Exploring Self Defense From A Ground Position

Every so often we like to post items that spur discussion among students and friends of DSD on our Facebook Page. This is similar to what our students experience in our self defense classes on a regular basis.

Recently we posted an image showing a kimora (double joint armlock) from a military field manual. The question was posed on how one would defend themselves from such a move. Readers were also challenged to find the vulnerabilities for both participants.

Kimora from side control

There was a very robust discussion that ensued. Those with a sport fighting background tended to provide comments indicating that this was an almost impossible move to get out of.

And to be fair, it is.

Combatives based self defense practitioners on the other hand saw a lot of flaws – such as both participants being open to attacks from another attacker to seeing attacks to vital areas.

We always love input from other martial arts practitioners. It’s almost a personal obsession to find weaknesses or vulnerabilities in methods but even more so in mindset – it’s mindset that ultimately is the root of any good self defense training.

So like we tend to do at DSD we actually put this move to the test!

At first we started in this exact position and we alternated through multiple participants. As some people in our Facebook discussion pointed out, being on the bottom of this move was not a great place to be. Depending on who the top and bottom people were changed the available moves. Being able to reach the eyes was only an option in about 40% of cases. The groin was a little more accessible in about 60% of cases. Using traditional measures only worked is the size ratio between the participants wasn’t too large.

So let’s look at some of these options…

  • Eye’s, throat or ear strikes. These targets tended to be accessible only if the bottom participant had a longer reach than the top participant. In some cases the bottom participant could turn into the manipulated arm and reach the face. But it was far from a sure thing.The big issue here was leverage. It was difficult to get enough leverage to strike with sufficient power. The main factor in the effectiveness was the size ratio between participants.
  • Groin strikes/grabs. This move was a little less obvious from the picture but it was readily available. Especially shorter bottom participants found that it was rather easy to reach up and grab a handful of groin. But it was far from 100%. If the bottom person grabbed the groins before the kimora was fully established it was much more effective. Once the kimora is fully “locked it” it’s hard to think through or get the position needed.
  • Traditional counters of pushing the hip and straightening the arm to avoid the lock and change the position of the top attacker was only effective if the bottom person was of similar size to the top person. When the ratio was high it just wasn’t an option at all. Of course when the bottom person was the larger they could just rely on strength to change the position rather than leverage.

Looking at this scenario from a self defense perspective brought out a very important realization: the only way (practically speaking) to get into this side mount kimora is by getting into a wrestling/jiujitsu fight. 

This means following some underlying set of rules.

Rules have no place in self defense.

We discovered that there are so many places that self defense techniques and strategies had to fail before getting to this position that the bottom person would need to be nearly unconscious to be there. In which case the image is entirely academic.

Let’s look at this from a practical DSD standpoint…

  • A self-defense situation is not a fight. If you are squaring off with someone to fight them it’s no longer self defense. The laws you are under are different and advantages you may have had evaporate. Better to simply not be in this position.
  • It the scenario starts standing up something has to happen to bring it to the ground. It’s very hard to even get into a clinch with someone that is training in a DSD style of self defense. They will kick, strike, knee, head butt, and do all kinds of targeted attacks before you get there. Same goes for a shoot (double leg takedown). In self defense the practitioner is not limited to sport moves. They can use an improvised weapon, and strike areas like the back of the head and spine that are off limits to sport fights.
  • But all things considered there is no guarantee things will not wind up on the ground. Which is why we train for them. Simply being on the ground is not the end of anything. Establishing control on someone that is “fighting dirty” all while you are fighting fair isn’t that easy.For starters you need to make it past their guard. If you are still standing they will kick at your knees and legs. As a solo attacker this is a tough spot as you are vulnerable as you go in.
  • Once one the ground the attacker still has to establish control – either a side mount like in the picture or a full mount. The defender is going to work to prevent this and possibly even work to reverse the mount. In the process they will strike any targets they get access to with whatever weapon they have available.

Only after getting through all that mess would the attacker have a clear position to lock in a kimora and do the damage they can with that. For most of the DSD black belts that would basically mean they had to already be beaten into unconsciousness which makes the kimora more or less academic.

Now don’t get me wrong… the kimora is a staple of arm control. We use it in our own curriculum depending on the situation (typically less violent social situations – NOT in asocial violence).

We are one of the only martial systems that I know of that doesn’t have any issues learning other options from other arts. We often find that a certain technique is more difficult to execute for some students and so look to find other options our students can work more effectively.

We always challenge our students to look at anything they see from other martial arts systems or from actual self defense situations and find both the advantages and flaws. It’s a simple tenant first expressed by Sun Tsu who said that to defeat your enemy you must know your own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your enemy.

Many martial arts systems focus only on their own strengths while ignoring their weaknesses. If you are interested in practical self defense training in a family friendly atmosphere please contact us to talk with a instructor.

About Mr. Vatke

Mr. Vatke has studied and practiced martial arts for over 20 years. The quest for a practical self defense based system led him to Dynamic Self Defense. Mr. Vatke holds a 2nd degree Black Belt and is the Chief Assistant Instructor at the New Albany Dynamic Self Defense School.

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