Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The myth of multiple attackers

This Fall, at our yearly Aiki Buddies Gathering here at Mokuren Dojo, I'm planing to work mostly on multiple attacker randori in aikido - unless someone shows up with some other topic that is burning them up. I figure to repise some of Nick Lowry's Incremental Chaos material from his 2009 intensive, along with a few twists and hints and drills of my own. But I wanted to start off by laying one concept to rest from the beginning.
We are not teaching you to beat up two or three or four people at once.
No martial art can.  If they tell you that they can, they are lying and/or trying to sell you something.
Back in the mid-80's to mid 90's, when I was mostly doing karate, it was common to hear propoganda from various instructors that karate could teach you to beat up several guys at once.  I've been told multiple times by different instructors regarding different karate kata that, "This kata teaches you to put down eight attackers at once."  I even remember an instructor telling me that if I got good enough I could put a beat-down on twelve attackers at once! 
I don't know how much of that kool-aid I drank, but let me tell you, I was pretty good at karate - state- and regional-level champ. I was also a large, athletic guy in the best shape of my life, but I never approached the ability to beat up two attackers at once.  I had some major cognitive dissonance with that idea in karate.  What I learned was...
A conflict with any one aggressor is at best a 50-50 proposition - that is, it's an even chance of you winning or losing.  Much of the time the odds are much worse than that because aggressors can be assumed to work the odds in their favor by using surprise, weapons, and whatever other advantage they can come up with.  Martial arts (any martial art) might tip the odds in your favor somewhat, but they are not magic talismans. When two or three or four guys accost you, the smart option is to comply and give them what they want and hope they go away (that's a pretty good option when one guy accosts you too).
If the fight, the deadly clawing, biting, scramble for your life, is inevitable, then some multiple-attacker training might improve your outcome some little bit, but there's no way that you'll ever get your odds of success back up toward the 50-50 that I estimated your chances could be with one attacker.
So, what are we doing playing around with multiple ukes in the dojo?
  • It's a good strategic exercise - highlighting some principles better than we can with one uke
  • It's a good way to work in a more adrenalized state than we usually do
  • It might help you some in a real fight
  • It's good physical exercise
  • It's just plain fun
Patrick Parker
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