I am all about having ground fighting skills at Active Self Protection, but in a defensive street fight, you want to get up fast. This is a great example of why!
Original video of the street fight: https://get-asp.com/dnjz
What does this street fight teach us about defending ourselves on the ground?
- A life of self-protection must be dedicated to avoidance, de-escalation, and escape whenever possible. You win 100% of the fights that you don’t get in, so make a commitment to de-escalate, escape, or evade any encounter you possibly can. Having good situational awareness will give you more time and opportunity to see problems coming and formulate a plan to stay away and protect yourself without danger to yourself or others. This is always our first choice as self-defenders. I don’t know what precipitated this street fight, but I guarantee you the guy in the white shirt wishes he had avoided it!
- One of the pillars of lawful, moral self-defense is “reasonableness.” (get a nutshell here: http://get-asp.com/wbbp or the whole concept here: http://get-asp.com/1fqe ) In every defensive incident we ask whether the actions of the defender were reasonable from an objective standpoint. Would an objective, reasonable person do what you did in the moment? A good test of whether your actions are reasonable is whether you did them to stop the threat or to punish someone (Charles Humes calls it “The Punisher Test”: https://get-asp.com/nybt it’s a good comparison) In this street fight the guy in the dark shirt was probably okay right up until the kick. Kicking an unconscious man isn’t self-defense, it’s assault.
- Empty-handed skills are absolutely critical for self-defenders. First of all, more conflicts you will encounter as a self-defender will require empty-handed skills than will require firearms skills, simply because more self-defense encounters are physical than deadly. Second, since a firearm is a tool of last resort, self-defenders need to have non-lethal options that include empty-handed skills to protect themselves from likely incidents. Third, in the moment of the encounter you may not have the time to get to your gun before you can fight your way to it. This fight isn’t a deadly force encounter until the very, very end. That said, it’s critical to be able to fight with your hands because this street fight doesn’t show any good places to get to a tool.
- Fights are physically demanding. Sure, a pure gunfight might last 10 seconds and not place a huge burden on you physically, but the vast majority of encounters we see here at ASP involve physical self-defense as well. Getting into a honest-to-goodness fight with someone is incredibly physically demanding, so being physically fit is an important part of maximizing your chances to protect yourself. Fit people are harder to beat and harder to kill!
- You must be able to fight and defend yourself from all different stages of action. One of my martial arts mentors, Skip Hancock, likes to say that we must be able to fight wherever the fight happens to be! So whether we are at contact stage (just able to come in physical contact with our attacker), penetration stage (where attacks can contact and penetrate significantly), or manipulation stage (a clinch or similar where joint and body manipulations are possible), we must be able to use effective technique to protect ourselves.
- Skip is also fond of saying that the ground must be your friend and not your enemy. You must know how to fight on the ground and not panic if the fight goes to the ground! You must have skills from bottom position, from top position, and in the scramble. You must be able to regain your feet and fight from wherever you find yourself. Too many fights require this skill to ignore it!
- One of the biggest reasons that ground fighting is dangerous is the presence of accomplices/multiple attackers. While you’re tied up with someone on the ground working for a choke or submission, his buddies can stomp you or otherwise intervene to radically change your chances. While we can’t always control whether a fight ends up on the ground, we can train and practice and work to get up and regain our mobility and awareness as fast as possible.
Attitude. Skills. Plan.
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