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Untitled Document

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.

Mind Set

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 and limbsTM".

General Strategy

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 you.

  • 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 do.

  • 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.

Pre-Attack Indicators

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.

Pre-Multiple Indicators

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.

Foot work

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 one side.

Multiple Training

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 unscathed.

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.

  1. 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.

  2. Evasion Drill
    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.

  3. 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 will do.)

  4. Redirection Drills
    Redirecting bad guy who attempts to grab your legs, tackle you or pin you against a wall. Start slowly and progressively pick up speed.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Ground Fighting
    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.

  8. 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 or receive.

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

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

multiple assailant strategy, multiple assailant fighting, law enforcement, group fighting, multiple attackers, self-defense, gang attacks, personal protection

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