Book Review: When The Fight Goes To The Ground

rsz_51eocbbkycl_sl500_aa300_As you probably know already from reading this blog I’m not big into grappling, especially in the context of self defence. Or I should clarify that statement: I’m not big into submission grappling and the overly technical BJJ type stuff. There is no place for submission holds in self defence, in my opinion, not unless you are working security. In terms of restraint, in my view, the best restraint is unconsciousness. Unless you intend to break limbs, you shouldn’t be using submission holds.

This is not to say that certain aspects of grappling are not needed or are not useful for real street encounters. You still need some grappling skills for when things go wrong, which they inevitably do. The key is context. Grappling should just be a part of an overall system; it should not be the complete system.

I’m happy to say that the author of this book takes the same view. She is not advocating that you immediately engage in a grappling contest or take your attacker straight to the ground. What she is presenting in this book are solutions to those problems that you may face when you find yourself on the ground in a fight, like how to defend from the ground, how to gain good positioning and most importantly, how to get back to your feet as soon as possible.

Even though the author, Lori O’Connell is primarily trained in traditional Jujitsu, she does not allow any of the more impractical techniques from that system to make it into this book. The emphasis here is on practicality, not art, and for that she should be applauded.

So on to the books contents. The first thing I noticed about this book was that it doesn’t drag on or go into reams of unnecessary detail. The text is clear and concise and the general layout is very easy to follow. This is also helped by the many pictures throughout, which show the author demonstrating the techniques she is describing.

Chapter headings include: Understanding the Ground, Body Shifting and Control, Attacks to Vital Targets, Defending from the Ground Against a Standing Attacker, Defending Against Common Neck Restraints and Defending Against Joint Locks.

The book also covers defending against an armed attacker on the ground (knife) and how to defend against multiple attackers from the ground.

This book is an excellent guide to the grappling techniques that you maybe need on the ground. There are still too many for my liking, as I like to keep things ultra-simple on the ground, but if you need a reference or a guide on what to include in your ground defence, then this book will serve you well.

For added value, you also get a DVD with this book. The DVD features the author demonstrating the techniques she covers in the book itself. It’s very helpful and well produced.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Combatives/SD, mainly because it is more practical and has much less bullshit in it than many books of a similar ilk.

You can get When the Fight Goes to the Ground by clicking the link, where you can even look inside before you buy.



  1. Dave B says

    As BJJ and Judo brown belts (I also do Muay Thai & Boxing) I see a huge gap in traditional BJJ and combatives/self defense. Especially since I started studying Western Combatives about a year ago. Most of the guys I roll with think BJJ is the be-all, end-all of martial arts since Royce Gracie defeated every other martial art when UFC was in its infancy and pitted martial art style v style. Maybe so, but BJJ still suffers from what all the other traditional martial arts suffer from…and it’s biggest Achilles heal is multiple attackers. Last place you want to be is on the ground.

    I’m not bashing BJJ as I love it as a sport, but I’m being realistic as someone with over 5 years of BJJ training. This isn’t to say BJJ doesn’t have its good points. I think ground skills are essential to being well rounded in self protection and probably has it’s strongest case in the 1:1 Monkey Dance situation. The various chokes and choke defenses will serve you well, as will some (and only some) of the sweeps. But the biggest thing I get from BJJ are proprioception on the ground–that innate feeling of where my body is when I’m getting twisted and rolled…and how you innately learn to right your position and better it against an attacker so you can gain control of your attacker on the ground or stand back up etc. It’s also one style of marital art that allows you to train full speed against all different sized opponents. You get to know what it feels like when someone bigger and stronger than you has you on the ground. Judo’s the same as well. Only a handful of all the throws you learn would ever be effective in a real world situation, but the innate feeling you learn of how to use an attacker’s weight and momentum against them is the most useful aspect of Judo. Now if you do actually land a hip throw etc on concrete it’s game over for your attacker.

    The downside is no one is really teaching “street” or “dirty” jiu jitsu…which is why I liked her video clip with groin strikes (I’ve also seen some Kelly McCann stuff). Throw in eye gouges, spinal manipulation, throat grabs etc and it becomes much more realistic and effective in a reality based context. When I roll I imagine a lot of “what ifs”–What if they’re punching me, or they have a knife in one hand etc., but at the end of the day I’m with you…I’d rather just knock them the f#ck out and be done with it.

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