Ninjutsu – A multi attackers approach
Author - Ofer Cohen


In Ninjutsu, we assume that in every combat arena there will be more then one opponent and actually an unknown number of opponents. Even when the combat scene was practically ended, our working assumption is that the event has not yet necessarily ended and an unknown number of potential rivals may still attack us. This approach has important implications on the ways we enter the combat scene and leave it. It affects our body postures, ways of movements and directions, our camouflage tactics and more.

Environmental awareness is an indispensable part of the Ninjutsu curriculum at all levels and in all aspects of training. In such cases when we learn how to roll, or when we practice Kihon or do couples practice, we assume the multi attackers approach. Part of our regular training includes practicing confrontation with several opponents (usually 2-4 attackers). Hatsumi Sensei demonstrates the importance of this approach in Ninjutsu by asking two or three of his high level students to attack him simultaneously almost every lesson. Many times He instructs all the students to practice this aspect as he watches.

When the principal approach to combat encounters is that there is more then one opponent, our awareness and attention cannot be solely directed towards one opponent only. Suppose we hold our opponent in both hands in what is known as Kata Gatame technique. This is a hold that is common practice in groundwork in Judo. When we perform it right, it is very difficult for the opponents to release themselves out of it even if they are high-level Judokas. In this particular technique, it is also very difficult to counterattack using Ninjutsu ways of self-defense. Yet, in this specific situation, another rival can approach and attack us, and there is virtually nothing that we could do to protect ourselves as long as we keep subduing the first one. The combat pattern that we used to control our opponent is good (in best cases) for one opponent, but it is a death trap when we deal with more then one attacker.

The multi-attackers approach leads to another principle that Hatsumi Sensei emphasizes a lot in his classes. Hatsumi Sensei teaches that quite often it is best not to perform the techniques in 100% of their capacity. From this point of view, the full execution of many of the techniques is not needed for overcoming several attackers simultaneously. On the contrary, it can hold us back, fixate us in one position and deny us the freedom of action that is needed in that kind of complex intensive events. When we perform a specific technique in 70-80% of its capacity, we let the opponent have a 20-30% degree of freedom of movement. This maneuver brings unlimited freedom for us and the actual ability to change our position with regard to unexpected attacks. It enables us to control and manipulate our opponent in a way that is not open to us when we go all the way with a certain technique. Suppose we choke our attacker in reaction to his attempts to stab us with a sharp object. Doing it 100% means causing him to faint. In this state, our opponent loses his ability for self-movement and tends to fall down to the ground like a big rock. If he weights around 100 kilos, our ability to move him or manipulate his body is relatively limited, especially if we are under direct attack from others aggressors. On the other hand, if we choke him only in 80% of the total capacity, the opponent is grasping for air, loses much of his strength and ability to counterattack us, but still doesn't faint. In this situation, we can control his body and movements more easily and use him as a living shield against the attacks of the other aggressors.

The multi-attackers approach leads to another two principles that are emphasized by Hatsumi Sensei and are essentials of Juppo Sessho practice. These principles are the multi weapon approach and principle of concealing at least several of our weapons.
When we face several opponents, we generally need more then one weapon to overcome them in an optimal way. One weapon, for example a stick, can be broken while we struggle with the first opponent. A sword or a knife can be stacked in the opponent flesh and we would not have enough time, in the hit of the fight, to pull it out and use it again against other attackers. A weapon can be damaged and become non-relevant for attack or defense. We can throw a knife and miss and our weapon is practically out of the combat zone. These are all good reasons why we should have several weapons in hand.
The Multi weapon approach brings more attacking options including attacking simultaneously with two weapons. It helps us to create a significant psychological advantage. Our opponent is sure that we have lost our weapon and suddenly he is facing another treat from another concealed weapon. When we stand against one opponent, he cannot see the rare part of our body. In this situation we can hide in our back a short sword, a knife, a stick, a gun, or any other weapon in such a way that the attacker cannot notice it. Yet, when we are facing several opponents, there is at least one of them that can see our back. This leads to the conclusion that our concealing approach that fits facing one opponent doesn't fit multi attackers situation. Our weapons should be concealed and camouflaged in such ways that no one could locates it, at least in first glance, and at the same time the fact that it is concealed would not limit our ability to act. Two ways to apply these tactics are first to pre-visit the combat scene and prepare it by concealing weapons in certain significant places. A second way is to use everyday life objects that are not pre-defined as weapons or use them as a mean to conceal real weapons.

The Multi attacker approach stresses the need to control the combat scene and the fighting conditions. We should know when to arrive and when to leave. To fall into an ambush of one opponent is not a favorite situation, but to be surprised by several attackers is to be in a most difficult state that reduces our chances for survival.
This is why the Ninja worriers prefer not to fight in open-field scenes, when there are not many options to find shelter or hide and there is apparent advantage for the more powerful or outnumbered side.

Lastly, when one is faced with the aggressiveness of several attackers he must be creative, open-minded with high ability to improvise. Hatsumi Sensei encourages us to apply creativity in Ninjutsu in the most difficult situations in life. He wants to help us free our body and mind from schematic and obvious reactions that can lead us to fatal results. Hatsumi Sensei is gifted with this ability to teach us how creativity and reality are unified in ourselves in away that will help us to survive.

Ofer Cohen 6Dan, Israel
Student of Danny Waxman and Doron Navon.

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