My Top 5 Favourite Vital Target Attacks for Ground Defense

In my last post, I talked about my favourite 5 stand-up strikes for self-defense, based on simplicity, ease of learning and application, and versatility, as per the tenets of my style, Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu. Today I’d like to do the same for ground defense, covering the vital targets that give the most bang for buck in terms of self-defense, all of which are covered in my newly published book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self-Defense(more…)

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5 Rules of Street-Oriented Ground Defense

I was recently asked what my general rules that I apply to all ground defense (for street application as opposed to sport). It’s pretty straight forward. I’ve laid them out in this post.

Rule #1: Protect your head and neck. If an attacker is trying to immobilize their victim and eliminate their defensive capabilities, the most dangerous targets are the head and neck. While defending from the ground, the forearms should be kept up close to the head (when possible) to protect it and the chin should be tucked with the shoulders raised to prevent strangulation.

Rule #2: Keep your elbows and knees tucked close. On the ground, an attacker will try to immobilize your limbs to keep you from fighting back. When your arms are straight and spread out away from your body, they are easier to control. If your attacker knows joint lock submissions, they will more easily be able to apply them too. Keeping your elbows tucked close to your body prevents this and also allows you to use them to protect your head and neck. Keeping your knees bent allows you to kick out and hides your kicking reach.

Rule #3: Create and use space. When defending from the ground, the more space you have the better. This is particularly important when your attacker has the size/strength advantage. Space opens up more defensive options. Use whatever attacks to vulnerable targets you can, in combination with whatever body shifting you can manage to create more space. Then use the extra space to apply more powerful defenses. Another good use of space is to try and ward off an attacker with kicks and takedowns from the ground before they get on top of you.

Rule #4: Watch out for other hazards.
The ground can present a number of hazards that you need to watch out for as you defend yourself. The attacker may produce and use a concealed weapon. If you see them reach back for something, assume it is a weapon and take the necessary measures to defend yourself. You also have to watch out for environmental hazards like glass or other debris/obstacles on the ground that could cause you harm.

Rule 5: Get off the ground! The ground is a dangerous place to be (See my article on the dangers of ground defense). You greatly increase your ability to protect yourself and escape by getting off the ground as soon as you have the opportunity to safely do so. As such, all defenses should end with the student getting back to their feet.

For more information about practical, street-oriented ground defense, check out Lori O’Connell Sensei’s book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground.

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Can-Ryu Ground Defense Concepts Applied

In the past few weeks, I discussed the updated ground defense system that I developed for my style, Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu. In my post “Fundamentals of Can-Ryu Ground Defense,” I explained how we use a combination of attacks to vital targets and body shifting manoeuvres. The body shifting was demonstrated in more detail, complete with video in my post, “Body Shifting from the Underside of a Ground Attack.” Since then I’ve had a number of readers request that I demonstrate applications in more detail through video.

In the video below, I demonstrate a few different applications of Can-ryu ground defense concepts. These applications are really only the barest surface scratch of the myriad ways our ground defense concepts can be applied. I perform them at an instructive speed with a compliant partner so you can better see what I’m doing, but in practice it can be applied more dynamically and at greater speeds with no prior knowledge of how the attacks will shift and change. For more video footage and advice on ground defense, check out my new book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground. Enjoy!

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Body Shifting from the Underside of a Ground Attack

There are 3 types of body shifting I emphasize as part of the overall strategies I teach for defending from the underside of a ground attack. These, in combination with attacks to your attacker’s vital targets, are designed to be used by anyone regardless of size. They are adaptable and can be used interchangeably depending on the way the nature of the attack changes throughout its course. These body shifting methods include: bridging & rolling, shrimping and turtling.

When first introducing these movements to students, I like to have them do it dry, without an attacker (as in the video below), so they can learn the movements. They can also be incorporated into the warm-up for any ground defense or ground grappling class. They get the blood pumping, they strengthen core muscle groups, and it helps them improve their technique. These and other useful ground strength/technique drills can also be found in my new book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-jitsu Strategies & Tactics for Self-Defense.

In my next posts, I’ll show how these are applied.

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Fundamentals of Can-Ryu Ground Defense

I am happy to report that the ground defense principles I proposed over the weekend were well-received. They were considered to embody the 4 tenets of Can-ryu Jiu-jitsu and are therefore being incorporated into what we teach for ground defense.

As discussed in my last post, I discussed the idea of moving away from set defenses against specific ground attacks to apply a system of defense that is more flexible to different body types and the adaptive nature of ground attacks. And of course, the goal, as always in ground defense, is to get to your feet and get away. The system of defense is based in the idea of combining two strategies. They are as follows.

1. Body Shifting. When defending on the ground, you shift and move your body in ways that will give you an improved tactical position from which to fight back. If you’re defending against a standing attacker who is trying to kick your head or get on top of you, you shift your body in ways that will keep your feet towards your attacker so you can kick them as they come in. If you’re under someone on the ground, you use bridging & rolling, shrimping, etc. to off balance the attacker and/or create opportunities to strike.

2. Vital Targets. Body shifting alone is not enough, especially when you’re dealing with a much larger attacker. Striking, grabbing, squeezing, or applying pressure to vital targets can help you create space, off balance/distract an attacker, thereby giving you opportunities to use body shifting to create more space and escape.

These strategies can be used interchangeably as ground attack changes in nature. In some situations, body shifting may be enough on its own to create an avenue of escape. In others, you might have to attack a vital target first in order to employ body shifting effectively. Or in yet another situation, you might only be able to use body shifting enough to improve your position but not get away. In this case, you might have to attack a vital target to create enough space to use additional body shifting to get away.

The idea is that it’s a flexible system that is highly adaptable. While it may be necessary at first to introduce the concepts with set attacks and defenses, the goal is to quickly move forward into adaptive attacks and adaptive defenses. These concepts are explained in a lot more detail in my new book, When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-jitsu Strategies & Tactics for Self-Defense.

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