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Q&A: First Aid

Wounds and injuries will always happen when fighting. Any advice on treating them? Are ointments and salves a good idea?

It depends on the injury and what you’re applying.

For minor cuts and scrapes, the first thing you want to do is disinfect the wound. Rubbing alcohol works best for this. Turns out, hydrogen peroxide, doesn’t really. Worst case, clean water will clear debris from the wound, and can wash away some potential contaminates. There are other potential disinfectants, though, usually, alcohol is the one that comes to mind for me.

For what it’s worth, even hard liquor will work for this. So if you’re wondering about a western where people are using whiskey or gin to clean a wound, that does work.

On the other hand, ground water, rain water, or melted snow will not, and can present another potential vector for infection. If you boil it first, it can be used to clean a wound, but it wouldn’t have any disinfecting properties.

Once a wound has been cleaned, you can apply a gel to seal the wound over. Most of the time you’re talking about something like petroleum jellies (so Neosporin or Vaseline). These are, technically ointments, if you’re wondering. Another possible (and messier) example would be honey. The stuff is thick enough that it becomes a bacteriostatic barrier, and that can help to seal a wound while it heals.

After that, you can bandage it up and you’re good to go.

Some important details though. Understanding how bacterial infection works is a fairly modern concept. Particularly, understanding bacterial infection and the need to disinfect wounds dates to the mid-19th century. So, knowing you need to use whiskey to clean a gunshot wound in 1895 Texas make sense. Doing the same during the civil war, slightly less so.

More serious wounds will require more involved treatment. Someone who’s been shot or run through will require more extensive medical treatment than just slapping on an ointment and hoping for the best.

For broken bones, you’d need to stabilize and immobilize the break. Yes, setting breaks is a thing. No, you shouldn’t do it unless you’re a trained professional. Also, it’s much harder than TV makes it look.

If someone has been stabbed, and the blade is still sticking out of them, don’t pull it out. Leave that for the actual medical professionals. You’ll do more damage, and increase the bleeding, getting it out, than you would if you left it there. The same thing goes for arrow shafts, bullets, or, really, any other foreign object stuck in someone. Unless it’s actively continuing to kill them, don’t remove it. Seriously, pulling it out, and especially digging it out, will do more damage. There are some rare edge cases, but leave those for the professionals, who know what they’re doing. Pulling the knife out of your buddy can be a fantastic way to kill them. I mean, if you want to pull the knife out of yourself to stab someone else, sure, that’s kinda badass. Stupid, unhealthy, and a terrible idea, but have fun with that.

With bruises, there really isn’t much to do. You can watch it, and make sure that the swelling starts to come down. If it doesn’t, then that’s a much more serious issue. Otherwise, it’s just a sub-dermal (meaning below the skin) hemorrhage (meaning bleeding). You can put ice on it if that makes you feel better, but, really, it’s simply there.

Really, minor bruises are a fact of life for most fights. You’re going to pick some up no matter how “good” you are. Armor does help a lot with these. If you’ve got some anesthetic cream you want to smear on one, feel free. It’s (probably) not hurting anything. You can ice it, if that helps manage the pain, for you. Or you can live with them. Outside of some extremely rare cases, they’re not life threatening.

-Starke

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not sure if this counts as a fight question, but in stories (esp tv/movies with high visual impact) that have a character that does psychic power things with their mind or are victims of psychic powers, often they’re shown bleeding from their nose or ears to illustrate when they’ve “overdone it” (re Stranger Things) or if they’re overcoming psychic control (re Get Out) and i’m curious why that is? is it just pressure on the brain and blood coming from the nearest orifice? what are the logistics?

It’s a burst blood vessel. Or, sometimes, multiple ones. This is a real condition that can happen. Not the psychic powers, but if you’ve ever coughed, sneezed, or vomited hard enough to get a nose bleed, same thing. This can also lead to minor hemorrhaging in the eye. Unless it’s happening frequently, this stuff isn’t a serious medical issue, just an annoyance.

Bleeding from the tear ducts or ears is less common, but It can happen. If it’s a one off thing, a ruptured blood vessel in the nose isn’t usually something you’d need to worry about, unless it’s recurring. If it does happen repeatedly, than you should probably see a doctor.

-Starke

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Did you see Wonder Woman? The fighting that the Amazons did was extremely choreographic and really beautiful to watch for a plebeian like me, but did it seem grounded in reality?

There’s nothing about Wonder Woman that’s grounded in reality. This is an intentional design decision and, to be fair, the likes of Atomic Blonde and Haywire aren’t either. In Haywire’s case, it’s because what makes for a good MMA fight is about as far from SpecOps as you can get.

The combat seen in Wonder Woman is stylistically designed to be superhuman because Diana and the Amazons are superhuman. They’re immortal, godlike beings who live on a paradise island hidden from the rest of the world. Their combat style and choreography emphasizes that aspect of their characters. It’s part of the visual storytelling ongoing to show us who and what they are.

Wonder Woman is the sort of archetypal character meant to inspire, who we look up at in wonder, who inspires us to be better, and to believe in ourselves.

The combat isn’t grounding in reality and it doesn’t need to be. In reality, we can’t reflect bullets with gauntlets and walking across No Man’s Land with just a shield would just lead to Diana’s legs being shot out from under her by a gatling gun. Realism isn’t the point of the movie though.
Besides that,
Wonder Woman
is no more realistic than Captain America fighting Nazis with a shield or Batman doing whatever Batman does in the Dark Knight. Or Athena kicking Ares keister in the Illiad.

Wonder Woman walking into the No Man’s Land is thematic not realistic, and that’s the same for the movie’s fight choreography. Hear it: Wonder Woman walks into No Man’s Land. You don’t even need the visual to feel a sense of awe. This woman walking where soldiers are scared to go.

This is archetypal, mythic storytelling with mythic heroes.

The problem is that “grounded in reality” has become the new version of “believable” or “suspension of disbelief” or “relateable” except with much more restrictive rules. Usually because this justification is really “I don’t like it, therefore”. Used more often to shut down conversation than start it, because “realism” sounds more legitimate than personal preference or inherent bias. If you’re ever in a discussion with someone and they can’t elaborate on why it isn’t “realistic” with a genre that was never about realism anyway, then you can usually say this is why.

Realism as an argument gets brought up a lot with superheroes, and the idea that anything in the superhero genre (and this includes superspies) is real is laughable. It’s called “superhero fiction” for a reason, and DC’s heroes from the Gold and Silver Age are all archetypal, mythic heroes who are better than humanity and through which we find the best of ourselves.

What’s real are the emotions and beliefs Wonder Woman inspires in you, the sense of awe, the wonder, and the hope. To hope for and fight for a better future than the one we see before us. To inspire our dreams so we find the courage to chase them. To look up at the stars instead of down at our feet.
To believe we’ll find victory so long as we keep getting up again.

To remind us we can change the world.

Sometimes, we just need freedom reality’s constraints to find the best in ourselves. Inspire us to see who we could be, beyond what we’ve previously believed to be possible.

You know how many glorious scientific inventions we have because of science fiction? Like hoverboards from Back to the Future. Or flip phones from Star Trek. They weren’t grounded in reality either when they were imagined. There was only the possibility they might, maybe exist… someday.

When discussing anything creative try and remember this: no is not a shut down nor does it remove the idea’s value.

Rather, any explanation on the subject is meant to help us gain a better understanding of the subject. The more we know then the more choices become available, and we’re able to pick the one best for us. 

The choreographers, directors, and producers who put together the Amazon’s combat style are people who have a firm grasp of how combat is supposed to work both onscreen and off it. They chose this route because what we see on screen is representative of the themes they had in mind and the story they were trying to tell. It was intentional, not accidental. They knew what they wanted.

The point is don’t be discouraged from chasing after a feeling or a dream just because fiction is what inspired you. The difference between fantasy and reality is the will we have to take ourselves there.

-Michi

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Hi! I was just reading Alex Rider and came across a part that mentioned Alex beating up a group of bullies and it got me wondering. If trained child combatant who was going to a normal public school how would the school as a whole (faculty, parents and students) react to of a story circulating regarding a kid taking on five and going to the ex-special forces levee of brutality to win? How could it be covered up?

Looking at the real world, if you have a kid who’s been
getting training from their parent… look, this shouldn’t happen. Most
responsible adults with advanced combat  training won’t teach it to their kids. Most. But, it does happen. You will
occasionally run across kids who’ve had police or military hand to hand
training. They have a parent who’s a cop, or spent tours oversees. The kid may
be responsible with this information. Or, something like this could (and does)
happen. Maybe it was some misguided, “teaching them to fight,” machismo by
their parent. Maybe the kid just wasn’t quite stable, or simply made a
miscalculation. There’s a lot of potential factors.

The result is pretty messy, however. Criminal investigations,
of both the parent and the child.
Depending on the severity of whatever they meted out, you may be looking
at criminal charges, potentially being charged as an adult. A kid snaps, gouges
out the eyes of an opponent, and kills another by crushing their trachea, and
you could easily see a kid in modern America sentenced to +25 years in prison.
This can easily spill over onto their parents. It’s not hard to see a situation
where an older kid could get their younger siblings taken by CPS in order to, “protect,”
them from the parent responsible for this training in the first place.

There’s also a real liability issue for the school and the
kid’s parents. If you’re wondering about the idea of a cover-up in the real
world, that would be stopped dead by civil litigation. Say whatever you want
about America being overly litigious, but things like this are why tort law
exists. This would also become a factor regardless of the bullies being alive
after the encounter. Someone trained this kid; they’re responsible. Someone let
this kid wander around free, waiting for something like this to happen (even if
they didn’t know); they’re responsible. This means, even if he kills all the
bullies, and there’s no witnesses, you still couldn’t bury this thing fast
enough.

The irony here is, even if the bullies provoked this
response, it’s still indefensible, and in the eyes of everyone the kid who went too far, and started turning people into
meat origami, and they will be held responsible.

This is something every martial artist lives with’ the more
training you have, the less force you’re allowed to use to defend yourself. The
thought process goes (accurately) that you need to apply less force to ensure
your safety, and that of others. It becomes far easier to become the aggressor,
legally. This still applies to your kid. Age really isn’t a factor in that. It
doesn’t matter if it’s a teen or an adult, with advanced hand to hand training.
They go off and start killing people, even in self defense, it’s going to be
viewed far more carefully than if a white belt screwed up and accidentally
killed a mugger.

So, yeah, that’s not going to be fun.

There’s another factor here worth remembering, bullies are
looking for easy victims. They don’t always succeed in finding them, and they
probably couldn’t tell you how they identify their potential victims. Normally,
bullies will avoid someone with combat training. This isn’t intentional
behavior, so much as a subconscious response. Martial training builds
self-confidence. In turn, this makes them look less like ideal victims to a
bully. Somewhat obviously, it’s not 100%. Some people really are too stupid to
live, but that tends to be a self-solving issue.

So, let’s put this back in its intended perspective for a
minute. Or at least, as much as I can, having never read the Alex Rider books.

You’re an intelligence agency that just took complete leave
of its senses and trained a teenager to be a superspy. They then took that
training and used it on civilians? Your next phone call is to get a cleaner on
site to bullet the kid in the back of the head, and dump them in a landfill,
hog farm, or whatever’s nearby, then pretend that kid never existed in the first place. Let everything after that become
one more mystery, because really who’ll notice?

After all, if you couldn’t trust them to keep their training
secret, what hope do you have that they won’t flip and start spewing classified
information to anyone with a badge or a gun? You can’t afford that. No one can.

Worst case, leaving the body where it landed won’t really
lead back to your doorstep. There’s an awkward truth to homicide
investigations: If the killer and victim are total strangers, it can become
damn near impossible to identify them. A cleaner with an unregistered .44 can
leave your teen spy in a pool of their own blood, and slip the perimeter before
the local PD figures out what happened. They’re used to giving authoritarian
regimes the slip; what are the NYPD going to do? Seal Manhattan over one
homicide? Yeah, right.

Not killing the kid and just turning them loose will result
in a psychologically unstable rogue agent who may have information you really don’t want in the wild, and their
cover is now blown. So any rival groups could potentially make a play for them,
or try to disappear them for their own use. That’s another big problem, but
hey, it’s a tough world. Hell, even M threatened to have James Bond killed at
least once, right?

Also, having a kid flip out like this is a training failure for your agency. I mean, it’s one thing when
we’re talking about some guy who was teaching their kid Krav Maga in their
basement,  but if you’re supposed to be a
respectable intelligence agency, you really needed to make sure your spy would
actually be able to operate in the field. That doesn’t mean shirking the issue
of bullies, but it does mean finding other, more creative, ways to neutralize
them. Not necessarily non-violent means, though those would be preferable.
Planting evidence, framing them for crimes, or just straight up blackmailing
them into public confessions are all on the table, but taking the direct
approach for no substantive gain? No, that’s just bad tradecraft. It exposes
the kid, it exposes your agency, and it does this for no benefit.

If there’s a lesson for your writing, it’s that no one is too important to kill if they
become a big enough problem. I realize this kind of flips the script on the
superspy genre. But, given the provided scenario, there’s no compelling reason
not to snuff them. Any cover-up needs to start with tying up loose ends. That
means the kid and anyone he confided in. Best case, just him. Worst case, it’s
time to dig out the tarps and deep six a few friends and acquaintances. Just be
quick, clean, and make sure there’s nothing left that can tie back to you, and
you’re golden.

Now, this doesn’t mean that assassinating the kid needs to
be successful. The odds aren’t in their favor, but they could find a way to survive.
I mean, the entire Bourne film franchise is based off a rogue agent working
against his old handlers (the novels are slightly
different). But, it is the reasonable response, especially when working in a genre
that goes through supporting characters like popcorn. It’s easy to sit back and
think, “well, that doesn’t apply to this character, because they’re one of the
main characters.” Splat. Not so much, it seems.

One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged (in genre
fiction) is to find ways to subtly violate the conventions of your genre by
remaining true to the nature of your characters. Especially if those characters are baked into the genre itself. The
superspy genre is (usually) very lethal, selectively. It kills off characters
who aren’t important to the narrative. It will wax the mentor, the old friend,
people your protagonist cares about, because it’s expected. But, it rarely
turns around and puts a bullet in the protagonist because they became too much
of a problem… unless you’re Sean Bean.

It’s probably worth saying, in closing, you really can’t
train a teenager as a spy. Maybe for sigint, but not spies like you think of
them. Working in human intelligence includes a staggering amount of
psychological pressure. Most adults can’t handle it. Part of the training
process is about screening out recruits that simply wouldn’t be able to survive
the job. While you could subject a teenager to this, their chances of coming
out the side as a functional operative, or even alive, are extremely low. It’s
one thing to wave this for because you’re looking at the superspy genre, but that
operates with a comfortable disconnection from reality. When you start asking, “but,
how would this actually work?” Everything starts to come apart at the seams.

-Starke

Since I didn’t work a reference in along the way, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is still a fantastic look at spies, and absolutely worth your time. Amusingly, it’s not the first novel in the series, but is an excellent book.

Also, I’ll say it again, the first couple seasons of Burn Notice are a fantastic tradecraft primer. They’re not perfect, but the narrator offers a lot of excellent insight into how to exploit human nature.

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Recently you talked about reflex sights – what are the differences/pros and cons of reflex vs red dot vs holo sights?

The short, slightly sarcastic, and not completely inaccurate answer would be, holo sights cost a lot more.

Reflex sights are optics that use a semi-reflective surface to provide targeting information. These will bounce a light off said surface, usually a red or green LED, which when viewed from the appropriate position, will tell you roughly where the object is pointed. I’m phrasing it like this because reflex sights are actually used for a lot of different things, including nautical navigation tools, telescopes, and even some disposable cameras.

The advantages for reflex sights are that they’re relatively cheap, and
they usually have a fairly substantial battery life. The internals are
just an LED and a reflective glass layer. (Technically, there are a few variations of the technology; for convenience I’m describing the one used with firearms.)

Holo sights are, as the name suggests, actually holographic. They use a laser diode to create the targeting reticle in three dimensional space. This opens up some additional functionality that’s either difficult or impossible to obtain with a reflex sight. The big feature is the ability to adjust for range and windage. Finally, unlike reflex sights, they don’t need to have a tinted layer to catch the reflected light, so the optics are slightly clearer.

The most common firearm reflex sights are red or green dot sights. These use a red or green LED to create the targeting point. That said, some holo sights use a dot aim point. In that sense a red dot sight is more descriptive than an identifier.

Picking a color comes down to user preference. In general, red light has the least affect on night vision. Also because of the prevalence of ruby lasers and red LEDs, some people do approach firearms with the feeling that red is the “right” color.

The human eye is more sensitive to subtle differences in green than any other color. This is part of why some night vision setups display their feedback in green monochrome. In theory, this makes green dot sights easier to see. For some people this honestly seems to be the case. Also why you’ll sometimes see green lasers used as targeters on firearms.

Red and green aren’t the only options. Common LEDs include blue, white, and yellow, so if someone wanted an amber dot sight, that is an option. (Though, you’re going to be paying extra.)

There are other factors. Red was used because red LEDs were very cheap to produce until relatively recently.

Blue LEDs only date back to the 1990s. There’s also the direct physiological factors. Historically red light has been believed to produce limited or no eye adaptation, and had the least effect on night vision. My understanding is, that’s not really true, and that green/blue light actually interferes less with night vision, but this is a discussion I’m not fully versed in.

The idea of a dot sight, as opposed to other reticles is purely preference. A dot has a cleaner profile, but provides less information to the user. Just a simple, “bullets go here (we think).” Ring sights, or lines can be useful for judging drift, and can help the user adjust their aim. Alternately, the reticle selected may simply be to speed up target acquisition. This one really is about personal preference. A ring sight isn’t better than a dot sight, it’s about which works for the user.

On more expensive reflex sights (and most holo sights) it’s fairly common to have the ability to switch out the reticle on the fly. So, picking the right one is sometimes about choosing what’s right for this moment, not just picking one and sticking with it.

I will say, video games tend to gloss over these things. I can’t remember the last time I played a game that actually tinted the window for a reflex sight (maybe Far Cry 4), and I don’t think I’ve ever played one that attempted to display a holo sight properly.

Incidentally, some stuff that you can, technically do, includes open reflex sights, where the glass layer exposed to the air. You probably wouldn’t want to do this, because of the potential for damage, but it is a real option, and (partially) open reflex sights do exist. Ultimately reflex sights do need a surface to bounce off of. The name “reflex,” is a shortening of, “reflective,” not a reference to the user’s ability to react quickly.

One thing you can’t do is have a free floating hologram over the weapon. Existing technology doesn’t really allow for this, so you can’t have those neat holographic heads up displays you’ll occasionally see in sci-fi. That said, it’s just not something we can do today, not something that’s impossible.

-Starke

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Is it at all possible to use a whip like people do in movies? Like in Castlevania, Trevor uses it to cut someones finger off and rip another persons eye out. Thanks!

The whip Trevor Belmont is using is called “The Vampire Killer” and it’s a mystical weapon, but I don’t know whether that’s the one he’s using in the anime or if he gets it later. You can assume though that the Belmont’s have mystical powers. What Trevor Belmont is using is a bullwhip, if you want other examples of the whip being used in film there’s Indiana Jones and The Mask of Zorro.

You can put someone’s eye out with a whip, but you can’t rip it out and you can’t get enough force going with a leather whip to cut someone’s finger off.

A chain whip? Oh hell yeah. You can take a finger off with that.

What I will say is worth taking from the new Castlevania anime is not what Trevor does with the whip so much as how he handles it. A good example is the final fight with Alucard. Where he uses it to trip, where he uses it as a disarming tool, and does a good job of showing how it always remains in motion. One aspect Castlevania does get right with Trevor is the use of the secondary hand for guidance when rapidly changing direction, when he wants small circles or very specific strikes he’d be unable to achieve with just his wrist.

The whip as a weapon is a useful secondary or supporting weapon to your primary. It works better as a harassment tool, a means to create openings, trip your opponent up, lash them, and wear them out. Whips and chain weapons travel on circular strike paths that are difficult to block. In the hands of a master, they can rapidly change direction mid strike and circle around the sword or spear to hit their target.

If you want to take a finger off, then you’ll need to attach a blade to the end as seen in the whip chain, the rope dart, or (to crush it) the meteor hammer.

The basic beginner stage to ground your understanding of how this works is the yoyo.

The whip has it’s place as a secondary weapon in multiple martial arts, and the tip will give you some serious burns. If you want to look into the whip as a defense tool, Anthony De Longis is a good place to start.

Keep in mind, however, that the weakness of all chain/rope/whip weapons is space. You need space to be able to get the techniques off. Even with lineal striking, you need room. It is a ranged weapon, and one that requires a lot more space to work than a gun or a bow.

So, yes, you can use it as a weapon. You probably also want your characters carrying weapons that are more versatile like the sword or a knife or a gun, that can make up for the situations were the whip falls short.

If  you’re in an open space and you want to keep five attackers on the defensive then it’s great. You can scare the shit out of them and keep a full defense going. However, you can’t really do it in your living room.

-Michi

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Hey I’m trying to write a scene where one character is fighting using hook swords while the other is simply using a mace. I want for the fight to end in the mace user winning, however I’m having issues figuring out some weaknesses to using hook swords online and I’d rather have them win the fight in a more creative way than just brute forcing it since even though physically the mace user is stronger, they’re effectively on the same level as far as actual fighting goes. Any suggestions?

You’ve got a serious problem and that problem is mismatched weaponry.

A mace is twenty six inches long.

A hook sword is roughly thirty three and a quarter.

That’s an almost eight inch difference in length, and it’s only the first issue.

The hook swords are faster with a longer reach, lighter, and there’s two of them. The blades on the hilt and the pommel mean they can still be deadly in close range, even potentially switching into a reverse grip.

The second point is these weapons were considered difficult to master, and due to Chinese traditions with martial combat come with the experience of an entire martial art behind them. That’s one of the northern styles like Northern Shaolin. The one aspect to ground yourself with about Asian martial arts tradition is: the more advanced the weapon, the later it’s learned.

For the purposes of these traditions your basic weapons serve similarly to the basic hand to hand techniques learned when we begin training in any style, and these weapons form the foundational understanding of all weapon types. We cannot battle the sword if we do not understand it, we cannot battle the staff if it is unknown. The technique used when wielding a basic staff are the foundation for those utilized with the three-sectional and so on.

European training systems don’t really work this way and were far less formalized, though it’s much more difficult to know what their training looked like. Either way, the mace has a much lower entry level in terms of skill.

Add to that, dual wielding weapons is extremely difficult and the longer
the weapon the more difficult it becomes. Your hands and arms need to
be able to perform complex techniques simultaneously, together and
separately, with a balanced body. Your mind must track both weapons, and
utilize both tactically against your opponent or the one you’re not
using becomes a liability. A well rounded dual wield system will utilize
one weapon (or in this case both) as a means of defense, to block,
deflect, or disarm incoming strikes while the other attacks. Or, they attack together. Two weapons can blitzkrieg on a multitude of angles, strike one after the other, left and right, high and low, forcibly keeping their opponent on the defensive.

It is a very aggressive form of combat and difficult to master. When it is, (with workable weaponry designed for dual wielding) you’ve got a very dangerous fighter.

So, we have a the wielder of a complicated, unusual, difficult weapon designed for speedy, unarmored civilian combat and from a system requiring significant time investment against a guy with a mace.

Unless the one with the mace has armor and a shield, the hook swords have the advantage. They are also designed to be used in unarmored combat, and function in that role far better than a mace. The mace is a specific weapon with a very limited battlefield role as it’s meant to use blunt force to crack open tin cans.

There’s the additional point that dual wielding effectively in battle also requires a fairly high level of training, as there’s much higher risk of the blades catching on each other. Also, given one weapon is European (assuming we’re discussing the European variants of the mace) and the other is Chinese (including the information that the hook sword was a fairly rare weapon to see in use) the idea that they’re on the same level so far as training is unlikely.

Two people from two different styles are unlikely to ever be “equally matched” due to stylistic differences and training approaches. This is part of why two different people trained in two different styles are so exciting when they’re fighting because “equally matched” is thrown out the window into the unknown. And anything so far as versus with these two is merely supposition anyway as the two cultures were at very different technological points when they encountered each other.

In fairness, the hook swords would be similarly mismatched against the rapier due to its length and might be cut to pieces about as quickly. What advantages the hook swords have versus, say, a spear, are out against longer bladed weapons.

Chinese weaponry like the hook swords tend to favor circular motion, the whole weapon is bladed, and falls towards cutting as opposed to striking with the tip. The dual hooks allows them to hook weapons for a disarm, or stop them midstrike. It can also hook arms, legs, or around the back of the neck, with blades on the pommel and handguard meant to keep it’s use in range transitions.

The mace is a weapon that also moves in circles because of how it gains force, the problem is it’s slower. The heavier head on the mace is means by which it generates force, creating greater momentum as it swings. It’s not a matter of strength, but physics and not entirely dissimilar in concept to a baseball bat. However, the heavy head means it will be slower compared to a light blade like a rapier or an epee which are closer in type to the jian and also designed around the idea of unarmored combat.

The one with the mace needs a shield. They needs some way to get close enough to their opponent to bring their weapon into play, otherwise they’re just sitting there with their thumb up their ass as they’re being carved to pieces.

The big issue with weapons is if the other guy can hit you before you can hit him then you’re in serious trouble. I’d worry less about brute force. If you want the wielder with the mace to win, they need a way to get close enough to hit before any other consideration comes up. Then there’s the hook swords’ and their ability to create an escrima stick like defense with blades. Blades whose design intent is to be wielded together.

There’s nothing equal about it, the character with the mace is at a serious disadvantage. One which will get him killed in a straight fight.This isn’t the kind of disadvantage which can be brute forced through, your hero is going to need to be clever. That cleverness begins with utilizing his environment in order to limit the hook swords utility and ability to move.

The answer to dealing with the katana in a modern environment is a tight hallway, preferentially with furniture. Best case, they unsheath it and it ends up in a wall. Worst case, they’re stuck with thrusts. The katana doesn’t thrust that well compared to other swords.

Figuring out potential ways to defeat a weapon in combat begins with understanding how the weapon moves and what you plan to bring against it. It’s not statistics. It’s not physical strength. It’s not equal levels of training. Or anything outside what’s happening in the moment. You have the person and you have the weapon, and it starts by figuring out how both work together (and separately).

Any “here are two cultures who never encountered each other, who had better weapons?” question invites fanboy infighting that usually benefits no one. Besides that, while there’s more available information on Eastern martial cultures than there used to be, the Chinese martial traditions are still insular. To really understand the weapon you’d need to have a conversation with those who practice with them, preferable the masters. Cross-referencing history for when the hook swords were in use and what kind of combat they saw would also be helpful. Fortunately, Chinese cinema and Hong Kong action films will provide you with lots of choreography to chew through.

The Chinese did have a mace variant called the
Chuí, which eventually lost it’s head and moved on to beating people with two metal shafts.

I have no idea if any of this helps, but hopefully it gives you some grounding to work from.

-Michi

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(I don’t know of this a question for you or @scriptmedic but I’m hoping you’ll be able to help a little) how effective is the carotid strike actually? Will it actually knock someone out and does it cause brain damage like other knockouts? Is there any way to block against it or lessen the effect? Thank you so much and am very grateful for your blog ))

If I’m bluntly honest, I’m not sure how you could strike the carotid artery in a way that would cut off the flow of blood long enough to render someone unconscious without also killing them.

If you’re deliberately cutting off the flow of blood to the brain by compressing the carotid, that would be a blood choke. As we’ve said before, those can turn lethal with shocking speed. But, I’m not seeing where a strike to the neck would temporarily block the flow of blood long enough to put someone under, without cutting off the flow long enough to kill them.

Assuming you managed to find a way to do this, you’d be dealing with the same problems associated with knocking someone out. You’re cutting off oxygen to the brain and hoping you get a very specific kind of brain damage. I mean, this is the problem here; you’re asking for a way to inflict brain damage without inflicting brain damage.

Even if you did manage to put someone down, as with chokes, you’re talking about the victim being unconscious for a few seconds. So, the value of doing so is fairly limited.

The martial arts I’m aware of that practice strikes to the neck, like Krav Maga, don’t particularly care if the victim survives. They’re more interested in decisively ending a threat and, generally speaking, the dead aren’t much of a threat.

There’s an irony here; you’re describing a kill strike that the victim might be able to accidentally survive. Not, the other way around.

Writers like to use knockouts as a “safe” alternative to killing someone. I’m as guilty of this as anyone. But, the reality is that being knocked unconscious is close enough to killing someone that you really can’t selectively inflict the desired outcome. Similarly, you can’t knock someone out for long periods of time, without inflicting severe brain damage. It can, and does happen, but you can’t choose that result.

Ultimately, this stuff comes from a desire to include, “safe” violence. I’m sorry. There is no such thing. No one who engages in violence has full control over the situation. Some people like to think they do, but they’re deluding themselves. You can have characters who try to do the Batman, “I control all the factors,” but without (some very specifically tuned) superpowers, they really don’t.

Attempting to knock someone out, by any means, means you’re taking on the very real risk that the victim will end up dead. That’s a potential outcome.

-Starke

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Question how effective do you think wire would be if used as a trap that involves either someone falling onto them or the wire being moved around them at a very fast rate?

You mean a tripwire or bola? Those can and do work. Bolas are a bit of an oddity, though they are functional. Tripwires, in spite of their name, aren’t usually used to trip someone, but it can happen.

Normally, tripwires are used to activate (or trip) a trap. They’re a triggering device, not the trap itself. For example, run a bit of fishing line between two trees, then rig it against a grenade (technically this is a little more complicated than just tying it to the pin), and you’ll have an improvised mine.

Laser tripwires are similar. You send out a beam of light, then bounce it off a mirror, and check to see if that beam has been broken. If it does, you set off the alarm, lock the doors, and nuke Detroit.

Now, actually tripping over a line? It can happen. I mean, I’ve tripped over the coax cables in the apartment enough times. It will knock you off balance for a few seconds, but it’s not going to send most adults sprawling. So this is more of a trap for toddlers and the clumsy.

You’d get the most mileage out of these by suddenly springing them up in front of a running target. There are ways to do this, but it’s a very situational option.

Bolas are a pair (or more) weighted balls attached to the ends of a thin rope or chord. You throw these with the intention of it wrapping around an animal’s legs tripping them. From what I understand, they actually work pretty well. When the string connects the closer weight will continue traveling and secure itself to that leg, while the longer end will (usually) loop around another leg pulling itself tight as it wraps around. They’re an indigenous weapon of South America, and even saw battlefield use historically.

The downside is that learning the bola does take a lot of practice. They are fairly easy to build in the field, and it is a weapon that someone stranded in the wilderness could realistically fabricate.

So, they work but are difficult to use.

-Starke

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I’ve read your posts on female armor, and it really helped me with designing armor for my female superhero, but I have a concern: would wearing a flat breastplate inhibit a well-endowed woman? It almost seems like it would make it hard for her to breathe, especially if she’s bigger and taller than average (my character stands at 6′ 2″)

That… is an anime gag.

There are medical conditions which can cause this, but if there’s breathing issues then that’s a clothing issue and if the armor is causing you to be short of breath then… the armor is useless and not doing its job.

Corsets and any sort of binding that doesn’t allow the lungs/chest cavity/ribs/diaphragm to expand will cause shortness of breath in… either gender. It is historically more common in women because of, well, fashion. You didn’t need to be well-endowed to fall prey to the whale-bone corsets of the 18th century. (Which also led to miscarriages.)

The argument you’re referring to is one common among fanboys, primarily as a justification for boobplate and the fetishistic armor choices for female superheroes. For all it’s claims to realism, it has zero bearing on reality.

The weight of your boobs doesn’t make you short of breath or hamper your ability to breathe. It can, in some cases, be painful during high energy activities when they’re bouncing around but the solution is called a sports bra. (Besides, big boobs can disappear fast depending on the type of activity. You ever seen runners or professional female athletes in almost… well, anything? Muscle burns fat, and your chest muscles will start with your chest. No fat, they shrink.)

The Most Common Superpower joke is that women get to keep theirs and stay conventionally attractive when engaging in highly aerobic activity.

If we want to start with the issue in the presentation of female action heroes it begins here. (And that men, and some women, usually don’t understand how breasts work.) Or have this idea the issue has never been addressed because women don’t participate in sport activity anyway.

Breasts. Are. Just. There.

She’s a superhero. Her armor is custom designed. If whoever made her armor didn’t take into account the size of her chest or provide support then they are crappy at their job and armor design in general.

The issues we run into with armor is when it is either:

A) Not yours. Or..

B) One size fits all, but you’d still be able to function in it.

If you can’t move in the armor then that’s an issue that needs to be addressed at a design level but it’s not insurmountable. This is why armorers and tailors exist.

Besides, if the other option you’re considering is boob plate then that wouldn’t solve the issue. I guarantee boob plate is more uncomfortable, and will guide weapon points straight to your heart. This is an argument I’ve seen brought up a lot (by men) to justify the existence of boobplate or going without armor for “realism”. It is not only BS, it’s annoying. It ignores both reality (female combatants of history) and human ingenuity to prop up outdated sexism. It’s like they think female athletes never address the issues of their chest size. Well, I’m here to tell you: we already solved this one and it’s called a sports bra. In the real world, we get a bras that are designed to support the weight of our boobage during athletic activities.

Women can, however, STILL RUN without problems with a regular bra or even no support at all.

You, however, may want to address the underlying sexism nipping at your approach to this character. If you genuinely believe cramming big breasts into a tactical vest is going to cause breathing issues then you’ve got a lot of your own to work out. That is also the problem with sexism. The misinformation is so baked into every bit of common knowledge meant to justify a certain sexist approach then held up as realistic that most people never think about it.

Again, the kind of breathing issues we’re talking about come from corsets and not armor. A corset tightens your waist, and will result in issues because of the diaphram/stomach can’t expand. When performing aerobic exercise, you need your diaphragm (thus expanding your ribs) to breathe. The diaphragm allows more air to pass through your body, which means more oxygen in your blood being carried to your muscles. Without them, you’re stuck breathing entirely with your upper chest, and that will be a problem when engaging in athletic activity. If the expansion of the chest is also cut off, then… you’re really up a creek. This is what causes the fainting fits of the 18th century. Women wearing clothing that doesn’t allow them to draw enough oxygen into their bodies to keep their brains cognizant.

It’s also why you never want to bind your breasts with anything like Ace bandages because Ace bandages are designed to continually constrict around an injury and create pressure to halt the blood flow. They can tighten so much that they crack the breastbone or the ribcage, and that is what causes shortness of breath rather than the breasts themselves being bound.

You don’t get this problem if you bind with just cloth, but it’s also shit for support.

Breathing issues are a problem for men when they wear clothing styles that ensure their diaphragms can’t expand or just don’t breathe with their diaphragm when fighting.

If her armor causing shortness of breath then that’s not armor, it’s fetish gear. It may be great for a bondage session but it’s not meant to be worn combat. (And if what she’s wearing is causing shortness of breath anyway, then she just needs to stop wearing it. That’s still the fault of her clothing and not her breasts.)

Besides, a woman with large breasts would have issues finding bras that fit her anyway and would probably be specially ordering them. Most malls and sports stores have bras for A, B, C, and some D but not a lot. DD’s can have trouble finding comfortable breastwear, especially ones in the six foot range.

-Michi

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