View Full Version : Multiple Opponents

Darren Laur
September 8, 2002, 05:09 PM
Fighting Multiple Opponents:

Often I have heard many people state that fighting multiple opponents cannot be done. Although fighting more than one opponent is less desirable than fighting one, it is a fact that if you don’t believe you can win against multiple opponents, you can’t.

Understanding that the mind guides the body, when dealing with multiple assailants we must selectively change our mindset. When fighting multiples, people will normally adopt one of the following attitudes:

1. I can’t win against these odds (loosing mindset)
2. I may lose, but I’ll take as many as I can with me (this is still a loosing mindset)
3. I am going to win this thing ( this is your goal)

Again, the first rule in fighting multiple opponents is; “IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE YOU CAN WIN AGAINST MULTIPLE OPPONENTS, YOU CAN’T”

Phil Messina, founder of Modern Warrior who I have trained with and who's knowledge forms the foundation of this post, has shared the following story to illustrate the topic of multiple opponents:

“ A great warrior was once asked, what would you do id one day you ran across three warriors equal to you in all respects except one. The first was faster than you, The second was stronger than you. And the third was more durable than you. If you had to fight each of them, which would you choose first? Without hesitation the great warrior responded: I would simply fight all three at once. When asked why, he responded; I have practiced fighting against the WOLF PACK, but I doubt they have practiced fighting as the wolf Pack”

The point of the above noted illustration is, multiples rarely train to work together and most often work against each other:

· They get in each others way
· Have a tendency to neutralize each others attacks

In a multiple opponent situation do you have to physically defeat each and every attacker? NO you do not! You must PSYCHOLOGICALLY destroy the wolf pack. You must physically defeat the threat as it becomes available, some will retreat, some will scatter. Some don’t really want to be there and will look for an excuse to get out.

First step if fighting multiples, “AWARENESS”

· Positioning relative to each other (movement in conjunction, setting up)
· Attackers glancing at each other (silent communication, waiting for attack cue)
· Word(s) that don’t make sense ( to confuse, may be attack signal)
· Unusual body language (inconsistent with conversation, assailant may do something-remove hat, wipe hair back, drop something-usually attack cue)
· Secondary subject distraction (may attempt to divert attention to other assailant(s) in order to attack)

Second Step in fighting multiples “IDENTIFY GROUP MENTAILITY”

· Who is the strong link, this is your greatest threat. This person may be identifiable by virtue of position or leadership role
· Who is the weak link, this is your weakest/least threat. This person may be identified by distance or in a protected position
· Remember that the above two are dynamic, and we have the ability to effect change on these


· Psychological battle is as important as physical battle
· If possible identify the leader and take him out of the fight quickly and decisively. This will create a new leader, by destroying the old one- see if anyone else wants to assume the role
· If you can’t take out the leader right away, take away his leadership role by showing the rest of the group that he can not protect them. Make the strong link psychologically ineffective- keep him at bay will defeating others
· Create a weak link by injuring an attacker but leaving him standing so that he may be used against the group later on
· Create a psychologically devastating and overwhelming visible injury to those you attack to disempower the group
· The use of real or improvised weapons should be used
· The first few seconds are critical in establishing psychological control
· CONTINUED MOVEMENT is a must. If you remain stationary the pack will triangulate
· Don’t be predictable move and strike erratically and viciously to the vision, wind and limbs of opponents using gross motor skills. Strike the person you are not looking at

Use the principal of S.C.A.R. (Screening, Cracking, And Re-directing) to your advantage:


Use your attackers against each other. Cause them to get in each other’s way. Cause them to provide protection for you by being obstacles to others effectively attacking you (shield yourself from blows and attacks from others)


When tactically feasible, move between your attackers, striking as you do so. This tactic will allow you to move into a more desirable position for attack while forcing your opponents to adjust to you. Position is often more important than distance. You want to be as efficient and productive as possible while forcing your attackers into less desirable positions


Use your attackers momentum and direction against them. You do not have to make devastating hits with each engagement. Instead, re-direct your attackers into less desirable and or damaging positions such as walls, tables, chairs, each other. Let inanimate objects cause damage to them or let them cause damage to each other

Remember that while using the principals of SCAR, you want to be causing physical and psychological damage at the same time.

Remember that fighting multiple opponents is chaotic, and that you want to cause the chaos without becoming part of it. It is my opinion, that a multiple opponent confrontation is a “DEADLY FORCE” encounter. Why, it has been my experience as an LEO that those that fall victim to these swarmings end up seriously injured, or dead.

I have trained to fight the WOLF PACK, but I doubt the Wolf PACK has trained to fight cohesively against me. This is a tactical advantage that I can use to make a less desirable situation more desirable, thus giving me the “WIN” mindset and attitude.

Strength and Honor

Darren Laur

September 8, 2002, 05:47 PM
Thanks, Darren!

More very wise words! :D

September 9, 2002, 08:28 AM
Good points to remember. Also when the first blow is landed, all bets are off, but it helps to remember the goals that you have neatly outlined...keeps you focused.
Sometimes letting the wolf out is not always a good thing.

September 9, 2002, 09:28 AM
The closest I ever came to defending myself against multiple opponents was in my ASP baton class. I'm very glad it wasn't real, because even though it was only training, it opened my eyes to the horrors of what a multiple opponent attack can really be like.

The first time two "attackers" came at me, I didn't stack them properly, and while I concentrated on one, the other came up on the side, and next thing I knew, I was trying to elbow off his padded shield.

"Congratulations," said the instructor, "You just got flung on the ground and raped by two large thugs."

My problem was this: only one "attacked me" while the other circled on the sidelines. I concentrated all my efforts on one person because the other "wasn't a threat" (yet) and ended up with something like a tunnel vision effect, allowing the other to sneak up on me.

"Here's your second chance," he continued, "Just remember, in real life there is NO second chance."

This second time, the mistake was averted, and while one attacked, I defend myself and moved about so they were tripping over each other, and as the other came within range, I whacked him with the baton, too. It was an offensive-defensive. When they came at me, I came at them until they were down or "ran off".

I learned this:
1. Keep those feet moving! A stationary target is an easy target.

2. If there's more than one attacker, I'm not using my baton. That's what my gun is for. Carry a BUG.

3. The simulations worked fine under ideal conditions of a well-lit gym floor where I had large amounts of unobstracuted space to move in. In real life, it may be dark, or I'll be squeezed in a tiny corner.

4. If there's a group involved, they may all be a part of the attack - just because only the leader came at you first doesn't mean the others won't follow. Don't turn your back on them.

5. Don't worry about completely taking the first guy out all at once - if you only get a couple baton whacks in, or one gunshot, move on to the next, because he's closing in fast.

Hard Ball
September 9, 2002, 01:51 PM
This is a very interesting post. Thanks for bringing the topic up. Darren.

An interesting case is when you have to deal with two or three opponents at close rane and you and they are armed with firearms.
In this case should you shoot number one twice ("Double tap" him) then shift to number two, double tap him and then swicth to number three? Or should you fire one shot each at each attacker in order to engage all three in the shortest possible time?
Obviously a double tap increases the probability of putting an attacker out of the fight, but obviously it takes longer. Your life may depend on your tactics, If it were your decsion which would you do? :confused:

September 9, 2002, 02:41 PM
I survived a multiple opponent encounter. But I was very lucky, and it hurt. A lot. My jaw still doesn't work correctly. :)

I was jumped by a group of teenage gang types. It was their initiation. (Find a big white kid, beat him down). There was 4 of them, one of me.

Like I said I got lucky. It wasn't a matter of skill or technique.

Luckily for me I did have the right mind set, I just got really really mad. And no matter how many times I was hit, or how bad it hurt, I just wouldn't quit. I managed to injure two of them, one severely. That was enough and they retreated.

Fighting multiple opponents really is a scary thing. My nose was broken, my jaw was dislocated, several teeth were cracked, both eyes swelled shut, and I suffered a minor concussion. Very unpleasant. It could have been a lot worse.

Thanks for the educational post.

And regular people ask me why I carry a gun now? :)

September 9, 2002, 03:51 PM
In the middle 70's, when I would participate in teaching seminars, generally for brown belts, shodans & nidans ... intermediate to advanced students/instructors ... I would offer demonstrations of defending against multiple opponents. Remember those were times where it was often a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is interest in any physical art ... As Americans, we were pragmatic, if not traditional ...

It was often an eye opener for some of these students & instructors that it was possible to successfully defend against anywhere from 2-5 persons attacking you in a group. As Darren Laur mentioned, there's often a simple reason for this.

When you think about it, how often do you see dojos where students are taught to attack as a group? (The beautifully cooperative multiple person practice of Aikidoists is the exception) Coordinated application of arts skills by multiple persons isn't something high on anyone's list of things-to-do. This isn't considered to be a team sport sort of thing by most teachers, or most students ...

The most dangerous number of people to defend against, especially if they're skilled in any manner, might be considered to be 3 people. Less, and you're potentially able to move quickly and easily enough to take advantage of the limited number of atackers, and everyone's positions ... More, and you're able to use their numbers against them ... This is overly simplified, though, and isn't intended to be a definitive answer. More of a potential that may be realized and exploited ...

It always seems to come back to the same thought ...

Don't think .... Be ...

Or, as we Americans have often translated it ...

Don't think, Do ...

I prefer the former, but if the latter works better for you, fine ...

Darren Laur
September 9, 2002, 07:40 PM
Thanks guys, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

The principals of SCAR ( an acronym coined by one of my students) were developed by Phil Messina (Modern Warrior) ex-NYPD who spent most of his time in the decoy squad. Phil ran into many many multiple opponent situations, where he had lost his cover team, involving NYC Gangs. His comments to me were that although most did work cohesively as a "pack" during the pre-contact phase, most, if not all, broke down in chaos when things went physical and were unable to work as a coordinated unit/pack. As an LEO up here in Canada, I would concur with Phil's observations and experience in this subject area. Is this an absolute. No it's not. But this is a foundation from which to build, adapt, overcome, and improvise. As always, Principals stay the same, diverse in application.

Strength and Honor

Darren Laur
Integrated Street Combatives

September 9, 2002, 07:50 PM
Multiple BG....? This can be very, very tricky (if not dangerous). As said before by the others: your best chance would be to move...and take down the leader as fast and brutally as possible.
My bet (if not armed with gun) would lie on a sudden blow to the throat or groin..followed by deep eye injury squeezing my fingers in the sockets as far as I can go. I´am talking about jumping on this guy like a panther..even as he is coming down to get you. Punching..bitting...kicking; everything is valid...after all you must protect yourself....

May sound a little bloody..but it works... one blind (temp or permanently) opponent is a little more easy to manage. The mayor drawback is that this may lead to close contact---> ground battle.

Any improvised weapon (pens, chairs, broken bottles) would be very useful. Just remember the BG can have access to them also.
If as many; you are armed with a knive....try making slicing cuts to the arms ...especially the ventral (flexor side) of the forearms and the dorsal aspects of the hands.....if possible cut your opponets face and try to get the eyes....blood won´t let him see and an enucleated eyeball usually means the fight is over (at least for these one)...stab only when certain that severe and quick damage can be done.

If armed with a baton or similar....strike the forearms and hands as hard as you can...that must disable most opponets quickly. Broken arms and fingers are very messy and difficult to move. Others may try the bigger joints or the head....which I consider more difficult to hit, but valid. Any time you get your opponent´s hands on range...hit them hard....break those fingers.

If you´ve got your .45, get cover, put a couple of rounds on the individual holding the most dangerous weapon at a given distance; move and repeat. Fighting multiple armed attakers is very different than fighting a pack of teens without arms. The reality is that engagin with multiple armed (guns or knives) attackers ALONE ussualy leads to death of the victim.

Getting you butt kicked by a bunch of stoned kids can be very unpleasant and dangerous. The amount of damage taken would rank from black eyes and LeFort fractures to broken spines with permanent neurological damage to the very death by beating. Even with the right mind set, you´ll only have from 30sec to 2 min before the very fight is over; so the first strike must make the difference if you want to be alive in the end. This strike must be YOURS.

Common sense, guys......Awareness is almost everything...Try no to get in this kind of situation.....do anything to get out of them...if unavoidable: FIGHT until you spill your last drop of blood. And good luck.

Just my 2 cents. Just my approach.

September 9, 2002, 10:36 PM
Great thread and very informative.

All of the injuries noted is exactly why I have a CCP.

September 9, 2002, 11:28 PM
Again, thanks Darren.

As previously noted by Darren, on these boards...
If you must stay and fight.
Defense goes away...
Time to go on the offensive.


Sifu Davo
September 9, 2002, 11:42 PM
Hi Fellas

I'm David Crook from Australia (see www.bhome.com.au/bacfudo or use a search engine to find "Sifu David Crook"0.

I agree with Darren Laur (and some of his stuff about fear is really good, if you can get a copy) and Fastbolt on a lot of issues.

I've been involved in a couple of multi-opponent situations that I got through OK and some of them didn't.

Basically, I don't think it's possible to defend yourself against multiple oponents - I think that it's possible to successfully attack a bunch of people that you think are going to do you harm. The 3As (Attitude, Adaptability and Aggression) backed by the element of surprise will determine whether you survive or not.

Don't wait for them to start the ball rolling - cos then they will dominate the tactical situation - hit anything that moves, be prepared to bite, gouge, headbutt, use whatever you can grab as far as environmental weapons, use the environment that you're fighting in, go for targets that offer maximun shock power (eyes, testicles, throats etc).

And remember that it's not over 'til the fat lady signs.

September 9, 2002, 11:42 PM
In most cases, a multiple attack has one thing in common: fear.

Not yours--theirs.

You will note in this situation that usually one person is doing the talking. The others are usually either hanging back to get their courage up, or starting to attempt to circle, like a wolf pack.

My solution? Attack. Fast, hard, without warning.

Go for the loudmouth first. It is imperative to practice landing a telling blow immediately, to a vital area. After it lands, move to a less vulnerable position, follow it with another strike.

You will have gained time from the element of surprise--hopefully enough to get out of the situation.

Gunfight? That's another story.

Hopefully, you will have practiced your self-survival technique--stay in condition yellow, be observant, watch for danger areas or suspicious people, etc.

If so, you will usually be able to evade the trap being laid. But, if you're not, then engage.

In doing so, you must fight your own body. Your own apprehension will express itself; your own inherent decency, and reluctance to hurt another might give you pause.

GET OVER IT NOW. Once you commit, you MUST execute without hesitation. If it is a deadly force situation, hesitation kills.

Draw or raise your weapon. Engage each active combatant (anyone with a lethal weapon in hand who is not retreating) with one round, center mass. Stop and assess. If there is anyone continuing the attack, re-engage.

While you are shooting, MOVE! Don't be a backstop or a bullet sponge. Move, preferably to cover. If you are behind cover, then consider changing your position.

Oh yeah--after all is said and done, do NOT flee the scene. Safeguard it, ESPECIALLY ANY WEAPONS LEFT BEHIND. Do NOT let a crowd gather. All of this is essential for when the police show up. Call your attorney IMMEDIATELY.

When the police arrive, have your weapon holstered and out of sight. Comply immediately with the officer's instructions.

There is nothing wrong with saying something like, "Officer, I understand my rights, and I will cooperate fully, but I would like to speak with my attorney first."

Good luck, and stay safe.

Double Naught Spy
September 10, 2002, 02:10 PM
Darren, that's all a neat analysis and breakdown in the long format of what you have to do in no more than just a few seconds. I see you have your own acronym to go with it. Damn, now if I can just make sure that I am reacting properly per my Cooper color code system, know which part of the Col John Boyd OODA loop cycle I am in, Ayoob's Stressfire tactics, and keep that relevant to SCAR in a 1-3 second time frame while also keeping track of all other non-combatants that might be in the immediate area as well my hierarchy rating of items available in the very immediate, from full protective cover to just being concealment, and the make sure that I violate nobody's civil rights while landing all my politically correct rounds on politically correct targets areas with my politically correct gun, then I too can be an Einstein Gunfighter. Oh, and the part I love I that I have heard several times from gun schools is that I can't cuss at the bad guys during the event, so I have to be polite while I am trying to shut down their CNSs. Cussing might give the jury the impression that my reasoning for using lethal force might somehow not be related to self defense as apparently people who are truly defending themselves would never use profanity.

Oh Jeez, now I need to add Attitude, Adaptability and Aggression and back those up with surprise and do all this with KISS (keep it simple, stupid).

Somewhere in all that, I think I will just toss it all and go back to tried and true street tactics and deal with the greatest threat first as I see it and work my way from there. I would hate to be like the cop/security guard (a guy in uniform with a badge, but I can't remember if it was a cop or not) a few years back that walked into a robbery in progress and you can see the wheels in his mind turning on the security camera tape as he spots the first guy with a gun and you see him do a quick scan to assess the situation more appropriately at the same time so that he will have a full understanding of the situation. Just as the cop/security guard finishes that first intel sweep with his head, the guy with the gun right in front of him caps him and it was Good Night and Goodbye, Irene.

Doing all these wonderful things is just dandy if you are the lighning speed Einstein Gunfighter and you really want to know everything that is going on because you would hate to be killed later in the fight by some guy you didn't see initially, buy holy crap it does not do you much good if the initial threat drills you right there while you are going through your mental checklist of assessments and tactics.

Sifu Davo
September 10, 2002, 05:32 PM
HI Double Naught Spy

Ha.Ha. Very true in some ways - all this stuff has to be instinctual. You seem to doubt that it will become so - but so many of the things we do on an every day basis are totally instinctual.

How much thought do you now put into using a knife and fork - something that severely taxed your thought processes when you were a toddler? Do you really have to think about the mechanics of a lot of things that you take for granted - like kicking a football. No - because you've done it so often on the field that it's instinctual. An experienced combatives practitioner does this in split seconds (like some IPSC shooters draw and take out targets).

As for dealing with the major threat first - OK if you can do it without exposing yourself to a pincer attack from other group members. Remember that the person doing the loudmouthing is also the focus of the group's attention and any move towards that person is going to be picked up pretty quickly.

Sometimes, it's better to take out a peripheral group member - someone who thinks he's not first on the list. Sure, talk to the loudmouth, he has everyone's attention focused on him - but hit someone else that could be closer, could offer you a chance to get outside the group etc. This starts to break up the group's cohesion (by letting them see that they can get hurt) and could give you a chance to escape through the gap you've created, or at least get into a slightly superior tactical position - where some group members are a long way out of the action, some are masked by others etc. You then take out the closest threats. Darren coverd a lot of this stuff and I think he's spot on. If you ever come to Australia, Darren, look me up - I'll shout you a Fosters (we don't actually drink it ourselves cos it's crap - we keep it for tourists)

If you've got to think in a street situation, you've already been hit. I've seen a lot of martial arts instructors that haven't fully internalised what they're doing - to the extent that it's as natural as using a knife and fork, or walking. Some of them will make the next step and become "unconsciously competent" as I think the training theorists put it - they'll be spontaneous, fully adaptable and totally natural. Some of them will never do it - and will remain trapped by a conscious reliance on technique and conscious thought (remaining at the "consciously competent " level for ever.