We generally train using a single-combat model. That is a challenge. Size matters. So do skill, speed, determination and defiance. 

To engage multiple opponents, to be outnumbered and surrounded, is much harder. We can’t just figure we will know what to do. 

It is possible to take an advantageous position, moving to stack the opponents, so you can face one at a time, using obstacles and terrain, and execute a series of decisive, single-strike victories. That is hard to do. And the multiple opponents can triangulate and close, like wolves, if they are used to working together, and if the environment allows. But, anything is possible.

A wolfpack can corner an elk. Or they can run him down. They can surround him in the open, pin him down, and nip at his legs to get him jumping and turning until he is exhausted, then move in.

An elk can run a wolfpack into deep snow where they can’t follow, or onto rough ground so they will drop back. 

Bastogne, France: US Army 101st Airborne Division paratroopers were surrounded, outnumbered 5 to 1, and under heavy bombardment. They could not be resupplied.  They had no air support. The German general gave them two hours to surrender or die. The American commander replied: Nuts! (Which was translated for the German commander as: Go to hell!) The surrounded American forces fought for weeks, got support, and prevailed.

In another famous battle, WWII US Marine General Lewis “Chesty” Puller announced:

“They are in front of us, behind us, and we are flanked on both sides by an enemy that outnumbers us 29:1. They can’t get away from us now!”

Nowadays people feel surrounded, disoriented and cut off. Dependable ideas, customs, values, behaviors and even people, seem like ghosts, moving, changing shape, populating a cultural landscape that seems unmapped and half in shadow 

We can draw on our tactical mindset and on lessons from combative training. 

We can see that, sometimes being surrounded is not a disadvantage. Possibilities are everywhere. 

Depends how you look at it.


Post by Jeff Brooks, author of the influential book True Karate Dō, instructor, Yamabayashi Ryu, Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC

Post Copyright © 2023 Jeffrey Brooks

Photo Antony Trivet via Pexels

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