Ground Fighting Basics with Table of Contents

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The Mount and the Guard are the two most basic positions in ground fighting. There are many other variations.   We are only going to present the most basic defenses to to these two positions.  More than that is beyond our scope and we would refer you to some excellent sites.

The Mount:


In the mount (a), the person on top has their legs astride the chest of the person on the bottom. This is a very advantageous position for the person on the top. In fact, for the person on the bottom, this is the single worst position to be in in a fight.

The reason why this is so bad for the person on the bottom is mainly due to punching. Due to the relative position of the shoulders and faces, the person on top can punch the face of the person on the bottom (b), but the person on the bottom cannot punch the face of the person on the top.

Furthermore, the person on top has gravity on their side to aid their punch (b) and can fully cock their arm. The person on the bottom cannot fully cock their arm as it is blocked by the ground (c).

The Guard:

When the person on the bottom is able to use their legs to control the hips of the person on the top, then they have the top person in their guard.



In the near guard (d) \& (e) the person on the bottom has their legs wrapped around the hips of the top person. The opponent is clinched close, so that they do not have the distance to punch. The bottom person uses their legs to control the hips of the top person.



In the far guard (f) \& (g) the person on top is kept away with the knees. In this position, the top person is too far away to effectively punch at the bottom person's face.


There is a wealth of material available on Ground Fighting.  Our purpose here is  to provide some very basic information.

"Down Does Not Mean Out"
When he is in your guard

When you are in his guard

When you have the mount

When he has the mount

Ground - Knife

Tackle Defenses*

Using your Legs

Seated on Ground

Seated in Chair is covered in General Self Defense Table of Contents

*because they are often the reason you go to the ground.

Ground Fighting , A brief summary 

What is Ground Fighting?   A set of techniques you can use to control an attacker when you find yourself on the ground struggling, wrestling with him.  Conversely, it is a set of techniques you can use to make ant escape from an attacker who has thrown you to the ground and is choking, punching or in other fashions trying to hurt you as in a sexual assault.

 There are plenty of fights that end up on the ground. 

         Perhaps one of the people engaged in the fight is comfortable there such as a wrestler  or street fighter.  They may push, shove or tackle you to get you down.

         A clinch developed when one person tried to stop the other from hitting them, and they fell, tripped or rolled to the ground.   

        In a sexual assault situation, it may be the attacker's objective to shove, throw or knock the woman to the ground.

         You were executing a throw or trip and either you slipped or your attacker grabbed your clothing and as you executed the throw you both went to the ground.

         The attack started on the ground or similar setting (as being attacked while sleeping or resting in bed or on the beach)

 10 Steps for any Ground Defense 

  1. Use an Explosive Physical Response to keep from going down or as soon as you go down.  This is covered further in the CORE Books that are also on this DVD.

  2. Know how to unbalance him from below

  3. Kick Low to Fend him off, if you have room and time

  4. Remember Closest Weapon to Closest target.  (Teeth bite off nose as example)

  5. Get Head Control, if possible and roll him off you

  6. Bite, Gouge, Scratch. Tear, Spit, and Yell - Right away!

  7. If you do get him off you, do not stay and try to get him to submit This is not a contest!

  8. Get up as soon as you can, disengage while you hit or kick

  9. Stomp any body part you can once you are up. Head, Elbows, Wrists, Knees, Ankles = Excellent Targets

  10. Call the Police and Report the Attack

There are problems when you are in a ground fight:

         This may be a range that is comfortable for your attacker. Your best chance to confuse and overcome them is to use EPR and IED techniques that work when you are upright. EPR = Explosive Physical Response ....IED = Improvised Effective Defense

         Your attacker will not follow any rules. You will be in a free for all battle. This is not a sporting event or a contest with a referee to save you from serious injury.  If you begin to hurt or overcome your attacker, he may draw a weapon while you are rolling around, hitting, hurting or choking him.

         Learning sport versions of ground fighting will not prepare you for the reality of an attacker that is willing to crush your windpipe, bite off a part of your nose or cheek, tear off an ear, crush your testicles, and hit you repeatedly in the face.

         Sexual assaults will involve intimidation, threats, shouting, talking dirty. There may be slaps and punches to control the intended victim.  This will be very threatening if it happens while you are pinned on the ground.

         The ground is a very dangerous place to stay - the attacker may have friends who will come to his aid with weapons or by kicking or striking at you while you fight with their buddy. In a sexual assault situation, if there is more than one assailant, being on the ground for any length of time increases the odds against you.

         The surface you fall onto may be concrete littered with garbage, broken glass in an urban setting.  The environment for the encounter may also contain elements that cause damage such as dumpsters, parked cars, parking meters, fire hydrants, brick walls.  In a rural setting there may be rough ground strewn with rocks, covered with trees etc. Even in an open grassy field the collision with the earth may leave you stunned or dazed.

We have gone over the good reasons why you should never go to the ground on purpose.  You should know how to survive and escape when on the ground due to a slip during a confrontation, being thrown or tackled or being pulled down by your attacker as you struggle with him.  

Your primary objective is to spend as little time down there as feasible.

 The same things that work in an upright position will work on the ground except that your mobility may be much more restricted. Basic strikes, kicks, dirty tricks, and selected locks all can be applied on the ground. Learning some basic unbalancing moves when pinned is also important.

 While the objectives of the attacker may be different when it is a man versus and man then when it is a man versus a woman, the things they will do to hurt you are the same and the techniques you use to escape are pretty much gender neutral (other than a groin tear, that is).  Your attacker is going to smother you with his size and weight, punch or slap you, choke you, twist your head, pin your arms to overcome you whether you are an ex college wrestler or a 100 pound petite female.


Defenses: When Knocked to the Ground A Brief Summary 

Ground Defenses


o     Freedom  to Move

o     Grappling or

          Tangled Up Mode


Note: in Ground Fighting the intent of the Attacker may be different


o  Male on Male = Pound into Ground


o  Male on Female = Sexual Assault



But his attack modes are limited and the defenses are the same!


    Punch and Slap


    Pin with Weight/Size

     Cause Pain with Lock

Knocked Down Free To Move


  Kick From Ground How to do that

   Low Line Strikes

    Obtain leg bar to unbalance him



Tangled up in Grappling Situation


   USE EPR to buy a little time

   Strike, Kick

   Bite, Gouge

   Head Butt

   Unbalance him 


  Stop his further action




 We will examine how you can avoid being taken to the ground (Tackle Avoidance), what to do if you are knocked down, and how to survive if you are tangled up on the ground with your attacker.

Overall Self Defense Table of Contents

Women's Self Defense Table of Contents

Back to Women's Self Defense Page


2008 - Victor M. Cushing

International Modern Hapkido Federation

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