Krav Maga: The Ground – A basic self-defence strategy guide
It is a well-known fact that in Krav Maga we want to avoid the ground as much as possible. While the first rule in Krav Maga is don’t go to the ground we also need to expect it as a possibility. The ground is a horrible place to be on the street, as injuries, or worse, are more likely, depending on the environment. In addition, you will have a far more difficult time escaping to safety once you are ground fighting, and if other attackers jump in, or if weapons are introduced (which you should always assume as a possibility), the encounter can go sideways in the blink of an eye.
In Krav Maga it is often assumed that our aggression, groin strikes, and targeting the eyes can easily fend off any attacker from the ground. The problem is that this assumes too much, in a bad way. It assumes the attacker isn’t hyper-aggressive, on drugs (cannot feel pain), or isn’t putting aggressive forward pressure on you, preventing you from getting up. Unfortunately, for much of the history of Krav Maga, most instructors were focusing more on stand-up components and did not develop their ground skills; only in recent years have life long Krav Maga practitioners realized that ground fighting was our greatest weakness.
The best way to stop any situation from happening is to understand it. If we accept that Krav Maga has a weakness when it comes to the ground, then it would be a good idea to train ground specific styles. At UTKM it is believed that all Krav Maga practitioners should achieve a minimum of Blue belt in BJJ or equivalent. For example, if you trained and competed in wrestling for 5 years, it is reasonable to assume you understand how to control another person on the ground.
While a good Krav Maga program must incorporate ground fighting as part of their training, due to the vast amount of knowledge to cover, it is difficult to dedicate the appropriate time to ground training. Additionally, the approach to the ground in Krav Maga, as laid out below, does not always allow for good grappling skills to really be developed, especially when tested against someone who is very competent. Because of this, it is best to train with ground specialists in parallel with your Krav Maga training.
Understanding the ground, and what an opponent is trying to do, will give you the ability to stop them, even briefly, and start applying your Krav Maga ground strategies.
So what are you waiting for? Get training!
The Basic Ground Strategy for Krav Maga:
Your goal on the ground should always be to create space, get to a neutral (non-grappling) position, and get to your feet. However, if this is not possible follow the order of operation as noted. Just know that, no matter where you are in this sequence, if you can get to your feet, you must do so.
Ground fighting order of operation
- Do Not Be on the Ground – First and foremost, do everything you can to avoid the ground! This includes considerations like working on your balance, training in grappling, strengthening your core, and practicing proper avoidance (and, really, anything that does not put you there). If you are not on the ground, you do not need to worry about it.
- Learn to Fall – If you do end up on the ground there is a good chance you fell or were thrown. It is also likely that the surface you fell on was considerably harder than the mats you train on in the gym. If you don’t know how to fall properly it is possible that you will not be getting up again. Because, if you did not pay attention during break fall training, it is likely that your head has just bounced off the pavement, or you posted your hand and broke your wrist. Learning to fall is just as important as learning to pick yourself up again.
- Get Up – If you fell or were thrown, but your attacker is not controlling you, is not being overly aggressive, or there is ample space, then get up, and do it fast. While you should use the correct techniques, as taught to you in class, in the moment any method that gets you on your feet is the correct one. So make a decision, make it fast, and get back to your feet.
- Be Defensive & Offensive – If the attacker is putting aggressive pressure on you, but is still on their feet, then you need to take a defensive position that allows you to both protect yourself and attack. We recommend kicking the knees, as this will cause them to back up, giving you the space to get up. You can kick the groin if it is available, but this may break their posture forward, causing them to fall onto you. If they foolishly put their head in your range, then good-old-fashioned “up kicks” will do nicely. Use caution, however, as we do not recommend putting everything you have into a single kick; if you miss, and they are aggressive, you may find yourself in a worse position.
- Use a Sweep – If they are moving in and you are able to use a sweep that puts them on the ground, while giving you time and creating space, you have immediately gained a better position. Sweeps should be used before you are in a grappling fight! While sweeps can still be used to improve position while grappling, they are best employed when they will give you opportunities and keep you out of a full ground fight.
- Ground Fight – If you are now both on the ground it’s a ground fight. Use all your skills to go from a worse position to a better position, with the goal of getting back to your feet. The only time you should choose to stay here is if it is life or death, or professional requirements dictate you stay here (such as arrest and control protocols). However, if you stay on the ground to control someone, remember, they may still have friends! Even in Security and Law Enforcement scenarios, if you do not have back up right near you, it may be best to get back to your feet before attempting to control the person.
Weapons on the ground
If there is a weapon involved in a ground fight it complicates things dramatically. Knives and guns in particular. Before you can safely manage them on the ground, you first must understand what weapon you are dealing with. See The Gun, The Knife and The Stick for more details.
But if you find yourself in a ground fight with a weapon, follow this strategy.
- Control the Weapon Arm – At all times, you should be controlling the weapon arm to prevent the weapon being used against you. While we strongly recommend against the Kimura grip in a standing position, the ground is certainly a good time to implement it. Otherwise, use whatever methods come to mind that will keep you safe and the weapon arm controlled. This, however, is often a brutal struggle; it is messy and will really be about your self-preservation drive and who wants it more.
- Disarm if Possible – If you are able to disarm your attacker from your current position, do so. Whether you choose to clear it, use it against them, will be a matter of personal choice. Sometimes it is required, some times it is not. Just make sure you understand the weapon and use of force laws where you are. Consider this; It is better to be judged by 12 (a jury) than to be carried by 6 (in a coffin).
- Get to a Better Position– Whether you were able to disarm your attacker or not, it is time to get to a better position; allowing more control and a path to escape. If you did not do a disarm, then switching to a better position requires that you also control the weapon or the weapon arm. If you did manage a disarm, then you will have to ensure you maintain control of the weapon while you get to a better position. How you get to a better position will largely depend on your skill, your knowledge, and what the attacker is doing. Just know that, while you should use the techniques you were taught, anything you do that gets you to a better position, safely, is good enough.
- Disarm if Possible– If you are now in a better position, one that allows dominant control, disarm the weapon using the methods you know. If you are unable to control your attacker enough to safely disarm the weapon, then skip to the next step. If you can safely disarm the weapon, then you should keep it on your person to either use or present as evidence later on. If you also choose to maintain control of the attacker then you must keep your wits about you and stay alert, as there may still be other attackers.
- Create Space, Get to Your Feet and Assess – Once you either have the weapon, the attacker has stopped, or you are losing control, create lots of space by backing up. You must then asses the situation and decide what to do next. Under normal circumstances, in most countries, if you just took a weapon away from an attacker you should call the police or other appropriate authorities. Do not wait, as the attacker could call first and lie about your role in the scenario. You may also need to be prepared to continue fighting, and now may be the time to use the weapon in your own defence.
*Topics under any principle category (Eg. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time. So check-in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.