Sunday, 1 June 2014

Sparring against 2 opponents!

A few weeks ago we did a belt test at our Dojang. The main instructor at the Dojang could not participate and I am a few Dan ranks short of taking care of a belt test on my own so we had a master instructor who has not trained with us in a few years come in and help us with the grading. Comming from the outside in he asked the highest ranked people who tested that day to spar two opponents at once (they were red belts).

This is something that we did relativly often in my Dojang a few years back but which we have not done in ages. Unsuprisingly the students tried their best but it was not an effective display of strategy and tactics. Now since sparring two opponents at once is a "lost art" (in the Dojang I practise at least) I thought I should share a few thoughts that I discovered when I was engaging in this kind of training.

Practising with the Kyoreugi (sparring) team at Chosun University in Korea one of the students told me that the thing that helped him most in competition was to always focus on footwork and manouvering. Footwork is 80% of the fight he would say to me and boy did he have the footwork part nailed down. He could effectivly kick me at will and then move juuuuust enough out of the way of my own attacks. Well if footwork and maneuvering is 80% of a single opponent fight it is even more important in a fight or sparring situation vs 2 opponents!

The first idea you have to get into your head is to throw everything you have ever seen in the movies, pictures, books etc with a 2 on 1 sparring situation out of your mind. They will all show people blocking attacks from two opponents at once like it was an everyday occurence. Stop believing in that because it is not real! You can only effectivly fight 1 person at a time. Any multiple opponents situation requires you to have this in the forefront in your mind so you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

The second one is that they key to the first thing (that you just read above) is footwork!

The third idea is to cheat. Cheat like the devil:-) You are fighting two opponents at once. Do not fall into the "all free sparring = competition sparring" because you should really start using locks, throws, trips, take downs etc in this kind of sparring. If you can not maneuver the way you want so you get the best strategic position you can instead use a joint lock to move one of your opponents instead.

So where do you want to be? All sparring against two opponents that I have done has started with us being in a triangle.
Starting position OP1 = Opponent 1, DF = Defender
You do the attention stance, you bow and then you assume the kyoreugi stance and your off. Where do you want to be so that you are using the principles I described earlier? Remember you only really want to fight one opponent even if you now have two.

X marks the ideal position

If you look at the picture above you will see the ideal position to be in. You could of course also just move to the mirror image position next to OP1 too:-) Getting this position means that you are now only fighting OP2 (or OP1 if you do the mirror image position) and the other opponent needs to move around his partner to attack you as illustrated above.

OP1 needs to work around OP2. Keep him working on that.

To keep your most ideal position you need to use the Um and Yang theory against the opponent that you are not activly engaging. If he moves to his left (the upward arrow in the picture above) you need to move to his right (the reverse downward arrow in the picture above). Doing this and readjusting if he changes his direction will help you keep the fight one on one instead of two on one. If you feel that you are loosing control on this "simply" take the opponent you are activly engaging out of the equation for a few seconds by taking him down and then reposition yourself so you are now keeping the fight 1 on 1 with the other "new" oponent. 

Allways keep in mind that you never want to be caught in the middle. That is the worst possible place you can be caught in.
Danger danger danger

In the picture above you can see why this is a bad place to be. You might survive a few seconds in this position if you are really good, but reposition yourself as fast as you can to the more ideal position I have shown earlier so you only fight one opponent at a time. If not it is only a matter of (short) time before you are completly overwelmed by your two opponents.
Above you can see what happens if you linger too long in the middle.. 

Now getting to the ideal safest place to be in a live sparring match and keeping you there while the two opponents are trying to attack you is not easy. Keeping the principles I have described in this post in mind while doing it will make it a little easier, but the key thing in this is that you need live practise and lots of it if you want to become good at this. Sparring against multiple opponents really opens up your eyes and things you get away with sparring one opponent is not something that you will get easily away with when sparring two opponents. So get in the Dojang, and spar all you can:-) 

Happy training:-)

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  1. Great article,

    will sure try these next time my master arranges a 2 vs 1 fight (i just love those 2 vs 1 fights, they are thrilling, chaotic and unpredictable)

    1. 2 vs 1 is a very good work out and very educational. Let me know if you learn other tactics or have any more thoughts to add to this if this is something you do regularly:-) Sounds to me like you have gotten yourself into a good old School hard style Dojang:-)

    2. so far my sir has taught one thing on fighting against multiple opponents, "Don't let them surround you from all sides, you keep moving" (even you emphasized this point above). He lets students experiment and see what works for them,

      What has worked for me in such sessions:

      1. Be aggressive. Don't let opponents attack, you attack them first.( In real life this tactic will send a message to your opponents that its not gonna be easy, and thereby affecting their confidence)

      2. Use simple and quickly executing throws (like this one: :-) ). While in dojo your opponent will get up within a second (but in real life, such a throw can injure head or atleast knock the wind out of the opponent, thus you will be able to buy some time to handle other opponent(s).

      I must say, I am extremely lucky to have a dojo and a master like that. My master, is also a brown belt in Judo, and teaches a lot of judo throws as well, I have picked up simpler ones, practised them and perfected them. (but my sparring skills aren't that great... I am too much into self defense aspect)

    3. Thanks Amrullah, those were some great thoughts to share:-) An agressive attitude is a must and I can not believe I forgot to Write that into the post. I am glad you got that in Your comment:-) Interesting that Your master also is a Brown belt in Judo. Does this have any influence in Your sparring at the Dojang? I love the way Judo is made up so logically.

    4. while our sparring is totally adherent to rules of WTF, but it has great influence in our self defense training,
      stand-up grappling is not alien to us

    5. Nice:-) There are too many People training Taekwondo today who has never done a simple wrist Lock or arm bar in their entire Taekwondo career:p I Guess you learn the more sophisticated grappling oriented grappling techniques of Judo in Your Taekwondo though? Or does Your teacher adapt his Judo techniques so they fit into the Taekwondo strategy? No matter what it is great that you learn this vital skills:-)

    6. while my sir even teaches some aikido style joint-locks, due to lack of enough practice, i only remember the easiest techniques..,

      my sir doesn't adapt judo techniques to fit in tae kwon do,

  2. This is always a topic I find a lot of information on, not all useful. Everything covered so far in the article and comments appears sound and items I have heard of before. In my current Dojang we spar with 2+ opponents for Black Belt testing. We don't often do it in sparring class though. You are never expected to win the bout and it is conducted with Olympic rules which is an exercise in footwork (to be positive about it). During my last test I sparred 3 opponents, threw one to the ground, got yelled at and the match ended when I ran out of endurance and was surrounded and pummeled. : )

    The following link shows "practical" applications for the TKD poomse against multiple opponents. This is an example of negative information based on my opinion, but it is worth a watch to understand what not to do.

    1. Sounds like a great grading: ) The video you linked to I posted in a post a long time ago. I do not really care for the Applications shown in it as a Group fight as I think that we can all agree that being caught in the middle of a Group is not good, it does on the other hand give the student a starting point for understanding forms. It is not a good starting point but it is a starting point none the less. Today when many do not even learn the most basic Applications like the ones shown in the linked video the Poomsae are more and more viewed as simply martial Dances:-) I am not sure what is the worst view of the two.

    2. The timing of this article was ironic for me because I had just woke up to go to practice reality based sparring with my friend. That day he opined to me that forms are for fighting multiple opponents. I don't quite agree with that and sent him the above link and I am waiting for his response. I almost yelled at him. :D

      3 points appear very irresponsible to me in that video: 1) standing the the middle of a group. 2) that one's opponents will wait for you to finish fighting their friend before attacking you. 3) being able to block attacks from the rear without looking.

    3. If you gave him the Three Points above and the video you linked to I would be very interested in hearing his "defense":-p But if he is a thinking humanbeing he will surely see that Your Points are logical while the Group fighting Applications are not so.

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