Try what it means to face more opponents

The fourth type of sparring we study is strictly related to self-defense. It has been created not only for training purposes but also to allow us to understand how hard is to face more adversaries simultaneously.

Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).

Many refuse to address this type of scenario because they (correctly) consider it too “extreme” but unfortunately:

  • This happening is not uncommon in self-defense situations
  • The predators are often cowardly people and prefer to secure an overwhelming advantage against their victims

A note by Master Kongling – In our self-defense method (read Personal defense: the S.A.F.E. method), we aim to be ready to the physical confrontation but we always try to avoid it, at all costs (read why on Best martial arts for self-defense); if this is true for a 1vs1 situation, it should be even more obvious in a situation that, in 90% of the cases, will end very badly. Without the necessary premises (read How to fight with more than one opponent at the same time), only a fool could think of being able to face several opponents at the same time.

Multiple opponents sparring: a gradual path

The idea is to develop skills such as:

  • Spatial intelligence
  • Spatial memory
  • Strategy
  • Timing
  • Adaptability
  • Deception capability
  • Pain / stress management
  • Economization of energies

To get the best results, the first times, this type of confrontation should be performed at a moderate intensity (based on the level of the current “victim”) and always with controlled power.

After having read the general rules of sparring and respect (read How to do sparring and Dojo (guan): rules, respect and etiquette), let’s see what the peculiarities of this type of sparring are.

A note by Master Kongling – As we said a lot of times, it is almost impossible to prevail over multiple (prepared) opponents. This is only an exercise (“we fight giants, to easily win normal people”).

Description of the exercise

How this kind of sparring works:

  • In addition to us, we need at least 2-3 other participants (excluding the instructor or a person who has to control the regularity of the practice and to stop us in case of need, read 5 effective ways to find a training partner)
  • Indoors or outdoors (especially at the beginning) we need at least a space of 10x10m (from where we cannot exit)
  • It is possible to start with the aggressors in a random formation, or with them in front of us or with them in front and behind us
  • The more they start near us, the harder it will be
  • In the fight scenario, on the ground, there can even be some safe obstacles and training / non-dangerous weapons (proper, improper, to be thrown, for impact, etc.)
  • The opponents (armed or unarmed) can attack as they prefer, their goal is to subdue us
  • Our first goal is to remain free, save energy and fight our opponents (through combat strategy, the environment and everything legit we could think of)
  • The battle is timed and even if we get blocked, it does not stop; naturally, this does not mean to suffer damages when we are without defenses, the idea is that if we are not able to escape but we are (relatively) safe, we have to try to find a way out
  • On special occasions, the duration limit for an expert practitioner (in a large scenario, read How to simulate realistic self-defense scenarios) can even be 15-30 minutes but if we are not more than trained we can start with 1 minute (it will be more than enough)
  • The aggressors must attack and try to immobilize us for 10-60 seconds (in this case we restart the “game” until the time is not ended)
  • The fight must always be imagined as real (even if we call it a game, it is not)
  • The roles are exchanged in rotation at the end of the time (this type of practice is exhausting, therefore, the first to act as the victim must always be the most trained in terms of resistance)

Rules and goals

What we can do:

  • We can move completely freely in the defined area (between the obstacles)
  • The attackers can hit us but absolutely without full power
  • Defenders and attackers can use weapons, obstacles, levers, punches, kicks, knees, elbows, etc. (in a controlled way)
  • The defender can simulate the use of the most dangerous strikes / techniques but they must be validated by the instructor (if he approves them the injured aggressor must temporarily abandon the clash or lie on the ground)
  • It is also possible to use verbal and body deception (always maintaining respect for our training partners)

What we can not do:

  • We cannot exit the fighting area until the end of the exercise
  • The attackers can not simulate freehand lethal techniques, only with weapons (eg. with a training plastic knife, read also Sparring type 5: knife fighting)
  • It is not allowed to bring any kind of technique to cause serious damage
  • We can not lead real blows on pressure points (lethal, pain, etc.)
  • If we use weapons the attacks must be very controlled

Main objectives:

  • The main goal is not to prevail (read Practical advice on how not deal with multiple opponents); we aim to resist, gain time and remain free
  • The idea is to teach our body to maintain general control of the environment, its spaces and what is inside of it
  • Learn to economize energies, to breathe correctly and to increase our stamina
  • Learn to naturally use each element of the scenario (opponents, weapons, obstacles, etc.) to our advantage
  • Learn how to force the opponents to face us in an unpredictable / disadvantaged way and / or one at the time
  • Learn to give a priority to the opponents to face (in terms of distance, level of skills, occasions, etc.)
  • Learn to recognize good occasions / space / time to act and use all kinds of deception
  • Learn to convert everything into neutral elements of the same type (read Become the absolute zero)
  • Learn to manage an increasing level of stress (read /// Subscribe (it's free!) or Login to see this content ///)
  • Learn to manage timing, positions and situations (recognizing what can be done and what must be avoided)
  • Get used to face a substantially impossible situation to be less scared by the “simpler” ones
  • Last but not least, work on speed and precision in combination with economization of the energies; in such a context, there is no room for thinking, making mistakes, slowing down, loadings, etc.

Details of practice

Protections and safety:

  • Depending on the level of the involved fighters, can be used or not more / less complete protections (gloves, helmet, etc.)
  • Both who defends both the attackers must think to the safety of their training partners (we must always behave as a team)
  • If the “victim” taps or stops to react, the exercise must be immediately stopped (this sparring type is very chaotic and the role of the controller in even more fundamental)


  • In a first approach, the exercise should be executed without any power, speed and with simple pushes (as for the attackers as for the defender)
  • The fighting scenario can have obstacles (small, large, mobile or immovable but not dangerous)
  • We can increase the number of attackers and / or we can fight 2 vs 2, 2 vs 3-10 (etc.)
  • In terms of self-defense, it is not wrong to perform the exercise with our daily wearing (preferably if old)
  • At an advanced level, we can allow the aggressors to elaborate an accurate (and obviously secret) strategy to better prevail on us
  • To train the disarming techniques, sometimes, we can add fire weapons that shot at slow speed plastic spheres (wearing eyes, genitals, etc. protections); it is again the controller that evaluates the hypothetical level of the damage caused
  • To increase / decrease the difficulty, we can even start from advantage / disadvantage positions and / or conditions (in an almost closed lever position, with the hands tied, at a close distance, encircled, lying on the ground, etc.)
  • We can even use an object to be caught as a “trophy” (ideal for children’s training); win who maintains its hold for more than 10 seconds (or more, depending on the size of the scenario)
  • In case of skill disparities, we can apply some other handicaps

Final notes

  • With real attacks, this is absolutely not an exercise for beginners (the risk of injuries is very high); with soft pushes, it is instead a good training for almost everyone
  • At the maximum difficulty, this type of sparring forges the ultimate level of 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s warrior
  • Doing only this kind of sparring is useless, we can not improve our technical level (etc.)
  • This type of sparring (as for the knifes one for example, read Sparring type 5: knife fighting) is a must-be-done experience for everyone is looking for a real self-defense preparation
  • Being good at this exercise is a good sign but it does not mean at all being ready for a random real fight against multiple opponents; let us not delude ourselves, this exercise is extreme but feasible only due to all the limitations and precautions we have mentioned (without them, it would be a massacre)
  • The limit of the effectiveness of sparring (this and the others), lies in the fact that often, those in front of us do not give their best (because they are tired, because they want to economize the energies, because they are our friends, because they do not want to show their real skills, because they respect us, etc.); if after the first attempts the intensity is not satisfactory, the best thing to do is to explicitly ask our partners to give their best and get into the mood of really wanting to submit us
  • By correctly practicing this exercise, we realize how impossible it is to prevail over more people, even if slightly less prepared than us

In future articles of this series, we will see the other types of practical combat training.

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Reply in the comments and share your experience:

  • Have you ever tried to manage more than one person in a sparring session?

Author: Master Kongling

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