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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Personal Stories » Be a Shark

Be a Shark

There was an attack in Jiu-Jitsu class recently where the opponent throws a left hand, step-through roundhouse punch. The defense involved blocking, stepping in, and sweeping the opponent’s leg resulting in going to the ground. This isn’t surprising at all as I’m there to learn how to do this type of counter-defense. What I noticed though was the difference between this and Kenpo. Kenpo beginners learn to create distance and counterattack with ranged strikes (like kicks or punches). Jiu-Jitsu focused on moving the attack to the ground.

When do you fight standing up and when do you take the fight to the ground?

When do you fight standing up and when do you take the fight to the ground?

So I’ve pondered when do you stand up with your opponent and when do you initiate taking the fight to the ground. Certainly some external circumstances will dictate various answers. Multiple opponents would almost guarantee you don’t initiate taking the fight to the ground. Also knowing the skill level or preferred fighting style of the opponent plays a part. But I believe the primary deciding factor is your comfort level.

Every summer, my family loves to watch Shark Week on Discovery Channel. At some point in almost all the documentaries, it’s pointed out when researchers are in the ocean, they are no longer at the top of the food chain. On land Man is the alpha predator. In the water, the shark is the alpha predator. It’s their natural environment for which they are ideally suited, and man is not.

There is an analogy here to martial arts fighters. Traditional Kenpoists are going to try to remain in their natural environment, standing up. Whereas Jiu-Jitsu’s natural comfort level will be ground fighting and grappling. Both are sharks (alpha predators) in their preferred environments. (For this discussion, predator is a highly skilled fighter. Not a bully.) And the preferred comfort level will usually dictate the stand-up or grappling environment a confrontation will take.

Your goal then should be to be become a shark in your chosen discipline. If you’re more comfortable standing up, then be the best stand up martial artist (Kenpoist?) possible. Contrarily, if you prefer grappling, be the best ground fighter you can. Put in the necessary hours thinking, studying, and training as you can.

Understand the shark’s weakness though. He can’t survive out of the water, his natural element. Don’t be the stand up fighter who doesn’t know what to do when he’s taken to the ground. Don’t be the ground fighter who can’t last standing up if repeated take down attempts fail. A true, well-rounded Alpha level fighter will be a predator in both the stand-up and ground environments.

If you enjoyed this post, please help spread the word by sharing it with your network or commenting below. We’d love to see comments on your comfort level or when you believe a fight should go to the ground or stand up.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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