In the natural world, animals and insects grapple in a life and death manner all the time. When a lion tries to kill a zebra for example, it doesn’t try to knock it out, even though they can hit very hard. In fact, a fully grown lion has been known to kill a hyena with a single blow but this won’t work as effectively against something as strong or large as a zebra. It must grab hold to try and bring the animal down and control it.
If the zebra can keep its feet, it has a chance to fight back and escape. Once on the ground however that’s pretty much the end. Same with an eagle and a rabbit, the eagle doesn’t try and peck the rabbit to death from a distance; rather it grabs hold and then kills it. Same with a python and its prey, you get the picture! It’s all about control. If you can control something, or limit your opponents options then you can more or less do what you want with it.
This is the same for nearly all predator and prey relationships.
We instinctively know that if someone gets hold of you lose some control. When fighting, or undertaking any endeavor for that matter, we try at all times to keep our balance and not fall over, knowing that if we are taken down or fall we are in big trouble. So following this line of thought, should we then be training to be the lions (predators)? or if we are talking “self-defence” (prey) maybe we should be striking…Confused?
I believe the term “self-defence training” may create a prey orientated mindset. I have trained and been involved in boxing over many years and also spent a significant time training in traditional martial arts centers. My experience is that when new trainees are asked at the boxing gym why they want to learn to box, the answer is usually “I want to learn how to fight”(predator mindset) When the same question is put forward, at most traditional martial arts centres the answer is more often than not “I want to learn to defend myself”(prey mindset).
Picture this scenario. You are walking down a dimly lit street late at night when you are approached by three men who surround you tell you in an aggressive manner. They have possibly trained in a boxing or kickboxing gym at some point. You know you have to get out of there so you front kick the guy in front of you, straight right hand to the guy on the left, back-fist guy on right guy as he moves in then run like the wind.
Let’s change the scenario now. You are walking down the street and this time the three aggressive guys are grapplers…you are in bigger trouble now as you kick the first guy and the other two take you down. No running away now (remember the lions).
So what does all this mean and how do you put it into perspective?
You need to ask yourself some questions. Why do I want to learn a martial art? Will your martial art offer you the skills needed in realistic and often vary different environments? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and similar grappling arts are ideally suited to a lot of people; Police and corrective service officers, mental health practitioners, and security officers would prefer to control and restrain not strike the people they are dealing with. Perhaps a common occurrence is a need to restrain a drunk friend or family members at family gatherings if they get a little out of control.
If you're attacked then kicking and punching may be a good way to finish a fight quickly, you may need to keep your feet if the environment is too dangerous to be on the ground and will be able you to keep mobile and escape if necessary. Against multiple attackers the worst place you will want to be is on the ground.
Only you that can answer the questions of what you feel is the best option for you. Don’t get caught up in training your whole life for that one imagined scenario where you are caught in that back alley alone facing three or four armed assailants, rather, train for what situations happens most around you, and then you will be prepared for most of what happens !! My ideal goal is to become good at both stand up and ground fighting arts. You know; a zebra with sharp teeth and claws!
...train for what situations happens most around you, and then you will be prepared for most of what happens !!
This post is not intended as a “my art is better than yours,” or “striking is better than grappling,” but a hopefully thought invoking article on combat and self-defence in general.