Combat Grappling – When Things Go Wrong

Grappling has a long and remarkable association with civilian self defence. For example, there are manuals and illustrations depicting control and restraint methods being used against armed and unarmed attackers across.  Europe throughout the medieval and renaissance period. The British seemed to change from their own “art of self defence”, boxing, to Asian grappling arts at the end of the 19th century. By this time boxing had completely cemented itself into a position as a respectable professional sport. E. Barton-Wright launched his own hybrid system of bartitsu with the emphasis on teaching a system for combative application as opposed to sport. He brought over Japanese ju jutsu instructors to teach at his short-lived academy and wrote illustrated articles on self defence techniques for civilians. Bartitsu imploded and Barton-Wright completely abandoned it within a few years, leaving ju jutsu as the one component of his school to go onto establish itself as a means for self defence. Ju jutsu, which was often interchangeable with judo during the early part of the 20th century, found its way into western military programmes and even early women’s self defence instructional films.

And yet grappling, by its nature, is less efficient than striking. This might be a little contentious to say in view of the high success rate grapplers have in match fights, but the striker creates distance and therefore better suited to aid escape. In short, stun and run is a better policy for a normal civilian in a life threatening situation than entangling one’s self with an enemy. The grappling imported from Asia and the grappling we see being depicted in 15th century Europe onwards is derived from battlefield training against enemies armed with blades. In many instances empty hand striking techniques would not have been advisable as adversaries were armoured. The purpose of the grappling appears to have been to use the techniques as the only resource available to prevent the armed person from using his close quarter weapons.

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