The Grappler

I receive many requests from students and private persons to teach them to grapple. It is strange how many requests I receive from other martial artists to train them in the art of grappling. Now this is an honour to me but I always ask them the same question. Why do you want to grapple, what purpose would it serve you and what do you intend to do with the skills once taught? Many say that it is a good form of exercise others want to get into the cage fighting scene.

As a martial artist I strongly believe that everyone should learn the basics of grappling or groundwork as it is traditionally known. Not many fighters like going to the ground and many feel confident enough to win a fight standing up. This is often also a case of being overconfident in ones abilities.

It is great if all fights could be won standing up however there is always the possibility that this may not be the case. Now, many may disagree that fights do not often go to the ground but by being realistic you will realise that most fights do…you may get knocked down, slip and fall, trip, be tackled to the ground, be taken down MMA style, be thrown to the ground, be held hostage and forced to lay down, etc.

Now all of the above takes the fight to the ground. You may not always be in control of a situation and ultimately land up on the ground in one way or another. Also remember that you don’t always have to fight and you may go to the ground as a sign of surrendering or defeat. I strongly encourage everyone no matter what your level of skill may be, no matter how many fights you have won, no matter how big or strong you are or what Dan grading or years of training you may have, that you must have a basic knowledge of groundwork / grappling.

A skilled grappler/ground fighter can easily overcome most attackers and turn a situation over. A disadvantage could then be turned over to become an advantage.

Groundwork/grappling is an important skill that should be taught to all women and children. Females especially as this is the one place an attacker will always take them to……..the ground.

If it is a sexual attack then this is where a fight will end up with the victim either on their backs or stomachs face down in the dirt. That is why it is important that any martial artist have a basic knowledge as how to defend themselves off the ground. You need not be very skilful in grappling but a basic understanding of evading, controlling and manipulating an attacker could save your life and provide you with a window of opportunity to get away.

It is often perceived that a fight is lost once you are on your back on the ground or knocked to the ground. An attacker feels in control when the victim hits the dirt….this is where a basic understanding of the grappling arts can become a BIG surprise to any attacker. The overconfidence and belief of defeat on the side of the attacker can easily be swayed to their peril.

For you to create just one second for a window of opportunity is more than enough to turn things into your favour. This is where the most basic knowledge of ground fighting/grappling comes into play. Thus for any person out there interested in self defence please get a basic training session at least in grappling/ground fighting to empower yourself both on your feet and in the dirt .

Take care everyone and enjoy the dirt in your face and in your hair.

Grappling is fun…its one way to LOVE your attacker before you incapacitate them….


The Glistening Blade


How many times have you not seen or heard of someone being attacked and the choice of weapon was a knife? A glistening blade that shimmers in the light.

It is true that many are afraid of any confrontation when faced with a knife. The first thing that hits is a state of panic and next the mind takes over and throws the senses into complete confusion. It is true that it is a menacing implement that can cause death and severe injury. However, when you look at it as a mere extension of the attackers hand it is nothing more than that. The important thing in a knife fight is to always keep an eye on the blade or always be aware of where it is and where it is going. Once you have mastered this the follow up is easy.

By knowing the path of the blade or anticipating its path or more importantly moving it into the path you choose, makes disarming your assailant easier. There are no rules in knife fighting and no strict form either. Many fighting styles have distinct patterns but in reality these are never followed.

A skilled knife fighter would never follow the same line twice and always adapts his/her fight to the situation. Hence the blade never follows the same orbit.

Street knife fighters would often use a t-shirt, jersey, jacket or any material to cover the leading arm. This has two important features.

Firstly it is used as a form of shield to protect the leading arm. This arm is used to deflect the blade, absorb a slash or stab and even latch on to the blade. Secondly it can be used as a decoy to distract the opponent.

When faced with a blade I always say that you should have the unfair advantage over the blade. Rap the leading arm in a shield as above or grab any item close by and use as a weapon. If your attacker comes at you with a blade, you go at him with a spade.

My point is that it does not mean that because you are a skilled fighter, whether in close quarter combat or unarmed combat, that you should stick to those skills. You may be skilled but that should not stop you from using a weapon to defend yourself.

Remember, an unfair advantage in any fight is always better


Soke Ben Mangels

Ben Mangles_Teaching

Soke Ben Mängels is the founder and honorary life member of the South African Institute of Unarmed Combat. He started his career in 1954 as a young police officer in Durban, South Africa. He soon learned that the rough and tough sailors were a force to be reckoned with, so began his training in Kodokwan Jujitsu. He discovered that what was taught in the dojo was not how things happened in real life. Most techniques were just not effective when dealing with street-wise sailors. This prompted Soke Mängels to analyse and modify techniques to suit the reality of the streets and dockyards of Durban. Keeping It Real has always been Soke Mängels’s central philosophy.

Soon after obtaining his black belt in Kodokwan Jujitsu, he obtained a black belt in Judo, and became a South African middleweight Judo champion. Soke Mängels then progressed to Karate, obtaining a black began Shotokan Karate. Here he was frustrated with Karate’s inability to deal with a grappler or competent Jujitsu or Judo fighter (years later kick-boxers would have the same problem when confronted with Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu).

The solution for Soke Mängels was to develop his own system, so taking the best from various Martial Arts (Jujitsu, Karate, Judo, wrestling and boxing), he created what he now calls Atemi-Jujitsu. Soke Mängels used to say that his system was best described as “Street” Karate; a fighting system that could be used in real life situations.

Soke Mängels became an officer in the South African Police and Captain in the South African Air Force. He was at times the chief Close Quarters Combat (CQB) instructor to elite special forces units, including the South African Army Commandos, South African Naval Marines, and British Special Air Service (SAS).

In 1981, Soke Mängels established the South African Institute of Unarmed Combat (SAIUC) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, establishing several schools (dojos) in South Africa. When Soke Mängels emigrated to the US he handed the SAIUC over to Shihan Thaya Moodaley (7th Dan Atemi-Jujitsu) who had been training with him for almost a quarter of a century.

Soke Ben’s resume is impressive: he was appointed National Director of the International Combat Military Advisors Group (ICMAG) (an international body of ex-specialist servicemen that trains military and police anti-terrorist units), president of the International Association of Close Combat Instructors (IACCI),  senior advisor to the American Martial Arts Association (AMAA) and representative for South African to the Combat Military Advisors Group. The World British Federation of Martial Arts recently promoted Captain Ben Mangels, to 10th Dan in Jiu-Jitsu. Ben has also been inducted into the US Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Soke Ben teaches that unarmed combat does not make someone unbeatable. He compares it to being thrown overboard, you might not be a strong swimmer capable of swimming to shore, but if you have had some basic swimming training you might be able to hold out until rescued, With some training, your odds of surviving are better than if you had no training at all.

Additional Reading:

Do All Fights Go To Ground?


With the emergence of Mixed Martial Arts “cage fighting” in the early 90s and the subsequent domination of Brazillian Jiu Jitsu in this area we began to hear the claim that “all fights go to ground”. Have you stopped to question this statement? I suspect that if you are reading this article you have.  Many people have, however taken it as fact.

I personally think that the “all fights go to ground” idea is Jiu Jitsu propaganda. No one would disagree that Brazillian Jiu Jitsu changed the MMA game, but their dominance can be attributed to the lack of grappling experience on the part of “kick boxers”. Kick boxers were “fish out of water” when they encountered the grappler. Fights do go to ground and most martial artists have no idea what to do when they do go to ground; but I do not think its a given that they have to go to ground. I heard Frank Shamrock say that the ground game was dead and I assume because kick boxers are now wise to grappler tactics. I would not say that grappling, and specifically ground fighting, is dead in MMA but I do not see it being the dominating force it has been in the last.

The other point to make is is that the MMA “cage fight” is not a realistic “street” situation. The “cage fight” is a one-on-one fight that occurs in a controlled environment. That is not what happens on the street. On the  street you need to contend with a multitude of variables; potentially more than one attacker, hidden weapons, hard or dangerous ground (broken bottles, rocks) and so on. So imagine taking a fight to ground (even one-one-one) and while grappling the attacker pulls a knife and stabs you, or an accomplice whacks you on the head with a crow-bar while you struggle for submission, or you fall onto broken glass. This is one of the reasons you do not see much ground fighting in Kung Fu. As far as self defence in an urban environment is concerned, going to ground dangerous, very dangerous indeed.

So I would not take the fight to the ground unless I had no other choice. I would prefer to prevent the fight from going to ground, and this is not as impossible as others would have you believe. That said, if you are forced to the ground, whether it is one attacker or many, empty-hand or against a knife, you would be better prepared if you have been doing ground fighting. And ground fighting for self defence extends beyond the sorts of ground fighting techniques you need for “cage fighting”. In the street you need to be able to fend of multiple attackers from the ground. You need to be able to defending against knife, gun and stick attacks (and more) from the ground, in addition to the standard submission and escape from submission techniques you would encounter when wrestling on the mat.

Do all fights go to ground? I say no not always. I say do not take the fight to the ground, rather fight standing up. You do need to be able to fight on the ground, but if you want to learn ground fighting for self defence, then look beyond MMA sports.

Source: Philip’s post on

Growing Up Tough

Clinton Raymond Frieslaar grew up in a tough neighbourhood in Sanctor, Gqeberha ( Port Elizabeth), South Africa. He was 18 years old when he first started learning Atemi-Jujitsu under the guidance and expertise of Shihan Thaya Moodaley.

He was introduced to the system by his cousin Rushdie Lagerdien who told him and his cousin Kevin Mortimer about the “little old Indian man” who was more explosive than any martial artist that he has ever seen. On the first night, he was introduced to Shihan Thaya Moodaley he was overwhelmed by how humble he was and he could finally do something that he had always dreamt about. From the very first night, he and Kevin were hooked and trained every Tuesday and Thursday night to get to grips with the various techniques. They trained relentlessly during their free time in Kevin’s family garage to improve their skills, and this carried on for many years.

He then started training on his own to improve his skills and visted numerous fighting schools to observe and understand the various fighting forms.

In 1994 Clinton joined the South African Police Services and left them after more than 11 years of service. He stayed away from Atemi Jitsu classes for 7 months but kept on training on his own at the SAPS training college. Here he tested the system against the official system taught by the SAPS and found that the very basic knowledge he had from training with Shihan Thaya was superior to what was being taught to the SAPS students. When he questioned the instructor he was belittled and told that he does not know what he was talking about. For his questions, he was severely punished, military style and this continued for two weeks straight, and when he eventually he had enough he told the instructor that one of the techniques, a knife – disarm was ineffective and placed them in harms way.

This resulted in a challenge being posed by the instructor. He was requested by the instructor to show how effective the system (Atemi-Jujitsu) is and was requested to defend himself against one of the biggest and most respected students in the platoon. Being a man of a small stature, he was not fazed much by the imposing size of the attacker. After three aggressive attacks, the attacker eventually tapped out for the last time. He was beaten three times in a row by the much smaller Clinton applying Atemi Jujitsu. This resulted in a renewed respect for Clinton from the instructor and fellow students. He was later requested to aid the instructor during classes and train those who were lacking after lectures.

When he returned to Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) he returned to the teachings of Shihan Moodaley. Here he trained twice a week and every night at home to sharpen and hone his reflexes adn skills and would have someone attack him with a broomstick. This would continue relentlessly for two hours nonstop. Clinton would often go to classes battered and bruised and his desire to improve his skills resulted in him doing Aikido and Judo. His involvement in Judo led to him becoming the Eastern Province Judo Associations Registrar and later the Eastern Province Judo Association Vice-Chairperson. Having a family tree of bodybuilders, wrestlers and boxers it was inevitable that he would follow suit. All of this transcended into his martial arts and he became a formidable force to reckon with.

The striking and groundwork became second nature to him, particularly in his fighting style. Working as a police officer for more than 11 years and growing up in a tough neighborhood enabled him to use the skills he was taught by Shihan Thaya and really test them in real-life situations. The police and his tough neighborhood were the perfect environments to use it in. As a result of the skills he was taught, he was widely respected in the community as he would never fight unless it was essential or when thugs assaulted innocent persons. By using the system during active duty in the police, he made more than 200 hundred arrests and never had any assault charges of police brutality brought against him. He also started teaching and doing self-defence seminars, talks and lectures to various organizations for police-driven community and neighbourhood watch programmes. These lectures span over a period of more than 28 years and he is still doing it today.

Clinton started bringing his own fighting style into classes with the permission of Shihan Thaya. Here they worked on various techniques and variations and improved on many others. They also worked extensively on defences for women against sexual assaults and rape attacks. When graded to Black Belt he was promoted and became Shihan Thaya’s 2IC of the SAIUC (second in command). Shihan and Clinton then worked on incorporating more groundwork, Judo Throws and improved the restraining techniques. This was all due to the fact that Clinton could use what they worked on in class, on the streets as a police officer.

Due to his exposure to the police environment, he developed a training program for law enforcement officials and security personnel. This covered many of the shortfalls he identified whilst in the service and beyond. When Clinton was graded to his 4th Dan in Atemi-Jujitsu, Shihan Thaya Moodaley decided to go into retirement and stopped training at the Institute. He would only come in on an ad-hoc basis until when Shihan Thaya then handed over the South African Institute of Unarmed Combat (SAIUC) to Clinton Raymond Frieslaar.

Clinton incorporated more groundwork, grappling, rape defences, knife work, single-stick and double-stick fighting, firearm defences, handcuffing techniques, judo throws and more into the Atemi-Jujitsu system. He later changed the name to Frieslaar Ryu Atemi-Jujitsu now known as FRAJJ. His system is based on a round fighting system that can be taught to any age group.