Scott Be Positive

HKF Ground Fighting
Hapkido Ground Fighting

By Scott Shaw

This article originally appeared in Karate Kung Fu Illustrated, February 1994

An enraged attacker grabs you by your shoulder.  At the moment you turn to encounter him, he flings his body at yours and the two of you land on the ground, with him on top.  You find yourself looking up at his fists powerfully punching down at you.

Ending up in this type of ground fighting situation is no doubt one of the most common occurrences which can happen to even the long trained martial artist. This is because, on the street, your attacker will no doubt strike at you with every available weapon he has in order that he may emerge victorious in the confrontation -- oftentimes the weight of his body is his first line of offense.

Initial Pitfalls of Ground Fighting
The leading mistake most people make when they find themselves on the bottom end of a ground fighting encounter is to attempt to haphazardly punch back up at their attacker who has the upper positioning.  The Hapkido practitioner understands that this type of defense not only is a waste of your own energy, but serves little purpose, as he will maintain the superior positioning and continue his assault on you with much more powerful punches than you are able to deliver from your current location.

The second common mistake many people make, once they find themselves on the ground is to recklessly attempt to wiggle their way out from underneath their attacker.  This type of misdirected grappling also proves to be a pointless waste of energy as you are doing nothing to scientifically free yourself.

Hapkido’s Four Rules of Ground Fighting:
1. Never attempt to defend yourself from a position of inadequacy.
2. Use your attacker’s own random, undirected energy to place yourself in superior combat position.
3. Anticipate your attacker’s motions and use his own energy against himself.
4. Never block, when you can instead gain control of a grappling confrontation by launching your own attack.

Hapkido Ground Fighting Basics
If you find yourself on the bottom end of a ground fighting confrontation, your attacker’s punches need only travel in a downward path. Thus, they possess additional gravitational force and momentum to that of a punch which is delivered horizontally. This type of punching attack must be halted immediately, or you can very easily be knock out or severely injured if the assault continues unabated.

If you find yourself looking up at your attacker, you should not waste time attempting to block his punches.  This is a fruitless exercise at best, with the most you can hope to accomplish is shielding your face with your arms from his oncoming attack. Thereby, keeping your arms from applying appropriate self-defense.

The time to launch any ground fighting defense is the moment you find yourself on the floor. You must first halt any type of forceful attack your opponent may be launching at your head and then immediately follow up with a competent counterattack.  The most efficient way to accomplish this is to encounter his attack in a format that will not only stop his assault on you but will give you defensive positioning from where you can get him off of you and continue forward with additional self-defense as necessary.

Ground Fight Punching Defense - One
In a ground level punching assault, your attacker will generally hold you to the ground with one arm, (known as the Base Arm), as he punches at you with his Striking Arm.  Halting the attack and removing his from on top of you is initialized by first striking your attacker to a vital point.  This first defensive strike may well be most appropriately applied by hitting him to the base of his nose with a Palm Strike.  If you cannot reach his head, then a Knuckle Strike to his solar plexus will be effective.

This defensive strike, though not necessarily debilitating, will momentarily halt his attack upon you and loosen the grasp of his Base Arm.  Immediately after this strike, you must begin to remove him from his upper positioning.  This can be performed by powerfully delivering a Knife Hand strike to his inside elbow of his Base Arm.

This Base Arm disengaging technique is extensively aided by simultaneously reaching up and taking hold of his shoulder with your non-striking hand.  By doing this you can utilize it as a pivotal point.  From here, you powerfully shove his Base Arm over, behind his back.  With this, you send him over himself, landing with his back on the ground.  Thus, you will have gained the upper position strike advantage, where you can deliver a powerful Straight Punch to his face.

Ground Fight Punching Defense - Two
A second very suitable option when you are on the bottom of a ground fighting encounter is to strike at your attacker’s Base Arm elbow from the outside before he has a chance to punch at you.  This is most effectively accomplished by first grabbing onto the upper portion of the hand of his Base Arm, where it encounters your body.  This will effectively lock it in place. Then, with your other hand, powerfully Palm Strike to the outer area of his elbow.  By maintaining control over his hand while impacting his outer elbow, you will force him, face first, to travel downwards towards the ground. Once he is in this positioning you can easily slide from under him and deliver a powerful strike to the back of his head.

Ground Fighting Defense Without a Base Arm
If you are ground fighting and your opponent is not using a stabilizing Base Arm to isolate his attack upon you, this is most likely due to him punching at you with both hands.  In this case you will need to remove him from his upper positioning in a very rapid fashion.  First, as in all cases, you will deliver a powerful counter strike. The applicable strike would be a knuckle punch to his solar plexus, a gouge to his eyes with your fingers, or a Palm Strike to the base his nose.

Once this initial strike has been accomplished, you rapidly reach up with your non-striking hand and grab the back of your attacker’s head and pull downwards.  If his hair is long enough, grab onto his hair and pull as this causes added pain.  You then move your striking hand to the front of his jaw and deliver pushing pressure, away from you.  This two-handed technique will effectively lock his neck.  He is easily directed off of you by continuing through with the neck twisting motion.

Once he has been removed and you have the upper positioning you can perform additional counter striking techniques as necessary.

Ground Level Choke Hold
The Ground Level Choke Hold is a common type of ground fighting attack.  Attempting to wrestle lose the hands of the attacker is never your best form of self-defense as you may lose consciousness, due to lack of air, before you are freed. Therefore, to effectively defend against a ground level choking attack, you must rapidly take control of the confrontation.

If you find yourself being held in a Ground Level Choke Hold and your attacker arms are outstretched, you can dislodge his hold by bringing both of your arms up over the top of his arms and deliver simultaneously Knife Hand strikes to his inner elbows.  This will cause his arms to bend inwards and his grasps to loosen.  Once you have achieved this, you must immediately remove him from on top of your body.  Take your left hand; strike and lock your Knife Hand under the base of his nose, as you powerfully push back.  With your right hand, remove his left arm from on top of you, as you slide out from under him. Come up to your knees, release your right hand and p­owerful punch to his face.

Tackle Defense - One
The tackle take down has been seen to be very effective in removing an opponent from their feet in such fighting competitions as the Ultimate Fighting Championship.  The savvy no-holds-barred fighter will generally haunch himself to one knee as he attempts a tackle take down. In this way, he hopes to maintain the ability to return to a standing positioning if the technique does not prove effective.  This style of tackle leaves his head in a prone, upward positioning, making it a target in your defensive strategy.

As the opponent launching himself at you, move in.  This will first of all intercept the forward driving tackling momentum.  Thus, his force will be nullified.  As you step in drive your rear knee powerfully forward and into the face of your attacker.  This technique can be aided be grabbing a hold of the rear of his head.  The combination of powerfully kneeing him to the face, with the addition of shoving his face into your knee will instantly debilitate him.

Tackle Defense - Two
In some case you will not have possessed the foresight to defend yourself before your attacker has substantiated his tacking offensive at you.  In this case you must defend yourself as you travel towards the ground.

When an attacker is tackling you, the first thing you do, is deflect one of his arms slightly to one side of your body, as you are traveling down towards the ground.  Though it may be too late to save yourself from the actual ground fight -- by accomplishing this deflection, you will land on the ground side-by-side and your attacker will not have the advantage of being on top of you. Furthermore, if you keep your deflecting hand in place, near his shoulder level, once you hit the ground, you will maintain substantial control over him.  This control is accomplished by maintaining pressure on the back of his shoulder, thus, holding him face down towards the ground.

Once your opponent’s initial attack has been nullified and he is held into place, you can rapidly get up on your knees and unleash a devastating punch to the back of his head.

Kicked on the Ground
One of the worst-case scenarios to find yourself in is to be on the ground with your attacker kicking at you.  Though this is a dangerous positioning to be in, there is an effective method to countermand it.

Your attacker kicks at you as you look up at him from the ground. This kick will traditionally by performed in Front Kick styling. Before he has the opportunity to truly injure you, extend the arm, which is closest to his Kicking Leg, parallel to the ground. Encounter his Kicking Leg at shin level, with your forearm. Immediately, once his kick has been intercepted reach your free hand behind his ankle and grab a hold of it. Raise your body off the ground at waist level as you simultaneously pull up on his ankle and push back on his shin.  Your attacker will be sent to the ground, where additional counter attacks may be launched as necessary.

Kicking From the Ground
If you find yourself on the ground but you have not yet been attacked, you must immediately take defensive action before the confrontation become critical.

An attacker is moving in on you.  Roll to your side.  Place both hands firmly on the ground to substantiate your action. Lift the upper part of your body off the ground.  Recoil your leg and kick, in Side Kick fashion, to his knee or midsection.  Immediately get up.

Ground Fighting does not have to be a complicated fighting experience. The key to effective grappling is to never allow your opponent to remain in a superior combative position than you.  Instead, you must take control of the encounter by making every movement you make count and by leaving nothing to random motion. You can achieve this, by taking advantage of the elements of your opponent’s body and using them to your own advantage.

Ground Fighting Pitfalls
Ending up the ground is never to your advantage.  It is the worst-case scenario for any fighting situation. To this end, the Hapkido stylist understands that you must strive to keep yourself standing in all physical altercations. If you find yourself on the ground, immediately strike your opponents to his most debilitating pressure point, get him off of you, and quickly move to a superior positioning.

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