Review: Clean Concepts in Kane & Wilder’s Dirty Ground

Martial arts instructors teach some pretty brutal moves.

Some show the moves without providing much context. “This is the person’s attack. This is your defense. Practice it,” they say.

But self-defense is much more nuanced than that. Luckily for me, I train under instructors who challenge my assumptions about what I would do in a certain scenario by asking me about physical characteristics, location, time of day, and other pieces of data that are not mentioned in the basic scenario. 

Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder’s latest book, Dirty Ground: The Tricky Space Between Sport and Combat, addresses the details of a self-defense situation. More than just how to respond to an attack, they look at the types of applications that can be performed with certain techniques. These are broken down into sport and combat.

In a sport environment, Kane and Wilder take into account the attributes of any sport: pageantry, timelines, scoring, and the ability for competitors to compete again after the match.

“Combat differs in that it is an open and armed conflict with intent to kill the enemy and/or destroy their infrastructure,” the authors write. “Those who (survive) are often never the same again, requiring lengthy rehabilitation for serious physical, or in some cases, mental injuries.”

The third type of application is the drunkle, who represents your “drunk uncle” – somebody you might need to tame when he’s wild, but not somebody you would want to do any serious damage.

The latter half of the book shows Kane and Wilder’s depictions of what they think certain applications would look like. They cover a total of 12 techniques – including osoto gari, hammerlock and ogoshi – and break them down for how you might deal with them in a sport environment, against a drunkle, or in a full-fledged combat scenario.

As safely as they can be practiced in the dojo, this book makes a great training companion as the authors show these techniques step by step.

While some may argue the meat of this book is the applications, I found the “Highly Selective Overview of Combative Arts Throughout History” very informative and well-written. The authors cover some of the classic martial arts (jujitsu, judo) and boxing. They discuss pankration and sambo, arts I’ve heard of but have not studied. As a pro wrestling fan, I was especially surprised to see Kane and Wilder talk about catch wrestling, even mentioning the Stu Hart and his sons Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Owen Hart.

But I digress.

As usual, Kane and Wilder have written an insightful book that deserves a spot on your bookshelf. Do yourself a favor and pick this up today.

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book in order to write a review.

By Adam Bockler

Adam Bockler is a B2B marketing professional, a DDP Yoga instructor, a personal trainer, a multi-time USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee, a blood donor, and many other things.

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