April 13, 2013

Book Review: Lori O'Connell's "When the Fight Goes to the Ground"

Lori O'Connell and Tuttle Publishing have just released one of the first books written on traditional Jiu Jitsu for modern ground combat; "When the Fight Goes to the Ground: Jiu-Jitsu Strategies and Tactics for Self Defense." This book/DVD combo brings forth Lori's knowledge and skill set from Can Ryu Jiu Jitsu which is based off of traditional Japanese Ju Jitsu as she presents a modern approach focusing on ground combat.

As with most of Tuttle's titles this one is moderately priced (especially considering you are getting a DVD with it) at $18.95 MSRP, and is of the highest production value with color photo's, dull gloss pages, with bold clear type.  The demonstrators are always wearing opposing colors so that placement of hands and details of strikes are clear and unobstructed.  The bulk of the book is dependent on pictures to demonstrate what the author is describing and the authors descriptions make it painfully easy to walk through the techniques with minimal confusion.  Precise verbage in the second person makes this an easy read.

Clocking in at just over and hour long, the DVD is of top production as well.  Easy to navigate chapters that flow along with the book make it very simple for practitioners to follow along and train at home while watching what O'Connell is coaching.  I think the DVD is an excellent addition, as in certain cases many transitional movements are lost in text only learning models.  Here the student can see the technique live and also pause the DVD to review the notes and text in the book.  Kudo's to Sensei O'Connell for including the DVD, which you can preview a  making of clip below:



Now lets make a clear distinction here to ensure no confusion ensues... though BJJ brown belt Jennifer Weintz offers a forward to the book, this is NOT a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu manual!  Though the similarities are striking, Can Ryu JJ focuses strictly on self defense and not sport.  Also the technique pool O'Connell draws from has a larger repertoire of strikes and small joint manipulations then BJJ does.  So anyone looking for BJJ strategy based text should avoid this book, unless you are desiring to add to your self defense cache of options.

Divided into 18 chapter spanning 192 pages, O'Connell approaches the subject of self defense positionally for the most part.  Escaping from side control, mount, back control etc. are covered along with dealing with a standing attacker when you are on the ground. the latter chapters address multiple attackers, armed attackers, applying joint locks, and defending joint locks.

The first quarter of the book is dedicated to safety on the ground, body shifting and control, and the gem of the book... how to breakfall on concrete!  Now you may ask yourself, "Why include such an inane subject in a book on strategy and technique?" Well folks because if you do not fall properly on a hard surface and become disabled (concussion / broken neck / broken leg etc.) then the rest of the book is of no use to you! 

The keen eye notices that the bulk of "When the Fight Goes to the Ground" is dealing with escaping and defending with only one relatively short chapter on attacks!  I believe O'Connell's intention is to ingrain that escaping to a better position is the most important aspect of any street encounter.  If for no other reason that it affords you options, and options = survival in a self defense scenario.

Yet the critic in me questions why in some of her techniques she chooses to attack her opponent in lieu of attaining a dominant position?  Striking pressure points, gouging eyes, squeezing testicles...all these are certainly painful techniques, but wouldn't they be more incapacitating if applied from a dominant position?  Again in those early chapters she covers why it is not a great idea to jump guard on the street and what not, but within the text priority is often given to the attack over attainment of dominant position.

I would also have liked to have read how Sensei O'Connell proposes one train these techniques safely, yet realistically?  In chapter two "How to Stay Safe on the Ground" she offers realistic reactions to strikes, but this is still rehearsed and somewhat predictable.  No one questions if nut shots hurt and eye gouges would work, but if you are not training these techniques in a "live" sparring scenario then it is going to be extremely difficult to execute in a real live scenario, at least in my experience.  This is one of the major obstacles traditional arts must hurdle in regards to live, uncooperative drilling... how to replicate debilitating techniques to vulnerable targets while maintaining training partners safety?  

Overall the material she lays out is sound and solid self defense, and would be a welcome addition to anyone who is new to self defense.  Format and layout are top notch, and O'Connell's writing is indicative of her 17 plus years of teaching when it comes to conveyance of material.  The addition of a DVD makes this one hell of a steal under $20!  Help support our local martial artists, Lori lives and teaches just north of us in British Columbia.   

For more information, or to schedule a seminar with Lori O'Connell click here!



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