Ground Fighting and Grappling
Systema ground fighting and conventional grappling are two different areas of study. Grappling by it’s nature suggests exactly what it is, a contest between two individuals, sometimes fluid, sometimes static but generally involving the locking of two fighters together in a dynamic chess match of holds, counter holds, pins, limb breaks and chokes. Jujitsu, Judo, Wresting, and most forms of grappling arts fall under this category. And as brilliant and dangerous as they are they do not really satisfy all of the requirements of ground fighting. A ground fighting system must accommodate a far wider range of elements than a contest of wills and skills to see who can make another tap. Or even in a real situation break another’s limbs or even choke them to death.
A ground fighting approach must look at an overall picture of combat and fit without interruption into stand-up fighting. Systems that are used successfully in MMA such as Luta Livre, various mixed boxing and grappling concepts, combat Sambo and even more intuitive approaches are bringing the artist closer to a true combat mentality, and training this way will be a definite plus to any who wish to incorporate these methods. There is nothing like a genuinely resistant, plotting, fighting and counter fighting opponent to sharpen the senses and hone reality. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say in my home country. But this is not the whole picture. The larger picture must encompass a much broader view. For example, fighting with and against weapons, everything from sticks, knives, shovels or anything else with an edge or point, to pistol and rifle combat, to fighting multiple opponents or even multiple armed opponents, fighting in a combat rig, or the myriad of other situations you could find yourself in.
What is the ground? The mats, as Vladimir has said many times, ‘are like a good friend that lie to you’. But is the ground the rough tarmac of the street, a rock strewn cave in Afganistan, the tight confines of an aircraft isle, or even the elevated horizontal surface of a table you have just been knocked over? I don’t know, but I do know you should at least try to experience what each feels like and how fighting from the ground relates to each in combat.
The main difference between ground fighting and grappling at close quarters is that grappling mainly involves tying up with an opponent then figuring out some way to submit them, and in doing so also becoming tied to the opponent in the process, which is not always ideal in a totally spontaneous environment. Systema ground fighting is more a concept of moving between limbs at close quarters and is directly related to the stand-up fighting aspect, the fundamentals being almost identical. At longer ranges, or against multiple or armed opponents, most grappling systems reach the limit of their application, technique permutations quickly break down as the factors exponentially spiral out of control. In Systema these questions are part of training process and considered just an expansion of the tactical awareness required for ground level combat. And as far as I can tell only fundamental concepts and an intuitive approach can work in these cases, and these are the things that I have focused on in the DVD, The Secrets of Systema Ground Fighting.
Ground fighting implies fighting from the ground and not necessarily fighting on the ground. Explored in a free-form state using drills designed to develop a greater overall awareness to stop the practitioner reverting back to conventional grappling, it can be done very effectively.
About the Author. Martin Wheeler is a professional martial artist, contract instructor to SWAT and Military units and professional writer.