Shaolin Kempo, like many Hawaiian Kempo systems tends to emphasize standing grappling. First, in any street or especially a multiple attacker scenario, your preferred first defense – the ability to run away like your pants were on fire – is compromised when you have someone in your guard. Second, groundwork is a lot of effort, and given the influx of hobbyists, mixed gender classes and children, I think many instructors found it too awkward and unpopular to teach these things, and produced a crop of next generation instructors without these skills.
The techniques can typically be broken up into a four part sequence: The distraction, the release, the damage and the finish. The distraction is a simple strike to ‘give the grabber something else to think about other than grabbing you.’ The release is the actual removal of the grab. The damage is the collateral striking done once free, and the finish could be a reversal, a takedown, or a powerful finish strike set up by the damage. Defenses were taught against common attacks (and initially some that were maybe not common, but easy to get out of as give the students a principle and a taste of success) such as the lapel grab, the double wrist grab, the front choke, rear choke and the side headlock. With the advent of the UFC, and like events, the weakness inherent in a complete lack of groundwork became evident, so many schools are adding in at least a bit of takedown defense such as the sprawl, or even adding a groundwork curriculum. Although prolonged ‘position’ battles are not what you want for self defense, given the dangers of additional third parties in non-sport contexts, it’s imperative to have knowledge in this area as a good groundfighter can take a ‘standup only’ practitioner right out of their element and render them essentially helpless in short order.