Terrain and Self Defense

Growing up outside of Chicago, and raising a self-defense academy there, taught me a lot about terrain and self-defense. I would regularly take my classes outside to train, sometimes to get a breath of fresh air, but most of the time to teach them how radically different types of footing, weather and temperatures could foil whatever “magic bullet” self-defense moves they might be banking their survival on.

I would see seasoned kick boxers realize their wet footing wasn’t good enough to use the kick they had developed for the last decade. I would observe ground fighters find out trying one of their take downs on a snow covered ground threw off their timing so much it might as well been in slow motion. I watched boxers who had incredible footwork be grounded when trying to move around on an icy parking lot.

Assuming your footing is extremely compromised, you are limited on the types of moves you could actually use to defend yourself. If you are standing on an extremely wet, icy or even snow covered ground, I would also say your ability to kick, preform takedowns or even more around well is not possible.

What is possible? Mainly grabbing onto your opponent with one of these holds and using a mixture of these close quarter moves. In order to better keep our footing, these three “holding” positions will give you stability, give you control and give you access to some brutal moves so you can escape the altercation.

First, the “plumb” position is where we lock both of our hands behind the opponent’s neck. This gives us great center of gravity, while at the same time has the potential of protecting our face if done correctly which can be seen in the illustration. From here my favorite move is to use a head butt, by pulling the opponents face into the top of your head.

The second position is called a high pummel position, where one arm is locked behind the opponent’s head, and the other is grabbing the back of their arm. This is another great control position, which can control an attacker who is throwing punches. As a counter to their punches, we can do an “inside” and “outside” elbow combo, which can truly throw off their equilibrium.

Finally, the underhook position, is where we have both of our arms under theirs. This position is common in grappling arts, and is many times used in a takedown, which is why we are going to use it for the same purpose. Sometimes when on a slippery surface, it is obvious that your footing is poor, and the probability is that both of you will end up on the ground.

In those cases, it is best to take control, and make sure they are the ones going down first, and will end up on the bottom. By using a double underhook position, we squeeze their lower back and pull up, helping us to pull them down. Our goal is to land on top of them, and have superior position from mount.

Defending yourself on unstable ground is a challenge, as if fighting for your life wasn’t hard enough. Having the awareness of your footing and using the proper range, position and techniques will give you an advantage if these situations arise.

Sifu Matt Numrich

Sifu Matt Numrich is a martial artist and self-defense expert, renowned for his training in Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Martial Arts.