Monday, June 27, 2011

Tips for Unterhalten

Ground Fighting - Medieval Style
I love Unterhalten! If you are going to practice some form of grappling on the ground, it might as well be this. Unterhalten can be transcribed as "Hold Under" or as we would translate it in modern English, it refers to the methods of pinning someone down for whatever reason you choose in combat. If in friendly combat, then you pin to score points or to show your friends how much they suck. If in serious combat, then you pin them so you can stab them to death or hold them for eventual ransoming. I'll really only be the discussing the latter usages (murder primarily).

Unterhalten is very similar to wrestling on your feet, in that the more points of control you have the better your pin will be. A problem I use to have with Unterhalten was that my natural inclination was to simply jump on top of the person's stomach and try to stab my opponent that way, which seems like a good idea until you get into a strength-match with the person under you. Now I'm not saying this pin is bad (the so-called high mount or also the low mount) but it is certainly not the most effective. So I began to look into the manuals for more Unterhalten pins and eventually I worked out some interesting recurrences.

  • The pinning person is just as often standing or crouching as he is entirely sitting or laying on top of the other person.
  • Strangles\chokes do not appear at all to the best of my knowledge.
  • The legs and knees are used for pinning just as much as the hands.
  • Arm-locks and full nelsons (with variations) appear frequently.
  • Side-control appears only when the pinning person already has the dagger drawn and\or when the pinning person is crouching.
  • North-South position occurs but only with daggers and only when crouching.

These recurring themes struck as me as very interesting for a couple different reasons. First they illustrate a method of ground-fighting very different from what we see in Jiu-Jitsu or other Asian ground-fighting methods.  Second they are very reminiscent of the ways you see police officers cuff or pepper-spray people on the ground. Lastly they all seem to be very efficient, no-nonsense ways of making sure someone doesn't move while you attempt to draw your side-arm and finish them off on the deck. So I decided to work some of these   tricks into my training and I found some interesting results that I will share here.

  1. Knees are very effective for controlling people's arms and body. At first I was worried about their arms slipping out from under my knees, but with body weight on top of the offending limb people generally won't free the limb in time. For example, securing the left arm with your right knee works very well as you secure the other arm with your free hand. Placing the knee on the person's neck, testicles, or solar plexus work very well as well. If the person is face down then you put your knee on the person's lower back as you grab his hair or fencing mask with your free hand and stab with the other hand. The knee is especially good for securing someone because you upright yourself as you push them down, which is very useful for buying you distance and time in order to grab your weapon.

  2. The full nelson works really well on someone wearing headgear, which will most likely be the case if you are fencing with someone. You can do it the standard way, around the neck, but that is not the only way you can do it. If the person's mask falls off you can do the same full nelson grip on his nose and eyes or his chin, all of which can be pretty painful and can buy you a moment if you need to grab his knife from his belt. This is also a good way of buying yourself a second or two to grab your own knife with your right hand.

  3. There are risks to consider when jumping on top of the other person instead of simply crouching down. One risk is that you can try to stab the person and he can wrench the knife from your hand. Another risk is that he can shove your knife into the ground as you try to stab him, which can buy him a second or two to grab his own knife. A more prevalent risk in today's MA world is that you can be arm-barred if you aren't careful. You can avoid these risks by going down on one knee to pin him instead of jumping on him. You can more easily secure the person's free hand so he cannot defend himself. You can create distance to avoid arm-bars and disarms. You can defeat a person's speed or skill by simply putting your other hand over his nose and eyes, or by putting your knee upon his neck or chest.
  4. Choking a man is a good way to get him to tap out. Stabbing him to death with a dagger is a good way to make sure he never offends you again.

There you go, I hope this wets your appetite for fighting on the ground with daggers!

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