Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dislocating A Thumb to Escape Cuffs

Recently, at a writer's conference, I was on a panel called "Blood and Guts." Panels are a group of folks who happen to know a little extra about a subject. They field questions from the audience which, in this case, happened to be writers.

One writer asked if we thought it was possible to dislocate your thumb to escape handcuffs. I said I didn't believe so and asked a few police officers after the fact. They agreed, probably not. However, they did said women escape cuffs more often. If it was because they were dislocating their thumbs, they couldn't say for sure. But, they kinda doubted it. More likely they escape because officers are required to leave a bit of room between the handcuffs and the wrist, enough to be able to slip a finger between the two.

From the videos I've viewed, all featuring women, the cuff is pulled over the hand. The obligatory amount of space police officers must leave can facilitate that. The women all folded their hand together vertically. And, in every case, the thumb joint required a bit of pulling to pass.

That is the type of escape we are going to consider: pulling the cuff over the entire hand. And, if you can't fit it over your hand, will dislocating your thumb help? First, which joint are we even talking about?

According to Andrew Winch, a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine, it's not the joint we commonly think of that causes the issue. The CMC joint at the wrist is what stops the cuff. According to PT Winch:

The 1st CMC actually controls where the 1st metacarpal (the next joint up), and thus the 1st MCP, moves in space. As the 1st metacarpal rolls over the socket created by the carpal bones (at the CMC joint), the 1st metacarpal rolls forward and brings the 1st MCP with it. So, in theory, dislocating the 1st CMC would, in theory, shift the whole 1st metacarpal out of place. So yes, the CMC is what would need to be dislocated to get the metacarpal out of the way, which is required to slip out of a properly tightened set of cuffs (which get caught first on the head of the 1st metacarpal at the 1st CMC).

He continued:
...the first CMC is a saddle joint, so the only real way to traumatically dislocate it is to break one of the bony components of the saddle (or pull the thumb so far straight out that you distract the joint past those ridges, thus ripping every ligament in the joint).

Even if it were the next joint up, the MCP joint, that held the cuffs at bay, dislocating it wouldn't be much help either.

As you can see, and according to Winch as well, the thickness of the hand isn't changed much. And, even if did make the hand thinner, once you got the cuff up over the dislocated joint, the rest of the thumb would pose a problem. Here's why:

Need I say more?

So, in my opinion and, more importantly, PT Winch's professional opinion, dislocating the thumb to remove handcuffs is not USUALLY a "thing." Might it happen in some rare case? Well, yes. But, it would be truly rare as in a syndrome like Ehlers-Danlos which effects the connective tissue. If that is the case, you have something like this:

However, it is common for folks with Ehler-Danlos Syndrome to also have heart issues. So, even if they remain calm enough in such an emergency situation to escape the handcuffs, a speedy getaway on foot might be an issue.

To really get out of handcuffs, check back next week! Until then, that's it for this round at Get blood on your pages.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fighting Robots

More than once an author has asked me how their character could beat a robot. And, they do so with a tone that suggests it's impossible. Folks, what have I always said about fighting? There are no absolutes. That includes robots.

Ok, so let's break this down. First, we need a clear picture of the thing. What is the robot designed to do? That will tell you about its physical build, strength, capabilities and programming. And, don’t make it a do-it-all robot that does construction work and performs surgery and can make a killer latte in its chest cavity. Give it a specific purpose and limitations like you would any human character. 

Next, rather than focusing on beating it, aim to best it.
Robots are stronger and more resilient than humans. That’s kind of their thing. Muscling it doesn’t make sense. Find the thing’s weakness and exploit it. And, yes, it has to have a weakness otherwise the story is over. 

“Red lights flickered to a low glow then brightened, piercing the darkness. Activated, the robot scanned the room, identifying us all. Then it sat down and read a book because it knew we couldn’t defeat it.
The end.”

Folks, even Ultron could be defeated. Do not make your robot invincible. You have to be able to “vince” it. That should be the opposite of invincible: vincible. Or, if you like, Vince Vaugnable.

Sometimes, however, finding a weakness is difficult. Your character may not have that kind of time. In that case, I suggest the exact opposite. Use their strength to their undoing. Examine what makes them awesome and consider how it can be used to against them. 

I’m going to go over some basic characteristics of robots. I
will point out how some might limit them. Others I will let you figure out. Then, you can decide how any can be used in your character’s favor. I don’t know the specifics of every story so listing all the possibilities is, in fact, impossible. What I can do is get you to look at the robot a little differently which might allow you to see options that you didn’t before. Any time I point out an attribute, look at the problem it presents for the robot.

Android - I’m going over this one first because it seems common. If a robot moves like a human, it can be taken down like a human. Don’t assume that it will be too heavy. It has to be similar in weight to a human or it wouldn’t be able to use human furniture. If it is especially heavy, it will be easier to trip. On that same note, once it hits the ground, it will have to right itself like a human which might be cumbersome depending on how it was resting. 
Bishop "bleeding"

It will be also be vulnerable in the eyes and joints and damaging the throat will limit its communication. Turning its head all the way around won’t be possible because of the skin so its field of vision is limited. Lastly, it likely has a fluid necessary to function which means it can bleed. Think Bishop in Aliens.  

AI - I will address this now as androids are AIs. Artificial intelligence is not human intelligence. It is sensible and deliberate. It can only problem solve when the problem is clear and any solutions it comes to will be sensible. It will not choose a solution that makes no sense. It can reason but
using only what it has learned and there is no “deep learning.” It cannot recognize the hidden layers in a concept or the ethics of it. It will not change its course of action until a particular situation teaches it a new course. And again, that new course of action has to make sense. If its intelligence requires updates, then it can be hacked. 

Mobility - A robot’s mobility is perfect for its job and that may mean it’s on wheels. If that is the case, then its body is likely solid. Otherwise, bending in any direction might take it off balance. If it can’t bend, it can’t look under things or
access low items without telescoping features. Also, it is likely to be bottom heavy and wide for stability which might limit areas it can access. And, although wheels are very fast, they can’t maneuver a turn quickly – especially when they are moving quickly. Speed is a double-edged sword. The faster something is moving, the more hazardous it can be to be taken off course. Speaking of off course, robots on wheels have a tough time off road. Sometimes all it takes to best them is step off the sidewalk.

A robot in flight can be handled like a flying animal. It may

have difficulty flying in small or narrow places. And, as with wheels, its speed can be problematic. 

Telescoping features - Any time you lengthen something away from its center of mass, the structure is more unstable. Also, it’s easier to disable a small part of something rather than the whole. 

Power Source - Circuitry is the nervous system of a robot. Disrupt it and you disable the whole. To disrupt electronics, electricity has to flow across it in a way that it is not designed flow.  

Non-AI - A non AI only does what it does. They’re a bit like zombies in that they are single minded. That’s not to say they can’t problem solve. It’s just that they can only solve problems they’re programmed to recognize. We’ve all seen enough movies to know that to get past a retinal scan, you just have to have the right eyeball in your hand. Why is that? Because the robot isn’t looking for what’s around the eye, only at the retina itself. The fact that the organ isn’t in a head isn’t a problem the software is designed to recognize or address. Which, by the way, is pretty stupid. As with AIs, non-AIs are susceptible to being hacked.

Armor/Weaponry - Both of these tend to add a good bit of weight. The heavier something is, the harder it is to get it moving. And, once it gets moving, the harder it is to stop it. That’s all because of inertia. The heavier something is, the greater the tendency it has to stay still. Once you get it moving, inertia will want it to continue in a straight line which makes quick turns an issue. 

Multiple Robots - What’s worse than one robot? More than
one! When dealing with a disparity of numbers, look for ways to even the odds. In my post The Site is Part of the Fight, I wrote about bottlenecking large numbers. That way, you only deal with as many as can fit through the bottleneck.

 Ok, I know I’ve only scratched the surface here, but my goal wasn’t to write your scene. It was to help you look at your scene differently, to get your brain working.

No, go forth, human and beat the robots! And, if you aren't quite sure you can, there's always Old Glory Insurance. (Pardon the 10 second commercial beforehand.) 

And, because it does pertain to robots taking over and also because I can't stop laughing about it... This is the moment you realize the robots have taken your job.

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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Can You Carry a Katana on Your back?

This past weekend at the Realm Makers convention, I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of writers about creating fight scenes. I was asked some really good questions, a couple of which stood out. So, over the next few weeks, I will be discussing a few of those.

Can you really carry a katana behind your back?

I was asked this question no less than half a dozen times and I'm sure much of that is owed to The Walking Dead's Michonne, who is awesome. Period.

Traditionally, the samurai wore their katana at their side. If they were in armor, it was worn cutting edge down. Without armor, cutting edge up. Other cultures had different customs but I was specifically asked about a katana which is Japanese.

Only swords too long for the side were generally worn on the back.  However, they were often carried in such a way that they weren't drawn from over the shoulder. Rather, they were carried horizontally.  

But, back to the question. Can you carry a katana, or, let's say any sword, on your back? Yes. But, really, the better question is, can you DRAW a sword from your back? If it's longer than your reach, then your outstretched arm won't unsheathe it. Plus, you'll have your arm up, with your brachial artery exposed while you struggle with the stuck blade. Also,  double-edged blades will be problematic as you can cut yourself if you aren't adept with it or are distracted by zombies etc.

But, with a katana, which is single-edged, yes, you can do it. The cutting edge will be away from you so the dull side can slide over your back which is important for putting it back in the "saya" or scabbard. The first video shows how to draw and sheathe. The second video will show you why this method for drawing a sword doesn't always work.

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Types of Kicks

I was hip deep in a post on creating combos when I realized
that I have never done a post on kicking. That won't do. Kicks are wonderful tools that can deliver devastating damage. However, delivered incorrectly, that damage will be to the giver rather than receiver. See my post on Stupid Kicks to see what can go wrong. The video is pretty gnarly. You have been warned.

There are tons of kicks and variations of the same kicks between martial arts. I'm going with Muay Thai style because I have found them to be the most devastating which is the best thing about a kick. It can really maim an opponent in a way a punch just can't. Unfortunately, to deliver it, you have to go onto one foot which makes you incredibly vulnerable. LIFE LESSON ALERT: You cannot deliver damage without leaving yourself open to the same.

I'm only going to cover three basic kicks because one, they are the most useful and versatile. Two, the more complicated the kick, the harder they are to describe. If you get too in depth on the specifics of a kick, you will lose the most important person in the fight: your reader. Also, I'm going to show the kick everyone should know.

If you go back to my post on Types of Punches, you will learn about proper fight stance which is important with punches and imperative with kicks. Muay Thai Guy is right handed so all of these kicks will begin from a right handed stance meaning the right foot will be back.

Kicks, like punches, start at the ground and gain power in the hips. Think of the legs as bats. Yes, the bat delivers the blow but without that turn in the hips it doesn't have power.  

First off, special thanks to Muay Thai Guy, Sean Fagan, and fighter, Shawn Fazen, for the excellent how-to videos. You guys always deliver

Push Kick/Teep - I'm starting with the push kick because it is the kick EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW. It's not complicated and incredibly useful in putting distance between you and an opponent. Sometimes it will even take them off their feet. If you can't raise your leg up to plant it in the chest, you can deliver the push to the abs or pelvis. Be quick about it. If you look down at your foot then up a their chest, then slowly raise your foot, the recipient will grab it and you will be in a pickle. Also, folks don't generally fall for a teep twice unless you are very fast with it or conceal it well. If you can do that you probably know ways to follow it up. If not, in a self defense situation: step, plant quickly, push hard, then run!

Roundhouse - Also called a roundkick, this is the bread and butter of kicks. It can be delivered at all levels. At the head it can knock out an opponent or break a jaw. To the side it can break a rib. At the stomach it can double over an opponent or hit the liver which will take them out of the fight. A roundhouse can shock the sciatic nerve in the side of the thigh and deaden the leg. It can dislocate or break a knee. And, delivered below the knee can sweep an opponent's leg out from under them

Switchkick - This is simply a roundhouse kick delivered by the forward foot. You switch your stance bringing the forward foot to the back then deliver the roundhouse. This is hands down my best kick and I find, with a lot of folks, is the most powerful kick in the arsenal.

I personally learn a lot by seeing what I'm doing wrong. Don't just tell me. Show me what I'm doing then show me what I should do. So, here's some mistakes that can be made with the roundhouse. Shawn Fazen's dog is all over the place in this video. :)

Yes, there are many more kicks. But, again, if you get too complicated you run the risk of losing your reader. 

In my next post I will give a few punch/kick combos. If you go to my workshop at the Realm Makers  conference, I might demo a bit of this and maybe some combos depending on time. If you have a one on one mentor appointment with me, I might let ya punch me a bit! WOO HOO!

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

Monday, July 3, 2017


Sometimes the best way to battle a blade is to destroy it.Thus, swordbreakers. Several cultures used truncheons to battle and break blades, and the Chinese Swordbreaker could be used as an iron baton. However, it and the European Swordbreaker also had piercing blades which is why I'm featuring them. I'm a fan of two for the price of one.

The European Swordbreaker, sometimes called a Parrying Dagger, was a main gauche, (left-handed) single-edged dagger used in the medieval era. It's length was generally
You can't see the knuckle guard here. It's more visible in the video
around fourteen inches. It featured a guard as well as a hoop shaped knuckle guard.The teeth on the spine were specially designed to trap a long, thin blade such as a rapier. Once trapped, the wielder could turn the dagger and bend or break an assailing blade.

Nick Thomas is a gem. If you write swordplay, check out
his videos. He's a gentleman and a scholar.

The Chinese swordbreaker was a square blade of about thirty inches and weighed around three pounds. The edges of the blade were not sharpened and used only for impact. This sword would bend narrow blades, break heavier ones and absolutely wreck bones. The tip was sharpened for thrusting and would impale a body through. I love, love, love this sword.

Cold Steel is also an invaluable resource for videos.
Check them out for fight scene ideas.

So, all you sword wielding writers, you have a new playmate to bring to game. Remember, no matter how tough your protagonist has it, make it tougher. The Swordbreaker is a great way to do that.

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Western Sword Vocabulary

If you are versed in Western/European swords, you will be able to add many more terms to this list. But, these are the basics. I will feature Asian and African sword vocabulary in other posts.

Backsword -- A sword blade, which has a cutting edge only on one side. Most commonly found on curved blades, such as sabers, falchion, and cutlass.
Basket -- An arrangement of steel bars, and panels that form a basket-like cage around the grip (and the wielder's hand). These are most commonly found on Scottish basket-hilted swords, and European rapiers.
Blade -- The section of the sword, which is not part of the hilt.
Cruciform -- A generic term for any sword which when inverted point downward will form the shape of a crucifix. 
Edge -- The cutting portion of the sword's blade.
Ferrule -- A metal band at either end of the grip used to secure the leather or wire wraps. Also used as a decoration.
Finger guard -- A small crescent shape bar which extends from the sword's guard, and rises parallel to the sword's ricasso, which enables a user to loop their finger over the guard (which increases point control, but decreases cutting power), without fear of being injured by an opponent's blade sliding down their own.
Fuller -- A groove down the center of a blade, used to both lighten a sword, and conserve sword steel (making a wider blade possible with less material). Often mistakenly called a "Blood Groove."
Full tang -- A sword tang that passes the entire length of the grip, and is attached directly to the sword's pommel.
Grip -- The handle.
Guard -- The section of the sword hilt whose purpose is to protect the wielder's hand. It may take of the shape of a simple bar, a steel basket, a flat disc, or several other forms.
Hilt -- All of a sword, except for the blade proper.  
Knuckle guard -- A curved bar which extends from the guard to pommel, designed to prevent the user's hand from being cut by a sliding blow from an opponent's weapon.
Main Guache -- "Left hand." A dagger used in the 16th and 17th centuries, wielded in the left hand and used for parrying assailing swords.
Point -- The tip of the sword's blade.
Pommel -- A counter-weight at the end of a sword's hilt, used to balance the sword. Also may be used as a striking implement.
Quillon(s) -- Renaissance term for the crossguard. Used almost exclusively when referring to rapiers.
Quillon block -- Section of the rapier's hilt where the guard's arms (both bars, and rings) are attached. 
Ricasso -- Any narrowing or thickening of a sword's blade, which remains unsharpened, just above the guard. Increases the user's ability to loop a finger over the guard, to increase control of the point.
Tang -- The section of the sword blade that the hilt is attached to. This part of the sword is not visible when the blade is fully mounted.
Welded tang -- A tang where the steel of the blade has had another piece of steel (very often low carbon steel) welded on to it as an extension.
Wheel -- A pommel that is in the shape of a flat disc. It may have added features, such as beveled edges, or raised center sections.
Wire-wrap -- Spun and twisted metal wire, which is wrapped around the sword grip. Often used to increase the ability to grip a sword's handle. Also a sign of wealth, as these grips tended to be more expensive to manufacture. 

For a more exhaustive list, go to It is a fantastic resource for Western swords.

And now, for those really wanting to delve into Western "swordery," I give you, The Princess Bride...

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Body Punches - The Cons and the Defense

In our last round, I discussed the pros of punches to the body. And, as much as I love them, they have many disadvantages. We'll take a look at those as well as body punch defense.

Note how Joanna guards her chin with her
shoulder as she punches
1. First, with any strike, you leave yourself vulnerable.  This is especially true when you punch the body as you must lower your hands from your face. Doing so leaves the head wide open to attack. With straight punches, the shoulder of the striking hand guards that side of the face. When you punch the body, the best you can do is tuck the chin down to the chest and tilt the head a bit. It's not much of a defense.

2. To drop an opponent, you need to target the liver and that punch requires some prowess. Only a small portion of the liver is exposed from beneath the ribs. And, as most fighters are right-handed, they stand with their liver side back which provides even greater protection. It's a tough shot to land and I would never base my punching game on it or fight strategy around it.  

3. Because of the ribs and hip bones, an opponent can take a good bit of beating to the body. The solar plexus is guarded by stomach muscles and an educated fighter will keep that portion of the body tight. Often when fighters punch, you will hear them exhale hard, make a "sss" sound. That gives a little oomph to the punch, but it also tightens the abs which you will want to do any time you strike. If
you make that exhale a habit, you will automatically tighten your stomach every single time you punch or kick.
So, if a strike does get through, you will be protected.

Those activated muscles also give added protection to the ribs. Technically, you can break a rib with a punch. But, I wouldn't count on that. Ever. I've seen ribs broken by kicks and knees far more than punches but even those cases aren't common. Also, I've seen folks continue on with broken ribs to the end of the fight.

Now, for the defense. Blocking body shots isn't hard at all. The key is keeping the body tight. But, that's hard to do when you are new to fighting or just plain tired out. When you are exhausted, you will do things you know you shouldn't. A tired body will betray a tireless mind. 

Start from a basic standing posture. My post on punches will explain a good fight stance.  From that stance, you just bring the elbow down to the hip bone. If instead you drop the arm, your opponent will capitalize on your mistake. The next combo they throw, they will fake a body punch to get you to drop your hand away from your face then target your jaw.  

That's it for this round at Until the next round, get blood on your pages.