IMPACT Defense Against Multiple Assailants class

Good afternoon, Shrub.com!
My name is Katie, and I’m a white cisgendered female heterosexual able-bodied blogger.

Andrea gave me a Shrub login a few weeks ago so I could post ideas that I thought fit the thoughtful “breaking out of roles we’re supposed to have based upon our social categories” theme I often see here. I never did post the original piece I meant to, but it wasn’t critical. This is. Everyone should know how to defend his or her body to the maximum extent he or she can, and those who know owe it to those who don’t to responsibly pass on whatever they can by word of mouth.

Therefore I’m reposting here a summary of my experiences in IMPACT’s “Defense Against Multiple Assailants” course. (If you want more details about “defense against a single assailant,” click here.)

I look forward to hearing your comments and engaging with you here on Shrub.com for a long time to come!

     Fighting multiple unarmed assailants bore some similarities to fighting single unarmed assailants. Firstly, the premise of the attack was sexual assault or some other act that implied the assailants wanted you alive and aware of what they were doing until they felt that they had managed to perform this act. Therefore, assailants were more likely to grab and restrain us than to throw a deadly punch.

     As in Single Unarmed Assailants class, the presumption was that they were out to

  1. convince us to stop hitting them but not “fight” the way men fight each other and
  2. do sexual things we didn’t want them to do (or, as I said, something like that).

     This class is not adequate preparation for fighting multiple henchmen in a Jet Li movie whose only goal is to kill you as fast as possible.

Multiple Padded Assailants

     Another similarity to the single assailant class was the idea that men who attack women (or anyone they perceive as belonging to a “weaker” social category, like children or the elderly) are easily frightened by the yells and blows of an opponent who is fighting a “real” fight. The evidence (crime reports, interviews, etc.) shows that this is even truer of assailants who feel the need to have a whole group to be sufficiently intimidating to a woman.

     It is also truer with multiple assailants because the reasons for the attack are often focused on feeling masculine in the eyes of other group members rather than in the eyes of the woman. This can make a lot of members of the group lose commitment and run away or give up as soon as they see their only judges failing the intimidate-and-abuse mission.


     The neatest trick we learned was lining up assailants. Though they roam and threaten like a wolf pack, they don’t move like a wolf pack. Trained combat teams have better things to do: they have Jet Lis and Uma Thurmans to fight. Thirteen-year-olds are not combat teams who know how to move in relation to one another. They probably formed their group 30 minutes ago!

     So if they try to come at you from 2 or 3 different directions, you back up and move left or right until Stuck becomes Unstuck. However, it doesn’t take long for the ones in back to figure out that their path is blocked, so you must hit or kick the front one as soon as you get that line and then keep moving to make a new line out of the assailants (preferably including the one you just mobilized, because he/she might be mobile sooner than you think).

     If one does manage to run around you (instead of you keeping him in front of you by backing up as fast as he’s approaching your flank side), you might indeed get grabbed from behind. We learned several handy techniques for that! We learned:

  • how to clock someone behind us in the head
  • how to hurt him in the groin despite having our backs to him
  • how to take out someone in front of us if that person seems too close to first hurt the rear person and take the time to turn around and strike a better blow, and
  • most importantly, no matter how many or few assailants we’ve struck, to see exit opportunities from the sandwich and take them right away.

Elbow to the head
How’d we learn? Practice makes better!
(One of our instructors refuses to say, “Practice makes perfect.”)


     We also learned how to hurt them and thus escape if they’re pinning our arms and legs to the ground. Again, as with single unarmed assailants, it’s important not to think, “He’s holding me and there’s a hand coming to grope me!” and to think, “He’s at my feet, restraining them from moving in 2 directions, but not a third. I will move them in this third direction and use them to hurt him. If he leans in to try to grope me, all the easier, but I’ll figure it out no matter what he does.”
     (Strong abs make this easier, by the way! Balance and gravity make it possible even without them, though.)

     Same goes for people holding your arms. Don’t worry about what they or their buddies are doing to your breasts and crotch. Focus on the ones pinning down your weapons (limbs) and only once they’re too immobilized/stunned to grab back your weapons is it helpful to worry about [using those weapons and] getting rid of or escaping out from under people with their hands on your privates.


     Since an attacked person can keep the fight much more manageable by staying mobile, we learned new kicks and hits that weren’t taught in the Single Unarmed Assailants class. There we almost tried to lie down on the ground as fast as possible. Here we had to learn to stay confident and strong while standing.

     We also learned to “shuffle” because walking, running, or traveling sideways by stepping with criss-crossing feet (I’m so bad about doing that!) is more likely to make us trip. It’s not all-important, but it helps.


     The strike-once-and-only-once-and-move tactic doesn’t last forever. Once every assailant has had a few blows they generally pause longer to recover. If you have put two on the ground ahead of you and a third is staggering away from you on your left from a blow to the head, when you draw the fourth out to your right and hit him/her, when he/she bends over or goes down, you might see that no one else is on his/her feet yet. If you see that, it is safe to throw one, two, or more kicks against the same assailant and knock him/her unconscious (ball-clutching or head-clutching assailants can recover and run quickly enough to catch you half a mile down the road. Unconscious ones give you time to get to a safe place and report the attack to the police).


     Towards the end of the fight, you use both the one-hit-and-move strategy and the hit-until-knockout strategy as appropriate until all assailants have been knocked out (“ASSESS!”) or truly run away (“LOOK!”).

     Use verbal assertion to dissuade any menacing onlookers from jumping in to start a new fight. Fight if attacked. Look, assess, and repeat if there are more menacing onlookers.

     Leave the scene, watching where you’re going. They’re all unconscious or gone–you checked earlier. Don’t get hit by a bus or trip in a gutter by looking over your shoulder while you walk or jog.

Bus from Final Destination

That’s what we learned in class!

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This entry was posted in Abuse, rape, and domestic violence, Eradicating Divisive Discourse, Feminism, Gender essentialism, Gender issues, Masculinities. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to IMPACT Defense Against Multiple Assailants class

  1. Lake Desire says:

    I’ve heard horror stories about how sexist women’s self defense workshops can be. Comcast Cable sponsored one at my school last quarter, and my feminist friends who went said that the male police officers Comcast hired reminded all the ladies, in not so many words, they ought not go out at night in a short skirt.

  2. Katie says:

    So have I–but IMPACT isn’t like that. In fact, I want to be an IMPACT instructor someday, because I think this method of teaching self-defense is so sensitive and dead-on and truly useful that it should reach as many people as possible (and needs more staff to do so), but it looks like it’s going to be at least 3 years until I can even START my several-year training, IF they’ll take me at that point.

    They’re a lot more serious about using feminist and personal experience critique of other self-defense courses to keep themselves excellent than more prolific self-defense programs are.

    It’d be neat if there were an IMPACTish program close enough to you for Comcast Cable to hire them in-house. (IMPACT chapters often rely on corporate & other private group gigs to keep them in business, by the way.) Then Comcast executives who took the class would see the difference and, if you got REALLY lucky, be so sold on it that they’d pay for IMPACT or something similar to come to your school next time around.

    Heh. In MY class (IMPACT “core basics,” or single unarmed assailant training), MY teacher said, in not so many words, “If I’m wearing a short skirt and he sees up it when I’m on the ground, he sees up it. I don’t think it’ll matter much to him either way once I’ve kicked him in the head.”

  3. Katie says:

    Oh, by the way, if you post here what states you’re interested in finding non-sexist padded assailant training in, I’ll let you know!

  4. Godless Heathen says:

    Wow! This sounds like a class I’d actually want to take. I’ve been avoiding most of the “women’s self defense” classes because they’re too focused on strangers and not focused enough on tactics. Plus I’ve been ousted from a few for daring to suggest that I should use the lethal weapon I have on me instead of buying some sort of non-lethal doo-dad (like an alarm or spray). Read that as me using the weapon I own and carry on my person, not a suggestion that others be so-armed. The instructors were worried that I’d cause permanent damage to someone instead of just scaring them, and I got into a verbal confrontation pointing out that if I’m under assault, it’s someone I know and a loud noise will not frighten them. Anyway uh…got off point… Oh yeah, I’d love to take a class that was more concerned with my welfare and realistic situations than some mythical (dark-skinned) alley dwellers.

  5. Katie says:

    I’ve been ousted from a few for daring to suggest that I should use the lethal weapon I have on me instead of buying some sort of non-lethal doo-dad (like an alarm or spray). Read that as me using the weapon I own and carry on my person, not a suggestion that others be so-armed.

    Ouch! Sorry you had that experience–must have been very unpleasant.

    The instructors were worried that I’d cause permanent damage to someone instead of just scaring them, and I got into a verbal confrontation pointing out that if I’m under assault, it’s someone I know and a loud noise will not frighten them.

    At least in my chapter of IMPACT (and I assume in all of the similar takes-forever-to-get-accepeted-as-a-teacher padded assailant training courses) you would’ve been listened to. I can imagine my teachers echoing you to make sure everyone heard that you were discussing your own personal reactions, situation, instincts, and solutions, but it would’ve been up for discussion, and I’ll bet they would’ve even come up with a neat anecdote or two that would’ve made you say, “Wow…thanks!”

    Anyway uh…got off point… Oh yeah, I’d love to take a class that was more concerned with my welfare and realistic situations than some mythical (dark-skinned) alley dwellers.

    That is definitely what these are for, and I think one of the reasons it takes so long for teachers to get trained is that they have to get a lot of apprentice experience watching how teachers help students prepare for assaults by assailants they know. In my Basics course, I thought they did a great job. I felt like they didn’t frighten people who feared an acquaintance assault based on experience by dwelling on the subject and giving them the chance to think, “But that wouldn’t work! What if…?!” Instead, they’d teach technique at one moment and just say, “if someone is on top of you like this, you can do this,” and, oh, during a more discussion-based part of the class, one about feelings, the advice on applying “what we learned” (in general, rather than while we still had one particular technique on the brain) to someone we know would come up. And come up it did–over and over, but each time in a different way. So the conditioning was really subtle, noninvasive, and applicable to lots of life situations (since the advice framed the problem in a different way each time).

    The bits of advice about defense against acquaintances and “loved” ones that spoke to me, in case you’re curious, were when my teacher said something like, “A lot of people are afraid of hitting someone who’s acting aggressive and crossing their boundaries. ‘What if I make him mad?’ they ask. He’s already mad. Even if you hit him and don’t hit hard enough, you can’t make him much more unreasonable or bring out much worse behavior in him than he was already displaying by refusing to listen to your verbal boundary-setting. If that happens…hit him again! Just don’t forget that he’s the one who is already acting in a way that he shouldn’t, so you can’t ‘make’ him act in a way he shouldn’t,” and when she said something like, “No one has the right to hurt you for defending yourself. If you sound rude when you set your boundaries, someone might think you’re rude because of his own sense of privilege or because you did sound a little rude. But even if you did hurt his feelings when you told him what you needed from him, he has no right to hurt you physically or threaten to hurt you physically for it. If his feelings are hurt, let him walk away muttering a curse word under his breath. As long as he walks away or otherwise responds by deescalation. But trying to hurt you for something you said is wrong no matter what our relationship to each other has been, and you are completely in the right to keep yourself from being harmed.”

    That second idea was also stated by one of the male instructors.

    So yeah, every class’s advice is different, I’m sure–what I heard was half made up extemporaneously in response to the student makeup, but I do have a lot of respect for the ways these teachers go about addressing acquaintance intimidation, assault, and rape.

    (Oh, by the way, the “muggers” (a (usually) male instructor while in character) also play an important role by speaking to you as if they know you during some attacks.)

  6. Capybyra says:

    I am a nominally “vanilla” male in overt presentation for most of my daily routine. But there are times and places where “I” become a much more attractive target.
    This is where my empathy for how scary our world can get comes from. Being in the “same” location appearing as one persona I am quite unlikely to feel serious threat. Appearing in another persona however is VERY likely to be risking grim events. That’s a reality we either nod at or may need some education about. The readership here is likely in the “nods at” class- our “real” world is partly the REASON for such dangers or those who simply have no awareness of the concepts.

    Which is why we need “Courses” in dealing with those who deal in evil. Being a victim is not a survivable option any longer. Either with weapons or skills we must all become whatever it takes to make predators the rarity. Even if it’s only a mindset change.

    Thus my commenting here has a targeted goal.

    ALL the trainings that can make some of us literally
    unarmed and lethal will not really change our larger world. The only things that can do that are sadly beyond my grasp. If you know them DO share!

    Other than the first step I have made, the rest is frosting. That step?
    A personal oath to never allow another to make me fear them.

    Be aware of a threat yes, be pro-active in handling it-yes- have that threat make me surrender – NEVER! And from that comes the next part.
    Anyone cornering any of us needs to be taught.
    That they have two paths- either give up their evil ways or one of us will put them out of our misery. Karma awaits. The more of us who DO become able and willing to reward attackers in kind can only hasten a day when predatory attempts become simple suicide.

    “Better to be judged by twelve than carried by six”

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