AAR: Active Response Training (Greg Ellifritz) “Groundfighting”, Sterling, VA 02/12/2017

This past weekend, both Robert and I were able to attend two excellent one day classes held in Virginia in the DC area. Robert covered the first day’s medical class in his AAR posted yesterday. This is my review of the second day’s groundfighting class.


This was the third one day class that I’ve taken with Greg Ellifritz of Active Response Training, and I have to say that a distinct theme to his classes is becoming apparent! The material he teaches is simple and effective, is presented in a logical progression with each lesson building upon the last, and is absolutely essential knowledge for anyone that takes their personal safety seriously, regardless of whether they choose to carry a weapon or not.

The class I’m discussing today is his Groundfighting class. I had a brief exposure to jujutsu a few decades ago in my youth, but I haven’t really been exposed to much in that realm since. With that in mind, I would characterize my lack of combative training as a definite hole in my game that I suspect many other gun owners may also have. It goes without saying that the gun is not some magical talisman, and learning to use one effectively involves far more than simple marksmanship. While not directly involving concealed carry of a gun, this class is nonetheless a vital component of choosing to carry a gun. Many physical conflicts may involve either falling or being knocked to the ground, and knowing how to recognize and mitigate the disadvantages inherent in fighting from the ground is important. After taking this class, I think it is also a fair statement that traditional martial arts may not adequately prepare one for the “one up, one down” scenarios that you might face as a victim of a criminal attack. Further, the proliferation of mixed martial arts in today’s society presents a new threat paradigm that requires specific training and knowledge.

Ellifritz covers all this and more in his Groundfighting class. He is able to draw from a deep well of decades of varied experience, and presents (in his typical fashion) techniques that are easily remembered, readily practiced, and effective for solving multiple problems. I like to compare his teaching style to a concept that exists in the technical diving world known as “Doing What Works.” The phrase was coined by cave diver Larry Green, and is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than being forced to adhere to a rigid and unyielding template, the concept embodies a minimalist approach to doing what is simple and what works based on the evolution of logical thought and experience. Ellifritz’s goal seems to be to teach his students a few simple techniques that will serve them well in many different scenarios. Many of us don’t have decades to devote to learning an effective martial art. While it would be impossible to learn how to defeat a black belt in a one day class, learning how to “cheat” and overcome common street crime patterns is very doable. And that is exactly what Ellifritz teaches students to accomplish in this class.

The one day class was hosted by John Murphy (FPF Training) and was held at the Disciple MMA Academy in Sterling, Virginia. Both Robert and I were able to take the class, and our only affiliation with Active Response Training or FPF Training is as full price paying customers. The price of the class was a very reasonable $200. The gym was a large facility with great locker room and bathroom facilities. This may seem a strange point to highlight, but I think every student commented on the fact after seeing that the bathroom hadn’t been crammed into some closet in the back! With 13 men and one woman in class, we had seven evenly matched pairs of training partners.

Greg started class by discussing some of the points highlighted above, and explained what we would be doing throughout the day. After this brief introduction, we went immediately into demonstrations and drills, all presented in his building block teaching style.

Early in the day, we learned the most advantageous position to be in when knocked down to the ground, how to orient to an attacker, how to defend against the mount, and how to dump an attacker onto the ground from any clock direction. This is a useful skill to have to “even the odds” and to gain time and distance to get back on your feet. This initial block of instruction culminated in a group drill where we learned how to best deal with multiple standing assailants attacking us while we were on the ground.

We then spent the remainder of the day learning how to actually fight on the ground if we were unable to avoid or escape the ground fight. This essentially involved learning how to defend against attacks from a mounted attacker, how to buck and roll a mounted attacker onto the ground, and what to do once that is accomplished. Greg stresses the importance of using these techniques to facilitate an escape rather than simply continuing the fight or using deadly force, that while probably justified, would nonetheless have expensive consequences.

We also learned an alternate method to escape the mount and how to access a weapon if we were unable to escape the mount, whether due to fatigue or disparity of size. We learned how to defend against punches and strikes, multiple choke holds, and weapons being wielded by a mounted adversary. We learned so much and the techniques flowed together so easily that I find it difficult to summarize. Along the way, we took a few detours that were prompted by student questions. This is where Ellifritz’s depth of knowledge and teaching ability becomes apparent, as these deviations from the planned curriculum didn’t slow the class down, but instead were handled in a way that enhanced the experience for all students.

As the day progressed, Greg increasingly introduced training knives and inert guns into the drills. For students that had not brought their own, Greg provided a variety of training knives and guns to choose from and use in class. Robert brought his inert red gun G19 and training Griptilian, and we each had our training Clinch Picks. We traded off with the gun depending on whether we were accessing the weapon or attempting to defend against the weapon. Although the fixed blade was no doubt faster to deploy, I was surprised to discover that the folding blade worked almost as well with the technique that Greg taught us. In regards to accessing the gun, appendix carry was again validated. Not surprisingly, I also noted some commonalities with techniques that Greg teaches in his Extreme Close Quarters Gunfighting class.

This is a physical class, but not a class that is likely to cause injury. We were definitely a little sore at the end of the day and had a few scrapes and bruises from rolling on the mats, but nothing that wasn’t expected. Greg is very conscious of student safety and comfort, offering frequent breaks and discussion periods. Although I had brought both a mouth guard and cup, I didn’t feel the need for either at any point.

I am very glad that I was able to take this class, and I would definitely repeat it if the opportunity arose, just to reinforce the skills learned. Compared to only a few days ago, I now feel much more comfortable facing a violent encounter from the ground, even if there is more than one attacker or if the attacker is significantly larger than me (a distinct probability).

Finally, one of the many discussion points was that most “gun people” do not seek out such training simply because it’s hard work. Don’t be that person! Take this class. It’s definitely worth your time and money. I look forward to training with Ellifritz again in the future. If you haven’t already, check out his blog and training homepage at www.activeresponsetraining.net.


P.S. – Check out the article Ellifritz wrote after teaching this class, and you can see a photo of yours truly attempting to put an arm bar choke on a cop. Needless to say, Greg’s demonstration of how to defend against such a choke landed my scrawny butt on the ground in short order! And just to reinforce the validity of the techniques taught, a few minutes later I was able to defend against the same choke applied to me by Greg, who outweighs me by a good 100 pounds. He didn’t get the nickname Gorillafritz for nothing!

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5 thoughts on “AAR: Active Response Training (Greg Ellifritz) “Groundfighting”, Sterling, VA 02/12/2017

  1. Good write up, thank you! I was particularly interested in your observation about folder deployment. I’ll ask Greg about the technique when I see him at Rangemaster. Do you feel like the opposition to someone drawing a folder was 30%, 80%, 100% effort, etc?

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    1. The folder deployment happened while on your back, mounted. With the technique Greg showed you are essentially using both hands to open the knife behind your assailant’s back. In my time on top I couldn’t tell it was happening.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SBS, exactly as described by TCINVA above… The fixed blade is faster and easier in that you don’t have to open it. However, I would probably still take the time to firmly establish my grip after drawing it, just as is done after drawing the gun or deploying a folder. The assailant can’t see what you’re doing and this allows you to get a good grip and then “go to work” in their flank or armpit with an element of surprise. Drawing the folder was slightly more difficult, as it was clipped in my pocket instead of being on the belt line.

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      2. Mannnnnnnnn that is sneaky 🙂 Thank you for answering my question.

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