Handling Opponents

Multiple Opponents

Dealing with multiple opponents is extremely difficult. While you begin dealing with one opponent another starts to strike you in the back. When you turn to deal with this second person, a third person strikes you in the face. Then the first person starts to hit you in the back. You can’t win.

This scenario demonstrates the difficulties and pitfalls of dealing with multiple attackers. In this scenario, the primary rule of dealing with multiple attackers has been violated. That primary rule is: never stay in the middle.

There are several strategies you might employ to ensure you are not left in the middle to fend off a group of people that have surrounded you. We will discuss several options you might consider.

The first is to move immediately between two of the opponents. You now have the possible option of fleeing. If you can outrun everyone, this is your best option. You might elect to strike or disable the potentially fastest runner so that he or she is unable to run you down from behind as you flee.

If you feel you won’t be able to escape, then grab the nearest assailant and use him or her as an interim shield. As another person approaches strike them directly from behind your interim shield. You will now likely want to turn to face another potential attacker. This entire process might last for a few seconds before you are overrun. If there is an effort to charge you, disable the person who is your interim shield and move to the outside of your nearest attacker, whereupon you might elect to escape or capture another interim shield. The process of maintaining a shield and striking from behind the shield might continue a bit longer. The hope is that the attackers become discouraged or you have sufficiently lessened their numbers so that you no longer face a multiple opponent scenario.

If you feel you are facing a very serious and potentially life-threatening situation then you might elect to use an alternate strategy. As the group attempts to encircle you, step between two opponents and re-center one of them so that you are behind them. Permanently disable them in the most direct manner possible and immediately move to re-center and disable another. Repeat this process until you can escape.

Dealing with multiple opponents is very difficult, tiring, and extremely risky. If you cannot escape then you are left with shielding yourself and/or disabling opponents so that they cannot continue to engage in aggression against you. You do not want to stand and spar when dealing with multiple attackers, nor do you want to grapple with them. These are both losing strategies. Instead, you want to escape or strike vital points that will immediately take an opponent out of the conflict. Lessen the total number of remaining attackers at every opportunity and never engage more than one attacker at any moment. You must deplete the number of opponents before they deplete your energy.

Avoiding Your Opponent’s Guard

As you spar you will find it useful to be able to get your opponent to lower or move their guard or to find ways to strike them despite he or she using an effective guard. This can be done in a variety of ways. Here are some to consider.

  • Make your opponent tired. When people get tired they tend to let their guard drop. Keep this in mind for yourself as well. If you get tired, pay increased attention to your guard position.
  • Use a hooking block to lower the opponent’s front guard. Use your front hand to catch the other person’s wrist or forearm, bringing it forward and down. Now use your opposite hand to hold the hand in the down position as you use the front hand to strike to the exposed face with something like a Hiraken Uchi. This is a common circular motion drill. Your front hand just follows a simple circle. It pulls the opponent’s hand down and then circles back up to the opponent’s face. Your back-hand simply restrains the opponent’s guarding hand against returning to an effective guard position.
  • Use a Mikazuki Geri to pull the other person’s front guard down. You may now wish to strike with something like Yoko Geri using the same foot or step forward to strike with a hand to the face.
  • Step to the ear side and strike behind and over the other person’s guarding arm.
  • Rapidly strike to the lower abdomen to get your opponent to drop their guard to protect this area. This opens their face up for an immediate subsequent strike. You might strike low after a few higher strikes. This suggests to the opponent that you planned to strike low the entire time when in reality you planned to strike high. You just needed them to voluntarily drop their guard first.
  • Of course, the previous method can be reversed. Striking high may cause the opponent to raise their guard, which exposes the abdomen to striking.
  • Use a feint to suggest a specific strike. If the opponent moves their guard in reaction then immediately strike to the same location. You may catch the opponent as they are returning their arm to a normal guard position.
  • Strike with a variety of high and low strikes in rapid succession. A person cannot guard everything all the time. Many of your strikes may be blocked. Many others will find a target.
  • Use a hooking strike such as Mawashi Tsuki to strike around and behind the guard.
  • Push the guarding hand directly back into the attacker’s face or body. If done fast and hard then the attacker may be struck with his or her hand. This may not be extremely injurious, but it does affect the opponent’s structure and will now allow you to strike with the guard out of its normal position.

Think about it a while to see if you can come up with another five ways to avoid an opponent’s guard position. A little creativity will provide you with five additional skills.

Maintaining Contact

Most serious conflicts begin as either a sudden and unexpected attack or as a growing escalation of hostilities between two or more people.

Continued conflict in these two situations will likely occur if a) the surprise attack did not render the victim incapable of fighting or escaping or b) nobody in the case of escalating hostilities was intelligent or skilled enough to stop the escalations.

Assuming that none of the above is true and that the fight is on, the fight is likely to go through several stages. Some stages may be skipped altogether or be very short in duration, but these are common steps in a conflict.

The first stage might be called the measurement stage. Combatants go through some light sparring to see how their opponent reacts and to demonstrate their skills to one another in an attempt to intimidate the other person.  This seldom lasts long. One person will eventually attempt a more powerful strike. If it lands the fight may be over. More commonly, the two opponents then close on one another and close-quarter contact begins.

This usually involves a standing struggle, in which each person strikes to gain a positional superiority over the other. Repeated blows will be thrown by both persons as they also struggle for physical dominance. Eventually one of the following things will occur. The two parties may propel themselves apart so that they are back to a basic sparring position again. Some third-party (or parties) will intercede to stop the conflict. One person may throw the other or the two parties may fall to the ground resulting in a more complex grappling contest. Finally, someone may prevail with a strike, lock, or other action that renders their opponent unable to continue, or alternately, the two parties exhaust themselves and find they cannot continue the struggle.

If the two parties separate then there are two choices. Escape or begin the measurement stage again. If there is a slight separation between the two parties then there is increased opportunity for leg sweeps or similar throws.

In these close-quarter conflicts, we prefer to keep in constant contact with the other person. Maintaining contact allows us to be in constant touch so we can feel every movement of the opponent and probe for weakness in their structure and to anticipate their planned actions. This allows us to avoid returning to the measurement phase. It also limits the ability of the opponent to perform leg sweeps or other complex throws. It provides us with the mechanisms to end the conflict with a lock or other positioning of our opponent so they are unable to continue the struggle.

We refer to any separation that occurs between two combatants as a void. A void indicates that you are not in complete control of the opponent; something you must quickly address. Use your knowledge of anatomy, Onna No Atemi Waza, centering, moving twice, and the myriad other skills you have learned to establish and maintain complete control of the opponent. In many close contact situations, it is beneficial to prevent a void from developing except when it is an intentional part of your strategy.

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