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Thread: Do Most Fights Go to the Ground? (Research conducted)

  1. #1
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    Do Most Fights Go to the Ground? (Research conducted)

    Part1

    By Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.

    People who have been following MMA, submission grappling and martial arts since 1994 have been aware of the increasing emphasis placed on ground fighting. Yes, a lot of the push is because ground-fighting experts are trying to convince people to become involved in their martial art or trying to attract more students to their studios. However, there is an extreme seriousness to their claims as well. People can get injured, maimed or killed if they aren’t able to defend themselves.

    As a serious MMA or submission grappling fan you’ve probably either heard or read the following claims:

    Ninety to Ninety-five percent of fights go to the ground; or

    Most fights go to the ground

    These claims have become a part of the lexicon of grappling gurus and their participating disciples, including me. However, is it true?

    As a person who has been involved in some aspect of martial arts since I was nine years old, I have been apart of the tradition of accepting claims, verbatim, from martial arts professionals. Most of the advice has been wise, while other times it has landed me in situations I don’t want to talk about. So when I heard this claim coming from so many Jiu-jitsu and submission grappling experts in the mid 1990s I accepted it at face value.

    However, as an academic, this statement over the last few years has begun to bother me. I began to wonder on what basis this claim can be made. Are there any studies that have been conducted to verify these assertions? Finally, I reached a standstill in my thoughts on the subject. I needed to know what was fueling the mantra that 90 to 95 percent of fights go to the ground. Is it an urban myth or is it for real?

    So over a period of three months I designed an implemented an exploratory study with the expressed interest of trying to see if there was any validity in the claim that 90 to 95 percent of fights go to the ground or that most fights go to the ground. Over 300 street fights were analyzed during this study. The results were clarifying as well as totally unexpected.

    For the purposes of my study, I needed actual fights between average citizens. However, it is nearly impossible to find access to enough physical fights between two people to analyze in person, especially in a timely and safe manner. Therefore an alternative method had to be chosen in order to study this question. This problem was resolved by using the readily available data uploaded and archived on the popular video sharing site, YouTube. The video sharing website provided the researcher with an abundant amount of data to analyze the question regarding how often fights end up on the ground and by what methods do fighters end up on the ground. For the purposes of this study, a content analysis was conducted where 300 fights were dissected over a two month period in order to address the question of whether 90 or 95 percent of fights go to the ground.

    For a more detailed description of the abstract, literature review, hypothesis, methodology, findings and conclusions, contact bakil@mgc.edu.

    Below are the research questions and the findings from the study:

    Research Question

    RQ1: What percentage of fights end with both fighters having gone to the ground at some point during the physical confrontation?

    RQ2: What percentage of fights end with only one fighter having gone to the ground at some point during the physical confrontation?

    RQ3: By what methods do fighters end up fighting off the ground? (i.e., punch, kick, takedown, push)

    Findings

    Although the findings cannot be generalized to the entire population; in this study both fighters ended up on the ground in 42% of the fights analyzed. This percentage increased substantially (72%) when analyzed for at least one fighter going to the ground.

    So what do these numbers indicate for research questions one (RQ1) and two (RQ2)? It means that the people who have been making these claims are not far off the mark. They just have to be more specific. In other words, there is more than a good chance that if two people fight, one of them is going to end up on the ground (72% in this study). The chance that both will end up there is much less (42% in this study), but it is still substantial enough that one should focus on ground defense.

    The third research question that needed to be answered is how do those fighters end up on the ground? The answer to that query is that in our study, 57% of the fighters who ended up on the ground were taken down by a throw, a trip or being pulled to the ground. Being pushed only accounted for 7% of fighters who ended up on the ground. So learning how to grapple and more specifically; how to apply and stop takedowns is vital to fighting.

    The other most common way that fighters ended up on the ground was by being punched. This accounted for 35% of the total incidents where a fighter was sent to the ground. One other important point is for martial artists or others who might rely on kicking techniques. Out of 300 analyzed fights and 600 fighters, only one person fell to the ground because of a kick. However, that kick did result in a knockout of the person on the receiving end.

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    part 2

    What happens when fighters hit the ground?

    One very interesting finding from this study involved what happens to fighters once they do fall to the ground. At the following rates, the first person to hit the ground faced the following outcome. They either lost the fight (59%) or there was no discernible victor (33%), essentially a draw. Those who hit the ground second or remained standing faced different outcomes. They either won the fight (59%), nearly sixty percent, or no discernible victor could be declared (33%). This finding recurred repeatedly even if only one person went to the ground or if both people went to the ground. It even applied to situations where both fighters ended up on the ground and the person who initiated the takedown or pushed or punched someone in that direction landed on the ground first. In this study, fighters who hit the ground first were the clear victors in less than 5% of fights observed.

    This indicates that in a street fight it is a major no-no to hit the ground first in any way. The findings were so one sided in this category it is highly likely that this is a major factor in determining who wins fights. Future studies should replicate these results.

    Women should also be very careful to make sure that there hair is pinned up in an altercation as many takedowns involving women were due to their opponents (women) grabbing their hair (19%) and using it as a tool to control their head movement. In this study it was almost a guaranteed takedown if only one woman had control of the other woman’s hair. The other option was being pummeled. In one fight, a man’s ‘dred-locked’ hair was also used to throw him to the ground. I think further research would demonstrate that hair grabbing is not a habit related to gender, but availability.

    Another finding that could support the argument that people should learn ground defense is that the first fighter to hit the ground usually lost the scramble for positional dominance. They were either quickly mounted, side mounted or had blows reigned down on them from many angles. Although the majority of the positional dominance observed would be considered crude from a trained martial artist’s perspective, it did demonstrate why ground training is necessary. Most of the combatants were at a loss of what to do when they were being controlled and subsequently pummeled.

    Who’s Fighting Who?

    In reference to the characteristics of the fighters in this study, demographic questions such as age, ethnicity or race could not be asked. However, records were kept using this researcher’s best judgment. Of the 600 combatants who fought, their opponents usually looked like them in a number of categories. Men fought men. Women fought women. Ethnicities or races appeared to be similar as in whites fighting whites, blacks vs. blacks, etc. Combatants also appeared to be the same age. Old men fought old men, teenagers fought what appeared to be teenagers and adults fought adults. This study suggests that a person involved in a street fight is most likely going to fight someone just like them.

    Tips for: Avoiding Conflict or Inevitable Confrontations

    Other interesting things to point out are that although some fights appeared to be spontaneous, most of them had an incubation period where many decisions led up to the ultimate physical confrontation. From studying these fights it is this researcher’s opinion that many of them could have been avoided. However, in cases where a fight is unavoidable, the following advice would be offered:

    Never allow anyone to invade your zone of safety (a distance where they can quickly ‘sucker punch,’ push, pull or grab you without you being able to react).

    Do not walk up to anyone ‘talking trash’ or allow them to ‘talk trash’ to you. Either way someone will most likely be hit mid-sentence.

    Either fight or exit the scene. Make the decision quickly. Do not argue and do not posture up face to face, chest to chest or shoulder to shoulder. (Watch out for head butts!)

    Do not try to fight more than one person, especially if you are alone.

    Do not allow yourself to get mounted. (Where your opponent is sitting on your chest with both of their legs straddling your ribcage.) This was the absolute worst position for the fighters in this study; and most important:

    Do not be the first person to hit the ground!

    So, there you have it; an exploratory study to try to find out if 90 to 95 percent of fights end up on the ground. The results offered in this study indicate that 90 to 95 percent is too high of a percentage rate. It is probably closer to 42% where both fighters hit the ground and 72% where at least one fighter ends up on the ground.

    In the final analysis, an overwhelming majority of fights did end where at least one fighter ended up on the ground at some point. As this was an exploratory study, more are definitely needed to explore this topic and other grappling or MMA related issues. However, what was probably the most important finding in this study is that if you are untrained and are the first person to end up on the ground in a fight there is a good chance that you will lose and the best you can hope for is that no victor can be declared.

    Check out my latest book: A Vampire on the Mat at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles or Smashwords .

    Check out my books: The Lazy Man’s Guide to Grappling and Grappling for Newbies on Amazon.com!

    You can also check out my writings at Psychology Today: Communication Central

    Bakari Akil II is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Middle Georgia College and received his Ph.D. in Mass Communications from Florida State University. He has studied no-gi Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over three years and also holds a green belt in Judo. He trains with Team Praxis in Macon, GA.

  3. #3
    Very informative.thanks i would agree with not going down in a street scenario. Had friends and Co worker's get badly injured.
    I have also finished guys off easily if they go down
    Groin stomps .head kicks. Or it has allowed me to face others involved.
    Last edited by k gledhill; 05-25-2011 at 11:56 AM.

  4. #4
    As I am not an expert in BJJ, Wrestling, or other ground fighting. I don't want to be on the ground if I can help it, if I can help it, I will do some damage, then get back up. Since if I am committed to a chock or other ground techniques, the attacker's mate might be able to take advantage of my position and kick or floor me when I am on the floor.

    BTW, you research is very informative. And thanks for your research.

    Just a question, why do you post this in Wing Chun Thread?
    Last edited by kowloonboy; 05-25-2011 at 11:12 AM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by k gledhill View Post
    Very informative.thanks i would agree with not going down in a street scenario. Had friends and Co worker's get badly injured.
    Time and place for everything. More than likely they got "badly injured" because they didn't know what to do on the ground.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by faxiapreta View Post
    Time and place for everything. More than likely they got "badly injured" because they didn't know what to do on the ground.
    Agreed. The little ground I know helped me. Also knowing not to perpetuate ground stuff and just get up ASAP.
    Guys get surrounded like wolves on a deer they just chased down. Staying up is statistically bettter ; )

    And any ground is simply overwhelmed by numbers.
    Last edited by k gledhill; 05-25-2011 at 12:18 PM.

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    so the upshot is try not to get taken down and if you do get back up quickly,

    and we should worry about these things because nearly 75% of all fights end up with someone on the ground...... and almost 50% of them had both people on the ground......just as well i study grappling then

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by faxiapreta View Post
    Time and place for everything. More than likely they got "badly injured" because they didn't know what to do on the ground.
    Quote Originally Posted by Frost View Post
    so the upshot is try not to get taken down and if you do get back up quickly,

    and we should worry about these things because nearly 75% of all fights end up with someone on the ground...... and almost 50% of them had both people on the ground......just as well i study grappling then
    Not in dispute. But the guys who go down first don't do so well.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by k gledhill View Post
    Not in dispute. But the guys who go down first don't do so well.
    A very small percentage of the population knows how to fight on the ground. Of course they don't do very well. First of all, the reason they went to the ground is generally because the other person put them there. Someone who doesn't have ground training obviously should not go to the ground. Unfortunately, when a person loses a fight, that's often where he ends up.

    The situation changes dramatically when a person has ground training.

  10. #10
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    i remember when this study came out, what always stuck in my mind was that youtube is not a fully dependable source for real life. they dont leave vids up there where people are shot, stabbed, broken or killed. you can only see the vids that actually meet the terms of agreements for youtube. granted its a grand effort with great results but not entirely realistic. can anyone find several fatal knife attacks on youtube right now? im not looking but id put money on no being the answer.

    "Either fight or exit the scene. Make the decision quickly."

    could not possibly agree with this anymore.


    those that are not ground experts need to ask themselves; 'what will i do when i get taken down by a ground fighter?' in addition to working on attaining the skills needed, what will you do in the mean time? what if your meager ground skills dont hold up?

    i would be interested in knowing statistics on how knives change it all up, in regards to final outcomes. i have pretty limited knowledge on the ground, something im working on, but at this point if i get taken down by someone who i feel is knowledgable on the ground they will need to make sure i dont stab them because I will try, and try my best. i keep a knife on me pretty much at all times, partially for this reason. a blade can equalize a lot of skill...especially if you have the suprise with it and take the initiative to use it.

    however its also important to note that i dont start fights, or even look for them, and will always seek the peacful solution first, the withdrawl second, the quick KO/incap third and above all survival. some people you just know are violent though so being able to judge when to attack right away without delay is also important.

    if a known ground fighter takes me down, thats akin to fighting an armed man unarmed for me, so drawing a weapon is the logical solution until my skillset can catch up to what i need. the trick though is that you never know what someone knows, unless you know.

    i dont think many people actually take knives into constant consideration.

    there was a time when it would have been expected for everyone to have some sort of blade on them...it certainly would make for more general respect if you knew a fight often meant getting cut or stabbed
    For whoso comes amongst many shall one day find that no one man is by so far the mightiest of all.

  11. #11
    In NY everyone has guns so less arguments, when i first came to NYC I met a ex police officer at the harley shop I worked at who walked around with no less than 3 guns at any time, ankle piece, etc......another guy in the shop had a shoulder holster with gun one side, machette other very friendly here on the general streets. I have had prison guards stow their guns in my desk while training, my current students who are air marshals all carry too. Gun retention in grappling scenarios becomes a relevant point to work on. Many guys are shot with their own piece in grappling exchanges, etc...
    Last edited by k gledhill; 05-25-2011 at 02:29 PM.

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    The study is interesting, but though it sounds like it was done seriously and I mean no disrespect, it still seems to me to have overtones of mockumentary about it (which is not a biad thing IMO).
    Last edited by anerlich; 05-25-2011 at 05:01 PM.
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    I preach this to my students religously. If you don't want to fight on the ground, learn to ground fight. A well versed person will keep you on the ground. If you know the ins-and-outs of it then it's much easier to get up. "easy" is a relative term. I had another thread on here about training all zones of fighting and I hold to that. A person that is not a grappler should learn the most about grappling in order to use what they have "stand-up." Use your streng. and do not let the fight be dictated by someone else IMO.
    Originally posted by Bawang
    i had an old taichi lady talk smack behind my back. i mean comon man, come on. if it was 200 years ago,, mebbe i wouldve smacked her and took all her monehs.
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    i am manly and strong. do not insult me cracker.

  14. #14

    Thanks for sharing!

    It's nice to see the subject handled in a research based manner. Of course there are inevitable flaws (as the researcher pointed out himself) with the nature of the study, since running a strict control experiment for certain topics is sometimes problematic; especially when using indirect data such as YouTube.

    I recall my JKD instructor stating recently that over the years he's talked to special forces and law enforcement types who have had a common denominator concerning the subject of the ground: One shouldn't as a usual first choice strategy want to end up on the ground, but knowing how to handle a fight at that range is vital.

    I especially like the mention that, "This study suggests that a person involved in a street fight is most likely going to fight someone just like them." Since I'm dog ugly I try my best to only hang out with pretty women who don't look anything like me. LOL

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    Quote Originally Posted by k gledhill View Post
    Not in dispute. But the guys who go down first don't do so well.
    so who do you think will hit the ground first all things being equal?
    a grappler trained to deal with throws and takedowns or someone who isnt

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