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Wolf Pack: Multiple Assailants

Surviving attacks by multiple assailants.

November 01, 1996  |  by Joel Johnston Jr.

Multiple-assailant mentality

A multiple-assailant situation is not an arrest-and-control situation. It is quite simply a survival situa­tion. Your goals must change, and your techniques and tactics must change accordingly. But above all else, your mentality must be correct. You must be 100 percent committed to winning. You cannot afford to be mentally overwhelmed by the num­bers, nor can you simply take as many of them down with you as you can. These are both defeatist atti­tudes. First defeat multiple assailants in your mind, and then defeat them physically.

It is possible to win against mul­tiple assailants. As you know from trying to arrest a violent subject with too many cops, more is not neces­sarily better.

Officers have a number of advan­tages in a multiple-assailant situa­tion, and you must take advantage of them all. When the wolf pack thinks that you are the prey, you must become the predator.

Intermediate goals

In a multiple-assailant situation, the immediate goal is to survive. There is no shame in defeating a group of individuals committed to physically harming us and other innocent people.

Surviving the encounter does not simply mean getting out of it with a pulse; it means surviving physically, men­tally and legally intact. If winning or total survival is the primary goal, how can it be achieved?

Devastate the group psychologically

  • Take out the leader
  • Cause a psychologically devastating visible injury
  • Force a group retreat-most of the group probably does not really want to be there
  • Make a opportunity to escape in complete safety
  • Create a clear window to disengage in complete safety
  • Get to your vehicle
  • Get to a safe haven
  • Fight long enough for cover to arrive
  • Create a clear opportunity to disen­gage, draw and point your sidearm. It will likely take more time than you think, especially if you're wearing a security holster.
  • Use loud, repetitive verbal commands
  • Do not chance losing your weapon by attempting to acquire it at an inoppor­tune moment
  • Destroy the group physically (This is the most difficult course of action; however. you probably won't have to defeat each and every assailant.)
  • Use sound tactics of screening, crack­ing and redirecting (putting assailants between each other, moving between assailants at opportune moments, redi­recting assailants' momentum into each other or stationary objects).
  • Use assailants against each other
  • Strike to high-percentage targets
  • Use the environment favorably: Use door frames and hallways as protective funnels; and natural objects (cars, trees, mail boxes, etc.) as obstacles to assailants. Let those obstacles do dam­age to assailants
  • Always train with multiple assailants in mind

If multiple assailants are a potential problem for you or other members of your agency, it must be addressed in training. That means all operational personnel should be trained in how to effectively deal with the wolf pack.

This training should include identifi­cation and recognition, prevention and avoidance strategies and use-of-force context. It should also include justifi­cation and response, the winning mind-set, pre-assault cues, primary, intermediate and subsidiary goals, basic concepts and strategies, specific tactics and techniques for defeating multiple assailants.

This training should be primarily hands-on and, if possible, involve the use of dynamic simulation training so that officers get to experience some­thing resembling a real-world applica­tion.

You do not need to be a trained martial artist to defeat multiple assailants, but you do need to consider the possibility that this type of con­frontation could happen, so that you are not psychologically and emotion­ally overwhelmed if it does. You also need to be able to recognize the dan­ger signs, understand your goals and apply some basic strategies, tactics and techniques.

Train with multiple assailants in mind. When you do, one-on-one situations will become much easier, and you will know you are prepared to deal with one of the highest threat levels you may ever face. Train to win!

Joel Johnston Jr. is the Control Tactics Coordinator for the Vancouver (Canada) Police Department. Special thanks to Phillip J. Messina, president of Modern Warrior Inc.; George Demetriou, New York Police Department; and the International Shotokan Karate Federation.

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