We analyzed 383 street fights to better understand the claim that most fights end up on the ground.
Specifically, we looked at:
What percent of street flights end up on the ground?
How do fights end up on the ground?
How good is BJJ for street fighting?
We uncovered some very interesting findings.
And now it’s time to share what we discovered.
What percent of street fights end up on the ground?
First let’s get on the same page. When talking about flights that end up on the ground this means:
A fight where one or both people end up on the ground so that grappling would be useful.
[It’s important to clarify this definition… otherwise you could count people who’ve been knocked out in a street fight that only involved punches]
But it does include:
One person on the ground in a position where grappling could be used on their standing opponent
To analyse these fights we tried to avoid bias by simply using the term “street fights” or “street fighting” in YouTube. And let auto-play do its thing.
[This way we didn’t selectively choose videos like “BJJ street fights” or “street fight knockouts”]
Based on this definition, 69 percent of the street fights we analyzed finished without ending up on the ground.
31 percent of street fights end up on the ground in a way that grappling would be useful
And to be honest…
The real number is even less:
We still counted it when it was a group fight and just one of the fights ended up on the ground!
Even in situations where people end up in a clinch-type situation, many flights still don’t go to the ground.
This is because either the fighters:
- Are propped-up by walls, cars, furniture, or crowds
- Struggle to keep their feet, or
- They disengage to continue striking.
Isn’t the number that everyone quotes something more like that ‘90 percent of fights end up on the ground’?
This is an often-misquoted statistic from a review of LAPD use of force incidents where:
“Nearly two thirds of the 1988 altercations (62%) ended with the officer and subject on the ground with the officer applying a joint lock and handcuffing the subject.”
In other words:
If you’re trying to control someone so you can handcuff them, fights end up on the ground more often…
…but unless that’s your goal, fights don’t go to the ground anywhere near as much.
So if we’re talking street fights…
How do fights end up on the ground?
Of the 119 fights that did end up on the ground it was quite easy to distinguish between:
- Falling to the ground, or
- A deliberate takedown
Here’s the breakdown of what we saw:
Of all fights that end up on the ground: 59 percent were from from falling down and 41 percent were from deliberate takedowns
What’s really interesting?
96 percent of the time the takedown created a MAJOR advantage…
…and in a lot of cases the takedown itself was the fight finisher
[The rest mostly lead to strikes from top position]
How good is BJJ for street fighting?
I’m going to address this from 3 angles:
- Opportunity, and
- The multiple-attacker issue
1. BJJ is very effective when used in street fighting
When grappling was involved it nearly always won the fight…
…often without needing to cause damage
[Even when only basic skills were used]
In fact, I only came across 2 fights where BJJ may have been the wrong choice:
- A grappler receiving multiple strikes from an opponent in their Closed Guard
- Performing a takedown on a guy… only to find out their ground game was actually better!
Something to consider though:
Most people realised they were outclassed when they were on the receiving end of some grappling…
…while others wanted to get back up and go at it again!
2. The opportunity to use BJJ in a street fight: Position vs. Submission
People attempted submissions less often than you’d think:
The most common use of BJJ seemed to be all about achieving a dominant position and then striking.
Most of the fights that involved grappling were over before there was an opportunity to finish a submission.
The order of usefulness of grappling in a street fight seems to be:
- A takedown itself ending the fight, then
- A takedown leading to a dominant position for strikes, then
- Using a submission
Another point of interest:
The usefulness of grappling in street fights seems to more closely resemble Judo than BJJ… takedowns being the big factor, then faster paced ground fighting
3. BJJ vs. multiple attackers: myth vs. reality
Of the 49 fights that were wilfully taken to the ground there was only 3 occasions where multiple attackers were an issue.
And this includes the fights that went to the ground in the middle of an all-in-brawl
[Everyone else seemed to be too worried about their own fights]
But you know what?
The multiple attacker thing was worse in the other 334 fights!
When striking was involved it appeared mates were MORE willing to jump in and lend a hand (or boot)
Based on this sample size:
You’re more likely to get kicked in the head or cop punches from multiple attackers if you are in a striking-only fight and get knocked down.
Summary: What we learned from watching nearly 400 random street fights to see how many end up on the ground
- Most fights start with someone who’s unprepared getting punched in the face… even though there‘s lots of indicators it’s about to happen
- The aggressor then gains the initiative with a flurry of punches… and often wins within seconds
- Most losses were a result of not having a basic boxing protective stance or guard… and getting hit in the face by an unskilled opponent
- Less than 1/3 of fights end up on the ground in a way that grappling would be useful
- When used, takedowns were one of the most effective street fighting techniques because they either end the fight or put you in a dominant position
- Grappling styles like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are very effective in street fights… especially for gaining and maintaining a dominant position
- Multiple attackers are more likely to be an issue if you are in a striking-only fight and get knocked down
Conclusion: Is BJJ (or other ground fighting) good for self-defence?
Yes, as long as you don’t forget to train your takedowns. And, you have enough strike defense to protect against an initial barrage of punches.
[I wasn’t even 1/3 of the way through these videos and I was already Googling boxing clubs in my area!]
Comment below… what surprises you about the percent of fights that end up on the ground?
20 thoughts on “What Percent Of Fights End Up On The Ground?”
Nice analysis, congrats. However, I have to notice 2 things:
a) the sampling plays a huge part, and it’s a question how it well it generalizes. Randomly selecting youtube videos is a nice practise, however we have to take into account how these videos were taken. Most probably, they were taken by people that saw signs of a fight coming and decided to start recording. That leaves out more spontaneous fights, muggings or organized assaults.
b) regarding the “BJJ vs. multiple attackers” section, the question “was it more frequent for more people to come in where the opponents went to the ground or not” tries to infer causation from correlation, but the data is confounded and this isn’t possible that simply. That’s because, most probably, when an opponent senses that more people could come in, he avoids going to the ground (and vice-versa).
Anyways, nice work.
Thanks – you’re right, sampling plays a huge part. This definitely isn’t perfect, I won’t be getting a PhD from it! An observation (that I didn’t record data on), but it seemed the more warning a fight had, the more likely it was to go to the ground. The ones that erupted had less grappling.
Again, you’re right on the multiple attackers thing… it was something I noted once I’d already started recording my stats
Cheers for taking the time to comment!
The 90% myth got me into traditional jujitsu/judo. I come from kyokushin/kicknoxing background and i always thought to myself someone who takes me down defeats me easily, standing i have a foghtong chance va anyone(average people).
Im glad i read this analysis, it’s interesting.
Thanks Al… it’s one of the things that got me into grappling too! Some people might say the 90% of fights go to the ground things is a myth for marketing… I’m glad it worked on me 🙂
Great article and thanks for taking the time to invest in our cultural knowledge and bringing this discussion forward. It’s important to think about the direction and goals of an altercation and you referenced how, in the police study, the end goal was to subdue and cuff the opponent.
will also comment that sampling is a huge factor, but also clarification should be made that fights with punches and kicks are “more exciting” and thus are more likely to be uploaded and shared. This can be illustrated by the preponderance of “greatest knockout” videos vs “greatest submissions” in the street fight domain.
Regardless, your findings do validate how a grappling martial artist should have a practical understanding of offensive and defensive striking.
Hi Seanzy, you make a great point about the fights with grappling not appearing as exciting for some people and maybe not being uploaded as much. Good one!
Realistically, I think most people have no formal hand to hand combat training, many are not physically fit, and extremely few have ever experienced a real fight. Having said that, I think that anything you do for physical training is going to give you an advantage over the average Joe when it comes to the basics of strength, agility, and endurance. As for fighting itself, I think there are some martial arts that are better for the real world than others, but I think no matter what you’re doing, particularly if there’s at least some level of practical application, it’s going to be advantageous over the average Joe. Most street fight videos I’ve seen involve people swinging seemingly randomly with no sense of space, timing, technique, etc. Even a low level belt student of Tae Kwon Do from YMCA classes is going to be able to at least conduct accurate striking at distance against an untrained opponent.
Hi Andrew, thanks for taking the time to comment. Your response is spot on from what I saw here… the majority of fights I saw fit your description. The majority of fights we were between people that appeared untrained… and you could spot the people who’d put in the hard work
From the street fights I have seen, if evenly matched, they ended up on the ground.
Here is my reply to 90% fights end on the ground;
I have fought more than 100 street fights from the 70s all the way to the mid 90s. And the reality is most people do not train but for those that have some level of training anything beyond 5 to 10 punches is more likely to wind up into a standing hold which could lead to the ground. The fallacy that 90% of fights in the underground is simply not true. The marketing and the change in the social view of what fighting is and about. Is what has influenced both real fights by untrained individuals and fights by people that have low to medium training. If you look at police by the very nature of what they do then is a true statement that 90% would end up in a grappling situation they are trying to submit without causing undue harm. In my personal experience only four fights ended up on the ground and in two occasions it was multiple attackers. Basically I say it’s not just a sampling but the culture in which one grows up that’s the bigger influence with the fights ending on the ground versus finish standing up. It was dishonorable, when I grow up, to have multiple attackers. Nowadays it’s much more common to end up defending from many different directions. For that reason I have taken up BJJ because it is a true and formidable art. However I would never want to use that skill unless forced to. I prefer to fight and finish by neutralization rather than submission so that I can escape and live to go home.
I have been in self-defense for over 38 years now. Teaching law enforcement, military, and government agencies, as well as civilians. I have studied well more than 21k assaults on 5 different continents. And have found that results of how many assaults go to the ground actually depends on the country and culture quite a bit. Here in the USA, we have found that 62.93% of all assaults (including ambush attacks) do NOT go to the ground.
Looks like your stats are pretty much the same as what I found too
What a useful study! Thanks for sharing!
So that empiric study by Micheal Peachy is quite accurate. Interesting that cultural factor. Being a student, when I was really young, I did have a few fights. I finished 3 out of 5 fights intentionnally on the ground by instinct. I used to jump to do a wrestling choke right away at the first sign the fight was really about to take place. Most of the time, being kids, my opponent calmed down and it was over without nobody being hurt, other than their ego.
There is somethingnoble about submission when not hurting your opponent. It is a bit like a arm lock control. But in a real adult fight, against a big opponent or multiple opponents, it may not be the right choice. Or you better be a very gifted and skilled individual.