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Avoid Ground Fighting At All Cost

I’ve written about the “all fights go to the ground” misunderstanding before, but I’m going to do it again because this myth is so dang persistent. Recently I’ve seen it popping up all over the place.

Ground Fighting: Ground and Pound

First of all, yes, almost all fights go to the ground, seems pretty obvious to me. One guy gets his butt kicked and will end up on the ground in pain, or one guy ends up on his back while the other guy give the old ground and pounds (as you can see in the picture) That’s exactly where this story ends.

The only ground fighting most attackers are going to do is giving their victim a good kick to the ribs or head while they are on the ground. I hate to break it to you but your mad Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills don’t work too well against a guy kicking you in the face once he’s thrown you to the ground.

On top of that let’s say you are a great ground fighter with tons of training. You get jumped and instantly decide to take this guy to the ground so you can make him scream like a little girl while you lock up his elbow or knee or whatever. That works just fine until his buddy walks up and gives your dome a good boot with his size 12 Timberlane work boots. Jiu-Jitsu is an awesome martial art and Jiu-Jitsu guys make great fighters in the ring.

Unfortunately when you get jumped it won’t be in a ring. It is also very likely that there will be multiple attackers, to make matters worse the ground will be hard and probably covered with debris (think broken glass, gravel, rusty nails).

Ground Fighting: dirty alley

All this is just making the point that in a street fight situation the last place you want to be is on the ground. Still skeptical? Want to talk about statistics?

How about this one: the average street fight lasts between 3 and 8 seconds This is 3 to 8 seconds of on your feet fighting usually ending with 1 guy on the ground. (Based on police reports, FBI reports, underground fight videos, security camera footage, and the first hand experience of dozens of fighters who have together been in over 1000 street fights).

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you shouldn’t learn any ground fighting skills. I know that statistically speaking if a fight last for 12 or more seconds it WILL go to the ground (both guys this time). My point is that you should focus 80% of your self defense training on stand up fighting. Spend the remaining time on ground fighting. You definitely don’t want to be caught in a ground fight without knowing any ground fighting moves.

The thing to keep in mind is that you should never have the desire to take a street fight to the ground. That would be a seriously poor choice if you like the current round shape of your head, not to mention having intact front teeth. Bottom line, the ground is where bad things happen especially if there are multiple attackers. Being on your feet allows you to move quickly and escape. Escaping with your health is the number one goal of any street fight.

The number two goal is to eliminate the threat to yourself and others. Ground fighting is not necessary for either of these goals. It shocks me to hear people casually throw around this fighting myth. And it not only shocks me, it also makes me really angry. This myth gets people hurt. I know the people who spread this myth are saying it because that’s what they genuinely believe. I can’t fault them for that (there are too many ‘experts’ out there spreading this miss-information). I just want to set the record straight so that people don’t get hurt.

The growing popularity of MMA has been a big component of this myth. I love watching MMA as I’m sure you do, but you have to realize that it is a sport. It is not street fighting. Most MMA fighters have a ton of street fighting experience.

I’m not suggesting they don’t know how to street fight. What I’m saying is that if you ask them what they would do in a street fight situation I guarantee none of them would want to take the fight to the ground if they could avoid it.

How do I know this? I’ve been working with the most feared underground street fighters for over 20 years and I haven’t met one yet whose main strategy was ground fighting.

So the next time you hear someone throw this myth around set ‘em straight for me. You could be saving their life (or at least their teeth).

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7 thoughts on “Avoid Ground Fighting At All Cost”

  1. I agree with most of what you have stated above. People need to remember that MMA is a sport just like boxing and wrestling are sports. Preparing for an ORGANIZED SPORT and being ready to defend yourself in different RANDOM situations are 2 completely different things. Also many people mistake jiu-jitsu itself for an art that primarily focuses on ground skill. This is true of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu however that is not the only or even original form of the art. Point is, if you are looking to learn sort of martial art for self-defense, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! And leave the ground game inside the ring or the cage. Most likely, when you have to use it, there won’t be a referee to stop the fight…

  2. Many thanks for taking the effort to put the above out there Bob.

    Too many egocentric instructors and practitioners out there giving the wrong information just in order to sell their own classes. You and I are very much on the same page, as you can see in my last blob post on my web page.

    I’ll continue to follow your posts and maybe we can feed some ideas off each other in the future.

    Kind regards
    Kevin Archibald (

  3. Good point and a well constructed argument. Do you have any advice on how to not go to the ground. Because so far, if there are multipule attackers, one pulls me down so the rest can kick my face. I know obvious tricks like lining up my opponents and keeping my distance but how do you stop someone from shooting and then stay upright yourself?

  4. Nice article on not going to the ground. Multiple buddies being the most dangerous. In a street fight, though I am just average on the ground, I don’t play nice there, so best not take me there. If my teeth find flesh, you are going to lose a substantial chunk of it and bleed profusely. If I find an ear with my nails or teeth…kiss it good buy! If I can reach my last resort blade…. well you do the math at ground zero. Best to fight with your back to a wall, focus and go for the killer shots to the throat, temples, knee breaks etc.

  5. I get your videos as well as things written. I was harassed last year by a homeless person and punched him in the jaw,following through with my elbow..He let go and some drivers had stopped to come to my aid..I am going to be 73 years old soon and I am happy to say your advice works..I am looking forward to learn more. Trying to remember the “monkey flip” .
    Thank you for all you do to teach us how to defend ourselves.

  6. The law of the jungle applies. On a one on one situation, the attacker is usually bigger, so, he sees you as prey. Once he knows you’re good at fighting upright, he’s going to use his size to his advantage, and grappling and to the ground it will usually go.