Unarmed and dangerous

| October 10, 2014 | 5 Comments

“AWW, COME ON!!” I yelled at my television. “He’s just hugging him!”

The year was 1998. I was watching UFC 1 — specifically Royce Gracie submitting everyone he fought against with his Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

As a practitioner of Kenpo karate and longtime consumer of pop martial arts culture, ground fighting was something I had never seen until UFC. I was disappointed that Kenpo fighter Patrick Smith was submitted by Ken Shamrock in UFC 1 via a heel hook. WTF was a heel hook? Why weren’t the guys standing up, punching, and elbowing each other?

Fast forward sixteen years, and hundreds of hours spent watching mixed martial arts sporting events. Things have definitely changed, and I respect all aspects of the sport: wrestling, submissions, and striking. Some of my favorite fighters (Ronda Rousey, Frank Mir, Nate Diaz) are submission fighters. There’s no doubting the effectiveness of ground fighting inside the cage, with unconscious fighters and broken bones to prove it.

That’s the cage. Let’s consider real life.

Most submissions require that you are on the ground. Fights often end up on the ground, but that doesn’t mean they have to stay there. However, the “ground game” has some severe disadvantages outside of the sporting world.

  • Being on the ground nearly eliminates your options for evasion or escape.
  • Being on the ground may limit your ability to detect and defend against multiple attackers.
  • The ground you are fighting on won’t have a mat or a springy canvas, and slams or strikes against grounded people are going to be much more damaging and effective than you see in sporting events.

This video is a good example of why you want to limit your contact with attackers, avoid the ground, and get up as soon as you can.


  1. At the beginning there’s a front headlock / choke attempt.
  2. The grappler (whether or not he’s trained in grappling, I’m calling him the grappler for the sake of this post) gets slammed by Beatdown Guy #1.
  3. The grappler holds onto the choke while BG1 gets into side control.
  4. Grappler tries to “shrimp” and roll BG1 over. He fails.
  5. BG2 casually walks up. Grappler can’t see him at all, as he’s fixated on BG1 and his vision is obscured due to the focus of the front choke.
  6. BG1 establishes a kind of crucifix position by pinning his right arm with his body and his left arm with his hand. He hits Grappler in the head a few times.
  7. BG2 starts the head kicks, and it’s all downhill from here.

In re-watching this video several times, I’m surprised at how “technical” the opening of the fight is. Either a lot of the aspects of trained fighting are natural, or there was some level of experience with the fighters.

Apparently Grappler survived this attack, but I don’t know if he had any permanent injuries.

This video is an important piece of data for us for many reasons:

  • The “continuum of force” concept is for the courtroom, not for the streets. It would be difficult to prove “valid” self defense if Grappler used a weapon against BG1, but as you can see any hand-to-hand contact can prove to be crippling or fatal. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, but you should consider the growing body of one punch knockout kills and episodes like this one to determine how you’re going to react if you’re in a hands-on fight that supposedly does not warrant the use of deadly force.
  • Always assume there is more than one attacker.
  • Avoid grappling unless it is used to disengage and make space.
  • Get off of the ground as soon as possible.
  • We need to see that the fight doesn’t stop once someone is out. Don’t let them put you to sleep.
  • You should consider what weapons are available to you if you were in Grappler’s position, and if you could deploy any before BG2 goes in for his first head kick.

I did some very limited combatives training this year, and hope to increase my training in this area in 2015. I am going to concentrate my training on using my body to fight in order to get to my weapons.

Have a safe weekend, and remember that someone doesn’t have to have a weapon to be “armed and dangerous.”

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.
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5 Comments on "Unarmed and dangerous"

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  1. ndjinn says:

    Unarmed combat is a must. Once or more a month I am contracted to the cage fighting league in my state and work as a ring side medic overseeing a team of 3-5. I keep up on trends in MMA though my rapport with owners, fighters and schools. I train 2-3 times a week. I have trained MMA since I was little and I am 40. Really, I have, we just called it other stuff. My dad shared building space with the one and only Bruce Lee and my dad was UDT in the Navy. At home I learned a n odd mix of street fighting JKD. The first school I studied at was called Karate, Kung Fu and Kickboxing and was run by a famous guy I don’t remember the name of From there I studied Aikido for a few years on to Jujitsu and Bandit style Wu-su (two different schools) at the same time. Last thing I started working on is Sayoc Kali’ a martial art I wish I didn’t know about it’s so vicious.

  2. chipw says:

    Great blog.

    I agree with what you are saying about trying to stay on your feet, also about getting up quick if you are taken down is imperative.

    If you havent trained in some form of grappling then it may be harder than you think it is to stay on your feet. The best form of take down defense is actually wrestling. Learn to wrestle. Kudo’s to you for realizing this and starting some combatives.

    I would also make the argument that the guy you are calling the Grappler knew nothing of grappling other than what he had seen on TV. BG1 was the best grappler based on how he got his hips under him when in the guillotine and the way he maintained side body and delivered strikes.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Thanks for commenting! After The She-Shepherd and I watched the footage a few times we began to wonder if basic wrestling moves are based on natural tendencies, or if we subconsciously attempt basic wrestling moves based on watching TV, sports, etc. What do you think?

      • Chipw says:

        If you mean the guillotine that the grappler tried in the above video then yeah, I think he had seen that from watching MMA on TV and tried to replicate it. By doing that, he left his hips in and allowed the BG1 to get under his hips, lift him and take him down.

        A decent wrestler would have sprawled his hips back and not allowed the grappler to get under his hip and lift.

        A decent wrestler who had trained some MMA or combatives would have sprawled, kneed to the head , snapped BG1’s face in the ground and never have been on the ground at all, especially on the bottom. the biggest advantage wrestling gives to real fighting is the ability NOT to go to the ground.

        Just my opinion of course

        • Ethan762 says:

          “The biggest advantage wrestling gives to real fighting is the ability NOT to go to the ground.”

          THIS is key. I’ve been putting off getting into MMA training, but I think you’ve just convinced me.

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