Letter Re: Training Combatives: The How, What and Why of Acquiring Hand-to-Hand Skills

Hi Mr. Rawles,
I’m a seasoned martial artist and self-defense instructor.  I teach Western Boxing, Jeet Kune Do (Concepts), Kali, Submission Grappling (mainly Sambo and Machado Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), and mixed martial arts (MMA. ) I regularly instruct law enforcement officers and military personnel who go into harm’s way.  I agree with much of what Legionnaire wrote, but must take exception to his statement that most fights go to the ground.  This is a myth that has been bandied about since the early days of the UFC, and the only notable support for this assertion is a “use-of-force” study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department (specifically Sergeant John L. Sommers).  The study was conducted to review officer use of force and restraint and is not applicable to civilian self-defense.  The study was later co-opted by the Gracie marketing machine to support their franchise and was regularly misquoted.    

Having trained and interviewed numerous police officers, I can say unequivocally that police officers almost always bring suspects to the ground in order to subdue them and are rarely brought to the ground by their adversaries.  This isn’t to deny the importance of ground fighting, because it certainly is valuable, but with only limited time to train and prepare (not to mention that most people have little inclination or facility to train effectively to begin with), providing accurate data regarding physical self-defense is imperative.  Unless you’re fighting in a ring, ground fighting should always be a last resort for the simple fact that it places you in direct physical contact with a possibly armed, diseased, or insane opponent.  Keeping a fight standing and controlling the measure is vitally important for many reasons, not the least of which is to increase the likelihood and rapidity of escape.  As much as I love grappling, when it comes to real life scenarios, I have never met a seasoned professional soldier, peace officer, or pro-fighter who would countenance going to the ground when other viable options remain available. 

Sincerely, – Adam H.