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Circle Defense

In comments, sartorias asked, "Also, talk about strategies with multiple attackers? You want them in one another's way, of course, or to funnel them if you can, but what if they encircle you?"

It's a great topic. The answers are always evolving, and no single set of techniques will work all the time. And if you're going up against three or four well-trained guys, you're going to get hurt--no question. I'm not much for the bravado that accompanies so many "expert" teachings. (There's my disclaimer. :-)) But there are techniques that work most often, and principles that increase the chance of success.

The first is to keep moving, no matter what. The second-most common error I saw this last week came from the desire to plant one's feet to deliver a solid punch. That takes too much time. In the less-than-a-second it takes to deliver a pair of good hits, the other attackers will smoosh you. Far better to move and hit at the same time (and that requires getting good hits delivered to the right targets, which is whole 'nuther topic).

So if you're hitting Bob while circling to the right, the other attackers are more likely to circle around Bob to head you off. That's when you instead cut left and retreat. If some go right and some left, you zag and zig to the side with the fewest. It gives you distance, which gives you time, and strings out your attackers again. Strings, good. Clumps, bad.

Always the movement should take you to the most open space available--away from the attackers, and away from the people you've already hit. Even attackers down on the ground should be considered dangerous (pulling out a weapon, grabbing your leg or foot, rolling into your path, etc.). Prey that never stops moving is really, really hard to surround.

But if that happens, the circle must be escaped. On my first test, Shihan put me in a circle of eight attackers. I chose to charge toward the right hand of a tall attacker, ducked beneath his haymaker, and flipped an elbow into his gut as I ran past. It wasn't enough to stop him from coming after me, but it gave me a half-second to get past him. The guy on my left was also right handed, so his power-punch took longer to swing around to me. I didn't bother blocking it. Instead, I ran away from it to get distance. From there, it was actually easier to line folks up because those at the far side of the circle had to cover a greater distance to get to me. It gave me time.

Staying inside the circle is certain failure. If you can't move, you're easy to hit.

Does that make sense? I'm trying to balance getting the idea across without bogging down the details.  So many "multiple attacker" scenarios on videos and such are really "lots of single attackers, one right after the other."  In those, you'll see the target move in a predictable pattern--usually a circle--as attackers come up one at a time.  Alas, that gives the practitioner a false security. Seeing what happens when a group really charges you is an eye-opener!


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 22nd, 2013 03:21 am (UTC)
Makes sense. Depending on how many, I also thought if one tried to get them in one another's way . . .
Jul. 31st, 2013 01:36 pm (UTC)
Sorry-- I didn't mean to leave this hanging!!

Getting them in each other's way is definitely a strategy. Part of "lining up" the attackers through the use of movement helps reduce the number of attackers who can reach you to one, with the other attackers behind the one. Giving someone a shove or a trip at the right moment can help, too. :)
Aug. 13th, 2013 02:23 pm (UTC)
better late than never?
From the attacker side, learning the co-ordination to keep someone surrounded instead of allowing them to break things down to one-on-ones is possibly a bit more tricky. Team fighting tends to be a much later thing to learn in modern contexts, so you go in already with the mindset for solitary fighting, and effective circling and spacing so that you make sure your opponent is threatened by more than one person at a time is just one more thing to think about.

In my case, I found the concept fairly quick to learn once someone explained it and ran a few examples, but very much one of the first things that goes out the window once I start paying attention to actual swordplay or whatnot. Good teamwork means you have to concentrate on everyone in the fight at once, not just the ones who are trying to kill you, which can be a little counter-intuitive.

Though I could also imagine scenarios where teaching less skilled (or younger) team members to *work* as a team ("your job is to get in the way of that dagger arm but don't let him hit you"/"your job is to dart in when [ally] attacks & muck up [enemy]'s footwork") could be very effective.

It's another one of those clear divides between who's learned dueling and who actually understands brawls & battles.
Aug. 18th, 2013 12:33 pm (UTC)
Re: better late than never?
I wasn't ignoring this; I just realized it was here! Sorry!

I can see it being very difficult to move from solitary fighting to group attacking. The strategies to be effective would be quite different.

... but very much one of the first things that goes out the window once I start paying attention to actual swordplay or whatnot.

Effective movement and distancing when defending against multiple attackers is one of the first things that go when we start paying attention to hitting the attackers, too. :) Everyone wants to stop moving their feet while hitting. But with multiple attackers, the moment you stop moving is the moment you start losing.

It's another one of those clear divides between who's learned dueling and who actually understands brawls & battles.

There's a similar line between those who've learned sparring and those who've learned self-defense.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )


Blair MacGregor

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