Introducing Ground Defense

By Diane Ruth
Published on Apr 10th, 2009

When you're designing your martial arts curriculum please consider teaching groundwork basics to all of your students. Not because it's the latest fad, but because it will be valuable to your students. You can help them feel more comfortable defending from disadvantaged positions by spending time studying rear attacks than progressing into various ground attacks. Our desire is to be able to teach ground defense to any student.

In my system "Kenpo Karate" we study different principles that work upright or on the ground, but we don't necessarily train them on the ground in every studio. Many of our Kenpo brothers and sisters have developed great strategies and ground technique models to assist student's ability to study these principles in ground defense situations. We can work and train these ideas to discover and experience our Art.

Our first goal should be to work on Attitude. We accept that working on the ground is valuable even if it's out of our comfort zone. I suggest having an open discussion with your students to let them know you will be creating a safe environment for all to learn how to defend themselves on the ground. Go over the rules for safety and let them know the importance of respecting their partners. Let your students know that you will start with basics on the ground to build their comfort level over the next few classes. Start with stretching and a few fitness exercises on the ground and than introduce your drills. Make the drills fun and light to ease them in. Then, slowly work up to having the students partner with each other. Remember our goal is not to make MMA fighters; it's to help our students learn to defend themselves in all situations. Let's not scare them yet. One fun drill used to train maneuvering on the ground is to have a race. Have the students (adults or children) lay on their backs in a line at one end of your training floor. Have them crawl as fast as they can to the other end of your training floor. When they get to the partnering stage you can have them work on maneuvering from underneath their partner. Their core muscles should get stronger as time goes on assisting them with their efforts. Work within your training space and knowledge base.

Our second goal should be good basics. Now that you made them comfortable being on the ground this is a great time to review falling & rolling basics. Teach them ground maneuvers and positions with and without a partner. At the next stage you can develop exercises on guarding in all the different positions. Remember one lesson at a time. Let them understand and experience one idea before you give them another one. You want your students to feel comfortable, have solid basics and show they understand how to protect themselves and how to respect each other before teaching them locks & chokes. Knowing your students are safely working on these ideas allows you to give advanced students more information, as they are ready, keeping everyone interested. Everyone you teach will be more comfortable defending themselves in any position.

Our third goal should be to teach them logic. You can have each group come up with a way to guard to share with the class. This is also a good time to refine the lessons on the different positions. It's a great workout having little mini matches on just getting in and out of different positions. Rotating partners will help give the students more experiences. Working with a variety of different heights, weight and flexibility change the skills required to control the positions. We've worked on many ideas, but we haven't even taught locks or chokes yet. I would suggest that you isolate the lessons on locking and choking until the students are comfortable with these ideas. Later you can have them controlling positions or doing mini matches with each other.

The benefit of this strategy is not only will your students feel comfortable and happy it also allows you time to build your skills and flexibility. While they are practicing their basics safely with each other, you can study your next level and design your next lesson. Everyone will gradually improve his or her fitness levels, which will improve their ability to apply a strategy. If you don't currently have a fitness program check out the MALC website @ for our secondary fitness project coming soon. We have many resources within the MALC to help design a solid progressive approach to teaching self-defense.

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Author Bio :: Diane Ruth

Diane started training in the Martial Arts in 1997 and received her Black Belt certification in 2003. For fifteen years Mrs. Ruth has trained in Ed Parker's Kenpo Karate exclusively. She is a professional instructor teaching both children and adults. Mrs. Ruth is a partner in M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club. M&D's Modern Martial Arts Club which is affiliated with The MALC and Kenpo2000. Diane's primary focus is developing a complete teaching strategy which incorporates Principle Based teaching.

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