Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Catapults (and Cow-tapults)

Siege warfare was a Medieval military operation that involved surrounding or blockading a town, fortress or castle in an attempt to capture it. Quite often these places were surrounded by a wall which left the besiegers with two options: go over or go through. Going over was a no brainer. They simply used ladders which were not only easy to set up but to carry to the battlefield as well.  

Unfortunately, any time you are close to your enemy you are more vulnerable and the use of the ladder was no exception. The climbing soldiers were easy pickings to not only arrows but one of my favorite weapons, the polearm. Ya gotta appreciate a good ole' long stick!

In order to minimize loss of troops, attacks were also performed at a distance, more often than not with a catapult. These are the weapons we'll be looking at today. There are many but I will highlight the biggies. All of these were used to not only knock down walls but to launch fire, pestilence and of course, in the case of the "cow-tapult", cows, over them. Catapults were employed by not only those outside the wall by those within as well as evidenced by this documentary clip.

Any piece of equipment that uses tension, torsion, traction or gravity to launch is technically a catapult. However, this is what we we commonly envision when we encounter the word. All types consist of a bucket, arm and frame. Whatever is launched is called the payload. This particular catapult has an arc trajectory.

The ballista is basically a giant crossbow. Straight trajectory.

The source of the mangonel's tension is rope wound around the arm and frame. Although able to launch farther, mangonels aren't as accurate as trebuchets. Arc trajectory. 

The onager is often confused with the trebuchet. The difference is their source of propulsion. Like the mangonel, rope is the source of tension. However the onager employs rope twisted at the base of the arm. Arc trajectory.

The trebuchet requires a counterweight. The tension required to make it a catapult is in the pulling down of the bucket and raising of the weight. Arc trajectory.

Until the next time at FightWrite.net, get blood on your pages. Now, go away or I shall taunt you a second time!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Improvised Weaponry Part Dos

I've gotten some amusing responses from my last post on
improvised weaponry. Yes, I really do look around for this sort of thing. And, I carry a weapon just about all the time. I'm not paranoid, I'm simply aware that I'm assailable. And, being mindful of that, ironically, keeps me safer. 

Even if your character, or you, never needs to make use of these weapons, you know they are there which makes you both more prepared. It's better to be prepared and not need something that to need it and not have it. Or, as Sun Tzu said, "it's better to be a warrior in the garden than a gardener in a war."

Just like in the last post, "impact” refers to anything that can be used to strike someone. And, if I say something is used on pressure points, that means that you use it to hit sensitive areas.  

Backpack - used shield or swung at assailant, impact
Book - thrown at face, impact
Dry erase marker - thrown or used on pressure points
Aluminum water bottle - impact
Permanent marker - pressure points
Shoes - thrown, impact
Shoestring - choke
Phone charger - use prongs for impact, cord to choke
Musical instrument - impact
Sweat shirt hood/clothing - wrap assailants own hood, hood strings or collar around their neck to choke (The choke in the video can also be done with tshirts and polos because they're pretty stretchy. Especially if your adrenaline is up, you're going to stretch it out pretty good.)

Pot of hot coffee - impact and thrown to burn
Coffee mug - impact
CD - broken in half and used as knife (surprisingly sharp)
Fire extinguisher - spray at person’s face or impact
Pencil, pen, letter opener - stab
Keyboard, laptop, monitor - impact
Electrical cord - choke or whip
Potted plant - impact or dirt thrown in face
Decorative items - impact
Phone charger - use prongs for impact, cord to choke
Framed pictures - impact, corner used can cut and shattered glass to cut
Magazine - wrapped around arm for knife defense

On a plane/in airport:
Backpack - used as shield or swung at assailant
CD/CD case - broken and used to stab
Permanent market - pressure points
Carabiner - hand placed inside and used as brass knuckles
Jacket, socks, shoestring - choke
Pen, pencil - stab (metal barreled is best)
Credit card - edge sharpened as knife
Magazine - wrapped around arm for knife defense

Phone charger - use prongs for impact, cord to choke

When I began this blog, my secondary reason for doing so was to help writers write more accurate fight scenes. My primary reason was to encourage people to learn to defend themselves or, as in this post, help them see how they already can.

In classrooms, offices, planes or any public place, I believe in attacking as a means of defense. If an assailant enters an office, getting under desks or tables does not improve the situation. Instead, those at risk should all immediately grab anything and everything and start throwing it at the intruder. Even if, God forbid, the intruder has a gun, they will guard their face from the thrown objects and not be able to shoot or shoot wildly rather than target someone. It may also allow enough time for someone to grab a fire extinguisher to blast at the face of the attacker or brandish a weapon against them. Almost anyone, of all ages, can throw things at an assailant.

I highly suggest everyone read The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker. There is a chapter especially for threats in the workplace. And remember, fear is a GIFT!!! The good Lord didn't give us the emotion by accident. Fear is a precious messenger and guardian. If you don't feel right in a situation, get out of it. Who cares if it was nothing? Worse case scenario, you're a warrior in a garden.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Improvised Weaponry

When it comes to weaponry, think outside the box. Quite likely your character will always be surrounded by objects that can be used against an assailant – and so will you. Look around right now. What could you use to defend yourself? Well, you’re looking at one: your computer. Yes, your Mac can be part of your attack. That coffee cup beside you filled with hot liquid? That’s two weapons in one. Never mind if you have a pen or pencil near you. And there’s the framed pictures on the wall, the random decorative items and remote. You’re basically sitting in an armory and don’t even know it.

Here’s a few non traditional items that can be used for self defense. Some will simply buy your character some time and that may be enough. Some will injure and a few could very well dispatch if wielded well. I’ve organized them by location and given a brief description of use. I’ve left out the obvious such as knives, hammers etc. “Impact” refers to anything that can be used to strike someone. And, if I say something is used on pressure points, that means that you use it to hit sensitive areas. For example, when you grab a permanent marker and wrap your fingers around it, the tip generally sticks out. That would be used to hit someone any place on the head, face and neck and any joint. Actually, anywhere is better than nowhere. So, if your character or you has that handy, just start hitting! Note the seemingly innocuous things that can always be carried for defense.  

Next week we will venture outside the house. Until then, look around your abode and post unconventional things that can be used for self defense. Around the house only!!! 

Forks, spoons, wooden utensils - stabbing
Boiling water - thrown
Pot of hot coffee - impact and thrown to burn
Coffee mug - impact
Water sprayer on sink - hot water sprayed in face
Fire extinguisher - impact or spray in face
Pots, pans, dishes, baking items, rolling pins, small appliance, meat tenderizer mallet - impact
Dish towels - to use as a choke or snapped at face
Flour and ilk - thrown into face, breathed it will cause coughing and also impede vision
Salt - thrown in face will irritate eyes
Broom/mop handle - impact and trip
Phone charger - use prongs for impact, cord to choke
Cleaning chemicals, vinegar - thrown in face
Wine bottle - impact or broken to cut
Wine glass - goblet broken and used to cut or remaining stem used to stab
Electrical cord - choke or whip
Permanent marker - pressure points
Plastic bag - placed over head or around neck to choke
Can - impact

Living area:
Fireplace tools: impact
Logs in fireplace: impact
Remote - impact
Electrical cord - choke or whip
Coffee mug - impact or to burn if filled with hot liquid
Lamp - impact
Throw pillow - shield or to smother
Blanket - thrown over assailant or used to choke
Decorative items - impact
Magazine - wrapped around arm to shield from knife

Cleaning chemicals - thrown in face
Plunger, hair dryer, hair brush - impact
Toothbrush - stab eyes or pressure point
Razor - slash
Towel - thrown over face, used to choke, or snapped at
Curling iron - impact or burn
Rat tail comb (comb with ice pick end) - stab
Magazine - wrapped around arm for knife defense
Electrical cord - choke or whip
Folded bath towel - wrapped around arm for knife defense

Belt, clothing - choke
Belt - whip with buckle at end
Blanket - thrown over assailant or used to choke
Pillow - used as shield or cover face of assailant to smother
Lamp - impact
Light bulb - break to cut and stab 
Electrical cord - choke or whip
Phone charger - use prongs for impact, cord to choke

Tools, PVC pipe, paint can, bike pump - impact
Screwdriver, drill bits, nails - stab
Extension cord - choke
Brick - impact
Cleaning chemicals - thrown into face
Chain - swung for impact, to grab or choke
Mop/broom - impact and trip
Bug spray - sprayed into eyes (wasp spray has very long reach)
Chemicals - thrown into face
Carabiner - hand placed inside and used as brass knuckles
Garden hose - used as whip or choke
Electrical cord - choke or whip

Flashlight, glass break, auto emergency tool - impact
Flashlight - shine light into eyes
Umbrella - impact, stab
High heel, keys - stab, impact
Seat belt - choke
Car - hit attacker or, if assailant in the car, crash to eject or deploy air bags.
Credit card  - edge can be sharpened and used as knife (yes, really)
Loose change - thrown in face
Ice scraper - sharp impact and to slash
Pen, pencil - stab (metal barreled is best)
Road map - wrapped around arm for knife defense

Phone charger - use prongs for impact, cord to choke

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

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Adrenaline - The Un-Sunny Side

I regret not calling this series, "Adrenaline: Your Frenemy." It has a very dramatic, tabloidy feel and when I think tabloid, I think dirt. And, that's what we're going to dig up in this post: the dirt on adrenaline.

I'm often asked what pet peeves I have with fight scenes in movies. Well, here's one: the aftereffects of adrenaline are seldom shown. There's a good reason for that and it's the same reason we never saw Katniss take a break from the Hunger Games to use the restroom. It's not pretty. It's normal, but it doesn't make for great action.  

Before I get to the aftermath of an adrenaline rush, let me touch on a few downers of the rush itself. I didn't include these in the last post because I was looking only at the sunny side.

Fine motor skill decay - You may be able to wield a bat but loading individual bullets into a revolver could be a real issue.

Bladder/Bowel evacuation - Although the adrenaline itself doesn’t cause this, it happens as a result of the brain focusing on other processes of the body it deems more important than continence. Often in movies we see the coward wet him or herself. In truth, it's likely the most terrifying of Berserkers did too simply because their brain had better things to do than hold water.

And now for the after party! Here’s what you don’t see portrayed on the screen and page. After that adrenaline dump, your body goes through a lot and none of it is very attractive.

Memory loss - You may have no recollection of what happened or only flashes of the event or a distorted memory.

Shaking - This is a result of falling blood sugar. Remember all the glucose pumped into your system to give that energy boost? Well, now you’re in a deficit.

Exhaustion - Understandably, your body will be tired from being on hyperdrive. Thus why we sleep so much after a stressful event.

Fainting - This is from a sudden drop in blood pressure and not related to cowardice. It is completely beyond the control of the individual.

Nausea - Because blood has been diverted to muscles, your stomach may rebel.

Emotional outburst - The emotion suppressed by adrenaline will catch up with you when it ebbs. Quite often the emotion floods out with tears even if tears aren’t the norm for you.

Hypersexual urges - Once you realize you are alive, you might feel really, really alive!

Muscle soreness - You will be sore in places not even effected by the event because of the muscle tension held during the event.

I know adrenaline well. Because of a life threatening allergy, I've been given injections of epinephrine (adrenaline). It makes me shake and feel like my muscles are bursting through my skin. It feels as if my skin is actually holding on too tight and I need to come out of it. I want to tear things and jump up and down, not out of anger, just to relieve the pressure of energy. After it wears off I'm exhausted and my muscles feel like I've been working out hard. And, I cry and cry. I can't stop the crying.
Adrenaline is a blessing. It can save your life. But it has its burdens - as all super powers do. If your character has an adrenaline dump, be aware that they will likely feel dumped on afterward. 

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

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Adrenaline: The Sunny Side

When the brain perceives danger, it goes to work. It diverts energy and blood flow from internal organs to muscles, increases heart rate and blood pressure, expands airways in the lungs, enlarges the pupils and alters the metabolism to maximize blood glucose levels. And, that's just the beginning.

It also tells the adrenal glands to release the Kraken! That Kraken comes in the form of adrenaline. That beautiful hormone can be our saving grace. Literally.

A sudden rush of adrenaline can make you feel a bit like a super hero and there’s a good reason for that: your brain thinks you need to be a super hero! However, that rush does not give you superhuman capabilities. It simply allows you to access abilities your body has always had but reserved for special occasions.

Despite what many think, and what is almost never portrayed on the screen or page, adrenaline has ill effects and aftereffects. However, on this post, we're just going to look at its sunny side.

Adrenaline can cause:

1.  Increase in strength and speed -  You may be able to drag that large man away from the burning vehicle and outrun that dog. (I have read of people lifting cars and I’m not sure that is so much adrenaline as divine intervention. BUT, you are definitely stronger.)

2.  Diminished pain response - This is why people who have been stabbed may not even know it until they see the blood and even then, they may not realize it’s their own blood. And, just as well, they may break something and not know it. (See video) Diminished pain response allows you to handle the emergency situation without being distracted by your own injuries. 
3.  Heightened senses - Tunnel vision, objects seeming larger and acute hearing can all be experienced. This allows you to focus on the threat or emergency at hand. 

4.  Pupil dilation - This goes directly with heightened senses. The pupils enlarge to allow in more light and allow for better vision.

5.  Time distortion - Yes, things really do appear to go in slow motion. According to Live Science, “…such time warping seems to be a trick played by one's memory. When a person is scared, a brain area called the amygdala becomes more active, laying down an extra set of memories that go along with those normally taken care of by other parts of the brain.” (http://www.livescience.com/2117-time-slow-emergencies.html)

6. Emotional detachment - This allows you to deal with the situation without letting emotion cloud judgement or muddle thinking. In my teens I was in a car accident with my best friend. When the car came to rest on its side, I opened my eyes and saw that I was spattered in blood. I calmly felt my face and neck for injuries. I then noticed my friend who had gone through then come back in through the windshield. She was covered in blood and lifeless.  I thought, this is not my blood. This is her blood. I am in the car with a dead girl. I need to get out. If I unbuckle my seatbelt, I will fall on her. I need to step on the steering wheeI. I can’t. My legs are broken. I need to scream for help.  Every thought was clear and calm. It wasn’t until I was out of the car and on my feet that I began shaking and reality set it. Thanks be to the good Lord, my friend is alive and well.

In the next round at FightWrite.net, we will look at the not so great, throw-uppy, pants wetty side of adrenaline. Until then, get blood on your pages!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Staph in it's cute, plush form.
It’s a hearty little bacterial infection that can cause anything from a small, yellow crusted sore to an all out antibiotic resistant infection i.e. MRSA. And, approximately 25% of folks carry it, regardless of cleanliness, without showing any symptoms. Thankfully, with proper hygiene, contracting Staph is generally avoidable. And, most of the time, a round of antibiotics or antibiotic ointment will do the trick. 

If you have characters involved in melee warfare (hand to hand), living in unsanitary conditions or with a group in close quarters, Staph could easily be written in as its own character. In one of its thirty forms it lives as boils, cellulitis, impetigo and general wound infection as well as pneumonia, food poisoning, endocarditis (inflammation of heart tissue) and toxic shock. It is transmitted through both skin to skin contact and contact with contaminated surfaces on which it can live up to 24 hours. 

For a setting that pre-dates field medics or modern knowledge of hygiene and wound care, Staph is a veritable gold mine. It can slow down even the most spirited of warriors and leave entire camps dehydrated, weak and altogether ill. But, don't assume there weren't treatments. Texts as early as the 10th century show a salve recipe that modern medicine is finding to be a valid anti-Staphylococcal.(Medieval Anglo Saxon recipe to cure MRSA) So, if historical accuracy is your "jam," you can go ahead and Staph it up!

Staph Symptoms:

- Inflammation: redness, warmth on infected area, swelling, rash, pain 
- May or may not present with open sore
- Possible abscesses, blisters or sores with pus formation which may run or appear as dry, honey colored crust 
- Can also appear as a burn-like mark (aka Staph Scalded Skin Syndrome) 
- Untreated it can lead to fever, chills, sweats, dehydration (in the case of food poisoning), low blood pressure, sepsis and death

It generally take four to ten days after contact or injury for Staph to present. Healing time depends upon severity of wound and infection. It may take an abscess (boil) 10 - 20 days to heal. In some cases abscesses may require draining. And, if an open wound is created, scarring may occur.

Here are some examples of Staph. I'm sorry and you're welcome. And how 'bout I bid you farewell before you take a gander at these just in case you don't make it through. Until, the next time at FightWrite.net, get blood on your pages. (Then immediately go wash your hands. Ew.)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Behold, the Hunga Munga

If you’re a fan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” or “Angel,” you may remember this strange looking hunk of metal. It looks like something a Klingon would carry and they might…if they are African. Yes, the Hunga Munga is a “thing.” It was employed as a tool of war in African tribes south of Lake Tchad. It is also known a “danisco” by the Marghi, “goleyo” by the Musgu, and “njiga” by the Bagirmi.

The spikes are used as a melee weapon (hand to hand) but it is more intended for throwing. That beautiful crescent blade is intended to be thrown in a rotary motion, end over end, much like a boomerang, a terrifying, decapitating boomerang. I would imagine if you saw this coming at you, the next thing you would see is Jesus. 

Here is what the Hunga Munga can do from one of my favorite shows, Forged in Fire. Note that when thrown, the crescent blade is away from the target, not facing. The video is small because in order to get it full sized, it had to be rented. But, you can still see the different uses. Skip forward to 28:00.

This is closer look of the weapon itself. Notice that the addition of a spike at the bottom isn't the best idea. Think about that as you create weaponry. Imagine holding it and how it would rest against your body.

If your character carries a Hunga Munga, get ready to be descriptive. This tool is hard to describe even when you are looking directly at it. And, remember, when thrown, the crescent should be opposite the target. If used as a melee weapon, be sure your character doesn’t push their body into the tool. It has to be used away from the wielder or they will be pushing into a blade.

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

(I love saying, Hunga Munga!)