Possibly one of the worst situations to be in, outside of dealing with someone with a weapon, is dealing with multiple attackers: Dealing with such a scenario requires speed, endurance and smarts. It is important to remember that you do not want to waste time in a situation where more than one person is attacking you. You want to dispatch an attacker quickly and run. Depending on what is possible, possibly you can’t run, mainly it is important to know that you can’t waste time; for this reason you don’t want to get tied up grappling with one guy for too long, or at all, because the other one will pounce on you and then you’re done.
There are two basic ways to deal with multiple attackers. One, you can get one of them between you and the other attacker; create a barrier of sorts. The other way is to keep beating them off you, back and forth along a straight line. The first method, getting one attacker between you and the other, requires you to use angles that get you in a position of advantage and safety.
Here is a very simple example of using an angle to evade the attackers and to put one of them between you and the other; in addition, the hinge principle is used, as the defender uses an arm bar, the elbow joint, to manipulate one attacker into the attack of another attacker.
Joe in the middle, James in back of him and Dan in front of him
Dan punches and Joe slips the punch and parries it.
Joe grabs Dan’s wrist and bars his arm at the elbow joint, watching both opponents meantime.
Using the elbow joint as a fulcrum and stepping at a 45 degree angle with his right foot to the back of Dan, Joe throws Dan into James’ punch.
As you might have noticed, Joe was able to angle away from James’ attack and also put Dan in-between him and James. He put himself into a safe zone and put one of his attackers between him and the other attacker.
In this next technique, in Kenpo called Gathering the Snakes, Joe is again attacked by James and Dan. He parries the first attack and positions himself behind the attacker by taking a 45 degree angle where he kicks him and strikes him down; the attacker is now between Joe and the other attacker and Joe has bought time by positioning himself away from the other attacker and getting the first attacker in the way of the other. As the other attacker comes in, Joe maneuvers to kick him and continues to kick and strike both attackers to keep them off.
Dan confronts Joe and James hangs out in back of and to the side of Joe.
Dan punches and Joe parries the punch as he slips it.
Joe delivers a back-knuckle to Dan’s ribs.
Joe performs a break on the arm.
Joe step in back of Dan with his right foot, hooks his chin with his left hand, and steps to the 45 with his left foot.
Joe chops Dan’s neck then kicks out his knee.
Joe lands with a strikes to Dan’s back, driving him down.
Dan falls down and forward and is in-between Joe and James who is approaching.
As James approaches, Joe rotates into a twist stance to angle to attack him.
Joe kicks James
Joe lands with a back-knuckle.
Joe does a cross-over foot maneuver and back-knuckles Dan while checking James
Joe executes a looping overhead punch to James as he unwinds out of his twist stance.
Joe follows his own rotation and spins all the way around.
Joe back kicks James, cutting the circle in half.
Bouncing off the back kick, without dropping his foot, Joe shoots a front kick into Dan’s body.
Of note in this technique is the sequence of the looping overhead punch and the back kick; the punch is an upward circle that throws the body into a lateral spin and the movement continues to a straight line back kick. This is what I meant in the captioning by “cutting the circle in half”; the circular movement had a straight line at the end of it with the back kick. Also the swinging up of the arm throws the kick into motion.
So, noticeably, this technique uses a combination of putting an attacker between you and another attacker and beating them back and forth to keep them off you.
In this next technique, Joe’s block against the attack from the front turns into a break on the arm, or a weapons destruction called gunting in Filipino martial arts, which further turns into a back knuckle to the opponent in the back of him. He then, again, takes a 45 degree angle to the rear of the front opponent, zoning away from that opponent’s weapons while creating distance between him and the other attacker who approaches. He pushes one of the attackers away after striking him, to deal with the in-coming attacker who he kicks while blocking his punch and delivers a series of strikes on him known in Kenpo as Five Swords. He then maneuvers to kick both opponents.
Joe steps to the 45 as he strikes James’ face.
Joe continues to spin and delivers a back-knuckle to James’ ribs, covering high.
Joe blocks and kicks at the same time, combination defense and offense, to shut down the attacker quickly.
It should be noted here that Joe attacks as a defense because an attack is one of your best defenses.
Joe inserts an inward elbow to the mastoid as he twist to prepare to kick James who is approaching.
Joe kicks James to stop him.
This technique involves using your offense as defense. Due to the fact that you can’t waste time when being attacked by more than one person, it is important to use this principle that an attack is the quickest way to shut someone down. It is efficient and gets the job done in a beat.
Finally, we have a technique in Kenpo called Grasping Eagles, which also utilizes the principle of using your offense as defense, and also keeping both attackers at bay by attacking them back and forth while you are forced to be in-between them. No movement is wasted as Joe blocks and punches and kicks simultaneously in the first move, taking care of both opponent’s simultaneously. Then he continues to beat back their attacks; notice the use of kicks; they are a good way to keep distance from an attack and they reach an in-coming attacker quicker because of their reach.
Dan punches, Joe blocks and kicks Dan at the same time while hammer-fisting James in the groin.
This seemingly simple technique, and it is simple, is very sophisticated with use of totally economical motion. Multiple things are done simultaneously — block, kick and strike — and not a single movement is wasted. As an example, right after the hammer-fist strike to the groin, a heel-palm strike is delivered with the same hand to the other opponent; it comes from point of origin but has an enormous amount of travel. In Kenpo you never chamber a weapon as a separate maneuver but you can take advantage of where the weapon already is and a strike could essentially chamber your hand for a follow-up strike. Or the chamber itself could be a strike, which is true sophistication (sophistication is simplicity compounded, doing more than one thing at once); this is where, in Kenpo, you might elongate circles, for instance; extend a chamber a bit and it could become a strike.
Finally, I leave you with a video that includes a very good explanation of underlying principles of dealing with multiple attackers.