Multiple Attackers:

Your Guide to Recognition, Avoidance, and Survival
By Marc MacYoung
296 Pages
Published by Carry On Publishing
eBook $9.99

Reviewed by Gila Hayes

As an avid reader of self-defense author Marc MacYoung’s books, I was surprised when I initially had difficulty reading his latest book, a comprehensive study of the difficulties, both physical and legal, associated with defending against multiple assailants. While I read a lot of e-books, this book is different because it integrates links to video to illustrate the warning signs of impending attack and help the reader learn to describe the pre-attack behavior to police and prosecutors.

Integrating visual instruction into the book is compelling, but it requires robust internet connectivity. My first readthrough of Multiple Attackers was done with only limited Internet bandwidth so it was frustrating. Later, when able to stream the videos, I read it again and had a considerably different experience that proved the value of the videos. Caveat emptor: if you can’t take advantage of the video component, be aware that an important element of Multiple Attackers will be missing.

Multiple Attackers includes lessons to aid in recognition of indicators leading up to a group attack, warnings about our natural human reactions when fearing attack, a discussion of defenses and why they fail or may succeed with emphasis on avoidance and de-escalation. MacYoung kicks off his book by stressing how little most people know about group violence. He details how the dynamics of group attacks differ from one-on-one violence. Because this is uncharted territory for most, our databanks of pre-existing knowledge about multiple attackers are extraordinarily deficient, which means we fall prey not only to situations we should have avoided, but if we survive the fight, we are often unable to explain “why the level of force you used was appropriate.”

Amongst key principles illustrated by video in Multiple Attackers, are concepts of attack range and how to recognize when an assailant has developed it, elements of attack positioning, and a factor MacYoung calls “compression” that’s related to proxemics.

Attack range for empty hands, he writes, “is the distance that someone can effectively attack you without taking a step,” adding details about how skilled fighters develop range, meshed with explanations about positioning that “indicate[s] you're being set up for an attack or the attack.”

Humans move into attack range for several reasons–not just to do violence to one another. When humans feel threatened, part of the natural response is to display behavior to suggest to the opponent that we’re too dangerous to attack. Part of that urge is to get into attack range, whether you are bluffing or intend violence. “Through proximity (compression), body language, tone of voice, volume and word choice, and facial expression we do everything in our power to make it look like we are about to attack,” MacYoung explains. Unfortunately, if you don’t intend to fight, threat displays–intentional or otherwise–give the impression to witnesses that you were a willing participant in the brawl.

MacYoung’s discussion of attack position includes movement from a neutral stance into a bladed one, setting up an advantageous location so it enhances “the attacker’s advantages and reduces the defender’s ability to quickly and immediately respond when the attack is launched.” He comments that while the general public—some of whom could become your jury—don’t know how multiple attackers move before attacking, without realizing it, you “actually have a huge data bank of what is ‘normal’ behavior in different environments,” and should, at a minimum, pay attention when an individual or group’s actions fall outside the norm. “To develop situational awareness, you need to know three fundamentals: What is normal behavior for a situation? What is abnormal behavior for a situation? What is dangerous behavior?” he teaches, with videos and discussion of each topic.

The third critical element MacYoung identifies is proximity, or as he terms it, “compression,” which we sometimes create unwittingly, and other times, allow others to cause. By closing the distance, as he illustrates through a number of videos, you lose the ability to see signals of coming violence. You’ll miss the “witness check,” dropping bags or stripping off coats, associates flanking or coming up behind you, and other warning signs he identifies and illustrates through video.

Multiple attackers setting up and launching attacks often begin simultaneous approaches on a signal. Be aware of coordinated movement or signals as simple as nods or gestures which, when people are sitting or standing apart, are not ordinary behavior. Take care not to get trapped if several people who were stationary coincidentally move toward you or devise to bump into you at a chokepoint like a door, he teaches, commenting, “Of all the ways they could have gone, they just so happen to start out and in a direction that brings them right up to you (intercept vector).” It isn’t normal for people to approach you directly, or suddenly “change course at the last second to come up on you,” he points out, advising, “pay close attention to…people moving at high speed and slowing down. They slow to look casual while still doing an intercept vector.”

Much of the book discusses the dynamics of group violence, what is required to avoid or survive it, and the legal aftermath of use of force. Those chapters are important on their own, while also building a foundation for several extremely timely chapters on protests and demonstrations. I think MacYoung’s discussion of pre-riot danger signs that serve as clear warning to get out of the area immediately is reason enough to study the book, although there is much more of value in it, too. 

He states that recent protests have been markedly different than those of earlier decades, in the behavior of the protesters, the media coverage and the police response. The media, he asserts, is “deliberately manipulating people by word choice,” in particular the “claim that everything is a ‘peaceful protest.’ Riots, mobs marching the streets and attacking people, or ‘counter-protestors’ throwing rocks and bottles are not ‘peaceful,’” he exclaims, adding that the media further manipulates society by under reporting the amount of violence happening at the protests. Although protests and counter protests are often violent, many times the injuries inflicted on non-protesters happen in the aftermath after the riot has been broken up and police have left the area, he explains.

Conditions are worse than you are being told in the news and MacYoung warns repeatedly about failing to leave riot-stricken areas. Shoppers, diners and other patrons in businesses attacked by rioters must get away from windows, and bear in mind that going out the front door means trying “to navigate through a pack of pissed off, self-righteous people.” Commercial deliveries have to come in by a back door, he advises, and under threat, the patrons can escape the same way. In a typically colorful MacYoung analogy, he stresses, “DO NOT ‘prairie dog.’ That is the term I use to describe the behavior of only moving a short distance, stopping, and turning around to watch. This includes, as many people do, running into a store and watching through the window…In real life, bullets travel and go through glass,” he warns.

People are oddly resistant to changing their plans to avoid riots. Drivers seeing a crowd blocking a street should pull a U-turn and leave, he urges, arguing vehemently against trying to drive through streets blocked by protesters. He urges business owners to lock up and close shop, or better yet, if warned of impending protests, leave the business closed that day. People become indignant at the idea of changing their activities to avoid protests, but MacYoung believes getting tangled up with rioters is not worth the physical danger or the legal aftermath.

How can you predict if a protest is likely to turn violent? “One of the biggest indicators is they show up dressed and equipped,” MacYoung explains. Indicators are demonstrators clad in protective clothing including hoods, glasses or shop goggles for eye protection, long sleeves, shields, helmets and other protective sports equipment, even backpacks with red crosses painted on to indicate “medics” who carry emergency treatment for compadres who suffer injuries. Others use rucksacks to discreetly bring in weapons and keep them hidden until they’re needed. Umbrellas may be used to form a multi-umbrella roof to prevent drone surveillance from spotting protestors donning protective gear and bringing out weapons. All of these serve as early warnings for the watchful.

Multiple Attackers is not a book about how to fight. It is a warning about the danger of multiple attackers, a huge collection of illustrations of the behavior groups of people demonstrate before becoming violent and a series of lessons about articulation of that behavior to explain to the courts, prosecutors and police the extreme counter violence necessary to stop a mob attack, if indeed the fates smile and let you survive to mount a legal defense. MacYoung closes his book with a heartfelt wish, “May you never need this information.”

I got a lot out of Multiple Attackers; check it out at

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