How you tell a thing is at least as important as what you tell. You can be 100% right, and tell the story in such a way that it alienates the jury, or the media, or your prospective customers.
But the video was not wrong. It was dead on. But the explanations, the articulations, were substandard.
To hammer the main point: You can be completely right, and if you explain poorly, it won’t matter. The jury will find you guilty or the BTDT crowd will find a reason to dismiss you.
So in the first segment, Mr. Kesting talks about RBSD and the advice to 1) never go to the ground in a street fight; 2) what if the bad guy has friends; and 3) what about weapons?
He sidesteps these, but these are critically important. More important, they don’t distract from his main point.
Multiple opponents? Standing or on the ground, multiple opponents suck. I’ll tell you right now that my plan in a big riot was always to find the biggest bad guy I could and cross choke him out and hide under his body. That’s a grappling application in a worst-case multiple attacker scenario. Context is critical.
Weapons suck, too. Grappling against a blade sucks on unbelievable levels… but so does stand-up against a knife.
Never go to the ground? If you get to pick, you’re the bad guy. In self-defense, victims don’t have choices. If there was one thing I could re-write in the script to this video, this would be the key because Mr. Kesting is exactly right– but without the experience of street violence his explanation is off. You need to be able to fight on the ground because you will not have the choice. Any dick who tells you ‘we train not to the go to the ground’ is indulging in his fantasy, not your reality.
His second reason involves clinching. I’m an infighter. Most people do it shitty, but this is my range. This is the way I like to fight. He points out that clinching is what boxers do to not get hit. The way I would articulate it is this: Grappling, whether standing or on the ground, allows you to control time. It is the slowest possible way of fighting (that’s not a bad thing). Time without damage buys time to think, and plan, and manipulate the fight into something you might win. Properly executed, a good clinch controls space, controls arms, controls the entire skeleton. If you’re good, it allows you to control the pace of the fight. No down side to doing it well.
Kesting’s third reason is for control. To hold someone until authorities arrive. A valid reason, but it can be incredibly complex and fucked up. Legally, there is a fine line between controlling a perp and committing “unlawful detention.” For enforcement officers (and this is my experience) most tournament grappling systems fail because sport submissions don’t tend to put the threat into handcuffing position. That leaves with a guy who says he’s done fighting who may be lying. The bridge, FWIW, between submission systems and handcuffing tends to fall into fingerlocks, and no one teaches that like Small Circle Jujitsu.
The fourth reason is beautiful, but poorly phrased. If the guy is bigger and stronger and there is no opportunity to retreat…
Here’s the deal. The guy will be bigger and stronger than you. IF IT IS SELF-DEFENSE. He will have size, strength, surprise, weapons, and/or be crazy. This is self-defense, not Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma’s. As a general rule. If someone is better at ‘A’ you fight him with ‘B’. Kesting’s fourth reason applies if and only if you are a better grappler. Voluntary grappling is almost always a bad idea for SD– when the goal is to escape, sacrificing mobility has a huge cost. But we don’t train for when things are going well. You have to be good at striking, clinch and grappling (and small arms and small unit tactics and…) and you have to have the capacity to turn the fight into the kind you are good at…especially if the bad guys is better than you at another range.
The physics of fighting to escape are different from the physics of fighting to win, and this is worth practicing as well.
Kesting’s fifth reason is also exactly right, but not. There are a handful of things that work with the really big problems, with the mentals and the enraged and EDPs and PCP freaks and EDs. Breaking every long bone in their body works. A very severe concussion usually works. Suffocation. Bleeding out. And cutting off blood to the brain.
I could do a post on things that should work but don’t, but the list of things that actually work is very short and Kesting points out the number one unarmed technique: the rear naked strangle. Or LVNR or hadakajime. Whatever you want to call it, it works.
That said, it is hard as hell to justify as self-defense. Why? Because in order to use it you must be behind the threat and in control. You are likely the bad guy. It is an extraordinary technique for defense of a third party. Defending yourself it is roughly equivalent to justifying shooting someone in the back. Especially in jurisdictions that have ruled any neck restraint to be deadly force. Long ago my county attorney said, “I’d rather you shot someone on the back than used a chokehold. There’s a lot more case law for shooting.” Which, by the way, is one of the reasons to get good at cross-strangles.
Once again, Kesting is exactly right, but misses the context of the real world. Familiarity with those concepts make his points stronger, not weaker. He is, like a lot of martial artists, more right than he knows.
You need to be able to articulate why the right answer was the right answer.
Note– I contacted Stephan Kesting and let him see the first draft of this post. His response was:
Go for it! This is a valuable discussion to have, and by putting videos on YouTube I’m pretty much putting myself into the spotlight; at that point having people disagree with what I’m saying, or pointing out incomplete aspects of my arguments, comes with the territory.
That’s the sign of a good thinker, teacher and perpetual learner. All the signs of a good man.