Posts Tagged ‘ground fighting’

Krav Maga - UTKM - The Ground Attacker-has-knifeIt is a well-known fact that in Krav Maga we want to avoid the ground as much as possible. Despite the fact, 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 you can be more easily injured depending on the environment. You will have a far more difficult time escaping to safety and if other people jump in that are not your friends or if weapons are introduced, which you should always assume as a possibility, it can go sideways faster than the blink of an eye.

In Krav Maga it is often assumed that simply through aggression, groin strikes and targeting the eyes we can easily fend off any attacker from the ground. The problem is this assumes too much in a bad way. It assumes the attacker isn’t hyper-aggressive, on drugs (cannot feel pain), and is not 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 the stand-up portions 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.

Preventative measures

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 a BJJ Blue belt or equivalent. For example if you did competitive 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 needed 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 should you encounter someone who is very competent. Because of this, it is best to train outside of your Krav Maga training with ground specialists.

Understanding the ground and what someone is trying to do will give you the time to stop them even briefly to begin to apply the 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. Just know that no matter where you are in this sequence if, at any point that you can get to your feet, you must do so.

Ground fighting order of operation

  1. Do Not be on the Ground – First and foremost do everything you can to avoid the ground. This includes things like work on your balance, train in grappling, strengthen your core, practice 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.
  2. 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 there is a good chance you will not be getting up again. Because if you did not pay attention during break fall training it is likely your head has now bounced off the pavement, or you posted your hand when you should not have and you broke your wrist. Learning to fall is just as important as learning to pick your self up again.
  3. Get up – If you fell or were thrown but the opponent is not controlling you, it is not being overly aggressive or there is ample space to get up and do it fast. While you should use the correct techniques as taught to you in class really any method you use that gets you up on your feet is the correct one. So make a decision, make it fast and get to your feet.
  4. Be Defensive & Offensive – If the attacker is putting some pressure, but is still on their feet then you need to take a defensive position that allows you to protect your self and also 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 also cause them to fall on to you. If they do put their head in their range then good old fashion up kicks will do nicely. We do not recommend putting everything you have into a single kick as if you miss and they are aggressive you may find your self in a worse position.
  5. Use a Sweep – If they are moving in and you are able to use a sweep that puts them on the ground, and or in a worse position and you on your feet and or in a better position. Sweeps should be used before they start a grappling fight. While sweeps can still be used, they should be done prior to it being a full ground fight.
  6. Ground Fight – If you are now both on the ground its 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 a person remember, they may still have friends and even in Security and Law Enforcement scenarios, if you do not have back up right near you it may be best to get to your feet and control the person.

Weapons on the ground

If there is a weapon involved in a ground fight it complicates things dramatically. In particular knives and guns. You first must understand what weapon you are dealing with before you can safely manage it on the ground. See The Gun, The Knife and The Stick for more details.

But if you find your self in a ground fight with a weapon, follow the below strategy.

  1. Control the weapon arm – At all points, you should be controlling the weapon arm to prevent its use against your self. While we strongly do not recommend the Kimura grip in a standing position now is certainly a good time to implement it. Otherwise, use whatever methods you know that keep’s you safe and the weapon arm controlled so it cannot easily be used against you. This however is often a struggle, is messy and will really be about who wants it more.
  2. Disarm if possible – If you are able to disarm the weapon from the position you are in doing so. Whether you choose to 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 weapons and use of force laws where you are. However, consider this. It is better to be judged by 12 (a jury) than to be carried by 6 (in a coffin).
  3. Get to a better position– If you were unable to do a disarm, or if you were it is still 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 also controlling the weapon or the weapon arm. If you did do 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, 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.
  4. Disarm if possible– If you are now in a better position that allows dominant control disarm the weapon using the methods you know. If you are unable to control the person 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 persons 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 as there could still be other attackers.
  5. 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 then must asses what to do next. In most places, if you just took a weapon away from an attacker, you should call the police or appropriate authorities. Do not wait as the attacker could call first and lie about the scenario. You may also need to be prepared to continue fighting and now may be the time to use the weapon in your defense.


This is a topic that is always on my mind because for the average Krav Maga practitioner the ground can be a confusing topic. Most good, instructors and schools should be teaching to never intentionally go to the ground. On the street, or in self defense applications the ground is one of the worst places you can possibly end up. It is one of the worst places because, the ground is hard and can be used as a weapon, your attacker/opponent may have a weapon or may have friends. This means, that by being on the ground you have limited mobility and thus reduce the chances of successfully avoiding a weapon attack or an attack from multiple assailants. Not to mention, the extremely complex and detailed nature of ground fighting makes staying on the ground, simply, a bad idea.

I often hear, follow the 5 second rule, which says that you should never spend more than 5 seconds on the ground. This is an excellent rule to follow. However what if you cannot get up from the ground in 5 seconds? What then?

I often hear, even very high level Krav Maga practitioners saying things like this, “well it doesn’t matter what he knows if I cannot get up, I will bite, scratch, kick, hit and do whatever it takes. I will go for his groin, his eyes and his throat and he will let go and I will get up.” While the mentality of this is absolutely true, as in Krav Maga, when in doubt be more aggressive, hit harder and do more than your opponent so that you increase your chances of escape, the reality is this may not always work.

To people like this, I often ask. How much do you spend on ground training? All too often the answer is not that much, because we don’t want to stay on the ground. This means, that many, even high level Krav Maga practitioners, instructors and school owners are not experts in ground fighting and honestly, do not always know what they are talking about.

I often follow this up with the question, have you ever rolled, or done ground sparring with a BJJ black belt or world champion? Usually the answer is no. My response is always, “Well I have! And let me tell you, if you have 0 ground game, trust me, they WILL rag doll you and do whatever they want with you!”

The response I  usually get is, “well I can just strike, and they do not train in that do they?” This is a very true statement, but guess what, they can strike too on the street. In addition, who’s to say they do not also train some formed of striking. If they even have a base, in striking, their ability to put you were ever they want may simply be too overwhelming for someone with little to no ground training. In fact, you may not even get a chance to strike because they might have already broken your arm, leg or choked you out.

From what I have seen out there, the lack of ground training for Krav Maga practitioners, is shameful. I say this, because whenever the ground portion of even Instructor courses comes up, I see maybe one or two individuals actually look like they know what they are doing, while the rest look like fish out of water. Not even understanding how to properly bridge, or Shrimp as a Krav Maga instructor tells me a lot about the quality of your instruction.

The intention behind this, “we do not go to the ground, so we do not need to train the ground” is a good one. But it is ignoring the reality that the grappling arts, wrestling, BJJ and now Judo again, because of Ronda Rousey are ever more popular. Which mean, more and more people are trained in these styles which in turn increases the chances of you having to deal with such an individual in a self defense scenario.

So what does this mean for Krav Maga?

Recently, I went on a five day training camp in Hawaii for BJJ, with West Coast Martial Arts under BJJ black belt Don Whitefield. He arranged the camp and brought arguably, the top BJJ black belt woman Luanna Alziguir to come teach us. Let me tell you this was quite the experience, and Luanna’s skill as a grappler is out of this world. She is currently 29 and has been training since she was 9. She has numerous world titles at almost all the major grappling tournaments.

Jonathan Fader observing Luanna Alzuguir and Scott Scott Boudreau demonstrate the fine points of BJJ

Jonathan Fader observing Luanna Alzuguir and Scott Boudreau demonstrate the fine points of BJJ

Here is a woman that regularly trains with some of the biggest and best male grapplers in the world and can hold her own against them even though they are much bigger, stronger and faster.

As a Krav Maga practitioner I came to the camp with a different perspective than most. While yes, I wanted to improve my BJJ skills, I also wanted to know how the best in the world practice BJJ so that I can take that and apply it to Krav Maga.

So what did I learn?

Control your body positioning, Control your opponent through pressure and use pain compliance to get them to do what you want!

For me, whether Luanna realizes it or not, she is applying Krav principles to her BJJ.

That last one, Pain compliance was a big one. In Krav Maga, when we fight we must constantly disrupt their mental processing (Pressure), we must constantly off balance our opponents (Controlling the opponents positioning) and we must cause pain!

This is how she successful beats individuals bigger and stronger than her. And believe me she can do it and make it look beautiful. I watched her easily toss around male black belts who out weight her by as much as 50-100 pounds.

So when I say, there are individuals out there who’s ground skills are so good that you might not have a chance to hit them in the goin or eyes, I mean it!

So how do we take this knowledge and apply it to teaching Krav Maga?

This came up as one of my students, who had been training in another country asked me. At my old school we started to train ground fighting right away, so how come you do not teach it until later on?

The answer is simple, you must first fear and respect the ground before you can properly learn it.

We have noticed that if you teach ground stuff to early, people have a tendency to get to comfortable. I have personally seen this when students start to take BJJ and then when sparring pull guard because they do not like getting hit in the face. (A reason fights often go to the ground on the street.)

Of course, when this happens we immediately tell everyone to dog pile the individual who pulled guard because in Krav Maga, WE DO NOT INTENTIONALLY GO TO THE GROUND!!!

But, once our students have had it drilled into their heads DO NOT go to the ground, then we begin to teach them ground techniques and takedowns.

The argument against this, is, I need to know everything now so you should teach it all from the beginning. To this I say, if you want to really become proficient at ground fighting, you MUST supplement your Krav Maga training with BJJ, Judo or wrestling.

The reason for the separation is very important to understand, and that reason is mentality.

When teaching ground material in a Krav Maga class, the focus always is and will be, get to a better position, do damage to your opponent, get up and escape as fast as possible. So when we teach in a Krav Maga class that is our focus. We also teach the non Krav Maga take downs, not with the intention that our students will ever attempt them, but so they understand the nature of the attacks so they can properly defend against them should someone ever attempt them against them. However, any class where we are teaching non-Krav Maga techniques for the purpose of education, we constantly say, “Remember, this is not Krav Maga but you must understand the techniques that can be used against you.” This is done, so there is no confusion from the students. (It happens)

Due to this mentality difference, as in grappling it is usually about position and points, it can be difficult to teach ground fighting properly.

In our opinion if you want to be proficient at both Krav Maga and ground fighting, there really must be a separation. Because if you think you are taking Krav Maga, but really you spend an entire week working on guard escapes, then you are actually learning BJJ and it is easy for individuals to forget that their goal is to get out and up, and not to simply pass their guard.

How do I know when my grappling training is good enough to apply to Krav Maga?

When I first started training BJJ to supplement my Krav Maga, I started taking an open matt class. This meant that there wasn’t so much a curriculum, more like a gauntlet of Purple, Brown and Black belts showing me how pathetic I was on the ground.

We would do 5 minute rounds, where each individual would take turns submitting me, 5-10 and sometimes even 15 times in each round. After a few months of this, I quickly learned what NOT TO DO! Where not to put my hands, where not put my hips. I also learned better body awareness than ever before. I could feel what attack they were trying to do and how I needed to move to stop them. I got to the point where, if these fights had been tournaments they would have won, because they out positioned me but the fact was they could no longer easily submit me.

For me this is a skill I kept and to this day am often complemented by high level practitioners for my ability to block attacks. This is how you should think, for grappling training when you are supplementing for Krav Maga.

It is not about, how good a point fighter you are, how good you are at maintaining position or how good you are at submitting your opponents. But rather, do you know enough, to block their attacks so that you can successfully apply Krav Maga to get out of this situation.

Even to this day, if I roll with a world champion or a black belt and they cannot submit me in the allotted time then to me as a Krav Maga practitioner, teacher and school owner,  I am happy. This tells me, that so long as I can stop them for 10 seconds, 30 seconds a minute, I will have the time I need to apply my Krav Maga and escape to safety. But I only know I can, because I have trained. Had I ever gotten into a self defense scenario against one of these individuals previously, they would have taken me down, passed my guard, controlled me and beat my face in.

This is why it is important to train and understand the ground. This is why you must understand the appropriate mentality to ground training. And this is why you must also train in a manner and with a mentality that only benefits you as a Krav Maga practitioner.

Train with the best, not so you can beat them but so you can defend against them long enough to survive!

So to summarize everything:

  • Do not think that because, as Krav Maga Practitioners, we should not learn ground techniques because we avoid the ground
  • When learning ground techniques in Krav Maga, you must understand the Krav Maga mentality and application. You must have it drilled in your head, prior to getting comfortable, that we do not ever go to the ground if we can help it. And remember, Get into a better position, cause them pain, and get up as fast as you can creating distance for the escape.
  • It is a good idea, to separate ground only classes and NOT call them Krav Maga
  • Learning proper, and modern ground techniques is best done from a qualified GROUND expert (A Krav Maga Expert does not always mean a Ground expert)
  • You should at least once in your life, roll with a Black Belt, or Champion level grappler to understand what can really happen
  • When training grappling to supplement Krav Maga, enter with the mentality that you want to learn to defend yourself and IF you happen to get good offensively then consider it a bonus!
  • NEVER EVER EVER underestimate an opponent because of their size, because they might be a grappling champion and no matter how good you’re striking, may choke you out before you even have a chance to blink!

Written by: Jonathan Fader

There is no rule on the street. PERIOD. Learn how to get up from ground but do not fight on the ground. 

Posted By: Urban Tactics HQ