Wednesday, May 9, 2018

How Women Kill

Female hostility is different than that of men. However, it’s the male version with which we are most familiar. That’s what is generally depicted on page and screen. But, be not deceived. Though the end result of female violence may be the same as a male, the path leading there is quite different.

Although statistically women kill less often than men, it is not because they are less violent. As a whole, women are as aggressive, if not more so, than their male counterparts. Marriage researchers have noted women are more likely to pick fights, quicker to escalate verbal aggression, and are just as likely to use physical aggression as men (1). However, that is in an intimate relationship. Women are far less likely to be as aggressive with those to whom they have no intimate ties. Yes, you are in far more danger around a woman you know than one who is a total stranger. 

So, if they are just as aggressive or more than men, why do they kill less? Well, that's for another post. In this post, we are going to look at how they get the deed done and it is much different than men.

First, the statistics I am going to show are U.S. statistics. I have a loyal contingency in Europe so I want to point that out. (Love y'all!) You will find that outside the good old U. S. of A. that gun violence will be much lower. In the U.K., according to the Office of National Statistics report in February of 2016, the number one method of homicide was knife. (2) The second most common was kicking and hitting without a weapon. Which is exactly what we saw in our post, Being Attacked, which took place in Glasgow, Scotland. 

However, although the modus operandi in other countries differs from the U.S., the difference in how the genders kill is pretty similar. Before I go any further, let’s look at the U.S. stats.  

Murder Weapons Used by Men Versus Women - FBI Supplemental Homicide Report 1999 - 2012
                                             Men          Women
Murders committed by           160,368          17,431    

Means of Attack                                           
   Gun                                    67%             39%
  Knife                                  12                23
Beating                                 7.1             12
  Other                                    7                12   
Blunt Object                         4.5             5.4
Strangulation                          .7               .9
Asphyxiation                           .6             2.6
Fire                                        .46           1.5
Poison                                    .4             2.5
Drowning                                .1                1
Explosives                               .03           .07
Defenestration                        .02           .04

Defenestration means throwing somebody out of a window. Yes, there's a term for throwing somebody out of a window that's not just "throw somebody out the window!"

Ok, what do we learn here? Yes, in the United States you are less likely to get shot by a woman. But, that may be because women simply own guns less than men. For every three male gun owners in the U.S. there is one female. And, women do tend to be at home more than men and folks don't generally carry their gun in their house. So, that could account for the lesser percentage of gun violence.

But, look at every other means of violence. Women are more likely to use an instrument to kill. And, the instrument is most likely a knife. Why do women use a tool to kill (statistically) more often than men? I see two reasons. If you see more, please put them in the comments. 

First, women do tend to be physically weaker than men. It's how we are and that's ok. I'm not sure who said we had to be as strong as a man or how we even starting comparing physicality of men and women. We are complimentary to one another not in competition with one another. Yeesh! Anyway, that disparity of strength can make overpowering a male victim difficult. Thus, women use a tool to even the playing field.

Two, women tend to kill people they know. (3) And, when you are intimately connected to the victim, you sometimes want to experience their suffering. Almost every other noted means of death requires being in someone's intimate space. That's not an accident. (But, women might make it look like one! Again, another post.)

Well, writers, what did we learn today? One: women are as aggressive as men. Ask the marriage counselors. Two: women kill less often than men. (Or do they? We'll look at that in another post.) Three: when women kill in the U.S. they are more likely to use a means that isn't a gun more often than men. That may be due to a strength disparity or their connection with the victim. 

Apply all this warm, fuzzy info to your female characters that kill. I don't mean soldiers. On the battlefield a soldier is a soldier. I mean in any other instance a woman isn't necessarily going to kill in the same way a man might. And, if your setting is outside the U.S. that method of killing will not likely be a gun. Your character will employ a tool of some sort and that tool might be a window. (Beware of any woman who walks around with a window!!!!)

In our next round at we will look a little closer at why women kill less often than men. Or, do they??? 

Until then, I leave you with the words of Rudyard Kipling...

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride, 
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
- The Female of the Species

Now, go out there and get blood on your pages! 


Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Claymore - The Good and The Not Great

Ah, the Claymore: the zenith of metal work in a fantasy writer's cache of weaponry. All is lost until the fateful moment the hero grips the hilt of the mighty weapon. Why? Because it's a Claymore dang it! That's why!

The truth is, the Claymore is in fact a wonderful weapon. It does well what it was designed to do as all weapons should. But, what is also true is that it is horrible at tasks it was never meant to carry out. Every weapon has advantages, the good, as well as disadvantages, the bad. 

The History and Basics

The Claymore's name derives from the Gaelic words "claidheamh mor," which mean, "great sword," in reference to size not its value as a weapon. It is said that the Scottish hero William Wallace carried a Claymore. But, the sword he used, which is still in existence, differs from we know as a Claymore in its point and ricasso.

Historically a Claymore was about 47 - 55 inches (120 - 140 cm). The weight was around five or six pounds (2.2 - 2.8kg). Yes, really. Claymores weren't ten pounds swords. Ten pound swords weren't a "thing."  

The Claymore was a two-handed sword. It had great reach and because of the weight behind its overall mass could create a great amount of force.

The ricasso, an unsharpened portion of the blade where it meets the handle, was often, not always, wrapped in leather. This allowed the wielder to "choke up" on the weapon to not only better guide the tip, but recover after a swing.

Because the Claymore was a double edged blade, one edge could be keen for slicing while the other could be dull for bashing through shields without getting stuck in them. The forward facing trefoils protected the wielder from coming blades and could trap the blades as well. The large pommel could be used as a melee weapon and considering the weight behind it, likely delivered a heck of a blow. 

Just as important as any of its functions, the Claymore had great intimidation factor. The effects of that can't be underestimated. As General Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, it's best to break an enemy before the battle. Seeing a massive claymore coming might be enough to make a warrior rethink the fight.

The Bad

Even with a wrapped ricasso, and skilled hands, the Claymore could be a challenge to wield. It's just plain old physics. Objects want to keep traveling in a straight path. The greater the mass of a thing, the harder it is to disrupt its progress. The harder the swing of the claymore, the more difficult it was to stop. 

If you missed the opponent, the swing could bring your arms away from your body leaving it completely open to attack. For that same reason, it was not a great weapon for infighting. Defensively, one would want to dodge the swing of a Claymore, step in and strike because the wielder had next to no defense. Because of the Claymore's size, it wasn't possible to also carry a shield. So, you really needed to hit your target or you'd be in a pickle

The weight of the sword also created an issue for endurance. Five pounds may not seem like much, but it gets very heavy. You can't compare it to holding a five pound weight in the hand as the weight of a sword extends away from the body. But, even if it were concentrated in the hand like a weight, try swinging that for more than five minutes!

Another disadvantage of the Claymore was that it couldn't be used well in coordination with other warriors. For example, it would be difficult to fight in a group of three for the simple fact the Claymore was big and more difficult to control. You could lop your fellow soldier's arm off! And yes, the Claymore could lop off an arm.

Finally because of its size, the Claymore had to be carried on the back or on one's horse which made it not so easy to draw. 

So, ya gotta ask yourself what it is you want to accomplish. Do you want intimidation, heft and force or the ability to carry a shield and greater dexterity?  

Is the Claymore a great sword? Yes. That's literally the words from whence its name is derived. Is it the be all end all? No. No sword is nor was meant to be.

Here's the Forged in Fire episode all about the Claymore.

Until the next time at, get blood on your pages!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hitting a Pro

Disparity between combatants is the most common issue that authors present to me. Either one combatant is larger than the other or of far greater skill. I will tell all of you as I do them: there's no magic formula for leveling the playing field. Even if there were, a level playing field isn't the same as a favorable gradient.  

A difference in size is generally what I hear about most. Being the smaller fighter is seldom better. Me saying that tends to surprise people as I am a small person. I think they assume I will tell them that my build is QUEEN. Smaller is better! Little ninjas, rise up!!!!!

Fact is, that's just not the case. However, there are ways to make the most of a smaller size. Every trained fighter makes the most of what they are. You can read all about that in my posts on size disparity. There are two. There's this one.  And this one.

As sub-optimal as it is to be the smaller opponent, a disparity in fighting ability is a far greater gap to bridge. It's not impossible. The only absolute in fighting is that there are no absolutes. Anything can happen. But, I would not get in the ring with a professional fighter betting on that "anything" that could happen. It's highly likely that, part of that "anything," would involve my coach or Jesus slapping my cheek and telling me to wake up because the fight is over.

The better someone is at something, the easier that person makes it look. Writers know this all too well. What looks like it took thirty minutes to pen could have taken days. It's the same with fighting. The pros make it look effortless. And because professional fighters fight other professional fighters, the difficulty of fighting is completely obscured by their expertise. 

It's tough to appreciate the skill of a professional fighter without experiencing it first hand. But...this video does a pretty decent job at showing you what I mean! Pay attention to not only what the pro does but the novices as well.

First, I hope you noted how fast Kryzystof, a.k.a. Ksos, moved. He avoided 25% or more of the punches just by movement. I think sometimes large fighters are thought of as slower. That is not the case. And, even if a heavy weight is a bit slower, his greater mass will compensate for the slower speed and still create a lot of force. (Blame Physics.) 

Other than movement, Ksos avoided direct contact with simple techniques. Using his hands and forearms, he interrupted or redirected the punches. His movements weren't big or flashy. He did just enough to get the job done.

He also put his hands on his face in a way that might not have seemed like much of a defense. In fact, it kinda resembled cowering. But, look again and notice that where Ksos put his hands on the sides of his head allowed his forearms to protect his jaws and neck. It's a move sometimes called, "answering the phone." Very smart. Very educated. Zero effort.

True professionals are efficient. They don't perform complicated moves. They do the most with the least because being tired will get you knocked down, knocked out or worse.
Like most people, the folks facing Ksos were untrained. I applaud every one of them. Getting in the ring with somebody like Kryzystof is daunting. Knowing somebody won't fight back doesn't erase the fact that they could!  

All of the novices knew they were being recorded. So, it stands to reason that they were doing their best. They could get fancy. They could be the fighter they always imagined that they could be. All they had to do was "unload." Yet, they didn't. Not one threw punches like machine gun fire. No one rushed Ksos or pushed him. Nobody tried to wipe his hands away from his face. I think only once or twice did anyone attempt to deliver an uppercut to his chin. And, as I said, only Briana made an effort to work his body. Why? Why didn't they just go for it?

Although I've not spoken to any of these people and I have no idea what rules they were to abide by, I feel pretty sure I know the answer because I have been in their shoes. When you are new to fighting, you just plain don't know what to do. And, even if you know a little about fighting, you don't have enough experience to be able to work under the effects of adrenaline. So, you forget what little you know.

Unless your character has been taught to fight, he or she will look much like the people in this video. They won't be throwing combos or flashy back fists. They may not even aim for the chin. Briana, my favorite, had to be coaxed into hitting Ksos. The heavyweight had to put his head down and tell her to hit it. That is very common. Even while sparring, folks will stop their punch just in front of the face or aim at the chest.  

Your character will also tire quickly. The movement of fighting does not allow for a steady breathing pattern. They might even hold their breath. Sounds crazy, but it happens. Both scenarios deprive the body of a steady flow of oxygen and tire a combatant out. Quickly.

So, if you have a skill disparity, you have your hands full. But, it's doable. The only limits of your work are the limits of your creativity. But, remember, your creativity must be credible. Regular folks off the street will not likely best a professional in hand-to-hand combat. But, "not likely" isn't the same as "not ever." Mwah ha ha ha.  

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Featured FightWriter: Heather Titus, Surviving a Throat Cut

Our featured FightWriter Heather Titus asks: Can a

character survive his throat being cut?

That is a very good question. And, I will counter it with a few of my own: Is the attack from the front or the back? And, what sort of knife is being used?  Both of those matter because each affects the answer.  Let’s tackle the latter first...firster. I like that better. We will tackle the latter firster.  

The type of knife can determine the attack. Every weapon looks the way it does because it serves the most efficient use of the weapon. A double-edged blade can be used to slash, but it’s really great for stabbing. So, if someone has a double-edged blade and they know what they are doing, they may choose to stab rather than slash.


Single-edged blades are really great at slashing. Yes, they can stab. But, they excel at incised cuts. Someone wielding a single-edge knife might be more likely to slash. And while slashes can be long, they are not as deep as a stab. Bear in mind that any clothing around the area, the collar of a shirt or jacket, might further inhibit the depth of the slash or impede the slash altogether.

Attack from the front
The direction from which the attack comes will also affect the strike. An attack from the front, not done well, can be less of a surprise. The target may move too quickly or knock the blade away.   

If the attacker has knife prowess, it might be better for him to stab than slash. A knife can be quickly drawn and a strike delivered before the target has a chance to process what is happening and defend. The victim may not even realize he has been stabbed. But, I’m not sure the neck would be the best area to attack. It would be far easier to go straight for the abdominal aorta.

From the back
From behind, a stab to the neck is fairly easy to accomplish provided the target is completely unaware and still. But, a stab to the base of the skull would be more productive and less messy than any slash.  HOWEVER, I’m sorry about all these buts and howevers, I spoke with Heather regarding the scenario she had in mind and she was considering a throat slash from behind.

Throat cuts from the back are common in action movies.  A character sneaks up behind his victim, then reaches around and covers the victim’s mouth to stifle any scream. The knife is then brought over the victim’s shoulder to the throat where the blade is pulled from under one ear to the other. Blood pours out in a smile shaped waterfall of red. Or black if it’s a black and white movie.

Truth is, colorful and dramatic as it might be, that sort of neck attack is really not the smartest way to kill somebody. Far too much can go wrong. First, when an attacker reaches around to cover the target’s mouth, he puts his forearm near to or in the path of the coming blade. He may cut himself worse than he does the target and/or inhibit the effectiveness of the knife strike. Also the victim can bite the attacker’s hand which may cause the attacker to drop the knife and/or cry out. 

That mouth cover also gives the victim a moment to respond before the blade comes around. If the victim responds appropriately, he can guard his neck from the coming blade and/or trap the wielding hand.

For these very reasons, special forces from several countries are discouraged from performing a kill from the back with a throat cut (Grossman, 1995). Instead, they are instructed to do a kidney strike. The pain from such a puncture renders a victim mute and somewhat paralyzed while they bleed out.

But, let’s say that sort of neck strike happens. What are the repercussions? The best way to figure that out is to look at the neck and its structures.  

Yep, all of that is crammed into your neck. Here’s what happens when the major structures are injured.

Arteries / Large Veins –  This from

Cuts to the neck and throat can cause rapid, high-volume blood loss. Deep horizontal slashes or multiple thrusts to the right side of the neck can sever the right common carotid artery or internal jugular vein. Cuts to the left side can sever the left common carotid artery. Be aware that both carotid arteries are well protected by several layers of muscle in the neck and are set deeper in the neck than the jugular. Creating an effective laceration in this area requires decisive force. Severing the carotid artery can cause unconsciousness, just like when using the carotid restraint. Thrusts or slashes to the front of the throat may damage the trachea (windpipe) or larynx (voicebox). Injuries to these areas are painful and will cause difficulty in breathing. (4)

Muscles – If a large muscle like the sternocleidomastoid is severed, the head will fall to the uninjured side. The victim will have to hold his head upright.

Thyroid – Slicing the thyroid will cause a great amount of bleeding. But, I didn’t find anything that said it would be enough to kill someone. What might kill a victim is injury to the parathyroid glands. The parathyroid glands regulate calcium levels in the blood. Without these glands, calcium levels can drop and cause cardiac arrest (3).

Trachea  – Cutting the trachea can disrupt the vacuum in the body that the diaphragm uses to pull in air.  With a big enough cut, the body will not be able to inhale and the victim will suffocate. Suffocation can take around three minutes but the victim will pass out sooner than that.  The cut can also cause air to leak into the neck and cause it to swell. That condition could cause a lung to collapse.

Vocal Cord Nerves – If either of the nerves that lead to the vocal cords are cut, there will be complete vocal paralysis. That doesn’t mean the victim can’t cry out. It means the voice will be breathy and hoarse.

To finally answer the question, can a character survive a throat cut: Yes, especially if appropriate trauma care and poor aim come into play.

Hockey goalie Clint Malarchuck survived a throat slash sustained by a stray skate. The team trainer reached into the wound and pinched the severed artery, effectively preserving the goalie’s life. He was back on the ice in ten days(1).

Actor Daniel Hoevels survived an on stage throat cut when someone replaced his prop knife with a proper knife. Thankfully, he missed major vessels. He was back on stage the next night because, you know, the show must go on(2).   

Thank you so much, Heather for your question! 

To learn more about Heather and her writing visit her site at

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages.