Written by Greg Ellifritz
Depending on the source of the research you read, you’ll find that about 40% of violent criminal attacks will involve you fighting more than one attacker. Fighting one person is bad enough. Fighting a group is exponentially worse.
Take a look at this video for a good example of a nasty multiple assailant confrontation. A Sheriff’s deputy is surprised by three criminals who break into his house. They quickly flee and he gives chase. The ensuing fight is caught on a surveillance camera.
The deputy did some good things here, but he was ultimately overpowered by the three thugs. Let’s talk about some of the lessons that can be learned here….
1) The best way to win the fight is to avoid it. The deputy here gave chase and he probably regrets that decision now. He’s by himself and unarmed fighting three people who may have access to weapons. It’s a recipe for disaster and he is very lucky one of the thugs wasn’t packing a gun.
Another important concept is the idea that “you can’t make an appointment for an emergency.” You don’t know when bad things will happen. You may not have time to access all of your tools. You will probably fight with whatever gear you have on your person when the attack goes down. Being barefoot, unarmed and dressed in only gym shorts isn’t really a recipe for success. If you need a tool to win your fight, you better have it ready at all times.
If you are violently attacked by a group, your goal should be to escape as quickly as possible. Run away. Use obstacles such as cars or other objects to prevent your attackers from reaching you. If you have a longer range weapon, deploy it to keep the attackers as far away from you as possible. Stream formula pepper spray would be a good first step to deal with multiple unarmed attackers.
2) Multiple attackers are more dangerous to you. That seems obvious, but many people (including this deputy) seem to forget the amount of damage that can be done. While you are fighting one bad guy, the others can take your back and really put a hurting on you. Whenever multiple attackers are involved, you need to escalate your levels of force. Three people beating you with fists is most likely a lethal force situation. You would be justified in using a deadly weapon to repel the attack.
Don’t forget that once multiple people are involved, it’s a fight not a wrestling match. You shouldn’t be trying to detain someone for the police. Your efforts should be focused on doing damage to stop your attackers. If your initial efforts to escape or utilize defensive sprays don’t immediately work, it’s time to escalate.
3) Whenever possible, try to “stack” your attackers. Move to the outside of the group, so that your attackers are temporarily lined up in a manner that allows you to fight one person at a time. Such movement isn’t always possible, but will lead to higher rates of success if they can be implemented. Your goal should be to create as much chaos in the fight as possible. Any time you make your attackers get in each others way you create opportunities to cause severe damage or escape.
4) If you end up grappling with one of your attackers, use him as a shield to keep between you and the other attackers. The deputy here does this very well. Until the very end, he kept one attacker as a shield and limited the amount of damage that could be done by the others. Try to avoid letting any attacker get behind you.
5) Don’t go to the ground! Groundfighting is the worst option in most multiple attacker situations. To win a fight against more than one attacker, you will need mobility, visibility and access to tools. All of those are limited when you are on the ground.
6) Chokes are important. The deputy here never fully sinks the choke. If he could have choked the “shield” unconscious, even for a few moments, he would have likely prevailed. Learn how to choke someone out. Find a Judo or JuJitsu instructor and pay them for a private lesson. You’ll be glad you did. It’s one of the fastest ways to win a fight.
The book Choke ’em Out: 65 Chokes to End Any Fight Fast is a good reference if you can’t find an instructor in your area.
7) If you can’t escape, stack your attackers, or manipulate one to be a shield, you must attack. There are differing schools of thought as to who you should attack first (the biggest, the smallest, the leader, the closest) but I don’t really think it matters. Attack one of them with the goal of doing as much damage as possible. In my experience, that tends to shock the others and will often cause them to flee. There really isn’t any honor among thieves. Even if the others don’t run away, causing serious damage to one will likely open up a “hole” to allow you to escape.
Practice hard, keep your awareness up and try to avoid this stuff! If you can’t prevent the attack, remember the advice above and do what you need to do in order to make it home.
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