Ki Chuan Do Modified Native American Groundfighting
by Ari Kandel, 1st Degree KCD / Close Combat
One of the more intriguing aspects of Ki Chuan Do (KCD) for beginners and outside observers is Master Perkins' "Modified Native American Ground Fighting." Not only have most people never seen or experienced authentic Native American martial arts (because of the dearth of practitioners alive today and the even smaller number interested in sharing their skills with the public), but most martial artists and combative sport fans cannot even conceive of an effective method of fighting on the ground that differs significantly from the grappling methods (wrestling, jiu-jitsu, etc.) so universally practiced today. To even suggest that a very different method may be equally or even more effective for real violence immediately evokes skepticism, so conditioned are most people to consider "groundfighting" synonymous with "wrestling" or "grappling."
Let's take an analytical look at what KCD Modified Native American Groundfighting actually is, why it is, and how and why it differs from conventional groundfighting (grappling) methods.
DISENGAGEMENT vs. ENGAGEMENT
KCD groundfighting, unlike grappling, emphasizes DISENGAGEMENT, rather than ENGAGEMENT with the enemy. "Engagement" here means the merging of two bodies into a single system of forces for more than a split second's duration. Put more simply, conventional grappling methods emphasize engagement with the adversary in that the practitioner seeks to "tie up with" the adversary in order to apply his techniques. The grounded grappler on the offensive seeks to minimize the distance between his body and his opponent's, hence gaining maximum control over and awareness of all of the opponent's movements, maximizing opportunities to apply attached joint locking/breaking and choking/strangling techniques.
KCD groundfighting, on the other hand, implores us to remain as disengaged as possible. Rather than tying up with the enemy, a KCD practitioner strives to maintain his/her own freedom of movement, rather than committing his/her body to merging with the movements of a single adversary. Contact with the enemy, rather than being tight and constant as in conventional grappling, is fleeting and minimal, consisting primarily of kicks, strikes, slams, gouges, rips and quick wrenches. The principle of disengagement allows the KCD practitioner to utilize an element relatively unavailable to the conventional grappler: MOBILITY.
While a good grappler is mobile relative to his opponent, in that he is able to rapidly climb all over and around the opponent's body, the engaged aspect of grappling prevents the grappler from being mobile relative to the total environment. While he is attached to his opponent, working towards the opponent's defeat, the grappler is not free to rapidly move around the environment he is fighting in.
The KCD practitioner, specifically because he remains disengaged from the enemy (through trained rapid, convulsive and yielding movement and sensitivity), is free to move wherever s/he wishes. Further, rapid mobility across the ground (primarily in the mode of rolling) is something that is trained constantly in KCD groundfighting training. This kind of training is notably absent from most conventional grappling programs, simply because it does not fit into the grappling paradigm of constant engagement.
SPORT vs. COMBAT
The contrasts explored thus far expose the primary difference between conventional ground grappling and KCD groundfighting: Most modern grappling methods are designed for a SPORT paradigm, while KCD groundfighting is intended for REAL COMBAT. Because of the always present possibility of multiple attackers in real combat, purposefully engaging with a single adversary on the ground, thereby sacrificing mobility, is an extremely risky strategy. While the story exists of a grounded grappler's buying time against multiple attackers by manipulating his engaged opponent as a shield against the kicks and punches of the other attackers, this is hardly a reliable enough strategy to count on. A far better strategy is the exact same one a KCD practitioner would use on his/her feet: Remain MOBILE and disengaged in order to prevent the attackers from targeting you for effective strikes and grapples while lashing out with powerful, accurate, full-body attacks against the closest attackers, while attempting to create a window to escape the crowd.
This is exactly what the KCD multiple attacker strategy consists of: constant, unpredictable movement (in the mode of rapid, stomping steps while standing, and rolling when on the ground); rapid, powerful, full-body striking at all angles (dropping strikes and kicks while standing, and dropping kicks [primarily], body slams and strikes on the ground); and looking to escape the mass attack (breaking out of the crowd to run away while standing, and creating space to get up and then run when on the ground).
PROVEN IN WORLD WAR II
If this groundfighting strategy sounds novel or unproven, note these excerpts from the book Kill or Get Killed by Lt. Col. Rex Applegate, one of the greatest works on close combat of the World War II era:
"Avoid, if at all possible, going to the ground with your adversary. . . .
One injunction you should heed: Once going to the ground, never stop moving. Start rolling and try to get back on your feet as quickly as possible. If you can't get up and can't roll, pivot on your hips and shoulders so you can face your opponent and block with your feet any attempt to close with you.
Remember, it is not necessary to go to the ground once YOU have placed your opponent there. You can finish him off with your feet. Your enemy can do likewise if you remain immobile on the ground and stay within range."
(p. 15--emphasis included in original)
"When on the ground, subjected to attack from a standing opponent, the individual can use his feet to prevent the adversary from closing in or administering a coup de grace."
"At the first opportunity he should try to regain his feet."
Despite being an expert in sportive methods of ground grappling, Lt. Col. Applegate, like John Perkins, understood that under real combat conditions, where multiple adversaries may have boots and other weapons fully capable of ending things in an instant if offered a good (stationary) target, a) lying on the ground is generally a bad place to be, and b) when on the ground, the sportive strategy of engagement must be abandoned for one of disengagement and mobility.
THE STRATEGY MUST MATCH THE GOAL
The grappling approach of full engagement with a single adversary in order to apply pins, joint locks and chokes is ideally suited to allowing a grappler to convincingly and demonstrably control and dominate a single opponent without seriously injuring him. This is why grappling is such a perfect method for sport competition, where the object is to demonstrate one athlete's superiority over another while preserving both athletes to perform another day.
In contrast, the KCD approach of disengagement, with contact limited primarily to the impacts of powerful, full-body kicks, body slams, strikes, wrenches, rips and gouges, is not very well suited to pinning an opponent in place or forcing him to admit defeat before serious damage is done. What it IS suited for, however, is maintaining the KCD practitioner's freedom of movement and mobility, allowing him/her to move sufficiently to prevent a lethal pile-on or boot party from multiple attackers and create space to stand up, while dealing out disabling and possibly lethal damage to the attackers.
THE WEAPON FACTOR
Another contrast between KCD groundfighting and conventional grappling that illustrates their respective foci (combat vs. sport) is how the hands are utilized in each. In conventional grappling, the hands are used almost constantly to hold and control the opponent, and also at times to balance on and push off of the ground or strike the opponent. In KCD groundfighting, however, the hands are almost never used against the ground or to hold the enemy, and are used only secondarily for momentary striking, gouging and ripping. During training, the KCD practitioner is admonished to keep his/her hands as free and unencumbered as possible. This is because KCD acknowledges the fact that in real combat, hand-held weapons are often a factor in the outcome. Therefore, KCD groundfighting is designed to integrate seamlessly with weapons use. This is inherent in the art's Native American roots, when a practitioner would have been expected to have tomahawks and/or hunting knives in his hands while fighting in close combat, on the ground or otherwise. The modern KCD practitioner may instead have in his/her hands a carry knife, a cane, or a weapon of opportunity that may be picked up from the ground (e.g. a brick, a bottle, or dirt to throw in the enemies' eyes). Groundfighting with weapons, as well as picking up weapons from the ground in the midst of a fight, are frequently practiced aspects of KCD training.
To sum up what we've covered so far:
Generally, KCD groundfighting uses the same strategy as KCD stand-up fighting:
Use SENSITIVITY and the DISENGAGEMENT PRINCIPLE to as quickly as possible DESTROY THE ENEMY while maintaining a firm ROOT NO ONE CAN FIND (through balanced MOBILITY), looseness, and body unity.
The major differences that require additional training are the use of different ROOTING POINTS on the ground--hips, back, shoulders, etc.--as opposed to just the feet while standing up, and the increased availability of TOOLS, in that both legs may be used simultaneously from the ground and in ways different from when standing up. Seeing as the legs (especially with sturdy boots on them) are by far the more powerful limbs of the body, it makes sense to take advantage of their increased usability on the ground through additional training. Hence, the main foci of solo training for KCD groundfighting should be the development of BALANCE on and transition between the various rooting points available on the ground, and the development of the musculature and coordination necessary to use all the available tools in all possible ways . . . and, of course, the development of the ability to get up off the ground from any position as quickly as possible! Training methods that achieve these ends are taught in the "Going Native" DVD, available from www.attackproof.com.
Although this article primarily addresses how the KCD practitioner fights while on the ground, because the prevention of going to the ground is such an important factor in real combat, we will address it briefly here.
There are no special "anti-grappling" or "counter-takedown" techniques in KCD. One problem with such techniques would be that by the time one realizes their necessity in a fight (i.e. when one recognizes the takedown attempt), it is usually too late to apply them! Instead, the basic concepts of KCD, if trained diligently, will usually prevent the circumstances that typically result in fighters' going to the ground against their will. Specifically:
Generally, training the KCD principles will allow the KCD practitioner to deal with a grappler as with any other fighter. Special attention is given to aspects of contact flow and combat application particularly germane to grappling (e.g. feeling the level change, finding and indexing on the head, body unity and dropping to stop momentum, close range destruction, destroying the grappler while being taken down, etc.)
INTENTIONALLY GOING TO THE GROUND: "EMERGENCY OFFLINING"
While going to the ground in a real combat situation should generally be avoided, under certain circumstances, going to the ground in particular ways may be the best course of action.
In KCD, intentionally going to the ground may be characterized as a form of "emergency offlining." Getting offline from an attacker's charge is a fundamental concept in KCD. It is usually accomplished while standing by stepping to the side (and preferably forward) of an attacker with appropriate timing, positioning and follow-up. However, sometimes the practitioner may not have the space or time to move to the side (e.g. in a confined area multiple attacker situation), or must immediately get his/her vital organs further away from the attackers' weapons (e.g. knives) than a sidestep in the given environment would allow. If offlining cannot be accomplished to either side, and if the KCD practitioner cannot levitate, changing the angle can be accomplished in only one direction: downwards. The KCD practitioner must go to the ground.
The methods by which the KCD practitioner goes to the ground are very different from those used by most sport grapplers. Nearly all the methods sport grapplers use to take a fight to the ground (e.g. wrestling takedowns, judo throws) involve bringing their most vital areas (head, neck, chest) very close to the opponent's hands. This creates a major problem in real combat situations that require going to the ground--situations in which one GOAL of the maneuver is to GAIN distance between the fighter's vital areas and the weapons of the enemy! The methods used in KCD, based on Native American takedown maneuvers, do not suffer from this problem. They involve dropping, diving, spinning and rolling to the ground at angles that present the practitioner's feet towards the enemy, while moving the upper body away from the enemy's weapons. The simultaneous takedowns are done with the feet and legs and have a good chance of seriously damaging the enemy's lower body (primarily breaking the knees). They also set up the practitioner to use his/her legs on the ground (again keeping the vital areas of the upper body away from the enemy's weapons) to quickly end any subsequent groundfight.
While there is much more that might be said about the unique and practical characteristics of KCD Modified Native American Groundfighting, the analysis thus far should be sufficient to give you an idea of what to keep in mind while training. Here are some training tips to consider as you begin your path to combative groundfighting expertise:
We hope this article has helped to shed some light on what KCD Modified Native American Groundfighting is, why it is so different from conventional groundfighting, and why it is so important to learn it. As usual, we are open to any questions or comments you may have. We hope you enjoy the Guided Chaos Groundfighting DVD and use it as a resource to accelerate your training and development. Remember that even if you encounter difficulty performing some of the movements demonstrated, do not worry. As with KCD as a whole, if you do the basic exercises and develop your body according to the principles, you will achieve the maximum combative efficiency possible for yourself, regardless of which particular movements you are physically capable of performing.
Train safe, stay safe, and enjoy!