Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hitting a Pro

Disparity between combatants is the most common issue that authors present to me. Either one combatant is larger than the other or of far greater skill. I will tell all of you as I do them: there's no magic formula for leveling the playing field. Even if there were, a level playing field isn't the same as a favorable gradient.  

A difference in size is generally what I hear about most. Being the smaller fighter is seldom better. Me saying that tends to surprise people as I am a small person. I think they assume I will tell them that my build is QUEEN. Smaller is better! Little ninjas, rise up!!!!!

Fact is, that's just not the case. However, there are ways to make the most of a smaller size. Every trained fighter makes the most of what they are. You can read all about that in my posts on size disparity. There are two. There's this one.  And this one.

As sub-optimal as it is to be the smaller opponent, a disparity in fighting ability is a far greater gap to bridge. It's not impossible. The only absolute in fighting is that there are no absolutes. Anything can happen. But, I would not get in the ring with a professional fighter betting on that "anything" that could happen. It's highly likely that, part of that "anything," would involve my coach or Jesus slapping my cheek and telling me to wake up because the fight is over.

The better someone is at something, the easier that person makes it look. Writers know this all too well. What looks like it took thirty minutes to pen could have taken days. It's the same with fighting. The pros make it look effortless. And because professional fighters fight other professional fighters, the difficulty of fighting is completely obscured by their expertise. 

It's tough to appreciate the skill of a professional fighter without experiencing it first hand. But...this video does a pretty decent job at showing you what I mean! Pay attention to not only what the pro does but the novices as well.

First, I hope you noted how fast Kryzystof, a.k.a. Ksos, moved. He avoided 25% or more of the punches just by movement. I think sometimes large fighters are thought of as slower. That is not the case. And, even if a heavy weight is a bit slower, his greater mass will compensate for the slower speed and still create a lot of force. (Blame Physics.) 

Other than movement, Ksos avoided direct contact with simple techniques. Using his hands and forearms, he interrupted or redirected the punches. His movements weren't big or flashy. He did just enough to get the job done.

He also put his hands on his face in a way that might not have seemed like much of a defense. In fact, it kinda resembled cowering. But, look again and notice that where Ksos put his hands on the sides of his head allowed his forearms to protect his jaws and neck. It's a move sometimes called, "answering the phone." Very smart. Very educated. Zero effort.

True professionals are efficient. They don't perform complicated moves. They do the most with the least because being tired will get you knocked down, knocked out or worse.
Like most people, the folks facing Ksos were untrained. I applaud every one of them. Getting in the ring with somebody like Kryzystof is daunting. Knowing somebody won't fight back doesn't erase the fact that they could!  

All of the novices knew they were being recorded. So, it stands to reason that they were doing their best. They could get fancy. They could be the fighter they always imagined that they could be. All they had to do was "unload." Yet, they didn't. Not one threw punches like machine gun fire. No one rushed Ksos or pushed him. Nobody tried to wipe his hands away from his face. I think only once or twice did anyone attempt to deliver an uppercut to his chin. And, as I said, only Briana made an effort to work his body. Why? Why didn't they just go for it?

Although I've not spoken to any of these people and I have no idea what rules they were to abide by, I feel pretty sure I know the answer because I have been in their shoes. When you are new to fighting, you just plain don't know what to do. And, even if you know a little about fighting, you don't have enough experience to be able to work under the effects of adrenaline. So, you forget what little you know.

Unless your character has been taught to fight, he or she will look much like the people in this video. They won't be throwing combos or flashy back fists. They may not even aim for the chin. Briana, my favorite, had to be coaxed into hitting Ksos. The heavyweight had to put his head down and tell her to hit it. That is very common. Even while sparring, folks will stop their punch just in front of the face or aim at the chest.  

Your character will also tire quickly. The movement of fighting does not allow for a steady breathing pattern. They might even hold their breath. Sounds crazy, but it happens. Both scenarios deprive the body of a steady flow of oxygen and tire a combatant out. Quickly.

So, if you have a skill disparity, you have your hands full. But, it's doable. The only limits of your work are the limits of your creativity. But, remember, your creativity must be credible. Regular folks off the street will not likely best a professional in hand-to-hand combat. But, "not likely" isn't the same as "not ever." Mwah ha ha ha.  

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Featured FightWriter: Heather Titus, Surviving a Throat Cut

Our featured FightWriter Heather Titus asks: Can a

character survive his throat being cut?

That is a very good question. And, I will counter it with a few of my own: Is the attack from the front or the back? And, what sort of knife is being used?  Both of those matter because each affects the answer.  Let’s tackle the latter first...firster. I like that better. We will tackle the latter firster.  

The type of knife can determine the attack. Every weapon looks the way it does because it serves the most efficient use of the weapon. A double-edged blade can be used to slash, but it’s really great for stabbing. So, if someone has a double-edged blade and they know what they are doing, they may choose to stab rather than slash.


Single-edged blades are really great at slashing. Yes, they can stab. But, they excel at incised cuts. Someone wielding a single-edge knife might be more likely to slash. And while slashes can be long, they are not as deep as a stab. Bear in mind that any clothing around the area, the collar of a shirt or jacket, might further inhibit the depth of the slash or impede the slash altogether.

Attack from the front
The direction from which the attack comes will also affect the strike. An attack from the front, not done well, can be less of a surprise. The target may move too quickly or knock the blade away.   

If the attacker has knife prowess, it might be better for him to stab than slash. A knife can be quickly drawn and a strike delivered before the target has a chance to process what is happening and defend. The victim may not even realize he has been stabbed. But, I’m not sure the neck would be the best area to attack. It would be far easier to go straight for the abdominal aorta.

From the back
From behind, a stab to the neck is fairly easy to accomplish provided the target is completely unaware and still. But, a stab to the base of the skull would be more productive and less messy than any slash.  HOWEVER, I’m sorry about all these buts and howevers, I spoke with Heather regarding the scenario she had in mind and she was considering a throat slash from behind.

Throat cuts from the back are common in action movies.  A character sneaks up behind his victim, then reaches around and covers the victim’s mouth to stifle any scream. The knife is then brought over the victim’s shoulder to the throat where the blade is pulled from under one ear to the other. Blood pours out in a smile shaped waterfall of red. Or black if it’s a black and white movie.

Truth is, colorful and dramatic as it might be, that sort of neck attack is really not the smartest way to kill somebody. Far too much can go wrong. First, when an attacker reaches around to cover the target’s mouth, he puts his forearm near to or in the path of the coming blade. He may cut himself worse than he does the target and/or inhibit the effectiveness of the knife strike. Also the victim can bite the attacker’s hand which may cause the attacker to drop the knife and/or cry out. 

That mouth cover also gives the victim a moment to respond before the blade comes around. If the victim responds appropriately, he can guard his neck from the coming blade and/or trap the wielding hand.

For these very reasons, special forces from several countries are discouraged from performing a kill from the back with a throat cut (Grossman, 1995). Instead, they are instructed to do a kidney strike. The pain from such a puncture renders a victim mute and somewhat paralyzed while they bleed out.

But, let’s say that sort of neck strike happens. What are the repercussions? The best way to figure that out is to look at the neck and its structures.  

Yep, all of that is crammed into your neck. Here’s what happens when the major structures are injured.

Arteries / Large Veins –  This from

Cuts to the neck and throat can cause rapid, high-volume blood loss. Deep horizontal slashes or multiple thrusts to the right side of the neck can sever the right common carotid artery or internal jugular vein. Cuts to the left side can sever the left common carotid artery. Be aware that both carotid arteries are well protected by several layers of muscle in the neck and are set deeper in the neck than the jugular. Creating an effective laceration in this area requires decisive force. Severing the carotid artery can cause unconsciousness, just like when using the carotid restraint. Thrusts or slashes to the front of the throat may damage the trachea (windpipe) or larynx (voicebox). Injuries to these areas are painful and will cause difficulty in breathing. (4)

Muscles – If a large muscle like the sternocleidomastoid is severed, the head will fall to the uninjured side. The victim will have to hold his head upright.

Thyroid – Slicing the thyroid will cause a great amount of bleeding. But, I didn’t find anything that said it would be enough to kill someone. What might kill a victim is injury to the parathyroid glands. The parathyroid glands regulate calcium levels in the blood. Without these glands, calcium levels can drop and cause cardiac arrest (3).

Trachea  – Cutting the trachea can disrupt the vacuum in the body that the diaphragm uses to pull in air.  With a big enough cut, the body will not be able to inhale and the victim will suffocate. Suffocation can take around three minutes but the victim will pass out sooner than that.  The cut can also cause air to leak into the neck and cause it to swell. That condition could cause a lung to collapse.

Vocal Cord Nerves – If either of the nerves that lead to the vocal cords are cut, there will be complete vocal paralysis. That doesn’t mean the victim can’t cry out. It means the voice will be breathy and hoarse.

To finally answer the question, can a character survive a throat cut: Yes, especially if appropriate trauma care and poor aim come into play.

Hockey goalie Clint Malarchuck survived a throat slash sustained by a stray skate. The team trainer reached into the wound and pinched the severed artery, effectively preserving the goalie’s life. He was back on the ice in ten days(1).

Actor Daniel Hoevels survived an on stage throat cut when someone replaced his prop knife with a proper knife. Thankfully, he missed major vessels. He was back on stage the next night because, you know, the show must go on(2).   

Thank you so much, Heather for your question! 

To learn more about Heather and her writing visit her site at

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