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Self Defense Tip: When Should You Grapple In A Street Fight?

Updated: Aug 19, 2022

Grappling in a street fight is fraught with problems. If you ever wrestled around with your buddies, you know that helpless feeling when the bigger/stronger one gets on top of you and doesn't let you up. Well it's a lot worse than that in a real fight when the other person is on top of you punching you in the face.

Additionally, women will have a more difficult time trying to get up off the ground after the bigger/stronger man is on top of them. So, if you are the smaller, weaker, and untrained person, you should not try to grapple in a street fight. That's why my book, "The Short Fight - Essential Techniques and Tactics To Defeat The Larger, Stronger Assailant," doesn't have ground grappling in it. However, there is a whole section dedicated to clinch fighting, as a means to avoid being taken to the ground. These are simple, basic techniques that require little training, as they are based on gross motor skills.

Why not grapple in a real street fight?

Grappling is more complicated than striking. It requires more technical skill than simply wailing on an assailant (a gross motor skill). It also requires more strength, and athleticism. As a result, it takes longer to learn and apply, especially against stronger people. Can you imagine your elderly mother, or your small child, in a real fight, trying to grapple against a big, strong man? Yeah, me neither.

The other thing you need to know is when NOT to grapple in a street fight. There are many variables to consider before "going to the ground" in a fight. For example: Do they have a weapon? Are their buddies with them? Is there a crowd watching? I've written extensively on this topic in previous blog articles. Here is one of the articles:

OK so when should I grapple in a street fight?

The only times I‘ve ever gone to the ground in a street altercation, or in a no holds barred competition (where there were no weight classes), was:

  1. When the assailant was a better striker than me (I kept getting hit).

  2. Or when they initiated the takedown.

1. If an assailant is striking you more, or harder than you are hitting them:

If this occurs, your only recourse is to take them down to the ground. However, you must end up in the top position when you do this. Lying on your back with the bigger, stronger and better striker on top of you will only make the situation a lot worse, as now you will be pinned underneath them and not able to escape their strikes.

Wrestling is one of the best disciplines you can learn to help take an assailant down, and control them. Different types of wrestling include: Greco-Roman wrestling, Scholastic aka Folkstyle wrestling, and Freestyle wrestling. Greco-Roman wrestling focuses on more upper body throws, Scholastic/folkstyle wrestling focuses on attacking the legs more to get takedowns; and Freestyle wrestling uses a combination of both Greco-Roman and Scholastic/folkstyle wrestling techniques (my personal favorite). All of these wrestling methods also teach you how to stay in control of the assailant at all times.

WARNING: The "wrestling" you see on TV (WWE etc.) is not all real, and is performed by trained stunt-athletes. Do not attempt to replicate it, doing so will only injure yourself and your training partners. Additionally, it may not help you in a real fight.

2. If the assailant takes you down:

If this occurs, you need to know how to escape from the bottom position (i.e. via sweeps, reversals etc.), immobilize the assailant so he can't hurt you, or finish the fight via submission. Submissions are finishing techniques that can control, maim, or render the assailant unconscious.

Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is a great discipline that will teach you how to do all of the above in the event you are taken down. Originally a hybrid martial art brought to Brazil by Japanese Judoka, jiu-jitsu, and wrestler, Mitsuyo Esai Maeda, the Gracie family modified it to fit their body types, thus creating a new martial art - Gracie Jiu-jitsu, and later Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. While this martial art does not focus a lot on takedowns, a practitioner can attack and submit your arms, legs, and neck from their back, top mount, side mount, and back mount (behind you). Additionally the Gracie's modifications focused more on using leverage and technique as opposed to strength, making it ideal for the weaker person.

Other grappling arts:

There are other great grappling arts to consider as well. There's Japanese Judo, Catch Wrestling, Russian Sambo, and Pancration, to name a few. Ill go into detail about these in upcoming articles.

Full Disclusure:

I am a certified Brazilian Jiu-jitsu self-defense instructor, and USA Wrestling coach. While I have trained in all of the aforementioned disciplines, I prefer these two best.

If you're interested in learning more essential self-defense techniques and tactics, get my book, The Short Fight, on Amazon at

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Until next time, Stay Safe!

Lawrence Castanon

Author, The Short Fight


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