Published Mar 26, 2009

Usually, 2 hours at Krav Maga gets me nice and calm. (Granted, I don’t usually need help being calm. But bear with me here.) An hour of self-defense plus an hour of cardio/weights/bag work will take the edge off… But last night I left class raring for some excitement. ‘Cause last class I was reminded of how much I like ground work.

I discovered ground fighting my senior year of college, when they offered an intramural jiu-jitsu class. Half credit for rolling around on the ground with sweaty people? Well, I knew I needed some exercise, so I was in.1 They put down some mats on the floor of the ballroom, handed out the heavy double-stitched jiu jitsu gis, and gave an hour of instruction, twice a week. I loved it, and went all the time. My girlfriend even commented that she could see me getting muscles — not an easy thing, since I tend to build long muscles good for running, not the compact, well-shaped ones that are good for grappling, the gym, and fashion in general. And, heck, I was good at it!

When I graduated, I tried a good Brazilian jiu jitsu school in West LA, but didn’t think the instruction was as good as what I got in college. I think the school was used to the athletically-gifted students that would’ve been common at the time — it was years before MMA became popular — and didn’t know how to deal with l’il old uncoordinated me. Even among white belts with the same experience level as in college, I just wasn’t good at it anymore. And, frankly, I didn’t enjoy it. So I quit.

So I forgot how much I had enjoyed ground fighting in college, until DJ L’il Bit and I started up at Krav a year and a half ago. I don’t know what makes grappling so fun for me — I’m not that strong, not that coordinated, and not that good at it — but I have a great time. And last night was an hour of almost all ground.2

First we learned how to get up from the guard. The guard is the position when you’re on the ground and your opponent is above you but between your legs.3 You can control your opponent with your legs to some degree, but, unless you’re better than them on the ground, you want to get up. Krav is primarily a stand-up style, so it emphasizes getting back on your feet, not practicing grappling. You shift your knee between you and your opponent, to create space, push off with your foot, kick your opponent in the face (again to create space) and then stand up. It’s basically this without the choke escape:

Of course, you’re doing well if you’ve got your opponent in your guard — that’s a strong position. Now, if your opponent is on top of you, or, in the term of the art, mounted on you, then you’re in trouble. There are different escapes from the mount, depending on where your opponent’s weight is. If their weight is forward — likely if they’re hitting you, or just don’t know what they’re doing — then the buck and roll is a good way out. But, if their weight’s back, then that technique doesn’t work. So, instead, we learned the knee-to-elbow escape. It’s basically like this, except, instead of trying to end up in half guard, you up-kick the guy in the chest and the head to create space and stand up:

As you can guess from the way I’m talking about it, I had a ton of fun, and left class all amped up. Next was an hour of kettlebell and bag work, and somehow that didn’t take it out of me, despite the instructor’s cruel determination to end the class with 7 Turkish get-ups on each side:

No, instead I got home full of energy, and was thrilled to get out and walk the dog and… well, that part’s a topic for another entry another day.

1 I loved it so much that I wrote an article on it for the student paper.4 Frustratingly, although the article was put online at the time, the archives only go back to last year, and they’re in PDF, rather than the HTML we used at the time!

2 Practicing takedowns, then ground, specifically.

3 Yes, it’s the missionary position.

4 Granted, that wasn’t so odd; I wrote about an article a week for the paper for 4 years. But, you know, I could’ve written the article on something else!