Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Escaping Handcuffs

 First, if placed in handcuffs by a member of law
enforcement, accept it. Period. Trying to get out of cuffs in that scenario never goes well. And, actually escaping  makes things go even worse. Worser! Worser should be a word and it would be used here. 

However, this blog is geared toward helping writers and we writers, oh, we love escaping stuff. We love "worser," in all its forms. So, this post is for your character who finds theirself (yes, I use theirself as a gender neutral singular possessive) in cuffs. 

Ok, last week we discussed how dislocating the thumb to escape handcuffs is not a "thing." In fact, manipulating your body in any manner won't help you. It might allow you to bring your hands to the front of you which will make the actual escape method easier. But, that presumes that your arms can loop under your rump. However, that alone doesn't free you. 

Option one: Break the chain between the cuffs like this guy!
What I think he is doing is twisting the chain with enough torque to snap the hinge.

Option two: Pick the lock. Handcuffs work on a ratcheting system like so:
If you look at the circle labeled "keyhole," you will see that a little arm comes off of it. Lift that little arm and you lift the pawl (the green thingy) which frees up the teeth holding the cuffs in place. 

How do you lift the pawl? Well, it ain't so hard. All you need is a paper clip or bobby pin. Slip it into the keyhole and move it around until it turns and lifts the pawl.

Option three: Make a shim. You can use a common hair barrette. 

See the V shape in the top. The two legs on it can be turned into shims. The shim can be slipped between the ratchet and teeth and allow the cuff to slide loose. A paperclip or any other slim piece of metal can be used the same way. In order to get the shim far enough in, you will have to tighten the cuff a bit to feed it down under the pawl. So, if they cuffs are as tight as they can be, this might not work.

Now that you know how to escape, your focus can be on finding the correct tools to get the job done. They can be in the room or your character can always carry something on their person for this exact purpose. There are shoe strings that house shims and/or handcuff keys under the aglets. What's an aglet? Well, clearly you don't watch Phineas and Ferb. It's that little plastic thing at the end of the shoestring that keeps it from fraying. And, here's a song about it! 

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

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.

TOTALLY UPDATED INFO!!!! (01/01/20) This was sent to me by fightwriter Hanah. You can see this info below in the comments. I LOVE when you all send me more info. My favorite knowledge is the kind I don't have yet.

"While someone with EDS might have trouble escaping after getting out of the cuffs, that's going to be due to a drop in blood pressure on standing up (POTS), lack of coordination (EDS causes problems with proprioception and a lot of us are clumsy), pain from loose joints, or most likely other dislocations. Most people who can dislocate on command are also vulnerable to dislocating when they DON'T want to as well."

To really get out of handcuffs, check back next week! Until then, that's it for this round at Get blood on your pages. WAAAAAIT! One more thing...BUY THE BOOK! It's chocked full of cool stuff!

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?

Choose the pic and check out
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? When I first posted this, I had no katana training. Thanks to iaido at Haru Dojo, I now have a bit and hope to have more. So, I have changed this a wee bit from the original post. Now, it is more correct.

Any who, a katana on the back: I've been asked this question a bit 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 at the belt.  

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. You will have to pull the "saya" or sheath away which you have to do if the katana is on the hip as well. However, on the hip you don't offer your brachial artery as you would extending your arm up over the shoulder. Either way, the blade will be toward the hand. When on the hip, you are pulling that blade away from the body. There's nothing in the way. On the back, you might give the back of your head a shave. Also, putting a katana back in the saya on one's back would be a titch harder than at the side.   

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.

If you would like to learn to use a katana, call your local aikido dojo. Iaido (ee-EYE-doe)is a branch of aikido that covers proper drawing and use of the blade. Also, aikido is a FANTASTIC martial arts. Give it a look!

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