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Departments : The Winning Edge

Ground Fighting: How to Win

When a subject has you down and at a disadvantage, you have to turn the tables quickly.

August 16, 2011  |  by Mark Rich

Officer John Smith has just spotted a suspicious-looking individual and conducted a field interview. What he doesn't know is that the subject is wanted for felony assault. The field interview quickly becomes a fight and Officer Smith is knocked down. Now his life depends on his ability to fight on the ground. And he probably doesn't know what to do.

Few American law enforcement officers are properly trained in survival ground fighting. In fact the first question that many new officers ask me when I speak to them about survival ground fighting is: What is survival ground fighting?

Let's return to the plight of our fictional Officer John Smith and see how he can turn the tables on his attacker.

Officer Smith has been taken off guard and grounded. The subject is in a top mount position on the officer and in a position to repeatedly strike the officer about the head.

That's the scenario I decided to work out with some new officers that I was training. I—older man not in the best shape ever and in need of repairs to shoulders and knees—positioned myself on the ground and challenged a fit new officer fresh from the academy to assume a mount position. Upon doing so I advised the newby to assume the mindset of a bad guy hell-bent on not going to jail. I then asked him what he thought he should do. His reply was common and consistent; he had the advantage, he would begin striking my face in order to render me incapable of effecting an arrest.

We started the exercise. He punched toward my face, and I deflected the blow. He followed up with another attempted strike to my face. I deflected his second strike, then used his momentum to divert his right arm to the far right hand side of my face. Then with one fast lunge, I had the newby in a full shoulder pin and tapping out in less than three seconds.

The look of astonishment on the young officer's face was indescribable. He asked, "What just happened?"

Then the questions started to flow. What did Officer Smith do wrong? Why don't they teach this at the academy? What liabilities are associated with this technique? How long do I apply the technique? What do I do next?

Stay Standing

Officer Smith likely made a few fundamental errors during his initial contact with his attacker.

One error he probably made was assuming a relaxed stance for a field interview as opposed to a solid aggressive defensive stance. To assume a solid, aggressive stance during a field interview, set your feet shoulder width apart, slightly bent at the knees, body weight shifted slightly forward, hands forward and prepared for defensive counterstrikes.

The second mistake that Officer Smith probably made is that he allowed his attacker to encroach upon his personal space. Officer Smith should have given himself approximately three feet of separation.

Finally, he failed to react by repositioning.

Comments (7)

Displaying 1 - 7 of 7

gatactical @ 8/23/2011 4:54 AM

Mark and I have been friends for a long time and he is on the money here. I'll probably make soemone mad with the next statement - We (trainers) should emphasize the need to stay erect instead of purposely going to the ground to fight. If we go down, we need to stress getting up as quickly as possible, re-seize the advantage and win the fight.

Garrett Goldsberry @ 10/5/2011 6:27 PM

I actually taught this move at my academy all last month. It was our Submission of the Month. I have been trying for years to get all my local depts to train with me at my academy for this exact reason. 95% of my 16yr old kids are more proficient on the ground there our local civil servants. I currently train about 7 officers in my county. Every single of one of the can contest to hoe important BJJ is in there line of work. I offer law enforcement discounts and am available for seminars and private lessons. Check out my academy and give us a call to get started ASAP 973-300-0508 also it is a tax write off for police offers as continued education. See you me on the mats.
Your humble Jiu Jitsu Servant,
Garrett Goldsberry
Owner/Chief Instructor
[email protected]

Sid Kramer @ 11/14/2011 7:48 PM

Great Story. I have seen that done on UFC. I also need to brush up on my Signal/10 Codes. Any new helpful studies out there?

Random @ 4/9/2012 2:58 AM

I have been thinking of defense on the ground issue for a while. The people that use takedowns well enough to get an officer down train more than most officers’ think is reasonable. I love training, but not very many officers do. Teaching to avoid the take down better sounds more practical. I have seen a new invention that looks like something close to a solution. The Tazer Gauntlet. (I have provided an Internet address),r:1,s:0,i:74&tx=121&ty=62

Random @ 4/9/2012 3:38 AM

To sum up, I like the device because it keeps officers hands free. The device was invented for use against animals. When dogs’ trey to bight the teeth wont damage his arm. If an officer is downed, his natural cover the face instinct aligns the electrodes with the attacker. I feel it needs to modify to allow for putdowns without getting stuck with a syringe. I also feel that 3lbs is too heavy for the comfort of most officers

Randome @ 4/9/2012 3:42 AM

Sorry, that was Pat-down. I hate Word automatic selling correction.

Jaden Michael @ 10/21/2016 9:49 PM

@gatactical I'm glad the word is starting to spread out there among us instructors! I find the officers I teach are MUCH more receptive to ground survival training when put in context that they need to know how to get OUT of a fight on the ground and transition to another weapon. I recently wrote a post about it (and a few more DT related articles) at Should check it out and let me know what you think!

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