Multiple opponents

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Against multiple opponents, rely upon slipping the punch and gaining meaningful contact. Do not step far away. Just move to the extent that you need to. This is the essence of small circle.
If you remain rooted in one spot, you will be struck. Avoid this. Walk smoothly, comfortably and easily. That is the kind of stepping you need, relaxed and uncontrived.


Wait for commitment. Do not make the first move. When your opponent begins to move: attack quickly and decisively.
Catch them during the initial stage of their commitment (or if you are tardy, catch them just before their move reaches its conclusion).
This is not the same as being aggressive. It is tutoring you to stay calm and neutral. To wait. Let them come to you. Then move decisively, and swiftly. This will take nerve and timing.
With grappling, let them almost take hold before you evade and counter-attack

The Way of the Monkey is to play the fool.
While you laugh at his antics;
He bites you from behind

(The Silent Flute)


It is easy to fall into a fixed response: you evade, neutralise and strike. Be wary of this. Switch between chin na, shuai jiao, punching, finger strikes, palm strikes, elbows, shoulders and kicking.
Change your strategy and your responses constantly. Do not plan ahead. Simply move in response to what is occurring.

Do not get stuck

If you freeze or get caught up, it is potentially over. Should a person hold you, immediately use gravity to take their weight and then your hips to flick them off.
Use extreme unorthodoxy: catch them unprepared.

Use the numbers

Multiple opponents are as much of an impediment to each other as they are to you. Encourage them to get in one another's way. Use a body shield. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Take somebody's balance and keep them stumbling.

  2. Move your body around one person to avoid being hit by another.

Skill in this endeavour depends upon your capacity to be slippery and adaptive.


The effect of being struck changes everything. If somebody lands a firm blow on you, it will be increasingly difficult to continue. If you strike an assailant, they will be disinclined to attack again.
In class be careful and considerate, in real life combat aim to incapacitate by taking the breath or the balance.


The longer it lasts, the more tired you will get. If your stamina is good, you should outlast the attackers. Most people fatigue within the first 60 seconds because they are over-exerting their muscles.
You can speed up this process by making them work even harder to make contact with you. When an opponent is dropped to the ground, they will tire even further.


The softer and smoother you are, the more options you have. Getting caught up in fear and aggression will leave you vulnerable and weak. Aim to yield to everything and respond as naturally as you can.
The more playful and witty you are, the greater your likelihood of a meaningful response. Remember that yielding starts in the mind.

Perhaps the paradox of The Art of War is its opposition to war.
And as The
Art of War wars against war, it does so by its own principles;
it infiltrates the enemy's lines,
uncovers the enemy's secrets,
and changes the hearts of the enemy's troops.

  (Thomas Cleary)

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Page created 31 July 1994
Last updated 04 May 2023