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Multiple attackers


A multiple attacker self-defense situation is chaotic and life-threatening, even when the attackers do not intend to kill you. To defeat multiple attackers, you must believe you can defeat them, and then you must create chaos without becoming a part of it. Since your life may depend upon the outcome, multiple attacker self-defense techniques are often brutal. This means you must mentally prepare yourself.

Every second counts

When fighting multiple attackers, every second is vital. During every second of the fight, you must optimize your time and cause the attackers to waste theirs. Do not waste time with non-productive motions, such as cocking your hand to throw a strike or excessive shifting of the feet to execute a kick. 

Multiple attackers do not attack one at a time, as seen in movies. One will usually initiate the attack and then the others will all rush in. This means you should try to maneuver one or more attackers, or yourself, to interfere with the attack opportunities of the other attackers. Target kicks and strikes to vital points of the body that make it difficult or impossible for the attackers to see, breathe, or use their arms and legs. 

Try to identify the leader of the group and take him or her out of the fight quickly and decisively. If you cannot neutralize the leader, immediately try to take away his or her leadership by showing the rest of the group that the leader cannot protect them. Instead of trying to knock all the attackers out, try to make them scream and run or announce their injury, such as "I can't see!" or "My leg is broken!" This may cause the other attackers to retreat.

Actions to take

  • Attack the leader first.
  • When in doubt as to who the leader is, neutralize the person behind you.
  • While more opponents mean more chances of your getting hit, more opponents also mean you have more potential obstacles to use. You may use one opponent as a shield against an attack from another opponent.
  • Mobility is essential when facing multiple attackers. Move fluidly, at angles. Circle, keeping opponents off balance. Avoid step-drag steps; stepping your front leg forward and then dragging your rear leg forward, or vice versa, is predictable and the first step is wasted movement. The only reason to step backward is to attack. Moving backward to retreat allows your attackers to triangulate on you and converge on you at about the same time. If you are surrounded, you cannot favor one side; you must fight well ambidextrously.
  • Hurt an attacker but leave him or her standing so you can use him or her against the others or as a shield.
  • Position yourself to use an attacker as a shield. Use an attacker as a weapon. Put attackers in each other's way.
  • Strike and kick the person you are not looking at.
  • Us compact, short, choppy strikes while moving instead of wide sweeping motions while stationary.
  • Keep kicks low and execute while moving. Retract them quickly. Use kicks to keep opponents at a distance
  • Do more than one thing at a time. For example, kick one attacker as you strike another or push one into another as you kick a third.
  • Move fluidly, but erratically. Do not be predictable.
  • Keep a low center of gravity.
  • If you cannot avoid an attack, then block or jam it. If you cannot block an attack, roll with it to avoid injury.
  • Eliminate unnecessary movement.
  • While it may be effective when fighting one on one, during a multiple person attack, applying an arm lock, leg lock, or choke on one attacker will allow the others to do whatever they want to you.
  • Do not waste time on things that are non-productive, only use effective techniques.
  • Create hesitation by stunning your opponents with powerful attacks, loud kiai, etc.
  • Strike with conviction.
  • Use objects and obstacles around you to your advantage
  • Use intimidation. Act bigger than you are, such as the way cats fluff up when threatened. Stand tall and expand your chest.
  • Stay away from the center, work from the flanks.
  • Read the reactions to your actions.

Train for multiple attackers

  • Instead of training not to lose, you should train to win. There are three possible mindsets when facing a self-defense situation:
  • I am going to lose.
  • I will lose, but I will take some of them with me.
  • I am going to win.
  •  Since survival is the ultimate goal, this is the only acceptable mindset. You survive by winning.

  • Multiple heavy bag drill. Set up at least three different sized hanging 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 all the bags in view without focusing on one bag.
  • Evasion drill. Have people throw soft objects at you from various directions. Evading a thrown object teaches one to "take in" the whole space. If you look at the object coming at you, it will hit you. Do not "tunnel" your vision, "funnel" it. When you spread your vision, you may compare the speed of the incoming object to the stationary objects in the area.
  • Three-on-one grip breaking drill. Knowledge of breaking various grips, such as clothing, hair, or wrist grips, is a prerequisite. Have two or more attackers grab you, moving at a slow to moderate pace. Move constantly and economically, breaking grips with as little struggle as possible. Use splitting (stepping between assailants), screening (using one assailant to block another), and redirecting (deflecting one assailant into another assailant or a solid object).
  • Redirection drill. Redirect an attacker 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. Stand in one spot so you are forced to block and not evade. Two attackers stand at 45-degree angles in front and throw strikes and kicks.
  • Three-on-one scenarios. Three attackers in full protective equipment attack you. Try to attack their vital targets without getting pummeled or held down and stomped.
  • Ground fighting. Although you should avoid going to the ground with multiple attackers, it may happen. Therefore, you should train in multiple attacker defenses while you are on the ground and attackers are standing.
  • Environmental changes. Self-defense situations occur under all types of environmental conditions, such as wet, cold, low light, no light, strobe lights, different color lights, and intermittent bright lights. To simulate these conditions, use blindfolds, water on the floor, or changing light conditions.
  • Fighting with an injury. You will get hit in a multiple attacker attack and will probably be injured in some way. To simulate injuries, use an eye patch, tie an arm to belt, or wear a leg weight. 


  • Demetriou, G. (2004). Multiple Assailant Training. [Online]. Available: [2004, July 1].
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