Active Response Training (Greg Ellifritz)

Tactical Groundfighting

15 March 2014


On 15 March 2014 I attended a one day groundfighting course taught by Greg Ellifritz.  The course was hosted by John Murphy from FPF Training and held at a local boxing gym in Culpeper, VA.   The gym offered a clean, dry, and warm place to train.  I firmly believe this helped the learning process.


The vast majority of my training over the years has been gun centric. I have been attempting to correct that by branching out and working on knife and stick skills.   My formal combatives training has been limited to MAC stuff in the Army and some in-service stuff.  


The class started with a brief introduction by John and some ground rules from the gym.  We started promptly at 9 with instructor and student introductions.  Going around the room it was obvious that the experience and skill level of the attendees varied widely.  There were folks with zero training to those that have been involved in various martial arts for a decade or more.   Greg promised that he would be able to start out at the ground level and work on improving all of our skills as the day progressed.


The course started with the idea of handling a threat with three options.  Escaping from the area, handling the threat with unarmed techniques, and finally having to resort to lethal responses (armed or unarmed).  This would be touched on several times throughout the day.   We then moved on to working the various positions and pros and cons of each.


We then teamed up with what would be the first of several partners we would have for the day.  Greg likes to you to keep swapping partners so that you get a feel for working against various body types, heights, and strength levels.  The first drills had us on the ground working against an opponent on his or her feet.  Greg feels that this is an area lacking in many formal martial arts types.  Groundfighting doesn’t necessarily mean all of the participants are on the deck.   We also covered a couple of methods of getting back to our feet.  This would prove important if you intend on escaping from the encounter.  


We got used to shifting our bodies to keep our feet between us and a threat and also how to deliver low line kicks against them.   Greg kept us honest with our defensive positions by coming around and delivering open hand strikes to ensure you were covering up.  From there we worked on various leg and arm take downs against the standing opponent.


Next up we got into the actual grappling portion that most folks envision when speaking of groundfighting.  Greg covered multiple escapes from the guard and mount as well as “rest positions” to allow us to catch our breath while minimizing the damage dished out by our opponents.


From there we learned some defenses against tackles and various types of chokes.  Numerous techniques were shown and we were given ample opportunity to practice each.   



Greg also taught a quick block on rape defense.  This was not only important for the females in attendance but also simple enough for the male students to take make to the ladies in their lives.


This wrapped up the segment of less lethal responses.   If we found ourselves in a position where none of this would help get us out of the situation, we now had to progress to lethal force.    Greg covered some rather nasty but brutally efficient means of disabling an attacker with unarmed techniques.


Moving along with the lethal force trend we started to incorporate dummy guns into our drills.   The difficulty of getting to any weapon, no matter the carry location, was an eye opener for many.   Far too often people see a firearm or knife as the easy answer to any lethal force issue.   The problems start to arise when you cannot access it at all or when you need to have some empty hand skills to help you create the time and distance needed to get the weapons into play.


We worked on weapons retention in the holster, presenting the weapon as to maintain control of it, the intricacies of extreme close range fighting, target selection, and malfunction clearance using not only our body but that of our attacker.   This easily could have been a day long course on its own.

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We then went on to practice defense against both a knife and handgun.   Once we got started we saw that much of the skills we had spent the morning working on carried over directly to defending against a weapon.   This was not by chance.  Greg built his system around these possibilities instead of having a totally different set of procedures to follow.  


That is one of the biggest takeaways from this course.  We weren’t expected to come in with decades of experience or the thought that we would go forth to attend training twice a week for the rest of our lives.   As with Greg’s knife and stick training, it was all presented in an easy to follow method.  It focuses more on theory than it does technique.   Keeping things simple means we can practice on our own and have a much higher probability of retaining these skills so there are there when we need them.


Free time is a foreign concept to me between a full time job, teaching at school that has be on the range 3 weekends a month, and running my own training company on the side.  It isn’t uncommon for me to run 5 weeks or more without a single day off.  That kind of crunch means I have to be very selective about my training time.   There is a reason why I have made the choice to train with Greg so many times over the years.


You can find more information about Greg’s courses at:



__________________________ Those kids need some fucking mentors. The beating stops when the bleeding stops. How fucking hard is that?-DZ Folk don't like the Bible until its time wipe every bad guy from the face of the Earth, and suddenly, its The Playbook. -Duke

Original Post

Nice AAR Wayne - I also thought the class was great - I especially enjoyed when you crushed Greg's shin during a demo.  Here is my AAR:


This past weekend I attended a one day groundfighting class, taught by Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training and hosted by John Murphy of FPF Training.  The class was held at a boxing gym in Culpeper, VA and was focused on teaching students a basic set of skills to survive being on the ground during a confrontation.


Our class consisted of 22 students with a good mix of different ages, sizes and sexes.  To start the class, Greg introduced himself and then asked the class what they wanted to get out of the class.  He tailored the exact set of topics we covered based on what folks wanted to learn about, which I thought was a great approach.  We then did some quick introductions to include how much ground fighting training folks already had.  The grand majority of students in our class had no prior ground fighting training or experience, a handful of us had taken Krav Maga, Army combatives or Marine Corps martial arts.  This worked out very nicely as everyone was pretty much at the same level.


After introductions Greg asked us what we thought were the major implications of having to fight on the ground and we had a good discussion about things like how disorienting it can be, how it limits access to weapons and strikes, reduces mobility etc.  Greg explained the basic principle behind all the techniques – that we should follow a three tier response if attacked on the ground.  Tier one is to control your attacker, if you can’t do that then tier two is to escape.  Third, if you can’t escape then use deadly force as being attacked on the ground is too dangerous to survive for long.  We then started on the actual course work.


In terms of style as an instructor, Greg is very friendly and has a calm demeanor and sense of humor.  He has clearly put a lot of work into being a teacher both in the skill of his presentation and depth of knowledge of the material.  He taught the entire class without notes and was the coursework was very logical so one could easily see the connections between techniques and principles as we progressed.  The format of the class itself is a series of drills, Greg would teach via a very brief lecture and demonstration and then we’d do anywhere from two to twenty repetitions of a drill, usually with a partner.


The day was pretty much broken into three segments, the first dealt with the scenario where you find yourself on the ground and your attacker(s) are still standing.  The second major segment focused on the scenario where the attacker had mounted the defender.  These first two segments were about three hours long each.  We spent the balance of the class on the third segment which was what happens when weapons are introduced in both  of the first two scenarios.


The morning was devoted to scenario one – you find yourself on the ground but the threat is still mobile.  Greg uses an incremental building block approach which is very effective – so we started with basic position, and then progressed to moving in that position, to defensive moves from the ground and then some counter offense and getting up.  Everything was simple enough that even a clumsy half witted former infantryman like myself could do what was taught.  One of Greg’s principles is that every technique should have no more than three components to it, so you can easily remember it.  As we learned each technique, we practiced them using a moderate level of resistance from a training partner.


The second block of instruction on how to deal with being mounted (which is the most common situation in a street attack) took up most of the afternoon.  Greg teaches two basic techniques, one of which (bucking and hugging) can be used to minimize damage/buy time and the other (bucking and rolling) can be used to escape the position.  We spent quite a bit of time on the buck and roll as this is your default response when you are mounted.  If you can successfully roll, you then need to escape your attacker’s guard and we learned two techniques to do that.  We also worked on a “rape position” escape which was simple and effective.  Again as we learned each technique we practiced with partners repeatedly.


The final segment dealt with weapons – both how to access them should you not be able to control or escape your attacker, and how to defend against them should they be introduced by your attacker once on the ground.  Even though we only spent an hour and a half or so on this segment, it was comprehensible because all the techniques were essentially from the first two class segments.  For example, to access your weapon when mounted you can use the “buck and hug”, and Greg showed what the additional considerations were for each situation.  To learn this segment, each pair of students had a “blue gun” and rubber knife and practiced them.


Greg ended the class by proving the class his contact information so they could follow up with him and received detailed notes of all the material covered, which I really liked. 

To summarize the class, I thought it was well planned and executed – the material was appropriate to an introductory level meaning it was practical and relatively easy to learn.  Provided that one has a training partner it would not be hard to sustain what was learned and I plan on attending this same course again should it be offered in our area.   In terms of what I would change about the class – there were some inherent limitations in what we could do with one day and students who were in varying levels of physical fitness.  I think Greg absolutely made the most out of the class given those constraints.  I would love to take the same material over a multi-day class, because it would allow for more drills, more rotating drill partners and some drills that were “open ended” that forced you to select the correct responses from all the techniques learned.


 I would strongly recommend the class for those who are serious about their self-defense training and don’t already have a system to handle being on the ground in a fight.  Greg is a great instructor and I will be on the lookout for other classes he offers in the future.

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