One of the most dangerous encounters a law enforcement officer can face is a mass attack. Two prime examples of a mass attack are an officer responding to a bar fight and a corrections officer trying to break up a fight in the prison yard.
In these circumstances, at close range, an officer’s weapons may not be accessible and could even be taken and used against him. It is in these types of encounters that the officer will have to rely on extreme, hand-to-hand defensive tactics to survive without sustaining serious injury.
During a mass attack at close range, time and opportunity are working against you. Time is your enemy because at close range it doesn’t take long for someone to grab one of your weapons. Opportunity is also against you, because a mass attack presents opportunities for many persons surrounding you to grab one of your weapons.
If several individuals advance aggressively, you could end up being surrounded very quickly and suffer serious injury. To address these threats, you must employ powerful techniques to retain your weapons and to stay alive. The tactics you use must focus on movement through the masses without stopping.
Making a Move
The first move to make if you’re already surrounded should be to suddenly move off to one side, and then to keep moving forward while issuing strong verbal commands such as “step back” or “move back.” The reason for the sudden move off to one side is so that if a person lunges at you from the rear, you will no longer be directly in front of the person, making it unlikely that you’ll be knocked to the ground.
If any individuals do not back off or if they aggressively advance on you, it’s important to immediately provide enough force to drive them back or to knock them down.
You will need to move the aggressors back far enough to create space as you continue moving through the crowd to get outside the circle of the crowd as soon as possible.
To knock down anyone who confronts you or to move them back, use a Hikuta open-hand strike or an armbar into the chest area. These tools work especially well for the purpose of creating an escape path out of the crowd.
The Hikuta open hand can be easily learned and applied. Of interest to officers, the open hand can be applied rapidly, with powerful results, especially when using the three-step drill below. Of interest to department supervisors, the open hand is less likely to cause injury to those it’s being used against, and it also protects an officer’s hand from being broken, unlike a tight-fisted punch.
Step One—Trigger your move
Blink your eyes to initiate your move. Blinking serves two important purposes: one, it triggers your movement (so if someone makes you blink, they make you move), and two, it is the intended amount of time you’ll take to apply a defensive move, motivating you to be very quick. In other words, your goal will be to move in the blink of an eye.
This is crucial because the faster you move, the better your chances of avoiding injury.
Step Two— Increase your force
Start with your hands relaxed at your side. Quickly bring one hand up near the middle of your chest area in a catapult-type move as you then launch your other hand out into an open-hand strike. There should only be a fraction of a second delay between the movements of both of your hands.
The catapulting hand starts the shoulder of the striking arm moving into the direction of the threat to generate more power.
Blink your eyes to trigger this move and quickly look toward the direction you are striking to assess the target.
Your hand that is striking should be fully extended by the time your catapulting hand arrives near your chest. (The elbow of the catapulting hand should quickly move in toward your side as you perform this step.)
Continue developing this movement, performing it slowly 10 times on each side. Then start to increase your speed to the point where you are flinging both of your arms into motion as fast as you can. This will give you greater force to stop any attack.
The last part of this step is to let your hands return to a neutral position near your chest, with both palms facing outward in a “hands up” position. This keeps the attacker from grabbing your arm by not leaving it extended. It also places both of your arms in a perfect position to be ready to deliver the next strike.
Step Three —Move toward the threat
Step toward the aggressor, stomping your foot that is on the same side of your body as the striking arm. So if you’re striking with your right hand you will stomp with your right foot, bringing more of your body weight into the strike, thus increasing your force. This will give you the ability to knock down any aggressor with one strike.
As you step toward the threat, lift your foot up slightly where your toes are almost dragging on the ground as you move your foot forward. This will help you move straight in without hopping up, making you faster.
As your foot lands, have your toe pointed straight at the aggressor to deliver more of your force into him. You should hear a very noticeable “thud” when you stomp. Perform this step quickly along with the catapult to drive your body weight into the strike. This will allow you to execute a knock-down to clear your escape path.
Now perform all three steps as one move to make an open-hand strike, also known as a Hikuta open-hand strike. Do this 10 times with each hand, to the front and sides.
The three-step drill above can also be used to execute an armbar. I recommend that you bring your arms from a relaxed position with the forearm of your striking armbar out in front of you, keeping it parallel to the ground.
Your catapulting hand will move first to drive your armbar more quickly out into the aggressor. Use the armbar when an aggressor is closer to you, too close to use an open hand.
As you are moving through the crowd, let’s say you are still surrounded and suddenly someone to your right starts to punch you. Instead of blocking his punch, suddenly step diagonally toward your left to try to clear your exit path. This may include delivering a Hikuta open-hand strike into another attacker.
Then quickly turn around by pivoting on your heels to knock to the ground the person who just tried to punch you. He will be readjusting to your new position as you quickly move back toward him to deliver another Hikuta open-hand strike.
As soon as you do this, continue moving and switch directions if necessary to stop anyone in the crowd from tackling you from behind.
The reason for not blocking a punch in a mass attack scenario is to act unpredictably, thus retaining the element of surprise and saving time by not needing to block, which would be an extra move. If you ever stop moving as you pass through the crowd, you’ll risk being in much greater danger. You’ll become a stationary target, so be sure to avoid this by continuously moving to exit the middle of the crowd.
Another consideration when you are exiting the middle of a crowd is to try to select the best possible escape path as you start moving. Keep in mind you might have to alter your course more than once if the crowd shifts. Just change direction and keep moving.
Once you’ve been able to exit from the middle of the crowd, consider the new dangers you might encounter. First, more individuals may be approaching the site just in time to attempt to cut off your exit. Also, several individuals from the crowd you were just surrounded by are likely to come after you. If this happens, you could end up being surrounded all over again.
At this point, take cover in any location where you can stand your ground without getting cornered or surrounded again as you wait for backup to arrive. You should have already called for help as soon as you began to notice trouble.
Remember, in a mass attack, the two most important things you can do are to start moving and then keep moving non-stop until the encounter has ended.
Al Abidin has more than 25 years of self-defense experience. His book “How to Survive a Mugging” and his DVD “Extreme Combat” are available from Cutting Edge Combat