How to fight multiple opponents

How effective groups operate vs single opponents

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It is essential to first understand how to effectively take on a single opponent from the other side – as a group – before considering the best approach as a single defender.

There are two core roles:

  1. Primary – Engages / draws attention
  2. Secondary – Performs flanking movement / blindside attack
One engages while the other attacks from a second angle – just like the raptors in Jurassic Park

Engagement could mean anything from a physical attack to body language and verbal engagement.

As we can only face one direction and effectively fight one person at a time, we are vulnerable to any secondary attack from whoever we are not focused on.

When you are operating in a group against a single opponent, divide yourselves between these roles. One takes their focus, allowing the other the other to attack without repercussion.

Engage simultaneously, give them two problems at once and find opportunities to hit them when they aren’t looking at you.

Method as single defender

Now we have an understanding of basic group tactics, how do we address it?

The often-repeated advice is to “line them up”. Although this is not a bad idea in principle, it can be difficult to achieve maintain as your opponent will counter this movement. Any improvements to position are temporary and will result in a back-and-forth struggle.

As a result, we will often need to capitalise on more subtle positional shifts.

Position (Angles + Distance)

ANGLE: Use movement to keep opponents within a 90 degree angle to front, as much as possible.

DISTANCE: Maintain a staggered distance. They may never perfectly “line up” for you – however, if one is within striking range and the other is not, we have achieved at least a fleeting moment where we can address a single opponent, without being attacked by the other.

Angle and distance management require constant movement.


Target switching

The ability to target switch is more important than positioning. Good position can be difficult or impossible to attain for more than a fleeting moment.

We must identify, prioritise and engage with the secondary. Failure to do so means you will suffer a blindside attack.

Identify the secondary opponent. Maintain awareness of opponents moving in your peripheral vision; they will be positioning to attack while you are focused on their friend.

Prioritise the secondary. Even if you are physically fighting with one, when you sense the secondary is committing to their movement, prioritise and address them.

Rapidly disengage from your primary, engage the secondary.

This could mean nothing more than eye contact, or a physical attack.

Check their movement, stop the attack, do not allow them to take the initiative.

Do your best to maintain good position (angle and staggered distance). This may not always be possible, but do your best.

It is paramount that you rapidly switch targets to check their movement, stop the secondary attack, and take back the initiative.


Another method they might use is stalling. It will shut down your movement and ability to target switch.

This involves one opponent simply holding on and not doing much while their friend does the real harm. This can often happen on the ground, but is a problem whether standing or ground.

To combat this, you need to learn how to grapple – clinch, sprawl, break grips, break contact, wrestle, defend and stand up.

If you don’t know how to clinch, wrestle and fight on the ground, you are defenseless against being taken down and held on the ground.

Crossing the line

The two opponents can work to set up the their blindside attack, but we also have to be cautious not to put ourselves in that position.


Do not press forward to pursue a retreating opponent if it will expose your flank.

Final note

Above all, you need to be better at fighting than all of your opponents combined, because that is literally what you are up against. All the tactics and knowledge in the world won’t matter unless the size, skill, strength, speed, experience etc. disparity between you and the other party is large enough to overcome them.