Yes, fights go to the ground

What with MMA being so hot these days, a common refrain to anyone studying martial arts is about how you need to have ground fighting skills because “all fights go to the ground”. Or maybe not all fights, but a large majority, or some other number pulled out of the air.

How much truth is there to the statement of fights going to the ground?

LowTechCombat pointed me to this article: Do Most Fights Go to the Ground?

So over a period of three months I designed an implemented an exploratory study with the expressed interest of trying to see if there was any validity in the claim that 90 to 95 percent of fights go to the ground or that most fights go to the ground. Over 300 street fights were analyzed during this study. The results were clarifying as well as totally unexpected.

Enter the joy of YouTube, which if you quickly search it you’ll find thousands of videos of people fighting. While the study was certainly not in-depth and more study truly should be done (and use venues other than YouTube, since that could have a “posting/content bias”), I do think the conclusion sheds some light:

So, there you have it; an exploratory study to try to find out if 90 to 95 percent of fights end up on the ground. The results offered in this study indicate that 90 to 95 percent is too high of a percentage rate. It is probably closer to 42% where both fighters hit the ground and 72% where at least one fighter ends up on the ground.

In the final analysis, an overwhelming majority of fights did end where at least one fighter ended up on the ground at some point. As this was an exploratory study, more are definitely needed to explore this topic and other grappling or MMA related issues. However, what was probably the most important finding in this study is that if you are untrained and are the first person to end up on the ground in a fight there is a good chance that you will lose and the best you can hope for is that no victor can be declared.

So yup. You can expect ending up on the ground. Now, I might be curious to know if going to the ground ended up being “an issue”. For instance, A punched B, B went to the ground, fight was over. So yes, B went to the ground so you tally one in the “went to the ground” column. But did B’s going to the ground have any greater implications? That is, the whole “fights go to the ground” issue is predication on the notion that because fights go to the ground you need to have some skills to deal with that situation (thus you must learn BJJ). So if B hit the ground and the fight was over, there really wasn’t need for skills or awareness or to even get back up. I’m not sure if this matters or if this is important, but I am going to contact the author of the study to see what he thinks. I guess it’s trying to find out not just if a fight goes to the ground, but since that assertion is made to imply you need to gain ground skills well, I think it’s worth a consideration if that is warranted. Of course, I’d say yes… but still, let’s discuss.

The best part of the study, however, is the greater implications for avoiding the fight in the first place. Truly, that’s the take-home from this:

  • Most fights are not spontaneous. There’s an incubation period. There are things that lead up to the fight and, if minded, the fight could have been avoided.
  • Be mindful of your personal space and don’t let people get close to you. I think about the book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere because that’s what this is about.
  • Don’t be rude. Trash talking (either you doing it or them doing it to you) usually winds up with someone getting hit mid-sentence.
  • Fight or leave. If the fight is inevitable, either turn it on hard and fast, or go home immediately. Posturing and posing will get you hurt.
  • Multiple attackers will always have a massive advantage.
  • Getting mounted will put you at a severe disadvantage. Avoid it at all costs.
  • Don’t be the first one to go to the ground.


7 thoughts on “Yes, fights go to the ground

  1. That comment comes from the same source that the old saw “they will take your gun away and used it against you” comes from — law enforcement. What happens in a typical law enforcement arrest? There’s a gun carried openly, someone being arrested who is going to jail, possibly for a long time, and the officer has to get that person in handcuffs using minimal force. That leads to situations where guns may be grabbed out of holsters and used against cops, and situations where officers aren’t allowed to hit vulnerable targets or hit hard enough to knock someone out – -thus the person is still conscious and able to fight after being wrestled to the ground.

  2. nightclub story: big 16 stone MMA guy, big ego, goes to the ground and tries to break a guys arm with an armbar…get’s the living crap kicked out of him by the guys mates who’ve suddenly swarmed all around him.

    verdict: don’t willingly go to the ground. If knocked down, Get Up Fast.

    • Very true.

      I like how the Combat Hapkido guys frame it: “ground survival”. Yeah I know that group gets a lot of crap, and I haven’t trained in it myself but, conceptually I like how they frame/phrase it. They’re not out for sport, they understand that going to the ground can happen, but you don’t want to be there (outside of a controlled mat/sport situation). So survive, get up.

  3. Yep, survival’s what it’s all about, there’s things you can do if you can’t get up, like kicking out, but first opportunity…just watched a video of these Hapkido guys on Youtube, have to say…there’s probably a lot you can do…some of that looked really quite good, complicated maybe, but not sure where they get crap from…

    …ah, I see, just watched another school..not so good…

    Like with everything there’s good and bad, and some guys obviously work it better than others…

    still, my preference would still be to do what I can to stay off the ground, getting on the front foot there, surviving…

    • That’s my experience with it… Combat Hapkido on the surface is OK, but good luck getting a good instructor and a good school to really learn it at. But regardless, it’s more that I like their framing of it as “ground survival”. It’s a different mentality.

      I agree tho, avoid the ground in the first place. But, as this study investigates, easier said than done. Expect to end up on the ground, know how to deal with it and get back up.

  4. Yes, that’s what my sifu says, more or less, as well, and he’s a very vrey capable fellow – we can all get knocked down, even him…so, I agree, if it happens…

    Changing the subject, you’ve really got a lot of work on this blog, looking forward to working my way through it…

    till next time, all the best


    • Thank you for the kind words. If there’s anything I’m good at it’s running my mouth, so a blog seemed a good outlet. 😉

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