Posts Tagged ‘grappling’

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real...

Fighting multiple attackers would be way more possible if shadow clones were real…

What kid did not fantasize about taking on hordes of enemies with his bare hands, like a character from Naruto or Dragonball Z? Heck, I still do! But it’s all part of the martial arts appeal, isn’t it? The training makes us feel competent, strong, maybe even powerful. Knowing you’re the toughest guy in the room feels pretty good. That brings us to the subject perhaps most contended and debated among martial artists: defeating multiple opponents. In martial arts culture, the idea of engaging and prevailing over more than one assailant at a time is a big deal, especially in arts that emphasize self-defense, and the ability to do so is considered the epitome of martial prowess.

As a matter of fact, this feature of martial training (or lack thereof) is sometimes used as a criticism of certain styles, such as grappling arts. You can get a pretty good summary of this argument by looking up a Jiu-jitsu video on YouTube and skimming the comments below. There’s always a critic who mentions Jiu-jitsu’s inability to engage multiple attackers. The argument goes like this: if you’re rolling around on the ground with one guy, his buddy is just going to kick you in the head, therefore Jiu-jitsu and other grappling arts are not realistic or effective against real opponents.

I call that bluff. Show me the evidence. I want to see the martial art that can fight off multiple attackers at once. And I don’t mean a choreographed demo. I mean video of a street brawl. A news story. Facts. Because as of yet, I have never seen evidence of a martial artist successfully fighting off multiple attackers with any martial art. It certainly never happens in sport. There are no two-on-one cage fights as far as I’ve heard. So how do we know what works and what doesn’t in these sorts of confrontations?

Actually, there are fighters who regularly engage multiple enemies at once successfully. They’re military personnel. Marines, SEALs, infantry, and so on. Also, law enforcement professionals. And how do they all do it successfully? Tools. Weapons. Anything that extends your range, or enables you to deal damage from farther away than your own arms and legs. Assault rifles, grenades, and mortar shells all accomplish this. But how do you do it without those things? Say, if you’re ambushed in a bathroom at a gas station? Good question, and not an easy one to answer.

Combat, you see, can be divided into parts. The big part, the sum of the whole, is the engagement. An engagement can be divided into smaller exchanges. An exchange is a relatively short trade of techniques between two combatants. This is where all the punches, kicks, blocks, chokes, and throws occur. A small one-on-one encounter may involve one or a few exchanges between fighters. This is a simple fight, the sort of thing most martial arts training prepares you for. It gets really complex, however, when you throw in additional opponents, since most human beings, regardless of athletic ability or martial arts experience, can only exchange with one opponent at a time effectively. You only have so many arms and legs, and you can only reach so far. You can’t hardly pay attention to more than one person at a time, for that matter. The big danger for martial artists occurs when they try to exchange with more than one opponent at a time. While you’re throwing a punch at enemy A, enemy B could be doing the exact same thing to you from directly behind. Don’t even mention enemies C, D, E, and F!

So how can it be done? First, if you absolutely must engage more than one opponent at a time, position yourself so you only have to exchange blows with one at a time. This requires mobility and survival skills. It might require you to escape from your current position (say, trapped in the middle of a group) and retreat to a more defendable position (like a narrow hallway or doorway). You must know how to minimize damage to your vital areas and how to escape a variety of common holds and bad positions. You must be willing and able to frequently withdraw from the engagement when your position is no longer defendable and you can no longer exchange with one opponent at a time.

Sound difficult? It should, because it is. The situation becomes further impossible when your opponents are armed and with every additional opponent. In order to prevail, you must hope that your assailants are unmotivated, untrained, unarmed, or unfit. Otherwise, your best bet is a firearm.

To get a feel for what this sort of situation is like, try a little two-on-one sparring. I recommend your opponents take it easy on you, since injury will be easier here than it would normally be in a one-on-one match. Try to position your opponents one behind the other for as long as you can, and try not to get cornered.

Here are a few videos with very different views on how to engage multiple attackers. Be sure to tell me what you think…



How would you handle multiple attackers?

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There are some parts of martial arts culture that I will sometimes criticize, but naming your style after an animal will never be among them. I sometimes get jealous of the Kung fu guys that get to say they use crane or tiger or monkey technique (I would hate to fight monkey style, because chimpanzees scare me). Being a Gracie Jiu-jitsu practitioner, I kinda miss out on the whole animal mascot thing, but maybe it’s not too late to change. So that gets me thinking, which creature of the animal kingdom best represents Jiu-jitsu as I know it?

Snakes are okay, or maybe even great. They strike. They constrict. They’re definitely grapplers with potent striking power. But snakes have been done to death (thanks a lot, Kobra Kai Dojo). So what is another animal with a reputation for constricting and grappling with its prey?

This is what I want my opponents to see when I settle into side mount...

This is what I want my opponents to see when I settle into side mount…

Behold the mighty octopus! Seriously, I don’t think this real-life Krakken gets enough face time on martial arts tee shirts or academy logos. And if you think about it, this is an animal totally dedicated to grappling, and has a famous reputation for its stealth and intelligence. Though the Muay Thai guys might be miffed that I’m claiming a truly eight-limbed animal, I lay my claim to the wise, mighty octopus as the mascot of my Jiu-jitsu style!

What animal best represents your martial art?

Martial arts culture is full of rivalries and dichotomies: traditional training vs. sport training, eastern arts vs. western arts, hard vs. soft. The list goes on. One rivalry, however, is one I’d eventually like to see put to rest. I’m talking about strikers vs. grapplers. In my mind, striking techniques and grappling techniques are but tools for achieving an objective. I began my martial arts training in the striking arts: Kenpo, Karate, and Taekwondo. Now I train Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Very seldom did these two different strategies meet for me in class, but now I see a little of one in the other can make a good fighter great.
Since I usually talk about the many virtues of Jiu-jitsu, I want to point out the incredible usefulness and versatility of strikes. I do agree that grappling is more appropriate for all levels of violence, since grappling techniques can be as gentle as they are effective. Strikes, however, are useful tools for opening opportunities, disrupting your opponent’s movements, and causing some quick, obvious damage. This is assuming, of course, that your opponent has become assaultive, and you are legally justified in hitting him.
Striking has so many great uses besides simply knocking someone out. One is to simply cause your opponent to move. Throwing jabs and crosses at your opponent’s face, for example, can cause him to cover his face with his hands and even change his posture, thus making him easier to approach and grapple. Mounting your opponent and striking him from above can, besides causing him to surrender, force him to raise his arms in defense, opening the way for an armbar or a shoulder lock.
Strikes can also cause your opponent to hesitate, stumble, or otherwise abandon their intended movement. Is he rushing towards you with his fist raised, ready to strike? A simple push kick to his leg or hip can stop his movement dead in its tracks, or even cause him to stumble and fall. Is he trying to grab your groin when you’ve mounted him (don’t laugh, we’re all adults here!)? A simple elbow to his face, even if it doesn’t connect, can convince him that such an exchange would not be in his favor.
I like how many things you can achieve through a little blunt force trauma. I’ve never been confident in knockout strategies. Knockouts are harder to get than most people think. As a grappler, however, I highly value any tactic that can help me close the distance with my opponent or illicit a predictable reaction from them. Though Gracie Jiu-jitsu takes up the bulk of my training, I sometimes pull out the target mitts and drill a few combos and my footwork.
Grapplers: how do you incorporate striking into your training?
Strikers: how do you incorporate grappling into your training?

You will likely have no idea what your opponent is capable of...

You will likely have no idea what your opponent is capable of…

I think a pattern is emerging on this blog, one in which I find something to disagree with and aggressively attack it with words. Hopefully it’s entertaining to read, but I also hope I can move on to other subjects soon. As a matter of fact, I was planning on writing something about the physical, mental, social, and spiritual benefits of martial arts training, but then I read this in Black Belt Magazine. It’s an article titled “Strengths and Weaknesses of 5 Popular Grappling Arts” by Tony Salzano. It’s an article about how to defeat various types of grappling practitioners in a fight. Here’s an excerpt:

The basic strategy of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu stylist is to mount or submit his opponent — by outlasting him, if necessary. He’s almost always superbly conditioned aerobically (to endure a long fight) and muscularly (to prevent the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles when clinching for eternity). He generally is very patient, slim and smart, and often described as “unbelievable on the ground.”

His weaknesses include the fact that he usually trains and fights while wearing a uniform. Without it, he has no extra “handles” on his opponent and loses the ability to execute many chokes. His standing techniques, including takedowns and striking, are often weak.

Secret: Overpower him in the first moments of a fight. Don’t stay in his guard. Use techniques that are illegal in his type of competition: low strikes, groin attacks, etc. Whatever you do, don’t try to beat him at his own game, for then you will be the underdog.

On one hand, this is full of compliments. I can never scoff at a nod to my superbly conditioned, muscularly body. On the other hand, I have quite a few problems with this, and so I must respectfully disagree with Mr. Salzano. I don’t even want to argue much with this articles assertions of what a Jiu-jitsu practitioner can and cannot do well. I want to talk about the reasons why this article is unhelpful to a martial artist preparing for real-world violent encounters.

Reason #1: This article assumes you know your opponent is a Jiu-jitsu practitioner before the fight begins. How do you know? Did you ask him before you started fighting him? Mr. Salzano presents an unlikely scenario in which you are beginning a fight out of grappling range and with previous knowledge of your opponent’s training history. Such conditions are usually only present in combat sporting events, like MMA matches. If it’s a classic self defense scenario, let’s call it a bar fight, you’re likely not going to know he is a BJJ stylist until he’s successfully closed the distance, taken you to the ground, and asserted some sort of dominant position on you. By then it’s a little late to prevent takedowns. However, it could be a fight resulting from an argument over martial arts, in which case he might have told you exactly what his discipline was. I guess it is plausible, right?

Reason #2:  This article assumes all practitioners of a single martial art will fight in the same way. Being a Jiu-jitsu practitioner doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to use Jiu-jitsu in the fight. Many Jiu-jitsu practitioners have backgrounds in different martial arts, and may default to strategies other than grappling in a fight. Even if they do use Jiu-jitsu strategies in the fight, which Jiu-jitsu strategies? Standing submissions? Escape and evasion? Clinching? It will depend on each individual fighter. Though the image of a fighter immediately pulling guard and going for the armbar is a popular sign of Jiu-jitsu training, it’s not what every practitioner of the art is trained to do. So even if you did know the guy was a grappler, you’d still be taking a big risk assuming you could predict his every intention. He’s trying to win the fight, too. Regardless of training, he’ll do what he has to in order to win. Even things not strictly considered Jiu-jitsu.

Reason #3: This article leads you to believe that dirty fighting is a reliable solution to the problem. Can a groin shot or an eye gouge or a finger break end a fight? Maybe. Just remember, he might use those tactics, too. But anyone who’s used dirty fighting in more than a few fights can tell you right away that kicking someone in the groin doesn’t always work. And even if it did, is it justified? Believe it or not, law enforcement will eventually become involved if you get into a brawl in a bar or on the street, and if they do you will be accountable for everything you did. Was this Jiu-jitsu guy’s assault so threatening to your well being that you could lawfully gouge an eye or break a finger? If not, how do you deal with him, since dirty fighting tactics tend to be so brutal they’re usually only justifiable when you’re at risk of serious injury? I tell you this, punching someone in the throat over a simple shoving match is ethically wrong and can land you in hot water with the law. So without dirty tactics, how do you defeat him?

There are more reasons why this is probably an unreliable strategy against Jiu-jitsu fighters, and any Jiu-jitsu instructor could probably tell you what they are. These three reasons, however, are the ones I believe are most important to people learning to defend themselves. So how do you fight against a Jiu-jitsu practitioner? It all starts with your training. Train yourself to adapt to various violent situations, and spar against live opponents. Be well rounded. Learn to adapt to the situation at hand, and it will matter little what style your opponent is using. That means, of course, that there are no magical answers for defeating an opponent of a specific type. The better prepared, better trained, more adaptable fighter will have the advantage in any exchange, regardless of the martial arts history of his opponent. Only luck will change that, and that is something you have no control over. So keep training, keep adapting, and try to get into as few unregulated fights as possible.

If you wish to read the rest of Mr. Salzano’s article, you can find it here.

How do you prepare to fight against martial artists of different backgrounds?

Here is a trailer for the upcoming Pro Jiu-jitsu Invitational, Metamoris 2:

I am excited. For those of you unfamiliar with Jiu-jitsu tournaments, this is a unique movement in the art. Normally, Jiu-jitsu tournaments have a point system and a relatively short time limit of about 7 minutes or so. If no fighter has been submitted by the end of the time limit, the winner is decided by points accumulated through takedowns, sweeps, and establishing positions. It’s a lot like wrestling. Metamoris, however, features no points and a 20 minute time limit. You must win by submission. If neither fighter submits the other by the end of the time limit, the match is declared a draw. This is Jiu-jitsu at, what many practitioners agree, its purest. It’s a competition that accurately captures the finer points of the art as it was originally created.

This is also an opportunity for those uninitiated into the intricacies of grappling to see the art in action. These are among the best fighters the art has to offer. I hope you enjoy it. I know I will!

Pass the popcorn…

What is your favorite martial arts tournament?