Double Trouble

There is one thing that my martial arts training has taught me over the years, and that is to train for everything. As I’ve dove into many different martial art curriculums, and observed lesson plans from a vast array of arts, I’m amazed at two commonalities. The first is that many people practicing an array of different arts don’t encompass defending against multiple attackers. Secondly, people make many simple mistakes when it comes down to fighting off more than one assailant.

For those who do mass attack training, many remind me of a “Billy Jack” (for you older practitioners) or “Matrix like” (for the younger readers) strategy of going back and forth between multiple opponents. A sequence of martial arts photos may show a second or third attacker “frozen in time” as his buddy gets pummeled by the expert, but reality isn’t so pretty. There is this thing called constant movement which these experts need to remember, as a line of attackers won’t take a number to receive their beating.

The fact is that gang attacks, where two or three people attack one person simultaneously is not only normal out on the street, it is a strategy the cowards who do decide to attack others choose in order to raise the probability of their success.


I like to focus on three steps or important points to center most of my self-defense strategies around. A one step answer would be nice, but many times that lacks the need for progression in a defense strategy, and plans to deal with contingencies. Therefore, the three steps in my Mass Attack strategy are no exception.

The first step when defending yourself against multiple attackers is to grab an equalizer. A what, you ask? This is how I define an equalizer to my students: Anything you can pick up to throw at your opponents and/or strike them with. Why is this the first step? Because when dealing with more than one attacker you are already at a disadvantage regardless of how tough you think you are.

Picking up a tire iron, fist full of gravel, a bottle, stick, or chair will at the very least make the attackers think twice, if not turn them off to attacking you. In full disclosure this may cause them to find a weapon as well, therefore, you must use it immediately if that is the choice they act on.

Whether you use or don’t use a weapon, the second step is to “zone” around the aggressors where you’ll put one person in front of the other. This gives you an opportunity for a short burst of time to take action on just one opponent.

The worst thing to do is get caught in the middle of two (or more) people. Leave those situations to be played out on the big screen, and treat getting in the middle as a cardinal sin. Because this article is read by a vast array of styles, after you zone properly, I would encourage you to use whatever one on one strategy you employ if you were just fighting one person.

Use quick and brutal strikes, and incorporate the final step which is to use continuous footwork to always keep that “one on one stack”. Understand that the second person in line will not wait his turn. Therefore, make your strikes direct and to the point, while continuously zoning to keep one person blocking the other. This is the reason I believe tools such as elbows, jabs and even head butts work so well here.

With “less than perfect” training in these scenarios, many people become de-motivated to keep a mass attack curriculum. It is easy for us to train what we are good at, and even easier to stay away from what we are not good at. The goal is to keep on it. Keep training the fundamentals. Breaking this strategy down part by part is a necessary step, and leave the wild and crazy variables out until you have the basics down.

There is no doubt that fleeing a mass attack situation is the intelligent first choice. However, many times we don’t have that luxury. Simply ignoring these scenarios only feeds our weaknesses, but training it unrealistically could put us in just as bad of a place. Using the three steps of Equalizer, Zone and Footwork will increase your chances of survival, which should always be the main goal of self-defense.

Sifu Matt Numrich

Sifu Matt Numrich is a martial artist and self-defense expert, renowned for his training in Krav Maga, Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Martial Arts.