NEVER Fight On The Ground: 11 Reasons Why Ground Fighting Sucks

Lady violently attacks male attacker
Couple wrestling with woman on top

Like this - except you won't be on top. Picture from Shutterstock.

Ground fighting. I despise it from the bottom of my heart. Not just because I lose all the time — no, wait, actually… it’s exactly because I lose all the time. It’s suffocating. You’re trapped. It makes you feel helpless and dependent on others to save you. It’s also the frightening knowledge that I can never beat a guy when it comes to pure strength and I hate it. It’s the complete opposite of what Krav Maga usually makes me feel (strong and independent). It frustrates me. A lot.

That’s not to say that I have zero chance of  ‘winning’ a ground fight. And mind you, I use the term ‘winning’ very loosely here. With ‘winning’ I actually mean ‘getting away without being beaten up, tortured or raped’.

You always have a chance of winning because you’re never completely helpless. You’re as helpless as you allow yourself to be.

It’s just that, in this type of situation, my chances of ‘winning’ drop to about 5%. It’s a scary and frightening thought- and that’s exactly why we’re going to discuss it in this post. ;-) Face your fears and prepare yourself during training so you won’t be taken by surprise outside of it.

Ground fighting.

Picture by Michael Schofield

What the heck do I mean with ‘ground’ fighting?

If you’re just starting out with Krav Maga (or if you’re browsing around, looking for info) the term ‘ground’ fighting might sound odd. Does it mean you punch and attack the ground? Or make little clay-like figures that you kick over? Or little sand soldiers and castles you need to attack?

Nope! When we talk about ‘ground fighting‘ we refer to fighting situations that do not take place with you standing on your feet. You’re either on your knees, or on your back or stomach. Your opponent is either looming over you, about to grab or hurt you or also down on your level: on his knees, sitting on top of you, next to you, etc.

It is a very close form of combat that involves extremely close bodily contacts and basically comes down to grappling/wrestling with each other on a flat surface. Only this is not a form of sport, it’s a struggle in which you – a woman – fights to get out of the – much stronger – grip of a man.

Why? What’s so bad about going to the ground?

If you’ve never practiced ground fighting before, it might sound odd to you. After all, you can way more easily kick someone into the groin from below, right? Your back’s on the ground and you put a lot of force in your kicks that way?

Well, not really. Your assailant won’t stand still as you try to kick him. He’ll only have to keep out of range until you try to get up. In the few seconds you need to get up, he’ll jump you and pin you down.

And that’s only the beginning. Here are other reasons why ground fighting is something to be avoided at all costs:

Chokes are possible attacks while on the ground. Picture by Kirsten Leavitt-van Loozen from Institute Krav Maga Netherlands

1. No physical strength. Men and women are not equal in strength. This is a fact. Accept it, deal with it and adapt your strategy. With regular Krav Maga techniques, strength is not an issue, as you specifically target the body’s weak points. When on the ground, however, your advantages are removed because you can’t reach the weak points easily. Physical strength plays a huge role on the ground. Men are nearly always physically stronger than women, which is what makes a fight on the ground so dangerous.

When we do ground fights during training, the guys generally go for my wrists first, because the moment they catch them I can’t use my arms anymore. Pffff. Too bad for them that I have NO problem whatsoever to bite them until they let go. It’s Krav Maga, bitches – we have no rules! (With the exception of during training, but… whatever – it’s ground fighting. If they pin me, I will bite them to get out. D:<)

2. Your opponent’s weak points become unreachable. Weak points in the body are: eyes, throat, solar plexus, groin and knees. You’ll quickly notice that knees, groin and solar plexus are hard to reach places if your and his body are in the way. They might be harder to hit than if you were standing – but still not impossible. Just keep on going and keep on fighting.

Fortunately for us ladies, the groin is such a sensitive area for men that even a small tap will make them cringe. So just keep on using your knees, elbows and fists in that general area for maximum impact damage.

3. Your range is limited. Because you’re lying down and you’re super close to the other, the majority of your regular defenses, counters and attacks become useless. You don’t have enough room for punches or kicks. Knees or elbows can still work, eye gauges are also effective, if you can get one in! Just launch those nails at the sucker’s eyes.

Lady violently attacks male attacker

Attacking from above of from the side gives your punches extra speed and power. Picture by Michael Schofield for Institute of Krav Maga Scotland

4. No momentum or gravity.When you’re on the ground, due to your lack of strength you will most likely be pinned down or beneath your attacker. This works against you – someone who sits on top of you and punches downwards has gravitational momentum.

Or: when you drop an apple, it will automatically fall to the ground. The same happens with your fist. If you let it drop it already has speed. If you add even more speed, the force of your punch will increase.In the same way, you’ll be at a disadvantage when you have to punch upwards. You have gravity working against you and you won’t be able to put in as much power in your strikes as you would normally.

A knee to the groin will still hurt because it’s such a sensitive spot, a palm strike to the solar plexus probably not so much. Due to the close distance you’ll have problems to build up power and momentum to make it count. That’s why in close-quarters you should always go for the most sensitive areas: the groin, eyes and throat. Bite as hard as you can, jab your fingers into his eyes and keep on kicking and elbowing.

5. It’s exhausting. Ground fighting drains your energy like crazy because so much of it feels like a futile fight and so much goes into just twisting and turning away from the assailant’s body and trying to get at least one limb free to counter. It’s not futile, though. Just keep on going – because think of what might happen if you don’t.

6. No speed. You’re severely hampered in your movement. You can’t dodge or counter any attacks as you normally would. This means you’ll take a lot of damage in a short time – which makes it even more essential to get out as quickly as you can.

7. No defense against more enemies. When pinned down by one assailant, you’re helpless to defend against other, multiple attackers. For an illustration, watch this movie:

8. Men are (WAY) heavier. Two words: body slam. During training we ocassionally practice ground fighting, and one of my training partners did a sort of body slam straight on top of me. Result? All air gone from my lungs (and sore ribs). Instant game-over for me, because the impact shocked and rattled me so much that I couldn’t breathe whatsoever. No breath = no fight.

There are ways to subdue and control your opponent. Picture by Krav Maga Levante

9. Ground is damaging. There’s concrete, rocks, stone, glass and many other things that will severely hurt your body. On top of that, the initial fall may also hurt or damage you. The only solution is to practice your falls during training – and to avoid going to the ground. (Or avoid getting into a fight at all, actually).

10. It’s hard to get up quickly. There are ways to get up quickly and efficiently from the ground. I, however, am not very good at them (yet). It’s especially hard to get up when someone’s hitting you and pounding on you with one of the striking pads. It’s also very stressful. So it’s a perfect Krav Maga drill…

11. You can’t run away. This might be the root of my whole hatred for ground fighting. You can’t run away because you’re trapped. (And if there is ONE thing I hate…)  Running isn’t an option, only until after you’ve kicked the guy off you will be able to escape. If, however, your assailant is a normal man, his superior strength can make it really hard to do so. (Never impossible, though. Keep telling yourself that).

Yeah… sucks, doesn’t it? For this reason, one of the principles of Krav Maga and, indeed, all good forms of self-defense state that you must avoid going to the ground at all costs.

Howeverthat’s all more easily said than done. You can’t really control it if a much stronger attacker tackles you full-force. So Krav Maga does include a part ground fighting, to get some experience of what it’s like to be at an extreme disadvantage, to perform under way more stress and to practice some basic techniques that work in this situation.

For instance, you have the tiniest advantage when the initial struggle is over. Because by the time an assailant is in a position to rape you there are actually some effective moves available to get him off you. Once you’re pinned down – again, there are moves available to get him off. He’s got you dizzy and is sitting on top of you, maybe he’s strangling you? Again – moves are available to get him off.

Does this mean you should give up on struggling and wait to get into a ‘good’ position? NO!!! Absolutely not!! Because you never know what his intentions might be or whether he’s going to pull out a weapon. Always fight, always scream, always give it everything you’ve got to survive and get out. 

Krav Maga technique: hit to the groin by female defender

Picture by Marilyn Clevenger for KMG.

Some advantages of ground fight training
There’s a few good things about training how to handle ground fights,  I guess. :-/

1. You get a realistic image of what it’s like. You’re going to lose over and over and over again. You get a good sense of the desperation and futility some guys can cause, except without the actual negative consequences. As with all Krav Maga training, this helps to desensitize you to this form of combat.

2. The more you practice, the more desensitized you become. You’ll be under so much stress during training that not much compares to it afterwards. And, as with all Krav Maga drills, the more you practice, the (slightly) easier to manage they become.

3. You practice techniques and tricks that might save your life. The more you practice, you more you’ll learn to defend yourself when it comes to a real situation.

4. You experience a slice of reality. Krav Maga doesn’t make you invincible. In some situations, techniques don’t work properly. However, the mentality Krav Maga drills into you during training can still make all the difference in the world when it comes to a fight.

5. You persevere and you you learn to keep on going – even though you lose over and over and over again, right up until – holy CRAP – did you just get a WIN?!!?! Your first after 20 losses! YAY!

:D So it IS possible.

Side note: some martial arts (such as MMA, Sambo, Judo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu) focus on ground fighting. There are whole sets of moves that deal with close combat grappling. These, however, might not be the most practical when you have to fight on the street and deal with concrete, rocks, glass and other nasty stuff (dog poo).

16 Responses to “NEVER Fight On The Ground: 11 Reasons Why Ground Fighting Sucks”
  1. John Moore says:

    Great post – I love it. Unfortunately some ground-fighting sports schools teach that going to ground is desirable and/or inevitable.

    • kravlady says:

      Thanks, John! I know some do!! That’s why I specifically mentioned that ‘good’ self-defense systems don’t teach it. When I first saw someone propagate that a woman should ALWAYS go to the ground ‘because she has more power in her legs’ I freaked. WTF kind of advice is that?????! :O :O

  2. Maudy says:

    Another great article. I think you’ve covered the importance (and the difficulties) of ground fighting really well. It seems to me that especially for women – since they are at a disadvantage – it’s a good thing to practise and become comfortable with. I’m definitely keeping an eye on your blog ^^

  3. Reason 11: The other guy knows BJJ.

    I actually like groundfighting. Anything goes! Love jamming fingers in somebody’s throat :P

    • kravlady says:

      Yeah, that would be a possibility, but not a very realistic one, I think. I considered it, but I don’t think it fits with the overall tone of the article. It’s depressing enough, I don’t want to add another complicating factor that would really mean you’re screwed.

      The thing is, I don’t have time to submerge myself in martial arts. I can only do Krav Maga two times a week. I can’t also do BJJ just for the ground fighting part. So I’m approaching this more from a realistic self-defense perspective. And for my sake (and the reader’s sake) we’re going to assume your attacker will be a man of slightly above average strength. Not crazy powerful with BJJ because by that point you’re pretty f*cked, I think….

      You ought to join our facebook discussion. ;) All the guys seem to love doing ground fights. Pfffff.

      • Well with the increasing popularity of UFC the chance of getting attacked by someone who knows BJJ (or think he/she does) has gone up considerably.

        BJJ does have one weakness; they train with rules. You dont.

        And i dont have have facebook :o

  4. Agree, but keep in mind that 8 out of 10 fights do go to the ground! So you have to be prepared despite glass, rocks & dog poo & other shit. Train groundfighting if only to get used to the fact that it is still possible to fight.

  5. Oliver says:

    Nice post again – thank you, KravLady!

    I do not like groundfighting either, somehow all those grips and turns and slithers don’t work for me. I prefer an honest jab or a solid kick! (Maybe I have to train more ;-)

    But I am afraid, Ramon has a good point. With the success of MMA, groundfighting is getting very popular and a good takedown is not easy to defend.

    So let’s train those groundfighting skills!

    • kravlady says:

      Thank you, Oliver! Training in survival skills is always a good thing! But realistically, if you’re up against a trained MMA or BJJ fighter, you’re screwed whether or not you’ve practiced some ground techniques. Simply because you haven’t put in the same amoutn of hours into the techniques as they did. Still, the element of surprise could probably give you an advantage… :) I usually try to get a leg in between to kick them off, which works surprisingly often.

  6. Noah Legel says:

    This is a very good article! I believe that you and I have the same thoughts on self defense when it comes to groundwork–it’s a very bad place to be and you need to get out of it as fast as possible if you can’t prevent it from happening. I feel that working on defending takedowns/tackles is very, very important for that reason, as are reversals and sweeps to transition from being on bottom to being on top. I think that some submissions (not all of the exotic ones from BJJ, necessarily, but some basic ones) are very useful, particularly for women as many can be performed on an attacker that is between your legs and, as much as people hate to talk about it, that is a somewhat more likely place for a man to end up when assaulting a woman for obvious reasons.

    That “98% go to the ground” statistic is not true of self defense situations–that statistic comes from the LAPD doing a study on altercations with police officers, and their goal is to get the suspect onto the ground where they can be controlled and cuffed so, of course, they are going to go to the ground a lot–but it is still an extremely important aspect of self defense to train and consider, especially for women. More realistic statistics show that “street fights” end up on the ground about 45% of the time (closer to 70% if you include someone being knocked out and the other person following them to the ground to continue beating them, but you can’t defend yourself while you’re unconscious, anyway), but women have to contend with rape and dominance scenarios which mean they are going to be looking at a higher percentage of being assaulted in a prone position (on the ground, in a bed, on a couch, etc.) or against a wall.

    Now, all that being said, I find practicing groundwork to be fun as well as valuable.

    • kravlady says:

      Thanks for your comment, Noah. And especially thanks for the clarification of the statistics! I really dislike the way random statistics are thrown around as fact. It just increases fear without it being justifiably so. :) I’m also glad you mention the added dangers for women when it comes to these situations. It’s important to remain realistic and name these dangers instead of glossing them over (as I am tempted to do).

      I hate ground fighting because I’m pinned so quickly – however, I’ve noticed during last training that I’m fairly ferocious when it comes to ground fighting, so only the really skilled guys can keep me there by eventually sitting on my chest/neck and using their legs to pin my arms. It’s good because it means I have a better fighting chance against ‘average’ men. Also, being pinned like that sucks BUT it’s still not the worst part. My attitude is more like “Fine, so you’ve got me pinned. If you want to actually rape me you’ll have to move at some point, which will be YOUR moment of agonising pain (insert various expletives).”

      Yeah, I get very angry when I’m stuck. ;)

      • Noah Legel says:

        You’re quite welcome, and thanks again for writing your post! I think that it is important for everyone to learn grappling (both standing, ground and the takedowns and takedown defenses in between) but it is absolutely vital to women because they are at a much higher risk of being assaulted in a prone position or being grabbed than men are. Let’s face it; men get shoved and punched by cocky, posturing show-offs a lot more often than they get grabbed, and when they get grabbed it is usually so they can be punched more easily by those cocky, posturing show-offs. Women, on the other hand, have to contend with power-hungry psychopaths intent on dominating a perceived “weak” target.

        With your ground fighting you need to worry about three things, primarily (aside from the chief concern of getting back up) and those are; your hands, your head and your neck. Someone on top of you is going to be trying to do something to those three things–they will either be holding onto your arms/wrists/hands to try and keep you from attacking them, they will be trying to choke/suffocate you, or they will be trying to shove your head into the ground. All of these are dominance-based techniques to control and incapacitate a weaker opponent and they can all be neutralized.

        Work heavily on keeping your arms free and breaking their grips (Judoka are fantastic at this, by the way, so work with them if you get the chance) so that you can keep your hands free. If your attacker is controlling both of your hands, however, do not be afraid to buck him forward, especially if you can slide his hands down so you can make it harder for him to catch himself.

        Work on defending against chokes by protecting your neck and controlling your opponent’s hands/wrists (you already seem to be working how to break free, but also work on preventing the chokes in the first place). This is going to make your opponent very frustrated and probably lead to the next thing I mentioned.

        Make sure that you hold the back of your head off the ground with your hands when you are covering your head. Since your attacker may try to choke you and you will have been defending that, they may hit you or just shove your head into the ground. You will want to cover your face and the sides of your head as much as possible, but try to hold onto the back of your head while you do so. If you don’t have a hold of your head and you get hit then it’s going to be bouncing off cement, and if you leave your head on the ground then it’s going to bounce off cement twice.

        A good technique to consider from the bottom, especially when you are covering your head as I explain above, is to knee their back and drop an elbow into their bladder or groin at the same time. This will both knock them off balance AND hurt them, and you can just keep doing it until you can bridge enough to roll your attacker. This would be a good time to use that anger at being pinned down–that knee will help support your elbows as well as make their posture wobbly, and it makes it much easier to start gouging eyes and throats when they are worried about falling over and getting elbowed in not-nice places :P

  7. Great reasons why fighting on the ground isnt sucks, that’s why you have to keep ground training when you maybe don’t even like it. Alot of people like to skip those trainings because they don’t like it but I mostly tell them its the most important/.

  8. Tim says:

    Hey Kravlady,
    For a different look at working from the ground try
    here’s a clip from their stuff.
    I never had the time to go study BJJ . i tend to go with Senshido for most stuff but these guys seem to have good ground ideas.
    All the best,

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