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Derek Smith: Multiple Opponents

Dealing With Multiple Attackers

I’m not going to lie and say I’ve fought multiple attackers many times, but there have been a few. In this article, I’m going to share how I dealt with a couple of those attacks and how you can save your life should you run up against multiple attackers.

True Story

The first time it happened I was a young thug living in Chicago. I was going to a local corner store on the south side where I lived when three guys approached me. I knew it was going to be trouble because me and my thug friends had an ongoing battle with these guys.

It was really stupid because I cannot even tell you why we fought or why we hated each other so much. It was just one of those neighborhood beefs. We had two ways of handling these beefs and we usually did both.

We would play sand lot football against these other blocks. These games would be the meanest, toughest you would ever see. We would play full tackle against without any gear, and then the game usually ended not based on the score, but on when we got tired of hitting, shoving, elbowing, biting, punching and shit talking each other and someone got punched in the mouth leading to a frenzied melee, the second way was an all-out street fight.

The Warriors

Me and about 13 of my buddies made up the Warriors (named after the “Warriors” movie, which we all saw together and thought was the best movie EVER made at the time). We had black t-shirts produced with the word “Warriors” prominently displayed across the back in white iron-on letters.

I mostly stuck with Little Daryl, who was a street gymnast, Tank, whose real name was Kenneth, but he was built like a tank at the young age of 17, another Ken who was a couple years older than us, but was also very muscular and on his high school wrestling team, making him a general bad ass, and Pookie (whose real name was George, LOL) who was a brown belt in Karate and was also our “club” Karate instructor (I say club because we did not want to call ourselves a “gang”).

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Back To The Story…

These three punks were coming towards me, and when they saw me alone (we usually traveled in packs) they began to smile and speed up their pace. When they got to me I was confident because I knew I was ready.

Pookie had been teaching me Shotokan Karate for quite some time and I was one of the best students at it. So, although I was scared as hell, I put a wall behind me and prepared myself to take out my three opponents with lighting fast karate kicks and punches.

When they reached me they surrounded me, one in front and one kind of to each side of me. They started talking shit of course and saying how bad they were about to kick my ass.

There was a stoop (which is a few stairs made of cement leading into a store) next to me and there was a wine bottle sitting upon it. One of the guys reach to get the wine bottle to hit me and I knew that was going to be bad so I punched him first.

A Brawl Breaks Out

This is when the shit hit the fan. The other 2 guys started throwing punches. Thank goodness the guy forgot all about the wine bottle at this point and instead concentrated on how bad to kick my ass. Each time I tried to turn to face an attacker with my karate the other two would punch me upside my head. I would turn to face another one and then wham, wham.

Luckily, it was winter in Chicago and I was wearing a very bulky parka, so I just covered my face and let them wail on me. The coat prevented them from doing much more than punching me in the arms, which did not do much damage and lucky for me they were not trained fighters so they did not try to punch me anywhere else but in the arms which covered my head and face from damage.

It probably would have been much worse, had one of my five younger brothers and three other “Warriors” not come around the corner, see this happening, and intervene on my behalf, beating and chasing these guys off me.

In this fight I did not use one karate technique nor any kicks. I had no time to try my best, but woefully poor, karate moves, and I was afraid to throw a kick, one because they were so close to me, and two, because I was afraid to lose my base by taking a leg off the ground and ending up on the ground.

Fast-Forward to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan…

I was an undercover agent on a drug operation working for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. I was in a perp’s house when the shit hit the fan. The guy I was supposed to be buying crystal meth from got pissed about something and decided he and his two buddies were going to kick my ass.

By now I had years of real training and black belts in both Tae Kwon Do and Combat Hapkido, as well as training in multiple other arts including jui jitsu (BJJ) was not big at this time. I also had a government issued 9mm Beretta at the small of my back and an ASP baton in my right coat pocket.

The drug dealer and his buddies were on me quick. I’d like to use this story to demonstrate how to defeat multiple opponents. Let’s get started.

1. Deliver A Preemptive Strike

In my case I did not REALLY strike preemptively. The drug dealer got pissed about something we were arguing over and he tried to “steal on me” throwing a quick jab at my eye. I was already waiting for it and I parried him with my left hand and hit him with a short elbow strike to the left side of his head.

It was not hard but it was enough to distract him. The preemptive strike is very important. To take out an opponent, especially if bigger than you, you need to strike first and hard. There are no cheap shots in a fight. You either hit first or get hit. It’s best to hit first!

2. Hit The Leader First, If There Is One

In my case the leader had thrown a punch at me so of course he was the guy I hit first with the elbow strike. Often when attacked someone is going to emerge as the leader. He is probably the one doing all the shit talking. Take him out first and hope that the others stop at that point. However, I doubt they will.

Unlike in the movies, they will probably try to defend or get payback for their friend and will begin their attack right away, so be ready for it. Even if it is not the leader, attack first. It is nearly impossible to defend from multiple angles; you need to be the first to act.

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3. Always Know Where All The Attackers Are Even If You’re Fighting One Of Them At A Time

In my case when I elbowed the drug dealer his two buddies who were sitting on the couch playing a video game quickly started to rise. It is very cold in the Upper Peninsula, especially in the winter so I was wearing a heavy coat and could not easily get to my gun, and actually things were happening too fast and I did not really want to have to shoot these bone heads anyway, too much paperwork, not enough return.

I was wearing what we called a “panic button” taped to my left arm. The purpose of the button is to let my handlers, who wore outside in vehicles and a van, know I was in trouble so they could rush in. As they rose from the couch I pushed the drug dealer into the one sitting on the left of me, pressed the panic button, and executed a front push kick with my right leg to the one on the right, pushing him back onto the couch.

You should know where the other opponents are and be ready to deal with them as soon as you need to. Don’t do like most people and just blindly fight without observing your surroundings, or you’ll be cold-cocked in the back of your head and probably knocked out.

4. Keep Your Opponents In Front Of You

Pushing them all onto the couch allowed me to keep them from flanking me and my being in a situation I would have a difficult time dealing with, if at all. Try to keep your attackers in a line if you can. Keeping them in a line (e.g., by backing away from them for example) can allow you to attack one person without being exposed to attack by others.

5. Use A Weapon If You Are Skilled With It

Before my attackers could rise from the couch I whipped out my ASP baton and without even opening it first I began to swing, knowing it would open while in flight. It did striking the drug dealer on the ass, whoever it did not lock out on that first strike as I hope it would, so I swung it to lock it out and then I just commenced to wailing on all three with the baton as they ducked and dodged while squirming on the couch.

As law enforcement we are trained to strike fleshy parts of the body with our batons as to not break joints or kill the person, which looks bad on the news and in court, so I avoided their heads and kept hitting their arms and thighs. By that time my backup came bursting through the door and went for my attackers quickly subduing and cuffing them. Unfortunately, my cover was blown, but I was safe. I was happy they had arrived because even with the baton, I would probably only be able to control all three for so long before they found a way to get past my baton. Drawing a weapon may end the fight before it begins and it’s a great way to equalize things against multiple attackers. I warn you, however, that if you are not skilled with it, the weapon will probably be used against you.

This is how where my scenario ended, however I have a few more tips for you:

6. Be Strategic With Your Defense

Try to avoid being caught in a triangle between multiple attackers like I did in my first scenario. Even with my back to a wall, punches came from many directions and I could not deal with them. This situation almost certainly means you will lose, and fast. Plan to go on the offensive aggressively and commit to fighting. Follow through and look for your first chance to escape.

7. Use Objects Around You To Ward Off Your Attackers

I was once fighting a guy and I flung a chair at him. As he moved to avoid the chaired I was right behind it to attack him. With multiple attackers throwing a chair at one opponent, for example, while turning around to fight another opponent, can hopefully by you some needed time.

8. Keep Moving

Because if you are planted in a location your attackers can easily surround you. Use your footwork, stay agile, and keep moving around a little. Hell, run if you can.

9. Strike Decisively

You need to put your attackers down as quickly as possible. Target weak spots such as the temples, groin, knees, and solar plexus. Even the nose can be useful because hitting it will blind and disorient your opponents for a moment.

10. Use Cheap Shots

I told you before there is no such thing as a cheap shot anyway so it is really just a decisive blow. In a fight I have no qualms about biting, pinching, scratching, or jabbing eyes. Against grapplers I demonstrate how easy it is to bite them. Pride will cost you your life. Don’t be afraid to kick your opponent in the balls, to pull his hair, or to scratch his eyes.

11. Don’t Allow Yourself To Be Flanked

If your opponent gets behind you, or have you surrounded as I described in my first scenario, you are in big trouble like I was. Remember step 8 above and keep moving, and punching. If your attackers get their hands on you, you have a grappling situation, and with multiple attackers that’s just bad.

12. Finally, Escape As Soon As You Can

You are NOT likely to win a drawn out battle against multiple attackers. You have to get away pronto! If there are not any close escape routes, then follow my bonus step below.

Bonus Step: Where To Attack

In a life or death situation, which I consider any street situation, but especially one involving multiple attackers, there are no rules. Just as I teach in my Special Agent Combative Course, take out their eyes, break their kneecaps, jab them in the throat; do anything you can to win the battle. Your goal is to finish your attackers by any means available and necessary for your survival.

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116 thoughts on “Derek Smith: Multiple Opponents”

  1. Very good advice thanks so much. I don’t have any training but I do have a desire to keep my family safe.

  2. Awesome Advice. Having Personally encountered MANY such incidents on our Southern Border, you learn very quickly that there is NEVER such a thing as a “Fair Fight”. You Live to Fight another day.
    But as I grow older (68) and MUCH Wiser, I have learned that an “equalizer” of ANY type is a Force Multiplier. A Stick, a Rock & even a handful of Dirt (in their eyes) is useful. But remember, Live to Fight another Day. Inflict Maximum Pain, then ESCAPE…As Soon as Possible. Sk

  3. Sounds like the best advice I could think of. I just wish there was a more definite way of attack you could learn but you never know. Only other thing I could think of is anything could be a weapon. Like a chair. The real thing that saved you in both instances was more people on your side. Sometimes we don’t have that luxury.

  4. I think there are more enjoyable ways to handle those disputes. Yes, batons are involved, but no one gets hurt. Quite the opposite, actually.

  5. Thank you for the tips. I hope to never be in a multiple assailant situation but if I do these steps will at least give me a fighting chance. I hear that sometimes if you take out the later the biggest and meanest one the other two may lose the courage to continue the fight. But it is true when you got adrenaline going and anger blinds you it’s a different situation. Thanks again.

  6. Thank you for reaching out Sir if it come to that I will do everything next to prepare & protect myself. God bless you and your family have bless day Sir

  7. Very enlightening on how true multiple attackers must viewed and in sight at all times. Thanks for the tips Derek.

  8. Thanks Derek Smith for breaking that down into steps that are not long winded and are simple talk.
    I intend to get this information to my teenage son because it’s not too long for one to focus, and he will believe it is relevant do to the stories.

  9. Thank you for that. I’ve never been in that situation, but I love the advice about “Run if you can.”

  10. You need to remove one primary and three secondary systems in a fight. The primary system is the brain. It must be rattled or sloshed about in the skull, and specifically you must remove, in one to three moves, their sight, their breath and their balance, in order to escape, much less prevail.