How to Fight Write

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Anonymous asked: Not the sort of thing you get back up from unless you happen to be called Phineas Gage.

Though, from what I’ve read, his friends disputed that the man who got up was still Phineas.

Which kind of illustrates the point I was making. Sticking a blade into someone’s brain and stirring might not kill them, but it will seriously mess them up, and I just don’t know what that will do to them.


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Anonymous asked: Is a butterfly knife actually a practical weapon, or does it just look cool?

You can get a practical balisong. I’ve seen some for sale from time to time, though not recently. But, I should probably explain this.

When it comes to knives the word “practical” is actually a loaded term. It refers to a knife that’s designed in such a way that it can actually be used in combat. To a lesser extent this also applies to axes, swords, and most other melee weapons. (This also tends to be a keyword to distinguish combat martial arts from “sport” or “recreational” forms.)

Now, talking about the balisong; it’s a knife, you stab people with them. Or, in my case, you use one as a letter opener. If the blade doesn’t wobble when it’s open, and wasn’t painted by someone with an airbrush, it probably qualifies as a practical knife.

There’s nothing efficient about the way you open a balisong. I’ve never gotten the hang of the really showy opening technique, but I also haven’t found an efficient way to open one.

Beyond that it’s just another knife. There’s nothing especially dangerous about them either. (Well, nothing dangerous about them to someone who isn’t holding it.) The whole deploy display you can do flicking the knife around looks cool, (when done properly) but compared to a box cutter it takes forever, and requires a lot of focus.

Also, you can carve your own knuckles up on them trying to learn, and for once, I’m not speaking from personal experience. You can buy versions with a steel blank instead of a blade if you ever want to learn how to do the deploy trick, though, there isn’t really much point.

Maybe all the legislation against them is justified to keep people from cutting their own hands trying to open or close them. But, there’s nothing about it that makes it a superior, or more dangerous weapon than, say, a cheap folding blade knife you can buy in any gas station.


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Anonymous asked: What do you think would be more practical to sword/melee fight in, pants or some kind of loose skirt (maybe similar to a kilt)?

Pants, or at least pants that allow freedom of movement. I’m not talking about skinny jeans or someone wearing their belt around their knees.

In comparison to a skirt that doesn’t impair movement, the difference is marginal. Pants will provide a little protection against scrapes and minor cuts where a skirt wouldn’t. But, it also won’t protect you from weapon strikes.

So, I’d say pants are marginally more practical. But, there is a long history of people beating each other senseless in kilts.

Now, a skirt that restricts movement, for whatever reason, is not going to be viable in a fight, the same way pants that restrict movement are not.


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Women in HEMA - Live Interview at IGX

Samantha Swords (winner of the open longsword competition in Harcourt Park World Invitational Jousting Tournament) was invited to be a part of the live panel on women in Historical European Martial Arts that was held during the Competition Finals at IGX (Iron Gate Exhibition, Boston MA), together with Marie Meservy and Kiana Shurkin.

Source: Samantha Swords on YouTube

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Anonymous asked: How would getting stabbed in the eye affect someone?

You will lose the eye, and depth perception. Which has a lot of implications across the board. In some rare cases the eye will heal, but for most people, they’re signing up to join the Nick Fury eye care club.

That’s if you only rupture the eye. The back of the eye socket is fairly thin bone, meaning it’s an excellent place to gain access to the brain with a quick strike. That means we’re no longer just talking about losing an eye, but adding an impromptu lobotomy to the list. I’m not well versed enough in jamming random objects into someone’s brain to know for sure what this will do, but it’s not the kind of thing you just get back up from.


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Anonymous asked: Realistically and practically, how dangerous IS Krav Maga?

Well, there’s at least two different varieties of Krav Maga.

There’s the version that the Israeli Defense Force teaches it’s soldiers. That one is very dangerous, especially in dense urban environments. Like MAP and other current military hand to hand forms, this is about snuffing your opponent as fast as possible.

The other version is the one you’ll see advertised in the US. Depending on the instructors running the school it could be the military version from 10 to 15 years ago, which is still dangerous, but has also fallen behind the curve, and could easily get you killed if you went up against someone with more up to date training. It could also be a truncated or modified version of the form, with more of a focus on non-lethal techniques, and less on turning people into chunky salsa.

If we’re talking about the active military form, yeah, that will kill you. If we’re talking about the sport/self-defense version, it will vary. You’re still looking at a martial art that’s closer to its combat roots, but it’s no longer an up to date combat form.

Either one will pretty easily mess up an untrained opponent. When you’re dealing with police or military forces though, the out of date version just won’t fly.


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zhaiofrp asked: My character is hit by an arrow to the shoulder from a considerable distance. Would it be possible for the arrow to hit a muscle and somewhat incapacitate her arm? If so, how long would it take to completely heal, if ever? Thank you so much!

Yes. It would actually be fairly difficult to get hit in the shoulder and not significantly impair the arm. Muscles slide over one another to allow movement. Impaling with an arrow through them will prevent this, completely immobilizing anything it pierces.

I’m going to stick a very rough baseline of 6 months for recovery time, but there are a lot of factors at work here, and that’s basically a guess. The older your character is, the slower they’ll heal. Wooden arrows are a fantastic vector for infection, which will outright kill them. Availability of clean food and medical care will affect this. If the arrow punches through the shoulder blade or breaks any other bones, those will need to be set, and will take a long time to heal.

A well meaning person ripping the arrow out (including your character), is a good way to kill your character quickly from blood loss.

I think I’ve posted this before, but, first aid for someone who’s been impaled is:

  • First, and this is a general first aid rule: your safety is more important than the victim’s. This isn’t a selfish statement; it’s to avoid a “well now we have two problems” situation.

    This also isn’t a hypothetical issue; you see this all the time, something horrifying happens, people rush in to help, and get injured. It happened to me, and is part of the reason I walk with a limp when I’m tired.

  • Leave the foreign object in the wound. Do not try to remove it yourself. There are exceptions, such as when you need to perform CPR and it is in your way or if the foreign object is actually causing more damage by remaining. Though, if you’re at the point of needing to perform CPR and can’t because the sword sticking out of the victim’s chest is in the way, CPR is probably not going to help much.

  • Keep the victim calm, if they thrash around or panic, they will make things worse. Movement will aggravate the wound, in most cases speeding bleed out. Panic will elevate the heart rate, which will also increase the speed of bleed out.

  • Call for EMS (that’s 911 if you’re in the States) If the object is something that’s part of the environment (such as a piece of rebar imbedded in concrete) tell them. They will need to bring equipment to cut the victim down.

  • A good EMS operator should be able to talk you through most of the rest, but, if they don’t or can’t:

  • Try to get the victim’s clothing away from the injury, this will involve some tearing, but it did on the way in, so…

  • Do what you can to make the victim comfortable. You don’t want to move them, but anything that reduces physical strain could save their life.

  • Pack bandages around the entry and exit points to slow the bleeding. This can be any lose fabric in a pinch, though gauze is better. Packing it in around the wound should keep a lose object from wobbling and further aggravating the wound.

  • Keep them alert, do this by talking to them, and keeping their mind active. This is to prevent them from going into shock. Once they’ve gone into shock their chances of survival drop massively. Ideally you need to keep talking to them through the entire ordeal. Try to maintain a calm and even tone.

  • Wait for help to arrive.


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internraven asked: Okay, so here's my question: I have a fight scene at the end of my book between two characters. One is physically stronger and the other is armed with a knife but I know it needs to end with the stronger guy almost killing the other one. Any tips? (I am frankly awful at writing fight scenes, so anything at all is much appreciated.)

The problem here is that knives are a lot like guns when it comes to lethality, they possess the capacity to deliver crippling injuries and almost instantaneous death even when someone doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Outside of the intimidation factor, for a character who knows what they’re doing dealing with someone who is larger and physically stronger than they are isn’t really a big deal. Especially if they don’t rely on brute force to get their job done. Facing someone who knows how to lock you up, break you up, and take you out is much more frightening.

If these two characters don’t know what they’re doing then that physical strength is a game changer. However, all the muscle in the world isn’t going to protect this character from a stab wound.

The easy thing to do in the sequence is have your smaller character lose the knife. At some point early in the scene, they lose their grip on it and it falls to the floor, gets kicked away, or goes flying off. Either way, they lose it quickly as many people do when they’re nervous, scared, and the adrenaline pumping through their veins makes them jittery.

If they lose the knife then they may see themselves at a disadvantage, the struggle to regain the knife will put them into a position where they aren’t focusing on their opponent and may almost get killed only to recover the knife in time to finish their opponent off.

It’s not so much a fight scene as a mad dash scramble, but that’s all fights really are anyway.

Whatever way you go, here are some things to remember:

The Knife

Introducing a weapon into a fight scene is more than just an ancillary choice, by arming your character you place the focus on the weapon itself and the weapon will drive the fight. The knife provides a greater advantage and is visibly the most dangerous quality the character possesses. Any intelligent person will seek a way to negate that advantage if they can and a stupid person may want to ignore it (like not going after the knife once it’s no longer in the character’s hand) but it only becomes non-threatening after the asset is negated.

Regardless of the characters wants, desires, and intentions, the scene revolves around the knife.

Physical size and strength are only imposing if you write it that way

In all honesty, physical size in a match up like Jet Li versus Dolph Ludgren in the Expendables is a visual gag. Too many people assume a big, brawny, burly person who lifts a lot of weights is automatically a better fighter (unless they’re Asian, thanks Hollywood stereotypes!) by virtue of size and muscle. As I said above, it’s not actually true. A very large person is not automatically imposing or threatening, especially not if the character is used to combat. I personally find sparring someone or working with someone who is taller and more imposing than me to be very comfortable because most of my instructors and students I trained with were larger. I know what to expect, more or less.

What I’m saying is that while movies use it as a visual fast hand, it’s not an automatic advantage. It’s also not going to help you in a written context unless you make a point out of it. Personally, I blame D&D for defining combat skill via a strength score but given we get questions about size and strength a lot… stopping myself from pounding my head into a desk is difficult.

Use the environment as an active participant in the scene

Forget about size for a minute and think on what both characters bring to the table. Think about where they are fighting and how their environment can be used to add tension or force the characters to make difficult choices. If the knife gets kicked under a nearby dresser does Character A dive and go scrounging for it or do they try to fight Character B? Either choice is legitimate from a narrative perspective, but what they choose to do with their options will open up a pathway to getting your imagination pumping.

It’s easy to get too caught up in trying to figure out how a punch or kick works and describing it while forgetting about the surrounding environment. Different environments yield different advantages and may be a more comfortable place to start.

Fights don’t happen in a vacuum, by starting with somewhere concrete like a location you can have the character’s assistance in figuring out what they would do at that specific location. By over focusing on the major players, it’s easy to forget the other variables involved. A shootout at a shopping mall has different priorities than a shootout on an abandoned bridge, a fight in a chemistry lab will look different from a library, fighting in a park isn’t the same as fighting in a warehouse.

There is no pause button

The countdown clock on the events in the surrounding narrative don’t just hit pause just because the two characters have hit their climactic fight scene. The priorities each character has will govern how they fight as much as what they know how to do.

Define the goals of each one. Are they on the clock? How fast does this need to be over? What’s at stake? Do they want to kill their opponent? Are they playing for time and stalling until help arrives? Do they think they’ll win? Do they even plan on living through this? (The answer can be no.)

A character who enters a fight desperate and disappointed will be different from one who has just come off a string of victories. Don’t think about the fight in terms of what someone else who knows how to fight would do, think about it in terms of what your characters would do. What they do ultimately comes down to who they are and what they want. Fights are personal, even when they’re not.

I know it can feel daunting when you’re still trying to figure this fighting business out, but the best way to get set for your scene is to eliminate what’s not important. What other people do out there in the real world is not important, what your characters choose to do in this singular moment is.


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Anonymous asked: My story is a fantasy set around the 14th, 15th century. What kind of bow would suit a 13-year old girl of average height and build of that time period?

A light or medium crossbow. So far as I know, these aren’t actually technical terms, just a rough size assessment, but, a crossbow she’s actually able to ready and fire.

We’ve explained it before, but realistically a 13 year old wouldn’t have the decades of training and practice needed to use a bow in combat.


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