"The Ground Game"

"The Ground Game"

Postby global village idiot » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:27 pm

This post is a question to those who know tai chi chuan far better than I do, which is to say everyone reading this.

To the best of my knowledge - and apparently the opinions of others in better positions to speak to this than I am - tai chi chuan's answer to the question of what to do about grappling on the ground is AVOID IT BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

This is a reasonable answer - grappling and wrestling on the ground is an ugly, vulgar business - and being mostly an external sort of fighting, has little place in tai chi. Moreover, a good practitioner CAN avoid it and the style lends itself to staying upright throughout.

But "what if?"

Look at enough videos of Judo matches or MMA bouts or just plain street fights and you see just how many end up on the ground. In the case of the MMA bouts, it's likely this is by design, since the style used emphasizes this skill set. And the reason so many "street" fights end up on the ground is likely due to the fact that one or the other of the parties involved is either drunk or an untrained fighter.

Still, AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS seems like an incomplete answer for so comprehensive and mature an art. I'd be grateful to know what others have to say with respect to tai chi chuan's answer to "The Ground Game."

global village idiot
Posts: 82
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:31 pm

Re: "The Ground Game"

Postby fchai » Mon Sep 05, 2016 12:46 am


Really, there is no 'ground game' in Taiji. Truly! Very few, if any, Chinese martial arts have formal techniques to apply when one ends up on one's back on the ground. Other than wrestling and judo, I cannot think of any other martial arts that train grappling on the ground. Conceptually, I can understand the view that if you are on your back on the ground, you are as good as dead! Lol. Think also on this, there is little chance of you using 4 ounces to defeat a 1000 lbs gorilla on the ground! In my judo past, it was nigh impossible to pin an opponent who is significantly more massive than one. Trying for an over body arm lock was futile, as was trying to get one's arms around from behind and under the armpits for a head lock.

Take care,
Posts: 109
Joined: Sun May 31, 2015 6:11 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: "The Ground Game"

Postby Audi » Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:54 am


All traditional martial arts emerge from a specific environment and are meant to address different realities. Do you expect one or multiple opponent’s? Will they be armed or armored? Will you fight in a field, on hard ground, on a street, or in a bar? What does defeat mean: loss of pride, loss of livelihood, or loss of life? What does victory mean: a boost to your pride, safety, a lawsuit, jail, or a new blood feud? Ground fighting on a mat and on a rocky surface are quite different things. Which are you planning for?

I also distinguish between fighting for an objective, self-defense to ensure my safety, sport competition, and artistic expression. These are all linked, but have different demands and different risk profiles. MMA, as a sport, would look quite different from its current expression with only a few rule changes, just as all other martial sports look different from their more combative expressions. Did you see the Olympic Tae Kwon Do? It looks quite different from traditional sparring because of the rules structure.

I do not think Tai Chi generally arose from an environment where ground fighting was particularly practical or advisable. There are good reasons why MMA does not allow stomp kicks or kicks to a downed opponent.

I am aware of some Tai Chi practitioners who do seem either to incorporate some aspects of ground fighting into their practice or at least defense against ground fighting. Search YouTube for “tai chi and grappling” and several results will pop up. With the possible exception of Wu Style, I do not think this is part of the core skills taught in any of the family styles, but I do not see any reason why they could not be adapted for such things.

Take care,
Posts: 1205
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am
Location: New Jersey, USA

Re: "The Ground Game"

Postby global village idiot » Tue Sep 06, 2016 9:08 pm

it was nigh impossible to pin an opponent who is significantly more massive than one. Trying for an over body arm lock was futile, as was trying to get one's arms around from behind and under the armpits for a head lock.

This is my experience too.

It happened in 2008 that I was in pre-mobilization training, and one of the things we were obliged to do was "Level 1 Combatives" training. Level 1 Combatives is based largely on Brazilian Jujitsu which, I gather, figures prominently in MMA fights we see on television.What on earth a Postal Plans & Operations section such as mine needed Combatives training for eludes me to this day, but the rationalization "You Never Know When You're Gonna Need It" tends to justify all sorts of wasted training time and this was no exception.

Since there were only 8 of us, we worked with another unit as well. You were supposed to pair off with someone your size. I'm no midget but I'm definitely >1 Standard Deviation below the average American male's height. And wouldn't it be my luck that the only person left after everyone else paired up was Andre the Giant's stunt double...

So just like you, here I was trying to do arm bars on a guy whose arm was the size of my leg, and leg locks on a guy whose leg was the size of my waist. It was comical in its pathos.

I had never needed convincing before that "external" martial arts were not for me; if anything, this episode merely proved the wisdom of the decision.

Every bit of military training is supposed to begin with a "motivator" - some fact or statement that gives the trainee the "Why" for the task he's learning. The one the Combatives trainers used was to the effect of "85% of all fights end up on the ground." It took a considerable effort of will NOT to ask where that figure came from - I thought it was made up - but that's not the point.

The first thing I usually ask myself when confronted by any such statistic is where it comes from and whether it's trustworthy. Let's set that aside for the sake of discussion and assume that, despite its dodgy appearance, it comes from a trustworthy source and is based on sound data. The next question we ought to ask ourselves is "Why do they end up on the ground?"

A small exertion of plain reason would lead us to the conclusion that they probably do so for two reasons:
1) One or both of the fighters is good at such fighting or he believes doing so will confer an advantage, which leads to...
2) One or both of the fighters is drunk or not a very good fighter.

These two conclusions tend to put my mind to ease concerning tai chi and its lack of a "ground game." Sure, "going to ground" might happen, but the style is meant to avoid it and if I'm good at it (which I hope to be), it seems a reasonable thing to be able to avoid - if I'm in control of my position and movement I can break contact and re-establish it at will.

This is all just rationalization, of course, and it's not the best answer in the world, but I suppose it'll have to do.

global village idiot
Posts: 82
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:31 pm

Re: "The Ground Game"

Postby Bob Ashmore » Fri Sep 09, 2016 4:57 pm

As Audi has previously mentioned, ground fighting is taught as a matter of course in Wu Chien Chuan style as taught by Si Kung Wu Kwong Yu.
I have learned some of this method in my time in his school, both from him and his instructors, but I am by no means an expert on the subject.
I know what to do when I hit the floor because I've done so, over and over and over and over...
Mostly at the Wu school but it has happened to me in the "real" world a couple of times.
The teachers there were always ready, willing, and able to throw me to the floor so I could practice my ground fighting techniques anytime and did so with apparent gusto. :lol:
If you are interested in learning TCC ground fighting then I highly recommend that you attend their training and learn how it's done.
In a nutshell...
There's not much different about it outside of learning to reorient your "ground point".
It's obviously not going to be in your feet anymore...
Once you learn to accept that and how to ground with any other part of your body, you've pretty much "got it" and the rest is simply window dressing.
Of course it's not that easy to do, otherwise everyone would be teaching it.
But with practice and patience it can be learned.
My take on learning ground fighting...
Do so.
Because you're going to end up on the ground. Period and end of story.
Perhaps the Grand Masters wouldn't... I don't know as I've never been able to put one there.
But the rest of us...
We're going down. It's as inevitable as the tide and taxes.
Learning what to do once you're there just seems to be a logical thing to do.

Bob Ashmore
Posts: 725
Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2005 6:01 am
Location: Frankfort, KY, USA

Return to Tai Chi Theory and Principles

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest