the ground, ever.  Fights do end up on the ground, but this isn’t the UFC are you aren’t going for submission.

What you really need to learn is “Ground Survival”, and it’s very different from “Ground Fighting”.

Most ground techniques have their basis in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or Judo, which are both excellent martial arts.  The mistake is confusing either of them with real-life self-defense.  Can you use them to defend yourself? Absolutely.  Should you rely on always taking a fight to the ground to defend yourself? Absolutely not.

The reason is that even bad guys have friends.  It does you no good to take an attacker down and execute a perfect triangle choke from the guard, only to have his buddies take turns soccer-kicking you head.

Also, these systems feature virtually no strikes. Striking is absolutely necessary in self defense.

Don’t get me wrong, both are great martial arts and most other styles steal techniques from them to make up parts of their self-defense curriculum, but studying exclusively ground styles, which are actually sports, will lead to a limitation in a self-defense situation.

I teach a Ground Survival seminar that relies heavily on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu techniques, but rather than focusing on obtaining a submission, I have the students focus on breaking bones, returning to their feet safely, and disengaging from an attacker.

Any attacker who takes you down to the ground is endangering your life and should be treated as a lethal threat.  It’s too easy for his accomplices to kick your head, or for him to bash your head on the ground for you to treat it any other way.  

Another negative to fighting on the ground is that it severely limits your ability to see your attacker’s hands, and therefore increases the risk of being stabbed or shot.

Many people don’t invest ANY time on learning ground survival, which is an even bigger mistake.  I hear it all the time…”I carry a pistol, so I don’t have to roll around on the ground”.  That attitude usually results in injury when reality comes calling.

Everyone should learn some ground survival techniques, because you could be taken completely be surprise and end up on the ground.  The ability to effect a reversal, damage your attacker, and then safely get up is vital to anyone who is interested in real-life self-defense.

Another important skill that is among the first learned in any ground combat system is the ability to fall safely.  I know I’ve said this before, but list the number of times you’ve been attacked versus the number of times you’ve fallen down.  The ability to protect your body from damage when falling or being thrown is absolutely essential and saves lives in situations other than just being attacked.

One should train with objective of defeating an attacker, not winning a submission or tap-out.  What will happen on the street if you let someone go as soon as they tap out?  All your pain compliance is gone and the attacker is able to again inflict damage on you.

Ensure that your goal in training is always to be able to defend yourself and render your attacker unable to inflict further injury on you.

In short, you should never seek to have a real-life fight go to the ground, but you should possess enough ground survival skills to enable you to resist a surprise attack, effect a reversal, inflict damage, and then extend & escape.

Stay safe, train realistically.


Published by JD

I am the author of the Tactical Wisdom Series. I am a personal protection specialist and a veteran of the US Marine Corps. I conduct preparedness and self-defense training.

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