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, get blood on your pages.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

FightWriters Luke Scott & Johne Cook: Chop vs Punch and Bringin' a Knife to a Gun Fight

This is the second week in a series where we will focus solely on FightWriter questions. In this round, we compare chops and punches and bring a knife to a gun fight.

Luke Scott: Why don't you see karate chop strikes in MMA? They were great for board breaking when I was a kid. Is it just a bone breakage issue or does a punch carry superior force?

Alrighty, fightwriters. First, the knife edge hand strike is an effective strike. A skilled martial artist could deliver one and render a person unconscious or kill them. Yes, really.  

So, why don’t you see them in MMA? I have several reasons. Here we go:

One: MMA is a sport and as such, it has rules. Any strike to the groin, back of head/spine and neck are illegal. Knife edge strikes work very well in those places.

Two, there is a greater chance of injuring the hand. All fighters who use their hands to strike have their hands wrapped before they fight because like or not, our hands weren't made for punching! The wrap pulls the bones of the hands together so that the impact of their strike is dispersed over all the bones rather than one or two which can result in what is known as a boxer’s break. I will do a post on that at some point. 

Because the contact of knife edge chop is to the side of the
Floyd Mayweather post Canelo fight. 
hand, you have a great deal of force impacting the side of a single bone. The odds of the fighter breaking their hand is much greater because a knife edge is meant to be decisive rather than repetitively thrown hundreds of times in 3 to 5, five minute rounds. 

Three, a punch is driven by the torque and rotation of the body. A chop, and hammer fist as well, aren’t driven. Their momentum is with a swing which positions the body differently. With every driven punch, you guard your face. The shoulder of the striking hand comes up to protect that side of the jaw. With a standard chop, it’s darn near impossible to protect the chin and still have momentum in that strike. Thus, the jaw is open which makes one more vulnerable to a knock out as explained in my post on knock out punches.

But, you can absolutely pull off certain strikes, leave your jaw open and be fine. You can see that in the pic here with Urijah Faber. However, his opponent is down so his jaw isn’t vulnerable. He is delivering a hammer fist because in that position, it’s the most efficient strike.   

Now, my coach respectfully disagrees with me on this point, but I don't think physics are in your favor with chops. In my first post on size disparity, I explain that a punch gets its force from the fighter’s mass times the acceleration of the punch. The reason the mass comes into play even though it’s not the fighter’s entire body making contact is that a punch is driven by the mass of the body. With a chop you should put the weight of the body behind it but I don't think you can as much as with a punch. You don't have that same torque in the hips which really gets more of the mass of your body behind the strike.

Are knife edge chops forceful? Yes, again, they can kill a fool! And, as we all know, they can deliver enough force for a board break. I’ve broken my share of boards so I know it to be so. And, because I’ve broken as well as held board for board breaks, I know for a fact that the grain of the wood always goes with the strike, not against it. It’s true. If you do a knife edge chop, your hand will hit with the grain rather than against it. Meaning, your hand is vertical so the grain on the wood will be as well. If you hit with an sideways elbow, the grain will be horizontal like the elbow. That’s why you will see people look at a board and turn it a certain way before allowing anyone to strike it. The guy in the video goes over grain direction at about 25 seconds. 

Going with the grain makes the break easier. And, that’s ok because a board break is symbolic of strength and breaking barriers more than demonstrative of either. The one time that the grain direction of the board didn’t matter was the time I broke it with a punch. Which, I don’t suggest. It ate my knuckles up. But because the force was concentrated in a smaller diameter rather than spread over the length of my hand, foot or elbow, the grain didn’t matter.

Lastly, when you get in the cage and you see your opponent, $%&! gets REAL, real quick. You tend to go primal and just plain forget training. That's why you see even seasoned fighters do stuff they shouldn't. They're human! So, even if you are black belt chopper, that whole concept might fly right out your head once the punches start landing. As the sage Mike Tyson once said...

Thank you for that question. It was a good one and one I hadn’t really considered.  

Johne Cook: How would a knife win a gun fight?

Yes, we’ve all heard it: don’t bring a knife to a gun fight. And, it’s true…unless you are within twenty one feet of the shooter. I talked to my friend/neighbor about this one. He’s a Texas Marshal who only goes after violent offenders. The rule he and all other law enforcement officers follow is not to allow anyone with a weapon closer than twenty one feet. The reason isn’t that the criminal will be faster. But, because, in certain cases, action can be faster than reaction. 

There was a British study done that found reaction to be faster than action. However, in that study the participants knew absolutely that something was going to take place. They were simply waiting on a cue. That’s not the case with a knife wielding assailant and a police officer. The law enforcement officer has no idea what the offender may do. By the time the officer’s brain reacts to an assailant’s movement, the assailant will, in fact, be moving which makes aim with a taser or gun more difficult. If the distance between them is twenty one feet or more, the officer will, hopefully, have time to combat the movement effectively.

So, if your character has brought a knife to a gun fight, all bets aren’t off. Especially if you are Master Ken.

Thank you, Johne.

And, that’s it for this round at Until the next round, get blood on your pages.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Featured FightWriter, Serena Dawson - Killing a Horse & Fighting with Compromised Limbs

Serena Dawson
Over the next few weeks I'm going to concentrate on FightWriter questions. The first is from Serena Dawson.

What is a realistic way for a person on foot to kill a horse? Pole axe? Sword?

And what move/moves could a highly skilled warrior who has compromised legs use against another of equal strength and ability, (but with sound legs). The first guy had badly broken legs which healed but not that well. He can run with difficulty. 

Ok, let’s separate these out. How can a person on foot can kill a horse? 

Anything that would cause that horse to fall while in a full gallop would compromise it. What you see in the movies where the horse and rider roll forward hard, then get back up, turn around and keep fighting is incredibly unlikely. I contacted a friend of mine who is a former barrel racer. She has fallen with her horse and they were both fine. But, she said, never a hard forward roll. One like that would likely hurt the rider so badly they wouldn’t be able to control the horse. So, the horse wouldn’t be attacking you as no one would be directing it to do so. You wouldn’t need to kill it.

But, let’s say it’s a possessed horse and it’s gotta go. (We've all been there. Am I right?) First, you really have to make that horse fall and hard. Let it run at you, side step and go for the legs with a weapon. It can't just slip. It will have to make a good hard roll. Horses can get up pretty quick from a stumble, just like we can. A hard fall takes a little longer. 
Horse getting up. It's a quick moment when the legs are
all occupied and the neck is out.

As the horse is righting itself from the fall, there will be a moment or two when all of its legs are occupied and its neck is outstretched. If you have a sword, go for the neck. Even if you don't hit an artery, the strike could damage the tendons and muscles and maybe hinder it in raising its head. If it can't raise its head, its field of vision is limited. If it’s down and needs to be put out of it’s possessed misery, stab the head through the ear with a sword. (A professional told me that.)

Let's say it's not running, it's just squared off with you and being aggressive. That is an issue. You need to get a buffer between you and the horse, a tree, a rock, fencing, something. If it breached the buffer you would need to run at angles. Four footed animals aren't so good with quick turns. Unfortunately, you are are going wear out long before the horse so any weapon that helps maintain distance is going to be great. 

Watch out getting too close to the head. Horses do bite! And, avoid those back legs. Keep at a 90 degree angle with it if you can and strike at the neck.

Question two: A fighter with compromised legs would want to use the combatant’s weight and momentum against them. Tai Chi is great for that. Yes, the slow thing you see people doing is deadly. (See video) You learn Tai Chi slowly. You perform fast-ly - which should totally be a word. The only leg movement necessary would be stepping to 45 degree angles to slip the strikes. From there they would strike the ribs or the neck using "Fa Jing" which focuses all the body’s energy into a strike. It’s pretty cool.  

Hapkido would also be great as it, like Tai Chi, redirects or slips around an opponent’s momentum. It also employs joint locks that require ZERO strength. (See video) I'd also look at Wing Chun (not to be confused with Wang Chung).

Both hapkido and wing chun have ground defense techniques. And, the principles of tai chi work on the ground as well. In all of those cases, the goal is to get up which is what your character should do. They would want to get up and stay up. 

Thank you for the question, Serena. Just for you, I've attached the best horse riding scene ever. Pretty sure it's 100% real and you should use this in your M/S. Twice. At least.

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