I have long been a fan of grappling systems and ground defense mechanics. As a beginner, my Japanese Jiu-Jitsu Sensei took the time to introduce our entire class to the “game” of ground-work and why it was important for a martial artist to learn. Because of that exposure, I eventually found my way to learning some Brazilian (Gracie) Jiu Jitsu to compliment my skill-set in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, which was primarily focused on throwing and locking. Although my knowledge of martial arts still relates primarily to self-defense, my knowledge of ground-work relates primarily to competition and there isn’t a great deal of cross-over between the two. Such is likely the case for a number of people, which makes Lori O’Connell’s book When the Fight goes to the Ground, so welcome.
This is a book that is focused on providing a set of solutions to a very specific problem; that of being taken to the ground when self-defense is your primary goal. Lori O’Connell uses her experience within Can-Ryu Jiu-Jitsu to compliment her experience with grappling to create a book of strategies and tactics for removing yourself from an undesirable ground-based combat scenario.
The first thing that When the Fight goes to the Ground does very well is provide the contextual background to self-defense on the ground and the myths and truths related to it. Understanding the (legitimate) chances of a fight going to the ground, what the dangers are surrounding such an incident and the legal ramifications of what you do in response to that situation are immensely important things to understand, not just for martial artists, but for anyone who has a concern about their own well-being and vulnerability. O’Connell does a great job of presenting the facts here, without drawing upon personal opinions or experiences, which can always be subjective. In addition, O’Connell’s experience with Can-Ryu Jiu Jitsu provides an excellent framework for the practice of this type of training, including recommendations for what to wear and attitudes to keep in mind.
It is when the book gets to individual techniques and methods for defending yourself that it really comes alive. When the Fight goes to the Ground is filled with photographs, well annotated and explained, that make the tactics presented firstly much easier to understand, but also well presented in terms of effectiveness. A number of the techniques in the book were things that I wasn’t familiar with (like bites to the nipple for self-defense). The psychological effect of the techniques are also discussed, which is incredibly refreshing to see when many martial arts books focus purely on the mechanical aspects of technique. The information is presented in very easy-to-read, and in each case, the technique or concept is presented with contextual information to ensure the reader understands not only how to do the technique, but when as well.
There is a great wealth of information included in the book, which makes it a great purchase. I can definitely see myself returning to the book for inspiration and ideas when crafting self-defense drills for my students. Included are strategies for basic movement on the ground, how to attack vital targets, strategies for an attacker mounting you, standing above you, in your guard, on your back, kneeling on you, restraining you and even applying joint locks to you. I was also pleased to see an excellent treatment on how to deal with someone who is wielding a weapon (such as a knife) while on the ground, which is a topic that is not often covered in ground-grappling seminars or schools. Due to O’Connell’s experience with Can-Ryu Jiu Jitsu, which has a use-of-force background, the techniques presented never seem too challenging or complicated. They are often simply a case of applying the right energy in the right locations – something that is easy to learn.
The final aspect of the book is the accompanying DVD. The video, which is about an hour long, includes demonstrations of a huge number of the techniques explained in the text, making it easy to get an idea of how the tactics look when performed in reality. It’s a nice addition to what is already a well-presented and easy-to-understand technical manual.
When the Fight goes to the Ground now has a place in my martial arts books collection. It’s an excellent source of information on something that is not often seen, and is presented cleanly and professionally. It’s also wonderful to see something of this nature come from a smaller, female martial artist, rather than a larger person, who might not have as much “need” for good technique in such a situation. It is a good book that is deserving of attention from anyone who has an interest in the martial arts or self-defense.