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Fighting Multiple Attackers
Practice against two, three, or more opponents.
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Introduction
• Part 2: Tactics
 Related Resources
• Fighting as a Team
• Force Continuum
• Martial Arts: Beginners
• Martial Arts: Brazilian Jiu-jitsu
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Rickson Gracie Full Contact interview


We run multiple opponent training scenarios with one person against two, three, or more opponents. Sometimes the opponents carry kicking pads, to allow the "victim" to use full-power strikes and kicks. Other times we just don our usual sparring protection, and go at it.

The first thing you learn as the "victim" is to not take on more than one opponent at a time. Line them up! If you have to become a runner for a while, that's ok. By maneuvering so all attackers are in a straight line, or at least in front of you, you won't have to worry about being attacked from behind or the sides. Plus, only one attacker can come at you at a time--his body blocks his buddies from also getting to you.

Fight Dynamics

Two fight dynamics really come into play in multiple-opponent scenarios: speed and ferocity. You'll need both to survive.

Move really, really fast, and keep moving--really, really fast. With multiple attackers, slowing down will give one of them a chance to catch up to you--fighting that person on his or her terms will make you slow down even more, and eventually all of them will catch up to you. Move like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil--bounce from one assailant to another, spending just the amount of time you need with each one to take the fight out of him.

To take the fight out of someone can take a lot of time, if they're used to absorbing a lot of punishment. Some bouts in Pride, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or other mixed martial arts (MMA) events take forever--because one guy has the knack for taking a lot of blows without succumbing.

You don't have that kind of time. You need to be ferocious, to devastate each opponent as you get to him. You might have to physically remove each opponent's ability to fight--what Bram Frank calls "biomechanical cutting". Taking out a knee, collarbone, or in Frank's case, cutting through tendons in the weapon arm or legs, removes an opponent's ability to fight you. You might have to render your opponent unconscious, momentarily unable to breathe (e.g. with a strike to the throat), or momentarily unable to see (e.g. with a finger jab to the eyes).


If you have a lawfully-carried weapon, now is the time to use it.

Weapons greatly change the dynamics of multiple-opponent scenarios. If the "victim" is armed, and the attackers aren't, their tactics will change accordingly--they might hesitate more, try to stay out of range of the weapon, or if they train for such occasions, they'll fight as a team to disarm the "victim" and take him or her down.

If the attackers are armed, and you aren't, you're in trouble. Find a weapon--something nearby like a flower pot or a car antenna. Improvise. Make escape your priority--taking on one armed individual is hard enough, taking on a few is crazy.


Much has been said about the ineffectiveness of grappling against multiple opponents. If Rickson Gracie says to resort to firearms, instead of using his family's jiu-jitsu, is grappling useless against multiple opponents?

One way to find out is to use your grappling skills in your multiple opponent training. We've found that stand-up grappling skills, like clinches, locks, and throws, can help a lot when taking on multiple opponents. If you throw an attacker into or in the path of his buddy, that hinders the other guy's approach to taking you out. Clinching someone properly lets you control his position as you kick or knee him. You can then use him as a shield to keep the others away.

However, lapsing into "grappling mode", or focusing too much on one attacker, gets you hurt. Even if you get a great chokehold, you won't have time to complete the choke before the other attackers can get to you.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The old saw says that "practice, practice, practice" is how you get to Carnegie Hall. In multiple opponent scenarios, practice is how you'll get out of trouble.


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