Multiple Assailant Training
by George Demetriou
Fighting is not static, it's not even dynamic, it's chaotic. Multiple
Assailant fights are probably the most chaotic fight situation one can
be in. It is also often life threatening. The key to defeating multiple
assailants is believing you can. The bottom line of Multiple Assailant
strategy is cause the chaos without becoming a part of it. In order to
do this we must not only condition our bodies and minds, but our senses
also. While some of the techniques and principles discussed below may
seem brutal, they are often necessitated by the dynamics of the situation
itself. Remember, in Multiple Assailant attacks the defenders goal is
often survival itself.
We have to start multiple attacker training by changing the way we think.
Instructors often train people not to lose as opposed to training them
to win. There are three possible mind sets:
1) I'm going to lose
2) I'll take as many as I can (this is the same as "I'll lose, but I'll
take some of them with me") or
3) I'm going to win (survive).
Choice #3 is the only acceptable mind set. Survival is the ultimate goal.
You survive by winning.
TimeframingTM is the most neglected aspect of multiple training (and sometimes
one on one training, in fact!) For every segment of time you have, your
assailants have an equal segment. Make the most of your "pieces of time"
while you make your assailants waste theirs. Any segment of time where
you perform something productive and at the same time do not allow your
attackers to do anything productive, is a positive frame.
A negative TimeframeTM is any non-productive motion, such as cocking your
hand to throw a strike, excessive shifting of the feet to throw a kick
or realigning your ears over your hips to regain your balance.
While training for multiple assailant confrontations you have to constantly
ask yourself, "while I'm counterattacking bad guy #1, what are bad guys
#2 and #3 able to do?" If the answer is they can grab or strike me easily
it's time to alter your strategy and/or technique affect not just one
but as much of the group as possible.
Do not be deluded into thinking that a group will fight "serially" like
in the movies. In a serial fight the gang surrounds the victim and fights
one at a time. The gangs you should be considering usually allow one member
to start the assault, then while the victim is stunned, the rest of the
gang joins in all at once. This is the reality of a violent street robbery
or gang initiation where an innocent person is randomly chosen to be the
gang's victim. This is the type of situation you want to visualize when
training, specifically in terms of TtimeframingTM.
Understanding physiokineticsTM, or what makes the body work in terms of
mobility and power is an important component of defending against the
gang. Power is based on the relation of the hips and shoulders. Mobility
is determined by the relation of the hips and knees. To affect a person's
power (striking, grabbing) and mobility (footwork, kicking) you have to
control or influence the hips. There's no safe way to grab the hips directly
so we control them with the shoulders and knees. Secondarily we use the
elbows, wrists, neck and ankles. Understanding physiokineticsTM enables
you to move assailants, off-balance them, execute takedowns, or break
an assailant's hold without having to memorize specific techniques.
For multiple assailant confrontations we use the "high end" of physiokineticsTM.
The formula which is "vision, wind and limbsTM". The target areas for
kicks and strikes should be vital points of the body that make it difficult
or impossible for the assailants to see, breathe or use their arms and
legs. If one were to break the windshield of a car, siphon the gas and
flatten the tires that the car would not function effectively. In the
same respect, if we depress an eye with a finger jab, crush an assailant's
trachea and break his leg he won't be an effective fighter.
When redirecting attacks, moving one attacker in the way of the others
or breaking from an attacker's hold, the "low end" of physiokineticsTM
is employed. When counter striking and kicking our goal is "vision wind
Ideally you want to fight a psychological battle as well as a physical
one. If feasible you want to try to identify the leader of the group and
take him out of the fight quickly and decisively. Techniques such as finger
jabs to an eye or breaking a bone often have the psychological as well
as physical effect you'll need.
If you can't neutralize the leader, immediately try to take away his leadership
by showing the rest of the group he can't protect them. It's actually
better in a multiple assailant situation not to try to knock everyone
out. Rather, try to make attackers scream and run or announce their injury,
such as "I can't see" or "my leg is broken"! This often will cause others
to retreat thereby ending the confrontation earlier and with less force
than might otherwise be necessary. Other tips:
When in doubt as to who the leader is, neutralize the assailant behind
Weak link - hurt an assailant but leave him standing so you can use
him against the others.
Strike and kick the person you're not looking at.
Use compact (short and choppy) strikes while moving. Just as more
isn't always better, harder is not always better either. Short, compact
and penetrating motions work much better then wide sweeping motions
Don't hang kicks out. They should go out and come back quickly. Keep
them low and execute while moving.
Do more than one thing at a time. For example, kick one attacker
as you strike another. Strike two in one time frame. Push one into
another as you kick a third.
Move fluidity, but erratically. Don't be predictable.
Keep a low center of gravity.
The strikes and kicks you can't avoid - block. What you can't block-roll
off of. What you can't roll off of jam.
Be economical. Eliminate unnecessary movement.
Put your attackers in each others way.
Just before an attack there is usually a sign, if not several, that an
assault is imminent. Recognizing these indicators will reduce the chances
of a "surprise" attack.
Raspiness in voice: Stress makes the vocal chords tighten, making
the voice raspy.
Repeated phrases: When someone is thinking of how to attack you
it's difficult for them to be verbally creative.
Unusual sweating (stress sweat): Sweating on a cold day. Sweat
on nose, sides of mouth or palms.
Tightening of jaw / clenching teeth: Pre-fight facial tensions
will cause jaw muscle to bulge.
Mouth breathing: Taking in air through mouth instead of nose.
Weight shifting: Attacker will often shift weight in preparation
of a "surprise" attack. Usually shift will favor one side.
Fist clenching (pumping): When stress causes blood to move away
from extremities an assailant will often pump his fists to regain the
"normal" feeling in his hands.
Shoulders roll forward, chin drops, knees bend: Old animal instincts
we retained. These three things are usually done together for protection
purposes when anticipating a fight.
Target glancing: An attacker will often look several times at the
area he wants to strike.
Reaction hand distraction: An assailant may point to something
to distract you so he can strike with his other hand. He may ask you the
time so he can strike while you look at your watch.
Positioning relative to each other: When one person in the group
moves, the others set up accordingly.
Potential Attackers glance each other often: They're silently communicating
to each other waiting for the attack signal.
Word or words that don't quite make sense: An attacker may say
something that will momentarily confuse you. In that moment of trying
to figure out what was said or what was meant the group attacks.
Unusual body language: An attacker may engage you in conversation
then wipe his hair back, remove his hat or tug on his ear as a signal
for his wolf pack to attack.
Secondary subject distraction: One member of the pack may get you
to look at another member of the group so he can strike you.
Mobility becomes essential in a multiple encounter and balance must be
maintained through fluid motion rather then rigid stability. There are
two steps that are not used often in a one on one fight but are invaluable
in a multiple. The first is a forward step. Just a natural step as if
you were walking except you keep a lower center of gravity and keep your
hands up. The other step is a back step. You don't actually step back,
you step forward on a angle. This is achieved by crossing your rear leg
past the back of your front leg. Legs cross at the thighs, not the knees.
Done properly this step gives you the greatest gain in ground.
The shuffle or step-drag should be reduced or eliminated for multiple
combat. By stepping your front leg out and sliding your rear leg forward
you don't gain much ground and your step is very predictable. Predictability
is something to avoid. The first step in a step-drag is also a negative
time frame. Finally, there's moving backwards. The only reason to step
backwards is to attack. Period. Moving backwards to retreat allows your
attackers to triangulate on you. Every attacker will converge on you at
about the same time. Try this: Line up 3 training partners about 3 feet
in front of you. Have them take one step forward as you take one step
back. You will see that positioning hasn't changed much. Now line up the
same way. This time as your training partners step in, you step forward
or forward on an angle to either side, flanking the person on the end.
Now you'll see the positioning changes drastically, your training partners
will end up in each other's way.
All this means one other thing; you have to fight well ambidextrously.
You will want to train so that you are effective and comfortable whether
your right or left side is forward. When you're surrounded you can't favor
Multiple training does not mean take one on one techniques and apply them
to a group. Modifications will probably have to be made. Some components
of single assailant tactics will be valid, many will not.
Consider grappling techniques. While being quite effective one on one,
during a multiple attack applying an arm lock, leg lock or choke on one
attacker will allow the others to do what ever they want to you.
Training for a multiple confrontation has nothing to do with tournaments
including "no rule" tournaments. This is life and death. In multiple confrontations
on the street there are truly no rules. Winning does not mean coming away
Training the senses is probably more important than training the muscles.
Two of the biggest enemies a person confronts when under the stress of
an assault are tunnel vision and auditory exclusion. These obstacles can
be trained out.
Multiple Heavy Bag Drill
Set up at least three different sized heavy bags to practice smoothly
moving from one to the other, striking them without looking directly
at them and not getting hit by them as they swing. Try to keep the
bags, and as much of the room as possible, in your view, not focusing
in on one bag.
Evading a thrown object teaches one to "take in" the whole room. If
you tunnel in on the object coming at you, you'll often get hit with
it. You cannot judge the speed accurately unless you spread or "funnel"
your vision. When you spread your vision your mind can compare the
speed of the object moving to the rest of the stationary objects in
the room, giving you an accurate gauge. It's easier to avoid a punch
if you don't focus in on your opponent's fist coming at you. It is
imperative to "funnel" and not "tunnel" you vision during a confrontation.
Three-on-one Grip Breaking Drill
Knowledge of breaking various grips (off clothing, hair and wrists)
is a prerequisite. Three "attackers" moving at a slow to moderate
pace grab "good guy". Good guy's objective is to move constantly and
economically, breaking grips with as little struggle as possible.
Good guy should use cracking (stepping between assailants), screening
(use one assailant to block the other) and redirecting (deflecting
assailant into another assailant or a solid object - a wall or car
Redirecting bad guy who attempts to grab your legs, tackle you or
pin you against a wall. Start slowly and progressively pick up speed.
Two on one Blocking Drill
Good guy stands in one spot so he's forced to block and not evade.
Two "assailants" stand at 45 degree angles in front of "good guy"
and throw strikes and kicks at him. Good guy must be economical in
blocking and span his vision.
Three on one Confrontational Simulations
Three "attackers" in full protective equipment (head to toe) attack
good guy. Allow attackers to plan strategy and/or set up however they
want to position themselves. Good guy's objective is to attack vital
targets without getting pummeled or held down and stomped.
I've read and have heard instructors say, "In a multiple situation
don't go to the ground, you won't be able to protect yourself against
the group." Ideally you want to fight multiple assailants while being
on your feet, but you may get knocked down because you're fighting
a group. In a perfect world you wouldn't hit the ground, but you shouldn't
train for the perfect world. Techniques should include falling, defense
against kicks and stomps and safely getting up. Confrontationals that
start with the good guy on the ground and the "attackers" standing
should also be performed.
Environmental Changes During Drills and Simulations
There are changes instructors can make to add stress and realism to
training. These changes to the environment force students to adapt.
The ability to adapt is a crucial factor during a violent encounter.
Environmental changes include changing the light conditions. Use of
low light, no light, strobe lights, different color lights and intermittent
bright lights combined with short periods of darkness. This gets the
eyes use to adjusting and/or makes it necessary to rely on your other
senses more. During a multiple you're not going to see everyone all
the time. This is also why blindfolded drills are conducted. To change
the training surface instructors can put large plastic garbage bags
down on the floors as well as soft equipment. This provides areas
of uneven or slippery footing.
To simulate injuries instructors could have a student wear an eye
patch or tie a student's arm to his belt while sparring. This will
simulate taking a strike to the eye or having a broken arm.
There are more drills martial artists can use to train the senses. Students
should be reminded to utilize all the senses during drills and simulations.
These drills should be monitored closely for student safety. The drills
one uses are only limited by one's creativity. The author's instructor,
Phi Messina, turned a great idea into reality by converting a 2 car garage
attached to the training facility into an environmental simulator roomTM.
The ESR includes a simulated tenement hallway, a simulated elevator, a
sprinkler system to simulate rain, a fog machine, a giant fan to create
wind and a staircase. The ESR allows for a wide array of environmental
conditions to train in.
Keep in Mind
Think about achievable goals. (Like "vision, wind and limbsTM".) You have
more targets than the gang does. Don't think about damage you'll inflict
The gang, by nature, is chaotic and that can be used against them. Remember,
you want to cause the chaos without becoming a part of it. Ideally, you
want to fight instinctively yet strategize and analyze. You have to be
able to think on an unconscious and conscious level. With proper training
your mind and body will work together to the point that you will plan
at moments of the battle and at other moments you'll react correctly without
thought at all. Changing the odds in your favor when out-numbered during
a violent confrontation is a matter of realistically training and conditioning
specifically for multiple combat.
About the Author:
George Demetriou is a Martial Arts and Police Defensive Tactics Instructor
for Modern Warrior Defensive Tactics Institute in Lindenhurst, New York.
The author welcomes your comments. You may contact him at 711 N. Wellwood
Ave. Lindenhurst, NY 11757