The 9 Laws of Self Defence On The Ground

There is are three myths that are going around and have been for years when it comes to self-defence.

Myth 1: 90% of Fights go to the ground

Myth 2: Never go to the  ground

Myth 3: If you end up on the ground get up as quickly as you can.

ground fight

Now Let me be clear, each one of these myths has been spun by people for their own interests, be it teaching a system, selling books, seminars or DVD’s. They are all totally false and I will explain why,  then give you the 9 ground fighting self-defence laws you need to follow.

Myth 1: It is not 90% of fights that go to the ground. It is actually 100%!

In almost all (at least 95%) of the fights or attacks, I have ever seen one thing happens. Either both people end up on the ground or one is on the floor and the other standing.

The reason is simple, if one person hits harder than the other (or catches them) they usually end up knocked out on the floor or knocked down.

The another way it happens is when 2 people end up in close range and they grab each other, and either they lose balance and end up on the floor.

And of course finally is the situation I have seen more of lately. On person deliberately takes the fight to the ground with a takedown.

So yes, the fight always ends up with someone on the ground the key factor is if one or both is conscious when it happens.

Myth 2: To tell people that they should never go to the ground is the hallmark of people who have only experienced a limited number of self-defence situations. Going to the ground can and does work. There are not always people around that will stamp on your head, and sometimes going to the ground makes sense.

Check out this weird example which shows that people do not always join in!


One person criticised the previous article I wrote on the lies bad self-defence instructors tell their students.

They said that if they were facing a bigger and stronger opponent, they would never go to the ground with someone because fighting a bigger stronger opponent on the ground is harder…..

I do not know where these people get their knowledge from (Oh I do, their imagination).

The whole purpose about going to the ground is to increase your odds of survival, because if you get knocked out, you might be killed, not only from the punch but from the secondary impact as you fall.

If you take a person down, you will want to be in a dominant position where you can end the fight quickly. The knee on belly is a great example, where you can still cover yourself and hit them very quickly.

Myth 3: Get up as quickly as you can??

Are you serious?? I have heard this from another ageing guru talking rubbish the other day. You need to get up as carefully as you can and only when the time is right!!

The process of getting up off the floor is where I have seen most people become seriously injured.

Scenario (I witnessed this one too):

A guy is out with his wife on the town and at the end of the evening, they get a kebab.

Inside the kebab house a guy starts to become aggressive, he is drunk and an idiot but still it happens.

The two men end up fighting after the aggressive man throws a punch. They grapple and the husband ends up on the floor. He gets up and boom  gets kicked in the face and is out cold.

As we will see in our laws, it is not, nor ever should be about getting up quickly.

Law 1: Learn Transitions

Do you want to know why so many people say “Don’t go to the ground”?

It is because they treat going to the ground and standing as a separate activity when there are lot’s of stages in between where you can gain an advantage.

You need to train transitions.

Here’s how: Get in class and go over all the positions you can end up in a  self-defence situation on the floor. You on top, him on the bottom, you on your side, them on their side, etc, and also think how you would have got there. Perhaps a deliberate takedown, perhaps a stumble, the list is endless.

Think up as many as you can and write them down.

Next start looking for the techniques you can apply in those situations to end the fight quickly or to get up safely.

Next drill it…. Start with the

Start with the takedown/ situation and make it real (yes roleplay if you have to) then drill the technique you use to finish and back up again.

This is exhausting work but worth it. Why?

Because when you end up in a self-defence situation and you end up in that position on the ground you will automatically go for the fastest way to end the fight, or the safest way to get back to your feet.

Law 2: The 3 Second Rule Of Rapid Limb Breaking

There are no submissions in self-defence. If you put on an armlock or foot lock, you need to break the limb.

This is a mental issue for most. Breaking a limb is not a nice feeling but if you end up on the ground you do not want to stay there for long!

Rapid limb destruction is not about applying a technique slowly as grapplers are taught. It is however about getting a lock on fast and putting all your might into breaking the limb as quickly as you can.

You should never hold a lock for more than 3 seconds in the street. If it isn’t broken by then, you simply need to do something else.

The goal is to  crank on that limb like your life depended on it, because that is  what we are talking about here: your life really will depend on it because when you go for a limb destruction, you are at your most vulnerable

Law 3: The Kimura and Omaplata Are Your Best Friend

There are few techniques in martial arts that are as devastating as the kimura or shoulder lock (I will cover the next one in a minute.)

If you get taken to the floor, the Kimura can be used to cause serious damage and in the process, you can get to your feet and will have seriously damaged the shoulder.

I have seen people fight with broken arms before but, not a broken shoulder (or leg).

Check out the video below to learn how to do a kimura correctly.

The other technique you need to learn from your back is the Omo Plata. This nifty little move is ideal for self-defence situations because once applied it leaves your hands free  so you can cover your head but, to be honest, the  move is so powerful the fight will  be over in seconds

check out this great video  from Erik Paulson on Kimura’s

Law 4: The Russians Were Right About Leg Locks

I have been lucky enough to see world class Sambo fighters and let me tell you this……

The Russians were right about “break a man’s legs and  it takes two to carry him off”.

Years ago I wrote an article on leg locks for self-defence and my views are pretty much the same!

Leg locks work, just don’t go hunting for them!!

Ok here is what I  mean. If you end up on the floor and you are in a position where the attackers leg is there for the taking, break it!


Because a man really can not fight with a broken leg.

I am not saying that you should start doing leg scissors or anything like that, but training leg locks are great especially if you are on the floor and they are standing!

I want you to watch the video below. It is old school Vale Tudoand you see UFC star Marco Ruas apply a leg lock.

What you need to watch out for is the style of fight, this is very similar to a modern day street fight/ attack if you both went down.

Next look at the speed that lock comes on!!

Law 5: The Choke Should Only Ever Be Your Last Resort

If you choke a person out you are cutting off the supply of blood and or oxygen to the brain. This = death if you do not let go quickly enough.

A choke is a highly effective but very dangerous move that basically can KILL and do so very quickly. I  suggest chokes are only useful for situations that result in an immediate and definite threat to your life!

Law 6: Constant Movement

I first learned about constant movement from a Frank Shamrock seminar and it goes like this:

Put your hand out and ask a friend to grab your wrist.

Easy eh

Next put your hand out and start to move it in a figure of 8 motion but stop-start and change directions.

Not so easy!

If you hit the deck in a self-defence situation you have to move, either go for the finishing move to escape a position or look to get up. But never stay still!

Law 7: Look Around You

The one issue with people when it comes to ground fighting in self-defence is that they think you lose the ability to look around you.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You should be on the floor but also still looking around you, behind you and watching out for that risk of someone joining in.

To start to gain this skill, try and perform your ground work blindfolded. Next add a third person who can circle you and tries and smacks you or kicks you.

Law 8: Strike and Cover

When you start talking about groundwork on the ground in self-defence situations you see people think of it as just grappling. Hold on, people will be striking you too!

You need to be able to cover as well. The master of this type of work is Andy Norman; he has created a great method of ground striking. Although the below video is MMA based, you  can go to and there are a lot of videos on the site that show the groundwork you need in action.

Law 9: Get Up Safely Not Just Quickly

The final law we have is simple. Get up safely.

People tend just to tell you to get up off the floor as quickly as you can. WRONG.

You need to get up safely off the floor. Be covered at all  times  as you are most vulnerable when getting up

My friend Paul  Strauther is a master at this type of  technique (and an all round great guy) check out his work on the ground in this video:  Click link


There is no rule that says you have to go to the ground, just as there is no rule that you have to stay standing.

You need to have skill base that allows you to make the smart choices.

To finish off check out my video that shows how to get up off the floor when you are on the floor  and the opponent is standing


Until next time.

Andrew Holland


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