Not sure if this has already been addressed, but what are some tips for fighting back when you’re on the ground and being attacked by a man? By a dog? Thanks.

Due to the nature of this question, I’m going to label this with a tw for animals and violence against them. The part about dogs is uncomfortable to talk about for most people. It’s a good question, just…uncomfortable.

First a disclaimer, since your question is unclear. This isn’t a blog designed to teach you how to fight or a self-defense blog. This is a blog designed to help authors develop better fight scenes. For “real life” you need a real, physically present teacher and practice with a partner. In a self-defense context it’s best if you have a male friend who goes with you and doesn’t mind being the punch dummy.

I’m going to do a whole subsection devoted to ground fighting once I get through working my way through kicks. I only know most of the basic grappling moves like how to do different variations of the arm bar, triangle leg choke, ground defense, etc. But the basic gist of it is this:

1) You never want to end up on the ground in a fight.

2) Almost all fights will eventually go to the ground, so learn how to fight there.

In a ground fight, the person who is the largest and heaviest with strongest muscles has the advantage. So, larger men and larger women have a serious advantage over smaller men and smaller women. They will have the advantage, even if the smaller fighter lands on top. That’s the second thing, the fighter who takes the top position usually wins unless their opponent knows how to defend themselves (and didn’t break anything in the fall). Street fighters will often attempt to take each other to ground in an opening bid for dominance, because they’ve learned this rule: he or she who goes to the ground first and gets the top spot wins.

This is why most street fighters are idiots. The ground is the worst place to be whether you are male or female. Again, because of the gravity and weight advantage, but also because it puts the back of your head too close to the ground (that ground could be concrete).

On the ground in the real world, the first goal is to get off the ground and escape. In a fight, the person on the bottom’s first goal is to get back on top. You can do that in a fair number of ways, none of which are easy even against an opponent the same size as yourself. It takes time and training to be able to use any of them. Plus, we’d need to sit down to talk about body positioning and terminology before even broaching the subject of the useful techniques. Grappling is much more complicated than kicking.

But start by thinking about this: the average man weighs between 180-220 pounds. When standing in a fight you only take a fraction of that weight, even when they are leaning on you. When they are sitting on you, you get to take all of it. You’re not fighting their strength (though your physical strength is very important when you’re on the bottom), you’re really fighting against their weight. This is where people screw up the height and weight thing, weight relates to fighting on the ground and not so much anywhere else (unless they’ve got a few hundred pounds on you). Height matters with kicks. When we get close enough for hands, a few centimeters of difference in the arms isn’t going to be enough to matter. (Greater height and weight also give a psychological advantage to the attacker and works against the victim. But it’s mostly the intimidation factor and it’d usually what’s driving the fight because the attacker believes they’ll win.)

Grappling is about finding the path of least resistance, shifting weight, breaking bones, and, honestly, death. None of the attacks I learned are gentle, because being in that situation is dire. If grappling is something you’re interested in Jiujutsu and Judo are two good martial arts to study. Also, sign up for local self-defense courses that cover ground fighting. As for tips: don’t roll over on your stomach (oops, you want to be on your back!), you’ll get pinned and you won’t be able to fight. It’s a natural instinct to do this, but it doesn’t work.

Dogs? Okay, I just want everyone to know: I am a dog lover. I love dogs, cats, and animals of all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to remember that animals can be dangerous, whether that danger comes from a bad owner or what they’ve been trained to do, they are dangerous. So, if you don’t want to read about dogs in that context, please don’t go any further.

There aren’t any martial arts out there designed to deal with dogs. If it’s one of the smaller dogs, you won’t have much trouble. If it’s a dog like a German Shepherd or a Doberman, a dog that has been bred and trained to protect and guard someone or something? Or a Pit Bull that has been raised to fight? Oh, ouch.  So, things to remember: a dog is much faster than you, a dog has more killing power than you do, a dog has teeth, it has a better bite, it’s got better instincts, and guard dogs generally run in packs.

The best tip for fighting a dog is: don’t. Back away slowly (don’t run, like a wild animal that triggers the “prey” switch), get out of it’s territory, don’t yell but try to be authoritative. Use words like “no, bad, stop” and hope the dog was trained to understand English (and not some other language). If the animal’s handler or owner is there, then all bets at being the dominant authority are off. Also, check with your local Animal Control experts to see if they have any good advice. Dogs can be wonderful pets, but many breeds were bred for a certain kind of work and they do that work very well. Even medium sized dogs can be very dangerous in the right conditions. So, if the situation is you or the dog, my advice is pick you. Do whatever you have to and get out of there. Weapons with a longer reach, if any are available, such as a crowbar are helpful.

Starke says: wear armor, even just something like a leather jacket will be more difficult for the dog to bite through. You have to give them something to bite onto like your forearm and go at them while they are chewing on that. You will get bit, though. Whether the next step is breaking the dog’s jaw or killing it is up to the situation and the nature of the person in question. It’s a last ditch resort in either case.

I think that’s all.

-Michi