Let’s face it: with the exception of the occasional bar fight, the days of one on one duelling are pretty much a thing of the past. Even if a fight starts with one two people, the moment one betters the other, the friends of the fallen jump in and team up on the would-be victor. In September, a grade 12 student in Calgary was killed with a pick-axe when 30 uninvited quests were asked to leave a small garage party (article: Calgary Herald). It has become painfully obvious that the level of violence is increasing and so are the chances of being assaulted by multiple attackers.
That being said, how does your training fit into the multiple assailant model? Do your techniques leave you vulnerable to additional attacks from your assailant’s friends? Do your techniques take too much time? Does your arsenal allow you to incapacitate an attacker so you can deal with others and not worry about the first one getting back up for more?
It is impossible to cover all the possibilities that could arise. There are no secret techniques for a surprise attack with a baseball bat to the back of the head. However, there are a few things you can do to help increase your chances of surviving an attack from more than one bad guy. Here are just a few:
Make sure that your self-defense techniques are short and get the job done.
If your techniques take more than 3 to 5 seconds to take control of your assailant, you are really going to have a problem when facing four attackers instead of one!
Your techniques should provide you with plenty of mobility.
When facing multiple attackers you want to be able to position yourself so you can see the other attackers, throw one bad guy into another or use one as a shield from subsequent attacks as you find your way to the door. Mobility will also allow you to actively scan your immediate environment for more dangers.
Use threat assessment.
Threat assessment is important in all situations, whether you are facing a single attacker who is armed or not, or facing multiple attackers. Once you have identified that there are more than one attacker the threat level has increased and you have to deal with it accordingly. This means that you will likely have to deliver more devastating strikes, causing more damage, and making sure that each assailant is no longer dangerous. Keeping this in mind, this does not necessarily mean that deadly force is required. Eye-gouging, knee breaks and knockouts may be required.
Move to a position of advantage.
By moving yourself to a position where you only have to fight one assailant at a time you can greatly increase your chances of surviving. For example, by positioning yourself just inside the door of a small room, like a bathroom, or a hallway you will force your assailants to funnel. If only one person can get through that doorway at a time then your only have to worry about fighting one guy. Now, instead of fighting five guys, you are fighting one guy five times which increase the your odds of success. If you are unable to escape or position yourself through a doorway, get your back against a wall to prevent surprise attacks from behind.
Avoid getting tangled up or going to the ground.
If your techniques tie you up so you don’t have access to your hands at all times, you will be at a huge disadvantage when that next strike comes in. Keep your techniques as simple as possible so you can quickly adapt. Also, avoid going to the ground. The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. You may be a competent wrestler of ground grappler, but that won’t do you a pinch of good when you face six guys kicking, punching, stabbing you with kitchen-ware, or breaking pool cues across your head. You need to know what to do if you get to the ground, but don’t make it your goal. Get back on your feet as fast as you can! Save ground fighting for the mats or the ring.
Always assume there are more attackers!
You must assume that your assailant is never acting alone. Be aware of your surroundings through active scanning taking advantage of your mobility and picking up motion in your peripheral vision. You must assess the threat first as a single attacker and adjust appropriately when you have identified additional threats.
As always, train smart, not just hard. Practice multiple assailant drills or have your training partners attack you at random when you are doing a one on one technique with another partner. See if you are prepared for that suprise attack from his buddies!