In “Fighting from the Ground – Part 1″ I discussed some methods you can use to prevent a fight from going to the ground. Those methods have been tested and proven to work, but even if you train those methods and even if you train more advanced methods of takedown defense you are still left with a very important question to be answered:
What should you do if the fight still ends up on the ground?
The What If
Maybe, despite your best efforts, you trip over something or you are caught off-guard and are unable to defend against a takedown. What do you do at that point to protect yourself? The answer is simple–you stand up. Standing up after a takedown may be a simple matter of stumbling back to your feet after being knocked off balance, but if your attacker ends up on top of you or in your guard you are going to have some work to do before you can reach your goal of getting back to your feet. This article will discuss some methods to defend yourself on the ground and get back to your feet so you can escape the threat.
When you go to the ground in a self defense situation there are a lot of things for your brain to process all at once in order for you to defend yourself. Are they in the mount position? Are they in your guard? Are they about to start punching you? Are they going to grab you and try to smash your head on the floor? Are they going to pull a weapon? All of these things have to be processed as you hit the ground in addition to processing the actual feeling of falling, keeping your head from hitting the ground, and the feeling of your body hitting the ground. Unfortunately I do not have any sort of secret trick I can teach you for this–you simply have to work these takedowns with someone over and over with them trying to reach different positions and attack you different ways so you can become accustomed to subconsciously processing all of these things.
Once all of those things are processed, you have to defend yourself from whatever method of attack your assailant has chosen. Keeping your arms up in front of your neck and face with the backs of your hands turned toward your attacker is a good start because this will protect you from being struck in the face and can help you block swinging punches to the side of your head by moving your hands a short distance, and keeping the backs of your hands turned toward your opponent helps to keep the veins in your wrists away from any potential knife attack. If your opponent does have a knife, however, be aware that they are very likely to hold the knife blade-down and stab at your chest and face and a knife is a “rage weapon”–people stab someone and see blood but not the reaction they want (instant death, Hollywood style) and they go into a fit of stabbing rage.
Whether your opponent is stabbing you or hitting you the most important thing for you to do to protect yourself is to control them. If they are in your guard you already have an advantage because you can control their hips (I won’t go into all of the different guard styles and control techniques, but I highly suggest working with your guard for these types of situations even if you don’t study a grappling art). From the guard you can twist away from strikes and stabs as they come, and in this process you can block and trap your attacker’s hands, but if they are in the mount you do not have control over their hips so you will need to utilize kuzushi (off-balancing) before you can gain control of your opponent. By bridging (pushing your hips up off the ground on your feet and shoulders, creating an arch) you will throw your attacker’s balance forward, most likely causing them to reach out and catch themselves which will leave at least one hand braced on the ground–trap that hand immediately, and trap both if at all possible.
Once you have reached a point where you are controlling their weapon, or at least one of the hands they are using to punch or grab at you, you have to get them away from you. If your attacker is in your guard you can simply sweep them onto their back or push them back and give them a good kick to the face with your heel. Either of these will give you at least a little time to get to your feet and RUN!
Do What it Takes
If your attacker is in the mount position and you have off-balanced them forward and trapped their hands you can roll them so that you are in their guard, then break out of that and stand up so you can run away. If you find that you are grappling with their hands and you are weaker than they are then your best option for success is to use one of your hands (not the one controlling your attacker’s weapon, if there is one) at your first opportunity and gouge their eye with your thumb and if your fingers are long enough you can grab their ear while you are gouging. This is a potentially gruesome attack but it causes a lot of pain and blinds your attacker in one eye (which will cause them to lose their depth perception). They will probably pull away from the eye gouge immediately, so if you have a hold of their ear you should be able to rip it off (it really doesn’t take all that much force) but you will also have caused them to shift their balance. You can take this opportunity to sit up and use their own momentum to force them back and off of you, and if it all possible get to your knees in the process so you can hop up and RUN!
Remember that the goal of these techniques is not to kill your attacker, or even maim them, but to allow you to escape from danger. If you are ever in a self defense situation where you can escape in a way that doesn’t require you to harm someone that is almost always what you should do. Remember, also, that these are all relatively basic techniques that anyone from white belt to black belt can learn and develop, but there are other techniques out there and you should always endeavor to learn and train all aspects of your art and strive to include aspects of other arts into your training. Shorin-Ryu teaches takedown defense, sweeping, trapping, joint locking, eye gouging, etc. but that does not mean you shouldn’t work Judo, BJJ/Jujutsu, or wrestling to develop those methods even further if given the opportunity because the things you learn in your cross-training could one day save your life.