The #1 Secret to Surviving a Ground Fight

Marine performs counterstrike during martial arts program.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Daniel Leighty, right, performs a counterstrike technique on Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jeff Werkhiser during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program “grey belt” training session with Naval Security Force Atsugi members. (Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Barry Riley/U.S. Navy photo)

With the popularity of mixed martial arts these days and "no holds barred" fighting, there's been an increasing demand for training in ground fighting for preparation for defending yourself on the street.

And it makes sense, right? After all, some lab full of geniuses studied real street fights and found that an estimated 85% of them end up with both guys going to the ground to battle it out in a combination of wrestling moves and punches.

So let me spare you a few hundred dollars in martial arts classes and give you my #1 secret to surviving a vicious ground fight.

Ok, ready? Here it is: Get off the freakin' ground.

Look, I've been in some pretty brutal street fights, and I've been witness to countless more, from barroom brawls to all-out gang attacks.

Every single fight I've seen that went to the ground did not end up with a happy ending. If there are any friends around of the guy you're defending against and you end up on the bottom, chances are you're about to see the rubber soles of a half-dozen, size-11 boots coming toward your head like a freight train.

Even worse, when you're on top and winning the fight, you can expect a bottle or chair to come crashing on your head. That's to be followed immediately by a half-dozen rubber soles coming toward your head like a freight train.

Unless you're simply trying to subdue drunk Uncle Charlie at the family picnic, your goal when you feel a fight going to the ground is to do one simple thing. Get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Now, here are two powerful ground-fighting tips to help you do just that.

Roll Through the Fall

Oftentimes, you may find that you're pushed to the ground or fall over an obstacle like a chair.

While your natural reaction may be to fall flat on the ground and try to get up, this is actually the least effective response at getting back on your feet.

Instead of falling flat, try to use your body's momentum to roll through the fall naturally by tucking your head down and doing a somersault or just rolling on your side. Either way will allow you to use that momentum to jump back up quickly to your feet.

Drop and Flip Your Attacker

One of the biggest mistakes people make in the transition from fighting while standing to the plummeting to the ground is in where and how they fall.

The natural reaction of your body is to go stiff and try to fight the inevitable drop to the ground, and this typically leads to a hard, flat fall.

Instead, when you're locked up with your attacker and you feel like it's heading toward a wrestling match on the ground, you want to drop straight down -- as close to your attacker's feet as possible -- while grabbing his clothing around the chest area, with your hands close together.

This places their body weight completely off center, and their natural momentum will send them over your own body, making it easy to flip them in the same direction, using your knees while twisting them as they fall.

Now you may find that as you fall to the ground, your attacker also has grabbed on to your clothes to stabilize himself, and unless you can free yourself, you'll be locked up in a dangerous struggle.

Here's a Cool Trick to Help You Escape

Taking the hand that's easiest to maneuver from your grab on his shirt, let go and drop it down close to your body and toward your groin. Then come around and over the outside of their hands as close to your body as possible so your leverage allows you to break their grasp or continue the motion until you've pinned their hands under your arm. (You can try this standing up versus a normal shirt grab to get the feel of it.)

Your options at this point are to get in an eye gouge or other close combat technique with your free hand or get to your feet as quickly as possible to escape or continue your attack.

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Jeff Anderson is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army, a master instructor of close quarters combat self-defense and president of the International Society of Close Quarter Combatants. A full-time, self-defense author and instructor, Anderson has trained military, law enforcement and civilians in advanced close quarter combat tactics for "real-life" self-defense.

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