Falling: Fighting and Counter-Attacking

A student asked me yesterday about what to do as he is being taken down to the ground. He said that when his partner was taking him down, it was instinctive for him to grab on to his partner and continue to fight on the way down.

He asked me if that follows Systema principles.

I told him that it depended on why he was continuing to fight, what is his strategy for grabbing his attacker as he’s falling.

He said he didn’t know, just that he thought he should always keep fighting.

As the saying goes,”you gotta know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.”

Why People Grab On As They Are Falling, Is This A Good Strategy And What Else Could You Do Instead

When people are being taken down they reach up for anything to hold them up like a drowning man vainly grasping for anything that will keep him from going under.

In this case, the tension created can be used by the person who is taking you down. For example, it is very easy to break the person’s arm when it holds on to you as the rest of the body falls away from it to the ground.

We enroll in Systema, not to look good, but rather to escape from a disadvantageous position, to create separation and to allow you the time to stand back up on your feet and continue to fight.

Rolling also prevents you from being injured by the fall itself, and it prevents you from being injured by your opponent’s follow-up attacks that will come as you are falling or after you have fallen to the ground.

On the other hand, if you are grabbing strategically you could gain an advantage over a person who had thrown you down without following up or controlling you as you fall.

If you are taken down successfully, the attack may relax and let down his guard feeling that he has won and doesn’t have to continue to fight. This may come from a sporting mindset where the takedown itself may be a counted as a point before restarting the combatants or the person may not have a ground-fighting background.

It’s in this moment of your falling when the enemy is vulnerable to a continued attack, to a counter-takedown or the case of weapons, possibly being slashed in the legs.

A takedown is not necessarily a finish.

It may be, if it’s a solid body-slam onto concrete or other hard surfaces, however, if the opponent survives the takedown, say by rolling away, then you will just have to fight him again when he gets back up.

It is a good idea to follow the maxim, “take him down and keep him down,” to have some type of finishing move beyond just the takedown.

When and Why to Project an Attacker Away From You

It’s an action movie trope that the stronger villain begins beating our hero into a bloody pulp, then just when things seem hopeless, the villain does something inexplicable, he throws our hero across the room.

Fortunately, the villain has thrown our hero right next to a conveniently placed weapon he then uses to defeat the bad guy.

It’s almost as bad as the villain monologuing to give our hero time to formulate an escape.

As bad an idea as this is, there are situations where it’s smart to project an attacker away from you rather than tying up with him.

  1. Projecting an attacker down and away from you to create space is a good strategy if you can draw a weapon as a result, or if you have a partner with a weapon who might be able to shoot the enemy now that you have created separation.

2. Projecting an attacker down away from you is also good strategy if you have multiple attackers, crashing one into the other
(bowling for bad guys) while you follow-up your counterattacks on both, or use the opportunity to escape.

3. Unbalancing and projecting attacker into inanimate objects like tables chairs cars etc. is also a good strategy to make sure the enemy doesn’t get back up to attack you again. Being thrown through a window never hurts in the movies, but in real life an attacker risks being cut to ribbons by broken glass.

Three Takedown Skills To Develop

Projecting your partner has its place, but there are times you may need to subdue a perpetrator, so that when you take him down you need to continue to engage and control him, possibly to handcuff him, restrain him further or choke him out.

Practicing drills where your attacker continues to fight as you have unbalanced him and he is falling to the ground is critical to Systema skill development, and grappling arts actually teach their students to counter in the midst of being taken down, so they will be fighting you the entire way down and afterward, until they are subdued. Therefore, you must never let your awareness and readiness to fight lapse, even for a moment.
  1. Stay Relaxed with Good Form. As the following attacker is trying to grab you to pull you down with him, you must learn to relax your body and let him fall off of you without pulling you down. You must learn not to hold up or to support your falling attacker, and this is a good way to teach you how to do so.

2.  Move. Avoid standing there and staring at your awesome take down, admiring your own handiwork. If you stop moving once you have made the takedown the attacker knows where you are and it will be easier for him to counter you. Also if there is a second attacker, by standing there you have unwittingly presented him a target.

3. Finish him BEFORE or AS he hits the ground. The third skill to develop is how to finish the person as they are falling to the ground and before they have established a base for themselves on the ground. In the split second when your attacker is falling to the ground, not having completed his fall or roll, his mind is usually not on you, it’s on his own safety. Once he has established himself on the ground then he’ll turn his mind back to you. The moment the attacker loses his balance and begins falling surprises him and he can tense up, forgetting about attacking you, forgetting about the weapon he is holding and failing to realize he has exposed his vital areas to your continued attack.

The moment of victory contains the seeds of its own destruction. As long as you can function and fight, you can turn around any situation and seize the advantage, but you must be aware, relaxed and mentally free to fight, whether you are taking someone down or being taken down.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *