Friday, December 15, 2017

The Geek Block podcast w/ Edged Weapons Expert, Kirk McCune


It's a rare blessing to know someone as knowledgable as Master Kirk McCune. Being able to interview him live is rarer still.   

Calling Kirk an edged weapons expert does him both justice and a disservice. It expresses his mastery but also narrows it. In truth, Kirk knows a bit of everything about anything having to do with melee warfare. He can also thumb through the history of warfare and tactics like a human index. And, for the purposes of this blog, I'm happy to say that he thinks like a writer and is a great storyteller. I've told him that he should write. The ability wafts off of him like a stink. 


Me with Kirk McCune. Y'all, I knew I was going to take
a picture and THAT is the shirt I wore? I'm nothing if not
classy...and 40-60% Irish.
That title also doesn't tell you what a sincerely nice and generous guy he is. During this podcast, he was finishing up a month long Bahala Na European tour. He called me from Ireland at 8:00pm and he hadn't even been there a full 24 hours yet. When I say he is a nice guy, I'm not just being nice. (Because he was calling from such a clip away, there's a bit of a delay between us in the interview.)


Kirk will cover a lot of great things in this interview including:
- What you can tell about an edged weapon just by looking at it
GME Leo Giron and GME "Tony" Somera
- Weapon balance
- Where bladed weapons are used today
- Defensive use of daggers
- Main gauche dagger or buckler, which is better for the left hand
- What kind of fighter uses a main gauche dagger and what kind uses a buckler
- What happens when two blades collide edge to edge - it's not what you think! (I gasped like a total nerd at the answer)
- Purpose of fullers and when you wouldn't want one
- What sort of sword he would carry everyday
- One-hand vs two-hand vs hand and a half swords
- How the hands work together with a two hand sword
- How long a real sword fight lasts
- What sort of injuries happen on the battlefield
- How a weapon matches a character's personality
- And what he would choose for self defense in a zombie invasion

By the way, we mention HEMA which is Historical European Martial Arts. 

This and other episodes of The Geek Block can be accessed
through iTunes on the Along Came a Writer network as well as BlogTalkRadio.

To listen to this episode now choose The Geek Block logo. ENJOY and thank you for listening!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Physical Cues Predicting Assault W/ and W/O Weapons


We've been in a series regarding blades and the damage they cause. For today's installment, we're
going to hit the rewind button and look at what leads up to blade damage. We're going to examine precursors to attack. Not fight. Attack.  

In order for a fight scene to be realistic, everything leading up to it has to be true to life as well. If your character means to do harm, they will give predicative cues. Even if they remain silent, their body will communicate what their mind intends. And, yes, the body will also communicate if a weapon is forthcoming.

PATC Legal & Liability Risk Management Institute conducted a study on interpersonal cues predicting assault. A sample of 129 law enforcement officers, all assaulted at least once on the job, chose eleven behaviors that signaled attack. They are listed from least to most predicative.

11. Stretching arms / shoulders
10. Sweating profusely
9. Pacing
8. Tense jaw muscles
7. Head rolls / neck stretches
6. Looking around the area
5. Making verbal threats
4. Clenching hands into fists
3. Placing hands in pockets (Hiding hands) 
2. Invading personal space
1. Assuming a fighter's stance

To continue our series on blade damage, we are going to focus on two of these cues plus one more. We'll look at fighter's stance, hiding hands and, as well, body blading. The last is peculiar to attacks with weapons.

In our post on Types of Punches we looked at a solid fight stance. But, that stance was specifically for Muay Thai. Depending upon your sport or martial art, what you consider a fighting stance may vary. Here are four common fight stances for Muay Thai, boxing (Sugar stance), wrestling and street defense.




Now, Shane Fazen is a trained fighter. If you ever pick a fight with someone and they adopt a proper street fighting stance as he does in this video, you have made a grave error in judgement! Let it go, move along.  

If your character is a regular person, the stance they take before an attack will not look exactly like Shane's. Again, he is a trained fighter and most folks are not trained fighters. Your character may have been in many fights, but that doesn't mean they have proper training.  

On the street, a fight stance may not be easy to spot. The hands may not go up with palms out in the "I don't want any trouble" gesture. But, the hands will be up away from the sides, one foot will step back a bit and the chest will be toward the opponent.  

This brings us to cues of obscured weaponry. If a person assumes a fight stance but keeps a hand or both hands out of view, they are hiding something. That hidden hand may be behind the back, in a pocket or up a sleeve as seen in the picture here. Had the victim noticed that only one hand was in view or known it was a physical cue, he might not have ended up a victim of a knife attack.




At the Realm Makers writing conference last year I demonstrated how a knife could be hidden in one hand with the entire arm and part of the hand in view. It is very easy to do with a reverse grip. But, even then, with the blade completely out of sight, I was giving a warning signal. My arm was straight. One arm was gesturing as the other was strangely immobile. 

In this picture, the attacker is in a fighting stance with one arm up. The other arm, however, is straight. That is because she is hiding a blade. There will be a full breakdown of this particular fight at the end of the post.



The last cue of an attack with a weapon is blading of the body. This means turning the body sideways with the weapon away from the target. The purpose of this is to further hide the already obscured hand. 

This picture is from security camera footage. The clerk was very distracted by the item in his hands and didn't notice that the patron kept one hand in his pocket all times. And, more often then not, the attacker bladed his body. The side of his body that is away from the victim is the side on which he is hiding a dagger. In the full footage you would see the attacker pacing the store, looking around and several times adopting a fighting stance.


Here is an analysis of the physical cues before a blade attack. This is graphic in that you will see blood and explicit as you will hear foul language. Nathan Wagner is the gentleman breaking the fight down for us. He is the creator of the Hourglass Threat Matrix developed specifically for the Fortitude Tactical Group. What you aren't able to see in the video is the same the victim didn't see: the blade. You hear onlookers say knife, but Nathan gives good reason why it might have been a razor blade.



Well, there you have it. Not only are you learning how to write a good blade fight scene, you're learning how to lead up to it. Next week will end the series. We'll go over some statistics regarding blades attacks and learn how to stitch up a victim. Hurray! 

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Blade Damage - Wounds (GRAPHIC)


Blades are special weapons. Not only do they injure, but they do so in such a way that both combatants experience the attack. Purposely choosing a blade over a gun can show a higher level or rage and deeper need to physically experience the suffering of the victim. 


In this third installment on blade damage (Week 1, Week 2), we are going to look at the actual wounds caused by blades. First, let's differentiate in the types of wounds: incised cuts, lacerations and stab wounds. Now, if you look in a thesaurus you will see the first two words are synonymous. But, in medical terms, they aren't.

An incised cut  is a slash in the tissue caused by sharp-force trauma. The wound maintains very clean, sharp edges and tends to be longer than deep. There is no tissue bridging or strands of still intact tissue joining the sides of wound. Because of the clean line of injury, incised wounds are easier to stitch.

Unlike the incised wound, a laceration isn’t so much a cut in the tissue as a tear. Lacerations are caused by shearing, crushing, or blunt-force trauma. They have irregular edges, tissue bridging and are more common on bony areas. Lacerations are more likely to scar and become infected because of damaged tissue. And, because of their irregular edges, they can be very difficult to suture.

How different do they look? Very. You can pinch an incised wound close and it will be a clean line. That's not the case with a laceration. The edges are jagged Here's some examples and they're gross. I will scoot down a bit so you can prepare yourself. I made sure that in all the pictures the person was living. There are no pictures of dead bodies. And, the pictures in which I wasn't sure, the wound shown wouldn't have been enough to kill anyone.




















  These are incised wounds. Notice that you can pinch the edges and bring them together to form a straight line. That guy's tattoo will never look the same.

  


Laceration - I doubt this was caused by a blade. It was hard to find a laceration wound caused by a blade on a person who I could tell was still alive. But, it shows the difference without making you throw up in your mouth.


Can a blade cause a laceration? Yes, big, heavy swords caused them all the time. The purpose of such blades wasn't cutting so much as bashing through shields and armor. If contact was made with the flesh in such a blow, a laceration was a result as well as crushed bones.

Which leads me to blades that are used for chopping such as axes, machetes and cleavers. Don't worry, I have no pictures. All that I found were so horrific I found them disrespectful to life itself. BUT, I can tell you how they look different and they all do.

Ax lacerations are straight lines that look like the skin has popped. There are crushed bones and tissue.

Machete wounds are straight lines and very deep, deeper than an ax, best I could tell. That's likely because a machete has a shape that lends itself to be drawn in a slicing motion after the impact. Also, there is more cutting surface than in an ax so, again, longer and deeper cut. There's no crushed bones because a machete's design doesn't lend itself to crushing. But, bones can be cut through.

Cleaver chops are clean, thin wounds that don't break bone but do leave cut lines on them.

A stab wound is neither an incised cut nor laceration. It is a type of puncture and there are two types: penetrating and perforating. Penetrating stabs, as the name suggests, penetrate the body. The wound doesn't always match the size of the blade because blades are seldom driven in and removed at exactly the same angle. Also the skin can shrink up a bit after the blade is removed.


Perforating wounds go all the way through the body. The entry wound will be larger with inverted edges. The exit wound will be smaller with everted edges. (Also, I didn't know everted was even a word.)


If the stab is from a single edged blade, the wound will likely have one pointed edge and one duller edge. Fishtailing may also occur as in the second picture



If the wound is from a double edged blade, both sides of the wound will have points.


In this double edged injury, there's a bruise which tells us three things. One, the blade had a guard. Two, despite one less defined edge, it was a double edged blade because the side that is sharply defined has a guard on it and you don't have a guard on the sharp side of a single edge blade. So, the other side must have been sharp as well. Third, this blade was completely plunged into the body.


 Last but not least, remember that the body has an internal vacuum.  If you open up the abdomen, innards can become outers. I will spare you an actual picture. And, although this is a post-op depiction of why one should never be sutured with nose hairs, know that any breach of the abdominal wall can cause this. In sayoc, we call a low abdominal slash a "blue worm" for reasons you can likely deduce.

I was going to include an instructional video on suturing but I'd say we've seen enough blood and stuff. I will save that for next week. Instead, let's all take something for nausea and watch this completely perfect instructional video with Master Ken and Kali expert Doug Marcaida.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Blade Damage - Vital Targets

The entire body is a target. However, there are certain points that can be especially
vulnerable. Striking these are more likely to have mortal implications. Remember that many vital organs are protected by bone. Don't assume those bones will leap out of the way of your character's blade or that said blade will break through those bones. 

I've noted that some strikes cause an immediate drop. That's not to say they cause immediate death. Sometimes pain causes the drop, sometimes the quick blood loss causes the body to go down in an effort to maintain  blood pressure. Unless noted, assume the opponent can continue on fighting for as much as fifteen minutes. It probably won't be that long but it's better to assume more time than less. I will get into that in more detail in another post.

Remember, to do the most damage you need to remove your blade. An inserted blade may staunch the flow of a injured blood line. Pull that sucker out though and you have a flow going.

In this scene from John Wick 2, (SPOILERS AHEAD) Wick tells Cassian that once he removes the blade, he will have about a quarter second to live. And, like just about everything in John Wick, that's correct.  

During the fight, notice that when Wick blocks a blade, he does so with the back of his arm (1:03, 1:33). Why do you suppose that is? Hmmmm? Also, note where the final strike is on Cassian.  

Wick blocks with the back of his arm to protect the blood rich underside of the forearm and wrist. It also protects those tendons. If they are cut, the hand won't work as well or at all depending upon the cut. And, Cassian gets a knife to the heart. The heart isn't on the left side of your chest. It's in the middle but it does tilt to the left. So much so that it can be attacked from under the left arm. You absolutely can be stabbed in the heart and live, although Cassian doesn't as far as we know. (I'm holding out hope) I will talk about survival rates in another post.


Vital Targets

* Base of skull/brain stem (immediate drop - clinical death, technically they will still see for a few moments)
* Ocular cavity
* Temple
* Sinus Cavity (go in between nostrils, just above mouth, and aim up about 45 degrees)
* Jugular Vens
* Carotid Artery
* Subclavian Artery (go in right behind collar bone, immediate drop)
* Brachiocephalic
* Heart (through chest or under left arm)
* Abdominal aorta (from celiac trunk to inferior mesenteric, immediate drop, aim just below sternum)
* Liver
* Kidney (through back, immediate drop from pain)
* Liver
* Lower Abdomen (slash produces more immediate and dramatic results than stab, will not cause an immediate drop but victim will need to catch their intestines as they spring out so they will be unable to continue fighting)
* Femoral Artery  
* Perineum (view post on this strike)


Here is a 360 view of the body. It will allow you to examine the body's "roadmap." Turning the body will help you decide how to best strike certain vital points. Keep in mind how much and what type of clothing will be over those areas as well.

How much blood can your character lose? In the post on bleeding out we learned the body can lose 30-40% before it gets into real danger. How much blood is that? Well,depends on the person. Blood accounts for about 7% of one's weight. So, I have far less blood than a 200 pound man, about 5 pints less actually. Here's a blood calculator, and here's a mL to pint conversion.


Blood makes a real mess. It's often hard to calculate how much blood has been lost. Even professionals struggle with an estimation. Here's a video that helps. 20mL is about a tablespoon and a half.





Let me make a huge digression here to say a few personal words:
With the American holiday of Thanksgiving upon us, I want to say a sincere thank you to the readers of this blog. A year ago, I never imagined it would be what it has become. YOU are the reason FightWrite is still here. I'm thankful for all of you. And, I feel a special appreciation for those of you outside the U.S. It means the world to me to know you are reading from all over the world. May God bless you, keep you, cause His face to shine upon you and give you peace. 

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

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blade Damage - Differences In Blade Damage


I receive more questions about blades than anything. The inquiries are varied but more often than not come down to constructing a fight scene. With any fight, movements are determined by the intended damage. Even if that damage isn’t inflicted, the intention tells how the aggressor is moving as well as the defender.

Because that damage is so important, we need to understand it. Over the next few weeks, we are going to examine damage caused by blades. Specifically:
* Damage by different blades 
* Vital strike points 
* Wound appearance 
* A wound’s impact on the body
* After care

In case you’re wondering, yes, the wound appearance one will include photos. You’ve been warned or pleasantly informed however you want to think of it.

First off, let’s consider damage by different blades. There’s an idea that certain blades are more damaging than others. But, in truth, a wound two inches wide and four inches deep has the same consequences regardless of what caused it. So, in that respect, a sword is no more deadly than a knife.  

I can hear what you’re thinking, a sword is deadlier because it can go way deeper. Well, yes, it can. But remember, the advantage of a sword over a knife is reach. To drive a sword deep you will have to get closer to your opponent. And, though stabbed, that opponent can absolutely retain their ability to strike back for several minutes. We’ll look at that more closely in a few weeks. For now, know a deep plunge isn’t necessarily the wisest move. Also, the deeper the stick, the harder the hold the body will have on the inserted blade. The body has an internal vacuum. It wants to pull in whatever compromises that. 

Also, as important as the wound dimensions is the location. One can be stabbed with a pen knife in the chest many times and survive. I knew a young lady that was stabbed at least sixteen times with a small knife in her chest and back and survived, praise God. Had wounds of the same dimension been created on her neck, that wouldn't have been the case.  

Here’s a video on differences in damage caused by different blades. It also addresses why some blade shapes are more suitable for stabbing and touches on the physics of it. If you’ve read the post on size disparity, you’ll remember the importance of mass x acceleration.




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


JUST KIDDING! I think we all knew by the post thumbnail that there would be a link to this most epic fight. Writers, we can learn a lot from the Black Knight. We are, all too often, piƱatas with pens. We take our share of hits from agents, editors and publishers. "Readers" leave one star reviews. I put that in quotation marks because you know good and well some of those people never read the book. Never mind all the folks who don't take what we do seriously.

We have to find the strength to stand tall, if we can stand at all, and proclaim, "'Tis but a scratch!"





NOW...until the next round at FightWrite.net, my steadfast, stalwart, readers, get blood on your pages.
 #tisbutascratch



Wednesday, November 1, 2017

FightWriter - Jonathan Clay: Fighting in Zero-G

This week's FighterWriter, Jonathan Clay, asks: How would hand to hand combat change in
a zero-g environment (say, on the ISS)?

Good question. Any time I explain how something works, or doesn’t work, I try my best to use science for several reasons. One, science is something to which we can all relate. You don't have to know a thing about fighting to understand the science of fighting. Two, it doesn’t change. Fighting is fickle. Science is stubborn. Three, Science is, like, so much smarter than me. Seriously, she knows about physics and stuff which most fighting totally is. That said, if you have magic in your manuscript, some of this may not apply. If that’s the case, your reader should be aware of the physical laws of your world. 

Ok, let’s put on our Newton pants and look at his laws of motion.

Law One: An object at rest tends to stay at rest. An object in motion tends to stay in motion.

Things on earth slow down because of the opposing force of gravity. On the ISS, however, if you push yourself off of a wall you will keep going until you hit something. And, you better hope you hit something because if you don’t, you will just keep going until Jesus comes for you. How can you use that to your advantage in a fisticuffs? Push your opponent. It won’t take much. A little nudge could send them off into oblivion if they aren’t anchored in some way. If you do hit them, they will propel away from you until something stops them. Which is all well and good until that third law comes into play.

Law Three: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


If I hit you, I am, in turn, pushing myself away from you with that same amount of force. That puts me in a real pickle. And before you say, “oh, no biggie, there’s a wall behind my character,” remember that the character will hit that wall with a force equal to that of their punch. And, if their momentum is circular, as with a hook, the character might end up spinning until they hit something…with a force equal to their punch. 

The way to work around the first law also helps with the third. Your character would hold on to their opponent. And, they’d probably do well to grasp the combatant on the center line of their body – say, the chest of their clothing – as it would give your character a point of reference for their strike. When the body starts spinning, your character could get disoriented. Their hand below their combatant's face would guide their aim no matter how their own body is moving.
  
But, I tell ya, if it were me, I wouldn’t punch at all because of the second law of motion.

Law Two: Force = mass x acceleration. (Law One explains that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. Law two shows how that resting state changes when the object is subjected to an external force.)

I only know how to punch on earth. And, on earth, I am able to create force for my strike by getting as much of my mass and speed into the equation (literally) as possible. To get the mass of my body behind my punch as well as create acceleration, I need rotation in my upper body. That rotation is a result of torque in my hips. That torque (twisting motion) is given speed as well as stability by the pivot of my feet on the ground.  

My feet remain anchored to the ground while pivoting because of friction. I have stepped in sweat before, pivoted and hit the mat because that liquid inhibited my friction. It took away my hold on the floor and the torque in my hips set me off balance. That friction is crucial to the entire movement that creates force in a punch. And the thing about friction is that it needs gravity.  

So, I personally can’t see how, from free floating, a punch in zero-g would have as much force for the simple fact that it doesn't have any sort of anchor. Now, by propelling off of a wall you could create acceleration to go with your mass and create a ton of force with that punch – which will send you flying let's not forget. But, again, from free floating, I just don't see how it's scientifically doable.

Also, punching is a problem because it brings in momentum. It would send me and my opponent banging around against the walls and all the equipment in the room. I could feasibly be knocked out by whatever we propel ourselves into. It takes next to no effort to move as you can see in this video. Imagine how you would move with a bit of muscle.

There's also the issue of blood from a busted nose or split forehead etc. Liquids in space are "squirrely." They move around in bubbles so you have a bit of a traveling mess.

Instead, I would employ a choke. I'm not talking about a strangle hold. I mean capturing the neck in such a way that blood flow is impeded which leads to unconsciousness. At the same time, I’d want to isolate their legs because they would likely kick out of panic. The kick could create momentum which might propel us and cause me to to hit something. If I can manage to be anchored to something while choking them, the legs wouldn't be an issue.

If I chose the right sort of choke, I wouldn’t need to worry about guarding my own neck as my body position would make it difficult or impossible for them to attack me. But, again, their legs could cause some momentum issues. I’d want to wrap those babies up with my own legs.

This is my favorite choke, my go-to. Probably what I would use. It happens at 1:13 on the video.


I hope that gives you all some ideas for your work. Again, the physical laws of your created world may differ. Plus, spacecrafts in movies and TV all seem to work out an artificial gravity so zero-g isn't an issue. I'm not sure how they do that but they all do with the premise that we will accept the fact and we do! 

But, every now and then, movies like Inception embrace the concept of "compromised gravity". It wasn't zero-g as much as moving-g! Here's a behind the scenes look at how they did it.  

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Featured FightWriter - S. E. M. Ishida - How Realistic Are Martial Arts in a Real Fight

Our question this week is from FightWriter S. E. M. Ishida:

I'm curious to know how martial arts fighting styles compare to actual fighting. I recently started learning a martial art, and I hope that learning it will help me when I write fight scenes. Are certain martial arts/fighting styles more "realistic" than others? Do you have any that you recommend?



First, every martial art is best for what it is designed to do. Some meet power with power. Some use the opponent’s power and momentum against them. Some are meant to spare the hands and some were designed around weaponry to spare the entire body. But, all of them are great to learn. Every single one will make you stand a bit taller and give you more confidence which is key in a whole lot of things including writing.

Now that I've clearly stated that all martial arts are great and there is no reason for anyone to send me long emails for not giving props to their particular art, I want to look back at your question and raise one of my own. What do you mean by an “actual fight?” Fights change depending upon the setting. A fight in a
bar will look different than one on the street. The former will have a bit more bravado and hints of social order meaning there will be some things that likely won’t be done that would absolutely be done were the fight to go to the parking lot. 

What’s the difference between inside the bar and outside in the parking lot? Witnesses. Yes, in a bar you may have weapons drawn, bottles broken and used. But again, there will be people who can say what they saw you do. For that same reason, a person may want the violence they inflict to look tough. They will throw a big haymaker punch rather than gouge an eye. And, as well, there may be a crowd which might inhibit movement. You aren’t as likely to shoot if perhaps you could hit your buddies who are brawling around you.

The latter, a street fight, is going to be far more brutal and primal. There is zero social order. It’s straight up Lord of the Flies. Weapons will be drawn/wielded and every manner of attack will be fair game. People bite, tear body parts and claw at eyes. They stomp heads, kick ribs and pull out so much hair hematomas form on the scalp.  

Which martial art is designed to combat that sort of violence? Well, that’s a toughie. There are a few that work off the assumption that the poop has hit the fan with extreme prejudice. None, however, assure that you will have the exact moves to handle every single scenario. But, you don’t have to in order to productively defend.

So, again, “realistic fight” is a very broad term. Like any great story, how a fight plays out in real life depends upon the setting. Will learning karate (just using that as an example) help you write that Victorian fight scene? Well, yeah, it can, if you spar.The most important thing you can do in any martial art to better write fight scenes (as well as learn to defend yourself) is to spar.  

Sparring will help you better understand how the body moves and reacts to attack. You know that when a strike comes from the right, the rest of the body generally does ___. And, if you want to advance you will have to do so defensively because any time you attack, you open yourself up in kind.

It also helps you understand body positioning. Some moves feed into others because the body movement of the first sets up or lends itself to the second. And, just as well, some moves don't work together. You learn that by trial and error in sparring. Oh man, in your head, you come up with amazing sequences! Then you get on the mat, give it a go and realize that to do move two, you should be facing left but move one left you facing the right.

Lastly, by sparring, you will learn that sometimes you target an area not so much to make contact with that area but to get your opponent to move a certain way. That particular movement will open up the target you really wanted but your partner had been defending. You strike at the belly to expose the neck. You strike the left side to open the right.  

Now, will doing jiujitsu make you better at writing a fist fight scene? No, it won't. If you want something specific, you will need to study that specific thing. But, no worries, whatever gaps you feel you have in your fight training can be filled in right here! TA-DA!

So, in summary, whatever martial art you do is awesome. All of them make you a better human. If you want it to really impact your fightwriting, you need to spar as that teaches things you can't learn in other way. And, finally, what you don't learn in the gym/dojo/kwoon/etc. you can learn here. If I haven't posted on it, ask me about it and I will.

Thank you for your question, Sarah. Whatever martial art you are doing, keep doing it! I’ve never heard anyone say, “dang, I wish I hadn’t gotten more physically active, learned a skill, improved my self esteem and self discipline and had so much fun! Ugh, it’s the WORST!”  


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