- Especially in the beginning, groundfighting is not easy. The basic exercises challenge you to use the muscles of your body in ways you don't normally use them to achieve balance in positions and movements you don't normally find yourself in. We walk around on our legs all day (well, when we're not sitting on our asses), so the standing exercises are more familiar and easier to adapt to. The groundfighting exercises, however, put some folks into a world they haven't visited seriously since they were infants, and it's uncomfortable and straining at first for many.
- They believe that either they'll never need it ("I don't want to go to the ground!"), or they'll never get good enough at it ("Look at how Masters Michael and Al move on the ground--I could never do that, I'm not agile enough").
Not only do I think the above excuses are erroneous, but they prevent the student from making great strides in their self-defense capability and internal development, both on the ground AND standing up.
If you think about it, groundfighting was actually the first element of GC that Grandmaster John Perkins developed. As he has related, his official training began at five years old when his father and uncles would punt him across the linoleum floor of the kitchen and challenge him to not allow them to catch him. Over time they taught him some "Injun wrasslin'" and other tricks, but mostly his training was experiential, figuring out how to avoid and counter the attacks of much larger, older men after being knocked down (sometimes "armed" with a rubber knife and sink plunger "tomahawk"). Also, after an older boy viciously stomped John while John was wrestling with friends for fun, John made the decision to never be taken down. This is what led to his discovery that staying loose and uncooperative and balanced made it impossible for even top level Judoka and wrestlers to take him down--and enabled him to strike them effectively during the process. So you can see that groundfighting and countering grappling with looseness have always been integral parts of GC and key factors in its development.
Regarding the difficulty of the exercises, the key, as with all the exercises, it to practice them until your muscles adapt and the exercises become less physically taxing, allowing you to relax with the movement and improve your proprioception, balance and body unity in all positions. For a fairly healthy adult, it's actually a fairly quick process as you're really "waking up" dormant movement and muscle use, not necessarily introducing something brand new.
Regarding the erroneous beliefs, ANYONE can end up on the ground or in a "grounded" position in a self-defense situation. One of John's first major fights as a cop began when he entered an establishment where a huge fight had broken out, slipped on blood and fell flat on his back, with a huge bruiser jumping on top of him. We have had students who went to the ground in self-defense situations, either by accident or intentionally to get their heads and vital organs away from multiple weapons, and to get to cover and escape. Way back when (before I started GC), I was attacked with a baseball bat while I was lying on a bed (long story--fortunately no injuries). You never know what's going to happen and you never know whom you'll have to deal with or in what position. So practice your groundfighting so that you have a chance.
Note that the crazy, fast, wide, continuous breakdancing moves you see Al and Mike perform in demonstrations, while cool and desirable if you can do them, are in most cases NOT necessary for self-defense. Given the confined spaces where attacks typically occur, and given the actual effects of well executed GC groundfighting, you are quite UNLIKELY to have to flip, roll and helicopter kick all over the place to protect yourself. Being able to stay loose and free mid-fall and on the ground will usually enable you to end things or at least turn the tables within seconds, and with far less movement. Even the most basic "roll down and kick like a crazed mule" skills can create a lot of damage quickly, enabling you to roll away, get up and escape. When John demonstrates groundfighting, the simplest, smallest, laziest movements create devastating results--not because of his agility or athletic prowess, but because of the Balance, Looseness, Sensitivity, Body Unity and Freedom of Action (and experience) he possesses both on his feet and on the ground. So don't let lack of athleticism or a perceived inability to emulate the more athletic masters discourage you. Efficient movement on the ground is all about the five principles and getting comfortable with making them work on the ground as well as on your feet.
I find that one big benefit of consistent groundfighting training is that it helps me discover new levels of looseness and efficient movement. On the ground, your available space for movement is cut down a lot by the presence of the planet right up against you. It forces you to do what you need to do in less space and with less resistance. If you resist on the ground you can effectively freeze and even injure yourself very easily as you end up fighting directly against the enemy's full weight and strength. This forces your body to find another way. If you train on uneven and unforgiving surfaces, you quickly learn to keep your body soft and adaptable, otherwise you'll be going home with LOTS of bruises or worse!
Once you get more comfy and relaxed on the ground, you can begin to fine tune your sensitivity and precision. Some exercises I have done at home include slowly "rolling over Legos" (anyone with kids will understand this one) and "blind ground navigation". (Hey I can make up silly names for exercises too!) In your home, set out some furniture (chairs, tables, etc.) randomly, then close your eyes and slowly roll around the room, feeling your way around and past the furniture without impact or pressure. Put debris (including those deadly Legos) on the ground for more challenge. Do it all slowly, rolling and contorting as needed. Remember to keep breathing deeply. This will improve not only your looseness, sensitivity and balance on the ground, but also hone what John calls your "internal gyroscope," giving you better awareness of where you are in space at all times, no matter how crazy things get. Training like this, in addition of course to various groundfighting contact flow variations and other exercises (see Attack Proof, Second Edition), has improved my basic attributes on the ground as well as standing.
Practice your groundfighting!!!