​As discussed in the first two articles, getting back to your feet should be your primary short-term tactical goal if you find yourself prone. Of course, defence while on the ground and offence to create safer opportunities to get back to your feet are also tactically important but do not represent your ultimate goal while on the ground. In order to reduce the chances of our transition from prone to standing being exploited by an opponent or opponents, we need to maximise our defence through this movement and use our tactical assessment of the situation to choose the optimum opportune moment to transition.

We will be using the same scenario presented in Ground Work Part 2 for the basis of this discussion (ie. A scenario involving multiple, unarmed, standing opponents against a single, unarmed prone opponent).

The following tactical approaches can be used while performing a transition:

  1. Rapid Transition. Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is a great historic treasure trove of tactics and strategies that are still relevant today. The tactics presented in this book are applicable for generals martialing large forces or for an individual martialing their own body which is why it is popular with martial artists. I highly recommend this work. A tactic mentioned frequently within the work is the tactic of unpredictability. Much of an opponent’s ability to deal with a threat is based on experience and knowledge of the threat. If you behave in a way that is unpredictable, you become an unknown and potentially unquantifiable threat. This reduces an opponent’s ability to predict and deal with you effectively. As an example of how this could play out within a prone to standing transition is to get back to your feet as soon as you go to ground. At the instant that you fall to ground, most opponents will take a couple of microseconds to mentally negotiate the fact that you were standing and now you are on the ground even though they may have orchestrated the fall themselves. If you get to your feet again within this ‘processing’ period, your opponents may not have time to make use of their tactical advantage to launch a coordinated threat to your transition. This may even leave you with enough time to launch a surprise attack once you have gained your feet which may provide an opportunity for disengaging with the mob safely and getting thyself elsewhere. Practicing ‘roll’ type transitions both forward and backwards from standing is a good training tool to make use of this tactic. Our system’s simple tiger rolls forward and backward are perfect for utilizing here but other systems will have similar drills that can be modified to suit this.
  2. Timed Transition. Another option for making a safer transition from prone is to choose an opportunity when all of your opponents have their attentions diverted momentarily or are momentarily inhibiting each other’s attack angles. This is a very rare occurrence but can happen and when it does, it can be exploited to minimize threat during your transition. This can be engineered but requires vary good tactical use of environment, ground movement and psychology.
  3. Fighting Transition. This is likely to be the most common type of transition. In a fighting transition, we occupy or neutralise an opponent with an attack in order to momentarily reduce threat vectors and create a ‘break’ in our opponent’s line. This break can then be exploited as a safer transition zone.


How to get up.

Hollywood and the internet is flooded with fancy kip-up movements from a prone position. I would argue that these fancy movements may actually be less useful in a real self-defence situation than a simpler roll onto your feet. There are two reasons for this.

  1. Unnecessary difficulty and complexity. As a general rule in traditional Kung Fu, movements are only as complex or difficult as they absolutely need to be. There should be no flowery shows. In a real self-defence situation, the aim is not to entertain your opponents into submission. If we train ourselves to fight with unnecessarily complex or difficult movements, we increase the chances of failure without any commensurate return. There is an unspoken rule in self-defence: Big risk, big reward. Self-defence involves very fast risk assessment and critical path analysis. If I take a big risk, it has to be calculated and I have to potentially reap a big reward from it. If a movement is fancy for the sake of being fancy, I am increasing my risk but not the reward. It makes no logical sense within a survival strategy.
  2. Reduced defence. In a typical kip-up movement, the hands and arms are often employed to perform the jump while arching the back and exposing the ‘Yin’ part of the body (chest and belly). This does not make sense within a threatening environment since the momentary loss of arms and hands and exposure of vital organs could potentially place the defender under increased risk of attack. If kip-ups are used, defence should remain intact as far as possible. Although kip-ups can be performed as a very fast movement, they are still not fast enough to avoid retaliation simply by virtue of their speed.

For these reasons, I recommend the use of simple rolls onto your feet in the majority of cases. Of course, this opinion comes with a ship-load of caveats because as I stated in point 1 above, movements executed in self-defence scenarios should only be as complex as they absolutely have to be. As such, there may be a situation where a kip-up style movement may have to be performed for speed or as perhaps as an evasive transition to avoid some kind of attack.

As a general rule when performing a role to your feet, keep your arms and hands in a defensive position throughout the movement to maximise your defence. Cunning opponents will attack as you transition because that is when your defence is most likely to be compromised. Practicing low stances and low stance transitions helps with the movement from prone to standing by increasing the power of the slow and fast twitch muscles in your legs.

These rolls should be practiced forward, backward and to the sides. They must be done very quickly and smoothly to limit exposure to threat. See Figure A below for some photos of examples of transitions using forward, back and side rolls. Variations of these rolls can involve combining them with an attack, such as a sweep or a kick. This can add value by combining the transition with a reduction in threat-vectors but does increase the risk due to an increase in movement complexity.