Ground Survival for Officers, Part Two

Ground Survival for Officers, Part 2
The ground is the worst place to be. 

While officers should train to stay on their feet at nearly all costs during a physical confrontation, it is also important they prepare themselves for the likelihood of being taken to the ground by a suspect who possesses excellent ground-fighting skills.

Reversing Bottom Position
Although the Guard is the safest position to assume while on their backs, officers should not be content to remain there. They should seek to attain a more dominant position so they can end the confrontation as quickly as possible, because the longer a fight lasts the more dangerous it is for them.

There are a number of different ways to reverse the bottom position while in the Guard, and officers should study various grappling systems in order to learn as many of them as possible. Officers should also study and practice wrestling techniques, as this will make them more versatile on the ground and enhance their chances of surviving a ground fight.

One excellent technique for reversing bottom position would begin with officers violently pulling the suspect toward them with their hips and legs, disrupting his / her balance. As the suspect reaches out and plants his / her hands on the ground, officers quickly grab the suspect's left wrist with their right hand and simultaneously unhook their ankles. They then explosively twist their upper torso to the right, resting on their right elbow, and reach over with their left arm and hook it around the suspect's left arm, just above his elbow.

With the suspect's left arm secured in the fold of their own left arm, officers quickly plant their right hand to the ground for support and explosively push off with their left foot and drive their left thigh violently into the suspect's right hip, while simultaneously sweeping the suspect's legs with their right leg in a scissor-type motion. At the end of the sweep, the suspect will be on the bottom position while officers will be on top in the Full Mount. From this position, the control options are numerous for them.

Officers should keep in mind these steps can be performed slowly at first in a step-by-step fashion, but the technique must be drilled until it can be performed explosively, in one fluid motion. To increase the chances of executing a successful sweep, officers should first execute strikes or attempt control holds to put the suspect on the defensive, as this will help set up the sweep. Like boxers in a standup fight, officers should always attack in a series of combinations while fighting on the ground, because this will increase their chances of survival.

Defense from the Full Mount
If officers are unable to assume the Guard position and the suspect mounts them, it is imperative they not remain flat on their backs-and they should never straighten their legs while in this position. If the suspect mounts them, officers should immediately turn to one side. It is typically better to turn to their right side if they are right-handed and to their left side if they are left-handed, pinning their firearm under their body. However, while this will keep their firearm secure, they must also bear in mind that it will be difficult for them to draw it if the need arises.

To transition to their right side after being taken to the ground, right-handed officers should immediately raise their knees while keeping their feet flat on the ground and their hands in a defensive position. They then push off with their left foot to elevate their left hip and simultaneously turn clockwise to place the entire right side of their body toward the ground.
The outside of their right leg will be positioned against the ground and their left knee will be bent and elevated, with the left foot flat on the ground. From this position, they will have several options for escaping the Full Mount and it will better enable them to defend against strikes and other attacks.

Escaping the Full Mount
One escape from the Full Mount involves officers pushing off with their left leg and utilizing a wrestling technique called the "bridge." Instead of bridging off of their head, officers will use their right shoulder. This will help to elevate their body and the suspect's hips, at which time they will have enough separation to pull their right knee to the inside of the suspect's left leg.

They can use their arms to control the suspect's left leg, and this will help them free their right leg. They can then use their right leg to further lift the suspect and create more space, which will allow them to free their left leg. At this point, they can pull the suspect into their Guard and work to set up a reversal or some other technique to gain control of the suspect.
If officers find themselves flat on their back in the Full Mount, they must react quickly to escape or they risk being beaten severely. One basic technique to escape the Full Mount involves officers rolling the suspect off of them and reversing positions. To roll the suspect to their left, officers would control the suspect's right elbow by hooking their left arm around it, while simultaneously hooking their left foot over the suspect's right leg to trap it in place.

Officers would then explosively push off with their right leg to buck the suspect upward and slightly toward their left, while slamming their right arm against the left side of the suspect's torso. They would complete the technique by rolling explosively toward their left side and landing on top of the suspect. In order to take full advantage of this reversal, officers should immediately execute control techniques to subdue the suspect.

It should be noted that some law enforcement ground-fighting systems recommend that officers Clinch when they are on the bottom in the Mount position, but this is not advisable. In addition to limiting their escape options, this position leaves officers open to arm-locks and being smothered under the suspect's body weight, which can be physically exhausting.

Survival Drills
In order to survive compromising positions during real ground fights, officers must assume these compromising positions during training and work to escape them. As an example, officers can assume the bottom position in the Full Mount and work to reverse it, as they also practice defending strikes and other techniques. Their training partner should work hard to remain in the top position, so officers can better prepare themselves to defend against motivated ground fighters. They can then repeat the drills from other compromising positions.

BJ Bourg is the chief investigator for the Lafourche Parish District Attorney's Office. He has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience and has served in various capacities, including patrol, investigations, training and special operations. He can be reached at

Officers can execute hammer-fist strikes to the suspect's shoulder blades from the bottom position in the Guard, as well as downward elbow strikes.

An excellent way for officers to develop striking skills from the Guard is to have a partner mount them and hold punch mitts for them to strike.

Officers can reverse bottom position in the Guard by simultaneously controlling the suspect's left arm, explosively rotating their torso to their right, driving their left leg violently into the suspect's right hip, and using a scissor-type motion with their right leg to sweep the suspects legs.

If a suspect mounts them, officers should immediately turn their body to one side, preferably their gun side, so they can better defend against strikes and submissions.

Officers can reverse the Full Mount by controlling the suspect's right arm and leg, pushing off with their own right leg, driving their right arm violently into the left side of the suspect's body and rolling to their left side.

Published in Tactical Response, Sep/Oct 2012

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