NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

Ground Fighting ~ Why We Prefer To Fight Standing


By Jonathan Wilson

Now there is certainly a place for ground based fighting.  We concede that ground fighting works for people who have trained in ground fighting.  It is designed for 1 on 1 scenarios ~ against bigger attackers who can not grapple.


Aikido is designed for a different martial scenario.  As aikido practitioners, we inherently understand that ground fighting does not work against multiple attackers.  It also does not seem to work very well against armed opponents.  

Take a guy to the ground in front of his buddies, and it’ll not take long before they’re all kicking your head in as you roll around in the dirt.  


Take a guy to the ground with a knife in his pocket and even an accomplished grapplers might be considered lucky to escape alive.  When you are grappling on the ground , you have very little awareness of the other person’s hands.  

Example #1:  True story:  I had a black sheep relative who used to brag about how many fights he’d been in which he allowed himself to be taken to the ground.  Uncle Bob would proclaim, “they can take me to the ground all day long, but the poor fellow that tries it, he’ll be the one the ambulance takes to the hospital.”  Then he’d pull a box cutter out of his pocket, and demonstrate how he could literally cut the shirt off his attacker’s back without the other guy even knowing he was being cut.  Truly horrifying.


Example #2:  Not just an isolated example either:  This exact scenario happened to a friend of mine in college.  He got ambushed in a restaurant parking lot by a guy seeking money.  Having wrestled for his high school wrestling team, my buddy did what came naturally, and took the guy to the ground.  After he got the attacker on the ground, he figured the fight was over, but the guy kept holding onto him.  He couldn’t break contact, and the attacker was constantly poking my friend in the stomach with his car keys.  After finally knocking the attacker unconscious, my buddy left the man lying on the ground between two cars in the parking lot, and joined the rest of the group inside the restaurant.


As he walked in the door, he said, “Ya’ll aren’t going to believe what just happened to me!” ~~~ He had everyone’s full attention because his shirt was covered in blood from the chest down.   It turns out the “car keys” my buddy was being poked with was actually a knife.


He’d been stabbed over 10 times in the stomach ~ and never even knew it until it was pointed out to him 2 or 3 minutes later!  He was rushed to the hospital, and almost died due to stab wounds, and then nearly died again due to the infection he got from his intestinal fluids ~ which had drained out into his stomach cavity.  He spend several weeks in the hospital, and ended up having to repeat that semester of school due to absences.  He had been a scholarship baseball player, choosing college baseball over the minor leagues, but he was never the same ball player after that day in the parking lot.


Example #3:  Here’s a name everyone remembers:  “Trayvon Martin.”  Witness accounts claim that Trayvon had assumed the top position (controlling position) on the ground in a fight, after an altercation started between he and a neighborhood watch leader who confronted Trayvon for looking suspicious.  Rightly or wrongly accused, Trayvon initiated the fight and was in the process of beating the neighborhood watchdog guy up from the top position on the ground, when the neighborhood watchdog guy shot Trayvon through the chest and killed him.


My point:  Ground fighting ~ even if you are highly skilled may still be extremely dangerous ~ and should be avoided at all costs.  That said, it must be trained, so that we can get back to our feet quickly, or finish the fight on the ground if we ever find ourselves in that situation.


So what to do, well, I’d submit that spending just 20 - 30 minutes a week working on the basics of ground fighting would help many aikido students should they ever get knocked down in a fight.  Most importantly, I’m not sure you even need a complete “tool box” to be capable on the ground against most attackers.  Note that in learning to defend ourselves on the ground, we are not exchanging our art for another art, we are simply preparing ourselves for a legitimate martial possibility.  


Consider the three techniques to the left as essential ground fighting recovery techniques for aikido students.


Related Article:

Ground Fighting Essentials

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Not Very Useful Down Here

Ground Fighting Necessities

“The Hook Sweep”

For our purposes, the technique would probably end when nage resumes his standing position @ 1:00 minute

Ground Fighting Necessities

“The Elevator-Hook Sweep”

Different than the Hook Sweep ~ and works when you are on the bottom of the fight in the “guard position.”

Note is gets you to the top of the fight but not to a standing position.

Ground Fighting Necessities

“The Arm Trap & Roll Escape”

Different than the Elevator Hook Sweep ~ works when you are on the bottom of the fight and your attacker is in the “mount position.”

Note is technique gets you to the top of the fight but not to a standing position.

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