When training for the battlefield, an emphasis must be placed on lethality over nearly all else. A war-fighter must be trained to take a life while exposing themselves to the least danger possible in order to ensure his or her own survivability and increase the chances of completing one’s objective. Because SOFREP is a media outlet born in war and comprised of war-fighting professionals, the experiences we share often speak to that inherent truth: War is about killing, and our training must reflect that.

However, as any war-fighter can tell you, those who survive the dangers of battle must eventually come home to where the rules of engagement are dramatically different, and the opponents you may face in a physical altercation likely don’t have ending your life in mind. Deadly force, while the primary tool employed by America‘s service members in a combat zone, is often an unnecessary escalation in domestic disputes.

Chances are a lot better that you’ll encounter a drunk guy’s sloppy right hook than a terrorist’s firearm once you’re back stateside, and although it’s important to train for that possibility notwithstanding, it’s equally important that you prepare for less-than-lethal encounters with neighborhood tough guys, because responding to the guy that grabbed your wife’s butt with three rounds to the chest is generally considered rude in most Applebee’s restaurants.

While in combat, it’s important not to get tangled up with an opponent, which is why we often teach methods that produce separation between you and the enemy, allowing you to kill them and rapidly engage the next target. In a parking lot scuffle, however, you’re far more likely to find yourself in a heap on the ground, attempting to keep your opponent from landing any punches while you subdue him.

Because almost every bar fight eventually ends up on the ground, it’s important to train for that possibility. As luck would have it, ground fighting has always been my bread and butter. While subduing your opponent may not be the most glamorous way to win a fight, it’ll keep you safe and out of county lockup, which are truly the only ways to win a fight as a law-abiding adult in America.

Although I can’t teach you everything I’ve picked up through years of mat work without throwing you onto one, I can impart a few things that will help you emerge not only victorious, but intact should you ever find yourself tangled up and horizontal with someone who means to do you or others harm.

Here are five hard-learned lessons in ground fighting, as demonstrated in my first-ever grappling tournament.

1. Stay calm.

When a fight breaks out, your adrenaline will start flowing, and your heart rate will skyrocket. There’s not much you can do about that, but when you find yourself in a tussle on the ground, the most important thing you can do is keep control of yourself and your physical responses to aggression.