Book Review: “When the Fight Goes to the Ground”, Lori O’Connell

What is the most important thing to do when the fight goes to the ground? Get back up. That is the focus of When the Fight Goes to the Ground, by Lori O’Connell, a 5th-degree black belt in Can-Ryu Jiu-jitsu — getting out of a bad position and standing back up as quickly as possible. This mantra is repeated as often as possible throughout the book, to drill in to your head that you must get back up.

In addition, one of the most important things in teaching self defense techniques is to use a small number of techniques in a small number of combinations — to keep everything as simple as possible — so that they can be easily remembered and drilled repeatedly. The book uses both familiar BJJ techniques like bridging and shrimping as well as a finite list of kicks and strikes (hint: lots of elbows. Also some biting. [!!]). These techniques are then applied to the different scenarios presented, starting from the simplest variation and progressing to more complex starting positions; the more complex starting positions are subverted back to the simplest variation so that the core principles of the escape are repeated again and again. Even the few knife and multiple-attacker scenarios toward the end use the same movements from earlier.

Emphasis is also given to the need to justify the use and amount of force. You do need to be able to explain why you did what you did, what actions or behavior prompted your response, and why the amount of force you used was reasonable. If you train in any martial art or self-defense tactics, you should be able to articulate your reasons.

The book also uses three body types for the demonstrations. Usually the pictures are of Lori beating up one of the guys, but occasionally when discussing challenges for different body types, the two guys (one, tall and lanky; the other, shorter and barrel-chested) demonstrate the technique.

The accompanying DVD walks through the same exercises as shown in the book, but now you can see the movements all together. The DVD is a nice addition, as it isn’t always easy to visualize a technique in motion based on still pictures.

Couple of notes:

  • Standing up after an escape technique is repeatedly emphasized, but no standing-up technique is shown (a point Slidey also mentioned in his review). The “technical stand up” is an actual technique with a purpose: protect your head, maintain eye contact/awareness, and stand with solid base while moving out of reach.
  • The submissions sections are much weaker than the rest of the book, especially if you have any BJJ training. However, one thing that was good here was the emphasis on escaping “early,” that is, before the submission is locked in; that’s good advice in sport BJJ, too. (Also, there was the idea of “tapping out” if someone were attacking you with a submission, in the hopes of getting them to let go entirely or of at least distracting them.)
  • The book ends rather abruptly after a short chapter on multiple attackers. I suppose I was looking for some sort of conclusion, reminder of safe training, advice for further training, and/or more discussion of law enforcement use, the latter of which the book mentioned several times but did not cover as thoroughly as it seemed to hint that it would.

Well, I was going to compliment the guys for their acting skills at looking like they were in extreme pain in the pictures, and then I saw this:

Oh. Ouch!

2 thoughts on “Book Review: “When the Fight Goes to the Ground”, Lori O’Connell

  1. Great post! This is timely for me, as last night in Krav Maga we worked on the technical standup. Some of the Krav Maga students, like me, also train in BJJ. The Krav Maga instructors, when stating, “if you slip, or get knocked down, or get taken down, your goal is to get up!”, always add, “and yes, you jiu jitsu guys…you might be comfortable on the ground, but still, in a self-defense situation, you still gotta get up quickly.”

    It’s a great philosoph for self-defense, of course. You don’t want to execute an exquisite triangle choke from your back if you are laying on glass and gravel and such. Likewise, if you are on the ground in a real defense scenario, you can pay good attention to a single attacker, but it is much more difficult to pay attention to multiple attackers in a 360 degree arc.

    So the idea of “stand up!!” resonates well with me as a Krav Maga student. Although it would be sweet to pull off that triangle choke from your back, right?

    1. When we have stand-up guys come in to train with us in the weeks before their fight, my coach teaches them basic defense off their back and then teaches them to stand up. He doesn’t try to teach them a ground game in the weeks before their fight; since they’re stand-up guys, he teaches them to weather the storm and then to get back up so they can strike again.

      Even more so in self-defense — you can’t run away if you’re on the ground!

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