Fighting multiple unarmed assailants bore some similarities to fighting single unarmed assailants. Firstly, the premise of the attack was sexual assault or some other act that implied the assailants wanted you alive and aware of what they were doing until they felt that they had managed to perform this act. Therefore, assailants were more likely to grab and restrain us than to throw a deadly punch.
As in Single Unarmed Assailants class, the presumption was that they were out to
- convince us to stop hitting them but not "fight" the way men fight each other and
- do sexual things we didn’t want them to do (or, as I said, something like that).
Another similarity to the single assailant class was the idea that men who attack women (or anyone they perceive as belonging to a “weaker” social category, like children or the elderly) are easily frightened by the yells and blows of an opponent who is fighting a "real" fight. The evidence (crime reports, interviews, etc.) shows that this is even truer of assailants who feel the need to have a whole group to be sufficiently intimidating to a woman.
It is also truer with multiple assailants because the reasons for the attack are often focused on feeling masculine in the eyes of other group members rather than in the eyes of the woman. This can make a lot of members of the group lose commitment and run away or give up as soon as they see their only judges failing the intimidate-and-abuse mission.
The neatest trick we learned was lining up assailants. Though they roam and threaten like a wolf pack, they don’t move like a wolf pack. Trained combat teams have better things to do: they have Jet Lis and Uma Thurmans to fight. Thirteen-year-olds are not combat teams who know how to move in relation to one another. They probably formed their group 30 minutes ago!
So if they try to come at you from 2 or 3 different directions, you back up and move left or right until becomes . However, it doesn’t take long for the ones in back to figure out that their path is blocked, so you must hit or kick the front one as soon as you get that line and then keep moving to make a new line out of the assailants (preferably including the one you just mobilized, because he/she might be mobile sooner than you think).
If one does manage to run around you (instead of you keeping him in front of you by backing up as fast as he’s approaching your flank side), you might indeed get grabbed from behind. We learned several handy techniques for that! We learned:
- how to clock someone behind us in the head
- how to hurt him in the groin despite having our backs to him
- how to take out someone in front of us if that person seems too close to first hurt the rear person and take the time to turn around and strike a better blow, and
- most importantly, no matter how many or few assailants we’ve struck, to see exit opportunities from the sandwich and take them right away.
(One of our instructors refuses to say, "Practice makes perfect.")
We also learned how to hurt them and thus escape if they’re pinning our arms and legs to the ground. Again, as with single unarmed assailants, it’s important not to think, "He’s holding me and there’s a hand coming to grope me!" and to think, "He’s at my feet, restraining them from moving in 2 directions, but not a third. I will move them in this third direction and use them to hurt him. If he leans in to try to grope me, all the easier, but I’ll figure it out no matter what he does."
(Strong abs make this easier, by the way! Balance and gravity make it possible even without them, though.)
Same goes for people holding your arms. Don’t worry about what they or their buddies are doing to your breasts and crotch. Focus on the ones pinning down your weapons (limbs) and only once they’re too immobilized/stunned to grab back your weapons is it helpful to worry about [using those weapons and] getting rid of or escaping out from under people with their hands on your privates.
Since an attacked person can keep the fight much more manageable by staying mobile, we learned new kicks and hits that weren’t taught in the Single Unarmed Assailants class. There we almost tried to lie down on the ground as fast as possible. Here we had to learn to stay confident and strong while standing.
We also learned to "shuffle" because walking, running, or traveling sideways by stepping with criss-crossing feet (I’m so bad about doing that!) is more likely to make us trip. It’s not all-important, but it helps.
The strike-once-and-only-once-and-move tactic doesn’t last forever. Once every assailant has had a few blows they generally pause longer to recover. If you have put two on the ground ahead of you and a third is staggering away from you on your left from a blow to the head, when you draw the fourth out to your right and hit him/her, when he/she bends over or goes down, you might see that no one else is on his/her feet yet. If you see that, it is safe to throw one, two, or more kicks against the same assailant and knock him/her unconscious (ball-clutching or head-clutching assailants can recover and run quickly enough to catch you half a mile down the road. Unconscious ones give you time to get to a safe place and report the attack to the police).
Towards the end of the fight, you use both the one-hit-and-move strategy and the hit-until-knockout strategy as appropriate until all assailants have been knocked out ("ASSESS!") or truly run away ("LOOK!").
Use verbal assertion to dissuade any menacing onlookers from jumping in to start a new fight. Fight if attacked. Look, assess, and repeat if there are more menacing onlookers.
Leave the scene, watching where you’re going. They’re all unconscious or gone--you checked earlier. Don’t get hit by a bus or trip in a gutter by looking over your shoulder while you walk or jog.
That’s what we learned in class!