Often when we teach a new group of people who are already involved in the martial arts, we let them begin in the bottom of the mount and ask them to demonstrate how to escape. This is our way of defining their level of experience in the ground game in a blink of an eye. If the first thing they do is striking or eye gouging, we know we have a lot of work to do.
You see, it is not because you are simulating a self-defense street fight type scenario – a situation with no rules - that eye gouging and groin striking should be the first thing you think about as “the defender”. On the contrary. It is true that the attacker might do it to you, but if you understand position and distance management, you don’t have to worry too much about these types of threats.
A lot of martial artists are taught that striking is effective because that is what we see in the movies, right? But in reality, this is mostly not the case and this only serves to escalate the situation even further. On top of that, you can’t train eye gouges and groin strikes without really hurting your training partners. You can’t use it in sparring. So, if you can’t train it effectively, how do you know it will work in a life-or-death situation? Have you ever tried to put your thumbs in someone's eye and tried to hurt the person? Will you be prepared to do it if your life is at stake?
Please understand this: when you get into a fight and some way or another you land in the bottom of the mount, you have made terrible mistakes and/or your opponent is not a pussy. Bare this in mind when you read on. In other words: do you want to trade punches with someone that is stronger than you? Do you want to punch this guy from underneath?
When you are lying in the bottom of the mount, gravity is against you and your strikes are much less effective because you cannot turn your body and use your hips to assist the punch. Moreover, if you miss or the strike doesn’t knock the person out (which is very likely), you are still underneath stuck into a bad position with a heavier guy on top of you. You just made him very angry!
Your opponent on top can do the same to you (eye gouge, throat strike, …) but with much more effectiveness. He has gravity on his side and can lean his body into the punch. He has way more reach. If you get hit, you get hit twice due to head bouncing against the ground. You cannot just lift your opponent and throw him in the air. You need a more intelligent approach to save your life.
More often than not, striking from a bad position is a panic reaction because you have never been taught the correct way to escape and improve your position first. If you don’t have the right tools, you will resort back to what you know. In this case, it is a losing battle. Striking from bad positions is a last resort, if everything else fails … and even then.
At Fundamentals Jiu-Jitsu we have a form of sparring called “street sparring” which is another word for “mma-sparring”. Both participants wear mma gloves and there is stand up fighting, clinching and ground fighting allowed. Submission is the final goal, but you can use strikes to set up the submission. One important rule is that it is not allowed to strike from bottom positions, except the guard. We do this because we don’t want our students to learn bad habits. You fight how you train. We need them to become comfortable from underneath, relax, think, conserve energy and escape at the right time with good technique.
What do we look for when a student is trying to escape the mount? What are the right “first reactions”? Well, if the student tries to trap an arm, tries to bridge or tries to free one leg to go to (half) guard, then we know this person knows something. He understands that he is in a bad position and that striking is a bad idea. First improve your position. Then use your strikes if necessary.
Did you notice we said “if necessary”? Jiu-jitsu is not meant to hurt people. It is meant to defend yourself or somebody else. If you can escape without throwing a strike, do so. You are saving yourself a lot of trouble. Trust us on this. As a side note: we are not talking about multiple opponents here. That is a discussion for another time.
Let’s give you something else to think about: if you can dominate your opponent with position and letting him know that you can strike him at will without him being able to hit you, you make a much bigger impression on him than to send him to hospital with a broken nose. And yes, maybe he will thank you later for not beating him into a pulp. Maybe he also wants to learn this jiu-jitsu stuff, get rid of the insecurity and stop being a bully.
Here is a beautiful quote from Ryron Gracie: “I do jiu-jitsu so I can protect you when I fight you”.
Author: Kris Damen