Yesterday I told an acquaintance I've been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  Without missing a beat, his reply was, "In a real fight, the ground is the last place you want to be."  It's deeply ironic that he and I had just spent hours on the range, training skills that would be employed only when find ourselves in the last place we want to be: forced to employ deadly force to save our own lives or the lives of a loved one.

As the intended victim of a deadly force assault is the last place you want to be, but we spend a lot of time thinking about those places.  Avoidance, deterrence, deescalation, and escape are superior solutions whenever I can achieve them.  Sometimes compliance is an option, and sometimes it works.  But if those efforts fail, I'll find myself in one of the last places I want to be.

Once the fight is on, my in-fight priorities (thank you, Craig Douglas) are:

  1. stay conscious
  2. stay on my feet
  3. stay mobile

So if "in a fight" is the last place I want to be, then "on the ground" is more like the "last-last-last place" I want to be.  Should I find myself in a fight, I hope I'll be able to achieve and maintain all of those priorities... but to quote one of my favorite movies, "A plan is just a list of things that don't happen," so it's wise to consider how I handle failure.

  1. My part of the fight is over when I'm unconscious.  Nothing to do here.
  2. If I fail to stay on my feet, I can survive and escape the ground using skills from wrestling, Judo, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
  3. If I fail to stay mobile, I can learn to survive and escape the clinch using skills from wrestling, Judo, and Muay Thai.

What's more, I believe that understanding the ground and clinch environment gives me a better chance to spend less time in them or avoid them entirely.  As Cecil Burch says of a series of Gracie challenge matches against Karate practicioners in which the GJJ folks managed to take down the Karate folks in every match,

...even though most of the jiu-jitsu fighters did not have a particularly great method of closing the gap, it still worked 100% of the time. Most of them were turtle your head and dive forward type close, and it did not matter.

It's a useful thought experiment to consider the opposite situation: If it was a Karateka who attempted to close the gap and take down the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu practicioner, what would their success rate have been? Here are my (probably wildly uncontroversial) predictions:

  • The Karateka take-down success rate against the GJJ guys would be much lower because they understood and practiced the mechanics of some take-downs.
  • When the Karateka's take-down succeeded, the GJJ guy would land in more more advantageous positions because they understood the heirarchy of ground positions, and
  • the GJJ guys would advance to better positions faster because they had practiced those sequences of movement many times.

There's plenty of surveillance video to provide evidence that the ground and the clinch are neither extrememly rare configurations for fighting humans.  You'll have to decide what quantity of your time these problems deserve, but I think at least a weekend of ECQC, Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu, MDOC, or a weekend BJJ seminar are well worth the time.