A while ago, Lori O’Connel sent me her latest book to review. It’s called “When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-Jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self-Defense” and has a cool feature: it includes a bonus DVD with video footage of most every technique she explains in the book. This helps you out a lot if you have difficulty learning new techniques or concepts from reading alone. Even more, the book/video combo is ridiculously cheap for the added value you get this way, so definitely a plus right there.
Here’s a short promotional video with some additional info from Lori herself:
This already gives you a good idea of what the book is all about.
That said, here’s the review:
When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-Jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self-Defense
The book is very in-depth and covers many different aspects of the ground game focused on self-defense. It starts in the first chapter with information that gives you a basic understanding of using your ground game for self-defense instead of MMA or BJJ competitions. Lori covers how to stay safe, which strategies to use and so on.
In the following chapters she covers basics such as bodyshifting and control along with attacking vital targets like the eyes, nose, throat, ears, etc. The typical targets you are not allowed to go for in MMA competitions. She also spends time showing how to do breakfalls on concrete, which is a crucial element for effective street self-defense. No matter how well you can fall in the dojo on mats, that doesn’t mean you can do so on the street pavement. So you should definitely spend some time actually practicing these techniques.
From then on, the book is all about techniques. It starts with defending from the ground against a standing attacker. This is perhaps the most difficult scenario as you have limited mobility and options whereas the attacker has complete freedom of movement. Lori shows many different basic techniques to defend yourself there and hopefully get back up quickly.
Following chapters cover topics like:
- Defending against a mounted attacker.
- Defending from the guard
- Defending against a mounted attacker on your back.
- Defending against side control
- How to apply and defend against neck restraints
- Applying joint locks (like arm bars) on the attacker.
- Much, much more.
I do have one caveat with this joint locks chapter as it might be read by some people as advocating that arm bars are a go-to technique when you are on the ground in a street fight. Lori makes it very clear that she isn’t saying that but unfortunately, this chapter will probably be used by MMA/BJJ practitioners to justify prolonging the fight on the ground instead of finishing it quickly.
One of the last chapters covers knife attacks while you’re on the ground. Lori shows some interesting techniques there but she also advocates something I disagree with: throwing away the knife right after you disarm the attacker. She explains her reasons for it but I disagree: if you are threatened with lethal force and manage to disarm your attacker, I think it is tactically smarter to keep the weapon until you are well away from him, safe and sound. Disarming an attacker doesn’t mean he will give up trying to kill you, so I don’t see the point in giving up a tactical advantage like that. Or worse, let him get back up to recover the weapon and come back at you once again.
The final chapter tackles multiple opponents when you are on the ground.There is once again some good advice here. What I would stress is that this is a worst case scenario: you shouldn’t assume that getting back up and away from them will be easy or painless. Chances are good you’ll have a dificult fight on your hands and will take damage along the way. Obviously, this shouldn’t stop you from fighting tooth and nail to escape your attackers. But you need to have realistic expectations: it won’t be like in the movies where the hero dispatches dozens of atackers without breaking a sweat.
“When the Fight Goes to the Ground” is an excellent book. I liked it a lot. It is a great introduction to the topic of defending yourself when the fight goes to the ground in the street from the perspective of Jiu Jitsu. One of the things I particularly liked is that Lori explains how to perform the techniques for different body types. She explains how to tweak them so they work for you if you are:
- Tall with long limbs.
- Short with a heavy built.
- Smaller body type, like a petite woman.
Lori gives you more than enough information for you to start adapting the techniques so they work for your particular built.
The accompanying DVD is shot clearly and gives plenty of instruction on the techniques in the book. Lori introduces all the clips and ends with some final words of advice after about an hour’s worth of footage. Good stuff.
Overall, “When the Fight Goes to the Ground” is a great book to get you started on your path to self-defense skills on the ground. I have some technical quibbles (striking while looking away from the target, certain body mechanics, some of the neck restraints, etc.) but these are more personal opinions than anything. Like Lori writes, you have to take what is useful for you and make it work for your circumstances.
“When the Fight Goes to the Ground” will also be very helpful if you practice a MMA or BJJ ground system but want to go beyond them. It will give you the information you need to train in a way that takes into account the differences between a competitive environment and street self-defense.
As a final argument to get this one, I need to mention the production quality: the book is printed on high quality paper and the pictures are very sharp and clear. The same quality is present in the DVD: well filmed and perfectly produced. A great job by all involved.
Highly recommend, get this book!