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Anti Grappling – Ashihara Karate International – Kaicho Hoosain Narker Sabaki Fighting Karate

Grappling Curriculum

The AKI grappling curriculum is designed to familiarise students with basic grappling techniques and principles. While the importance of grappling is recognised, especially in a self-defence situation, it should be understood that grappling is a secondary module of the AKI. The majority of the techniques are also designed to complement the take-downs and holds system. Advanced and free grappling techniques are encouraged at Yudansha level.

Whilst there are many take-down techniques in Karate, ground grappling per se has not traditionally been part of karate training.

Basic principles:
Avoid being taken to the ground. Should you find yourself on the ground, attempt to get back on your feet as quickly as possible.

Some basic concepts:
Avoid being taken down by striking effectively before the opponent can create momentum for an effective takedown.

Avoid being taken down by using some basic anti-takedown techniques such as the wrestlers “sprawl” and the “Greco-Roman” wrestler’s “under-hook” (vs. Takedown attempts from the clinch).

If you find yourself heading for the floor with your opponent, attempt to arrive there in a superior position vis-a-vis the opponent (i.e. you have rear mounted him, cross mounted, knee on him-bellied him, or have him in the scarf hold). Then again, if he is a trained grappler and has successfully taken you down, chances are that you will arrive on the floor either “on-guard” or in an inferior position.

Should you be in a superior position, use ground specific striking techniques(knees, elbow, head butts, short punches and street fighting tactics such as gouging or biting if the situation justifies it) then either apply a quick choke or lock or get up and continue from there (i.e. if opponent is still on the floor and is still a threat, stomps and kicks can be applied.

Should you find yourself in the opponents guard, use ground and pound tactics.

Should you find yourself on guard, try to create space between your opponent and yourself (e.g. by pushing a knee in and across his chest) then push/kick him away and get on your feet.

Should you find yourself pinned down and controlled by your opponent you need to try and keep your most vulnerable target safe and simultaneously work your way out by means of body/hip movement, creating space and then using an escape technique or reversal.

Thankfully the chances of facing an experienced grappler on the street are slim. It is more likely that an opponent in a brawl will use a rugby tackle or may have done little bit of wrestling in high school. Once an experienced ground grappler has a non-grappler on the floor, the non-grappler’s chances are not too good. Therefore the A.K.I grappling curriculum is intended for self defence purposes and not for students wanting to take part in No- Holds-Barred events (such students should take on an in-depth study of Brazilian Ju Jitsu).

Going to the ground is not a desirable reflex for street situations (not even for grapplers), as the opponent may have friends (who will use your head for soccer practice), he may pull out a weapon without being noticed ( much easier to detect at kicking or punching range) plus the ground itself may be inhospitable(broken glass, stones, syringes etc.).

Five basic types of positions:

Standing and how to avoid being taken to the ground.

Superior positions (in order of desirability: rear-mounted, the mount, cross body, knee-on-belly position, scarf hold, etc.) In a superior position, you are controlling the opponents body both with your limbs (such as having you legs around him, for example) plus by putting your body weight on him.

Equal positions : The guard. Neither side (obviously it all comes down to ability) has the clear advantage. The person at the bottom (“on guard”) has a measure of control via pinning the person on the bottom with his body weight.

Inferior positions: You are under the opponent and he is controlling you, i.e. he has you rear mounted, cross mounted, in the scarf hold, etc.

You on the ground, him standing. There are specific techniques and drills (developed by the Brazilians) which make it very difficult for the person standing to effectively damage the person on the floor by kicking, stomping or jumping on him. These need to be practised by any one interested in self-defence competence, as should be done with the BJJ technique of getting up off the floor without giving your opponent the gap he needs to kick your
head in.

Grappling involves some dangerous techniques such as chokes and joint manipulation, therefore it should only be practised in a safe and progressive manner. All students should be aware of “tapping out” procedures and be conscious of the joint flexibility threshold of their practice partner. Beginners should start out from their knees rather than standing position to protect against injury. All training should be done in a supervised manner.


The Mount
You are on the back. The opponent is sitting on top of you, his knees on the floor, at your floating ribs and abdominal region. He can punch your face but you can not (unless he is inexperienced) reach him. He can choke you, arm lock you or hit you so often that you may try to save yourself by rolling over onto your stomach. You are then truly in trouble since he can now hit you at will or sink in the “Mata Leon” choke (rear naked strangle). The Gracies have put hundreds of stand up fighters to sleep using this methodology.

The best way of getting out is what in BJJ is called the “oopah”. Pin one of his legs with your own leg, get hold of his arm on the same side(his “table” is now missing two legs on one side). Now punch your hips up at the ceiling, going as high as you can. At the top of this push, tilt onto the shoulder on the side of which you have pinned his limbs. He will roll off over that side and should end up inside his guard. Start punching and head butting immediately. Retract your punches as quickly as possible so preventing him from effecting an arm bar.

Alternatively, create space by pushing your hips up, thrust an arm through the resultant gap and push yourself out whilst throwing him off. Be careful, as an experienced grappler will use a slow attempt so as to effect a triangle choke. There are other escapes, using the hip movement of the oopah and of “shrimping”, but the basic concepts apply to most if not all: move the core of your body so as to create space. Use this space so as to either escape, reverse the position or interpose a limb to deny him control. Once you have space move dynamically. Against an inexperienced grappler these escapes will work, against an experienced grappler, these techniques will only work if one has put in enough “flight time” with them.

“Knowing” the technique will not be enough, one needs the timing to pull it off and such timing can only be the result of extensive grappling/rolling practice. The belief that practising a few basic escapes occasionally with a non-resisting opponent in a one-two-three fashion is enough to escape an experienced grappler who is in a superior position, is wishful thinking and will get you choked out or beat up.

Given limited time, the karateka is better off becoming the worlds greatest expert at the sprawl, the under hook and one or two other techniques which prevent the takedown, rather then trying to unseat a mounted opponent. The nice thing being the validity of the above statements can easily be tested, should you doubt them. Do a few hours of one-two-three practice of escapes with a cooperating opponent. Get yourself a friendly grappler. Let him mount you and tell him to:

a. prevent you from escaping and

b. Slapping you lightly in he face when he sees an opening to do so. You’ll be in for an interesting, if somewhat long and frustrating experience.

Several techniques are possible from this position.

Chokes: Collar choke, Guillotine choke, other chokes


Reversals: This is done by performing the “Oopah.” See above.

It is important that the karateka familiarise themselves with the reverse
position as well: being on top. In this position several techniques are

Strikes: Hand strikes of all types, head butts, finger in the eyes

Chokes: Collar Choke, Guillotine choke (can be performed whilst on top, but it is very difficult), other chokes

Arm Bars: Chicken Wing

Locks: Jaw lock, neck lock, arm lock, wrist lock, nose lock, etc.

The Rear Mount
Game over, unless you are a better grappler than him. You are on your stomach and he is sitting on you. You are either stretched out flat, in which case you cannot move (i.e. escape) and he can hit the back of your head at will, pound your face into the pavement or strangle/choke you. Trying to escape, you will probably get up on your knees. This allows him to “sink in his hooks” and stretch you out again, except this time with more control and excruciating pressure from his concentrated body weight. When you are on your knees, as he tries to put in his hooks, there are a few escape possibilities. Again, without timing (read: extended alive grappling practice), these are pipe dreams. The most popular is rolling over your shoulder and simultaneously “twisting” your body around, thereby ending up in his guard. Failing this, you will end up still with your back on his stomach, lying on top of him. If he is inexperienced, he will cross his legs at the ankles so as to secure your body whilst he puts on the choke. In this case, if you are fast enough, you can put your own legs over his and break his ankle. Again, such an experienced grappler will not make such a basic mistake and an inexperienced grappler or rugby player should not have gotten you into this position in the first place.

The Side Mount/ Cross-Body/ ‘Cienkilo’
This position is often preferred to the standard “mount” by non-BJJ players with grappling experience, such as Ashihara black belts, Harry Gorter (Netherlands) and Erik Petermann (South Africa).

The side mount position often naturally follows from a take-down, particularly those involving a leg sweep or hip throw. From the take-down the opponent is thrown to his back and the karateka positions himself on his side perpendicular to the opponent creating a T shape. The karateka should have the bottom leg bent and the other extended with hips in tight to the opponent’s body. This creates a solid base and prohibits the opponent rolling the karateka over. The principle of staying tight is essential in this position. The head should be tucked in tight to the opponent’s to avoid any gaps. The follow-up techniques can be executed whether or not the karateka had his arm around the opponent’s neck. From this position, the following techniques are possible.

Chokes: Collar choke, Guillotine choke, other chokes (fist, pinching, etc.)

Arm Bars: Chicken wing, leg arm bars, wrist locks

Strikes: Elbows , fists, self defence strikes

The side mount is a favourite position and if done well is difficult for your opponent to defend. From this position you have control over the whole opponents body from the head to the feet. But you must stay tight and lower your weight (make your self heavy). You can do all kinds of techniques from this position. You can easily control (lock) both of his arms while using your body and only one of your hands. You then have one hand spare to perform strikes on his unguarded face or groin area. This finishes your opponent very fast. Please note that it is recommended to finish your opponent very fast – one must get off the ground as soon as possible – and never try to wrestle a wrestler. That is the reason why – whenever possible – strikes to vital points (first) are preferred rather than using techniques as chokes, locks etc. This also overcomes the ‘Gap’ with a very strong ground fighter. However what is recommended is that you train in hitting the opponent first – to make him groggy or to create an opening or to confuse/de-stabilise him – and then control him with chokes, locks, etc..
From the side mount you can easily – after you destabilised and brought him down – go to leg/foot/ankle locks. Or you can perform a shoulder + Neck lock.

Students must also learn how to transit to the mount position and vice versa as well. The side mount is preferred above the mount position because whilst the mount position is a very devastating position it is also very dangerous for you on top. You must be very alert and remain stable because your opponent can perform a reversal and then he is on top. The side mount is less risk because you are better able to control. Top fighter, Bas Rutten almost never uses the mount, he (rather) always uses the side mount.

Knee on belly
This is a very important position. This position often naturally follows from a take-down, particularly those involving a leg sweep or throw as well. The opponent is on his back and you push your knee closest to his body in his stomach (a little below the solar plexus). The other leg is extended out for balance and serves as a rudder to provide direction for the pressure and to counteract the opponents escape movements. Put all your weight in the knee that is pushing in his stomach. This is a very stable position and your opponent can hardly breathe. Please guard your groin. This is the only place where your opponent – although difficult – can hit you.

From this position you can:

Really hit him anywhere you want to finish him

And/or use this position to transit to the side mount or mount (if you want)

Transit to leg locks
This can be a favourite position. You have – in combination with the strikes – complete control of your opponent. You are not really on the ground and you can stand up – after a fast finish – and can quite easily defend yourself against more attackers. Students need to be drilled a lot in this position to make it a natural position for them.

Scarf position
The person on top pins the one at the bottom by encircling his head at the neck with one arm and holding the opponents other arm against his own ribs. The person on top is in control and can strike, arm lock or choke his opponent.

Seated back position
You are on the ground but your opponent is standing. In the back position, the opponent is sitting on the ground with his back turned to you. In other words you are behind his back. This occurs often in the heat of a fight. You can also try to move behind your opponents back.
From this position you can (from behind!):
Perform chokes with or without control with your legs wrapped around his lower body with your legs ending between his legs.
Perform jaw locks. Jaw locks are very useful when your opponent pushes his chin against his chest to defend himself against chokes.
Nose locks.
Elbow and hand strikes to his Neck or Back.

Another back position is when your opponent is lying on his stomach on the ground. From this position you can:
Attack his back with all kind of strikes
Perform a Neck Stretch
Perform a Back Stretch
Perform leg locks

Should you be on the floor, the following is the way to get up
You are on the floor, your weight is on your backside and maybe a little bit on your back. Tilt onto your side. Your one foot is flat on the floor, leg bent to about ninety degrees. Your weight is on this foot and on the opposite hand (e.g. right foot, left hand). Raise your hip off the floor. Use your free hand to protect your face. Your other leg can now be extended to kick at the opponent, helped by rocking forward and back between the supporting hand and foot. Kick at the opponent once or twice to keep him at a distance.

Now lift you hip off the floor as high as you can, thereby creating the space needed to take your kicking leg back. As it goes back, push forcefully off your front foot so as to create even more space, in case your opponent is rushing in. Come up into your fighting stance.

With or without Gi
It is very important that the students train techniques and positions with and without wearing a GI. Training without a GI is a completely different feeling from wearing a GI.

Concluding remarks:
Complex move by move grappling techniques are difficult if not impossible to describe on paper.

Photos or preferably video clips are needed to make things comprehensive.

To become good at grappling, you need to grapple. The more, the better

Never grapple a grappler.

Your first response in a self defence situation should be evasion and escape. Going to the ground negates this as well as being counter indicated because of the previously mentioned fact or of unfriendly terrain, multiple opponents and weapons.

Special Thanks

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the input of senior Ashihara Karate Dan grades – Erik Petermann (Honbu, South Africa), Tom Ross (PA, USA) and Harry Gorter (Holland) in the preparation of this curriculum. Special thanks also to Shihan Dan Soller (of Phoenix Karate -USA) for his input.