wetmattos said: Gotta love the effort you do to make these things <3 By the way, you’re intending to cover which kinds of kicks? Knowing your taekwondo training, I’m expecting great variety, but I would love to see some capoeira kicks being featured as well :3

The basic kicks first that everyone uses in one form or another, the first we learn and the easiest to recognize: front kick, sidekick, back kick, and roundhouse. However, I’m going to include some of the combinations you can do with these kicks, the differences between combat kicks versus exhibition, and the principles involved so you guys can create your own combos for your characters. I am not an expert on capoeira, sadly. I could probably break them down in concept, because I understand the basic physiological limitations underlying them, but that’s where my familiarity with the style’s technique ends.

But all kicks are, ultimately, similar because there is only so much we can do with our bodies to achieve the necessary effects. You’ll be able to apply most of what I’m talking about to capoeira by changing a few details here and there where appropriate.


Weapon Primer: Basic Kicks Part 1 (Body Parts)

Disclaimer: This is not an article designed to teach you how to kick. This article is designed to teach you about kicks, the principles behind them, and how to include them in your writing. For the uninitiated, you can risk a lifetime of injuries in your legs by practicing any of these without sufficient stretching and an instructor present. If the martial arts are something you’re interested in pursuing, feel free to message us and we can talk about the steps you can take to find a school that might work for you. Remember, we’re not liable for the damage you do to yourself or others in absence of proper training.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the four basic kicks and how they work. We’ll also be talking about the different terminology for the parts of the foot that are used for combat and try to help you understand how the foot, knee, leg, hip, and even the upper body work together to create a kick. Keep in mind, this primer is just focusing on basics. You won’t really learn the principles of how to write “the flying Taekwondo death kick, the teleportation death kick, and the flying death kick of doom” as Starke calls them in this article. You need the kicks that build into those and the principles they teach about balance and momentum first. Learn how to write the kick on the ground before you put it into the air. Remember, basics are the building blocks of a fighting style. A character with fancy tricks but a weak base is a character who is just asking to be knocked over.

So, let’s start with the bread and butter kicks. No matter what martial art your character studies, they will learn some sort of variation of these four: the front kick, the roundhouse, the side kick, and the back kick. These four can all be done jumping, both from a standing position and while running. These four can also be used to form a variety of different combinations that a character could, if they begin training early enough, perform in combat situations and provide a solid defense against opponents who primarily use fists. If you wanted to know when longer reach starts making a difference, well, it’s in the legs.

Let’s begin with the foot and work our way up from there.

The Foot:

The ball: The ball is the front pad of your foot, between the toes and the arch. This is the part of the foot used to deliver momentum in hand to hand strikes, to bounce, and to provide quick movement. If your character is going to pivot, they’ll do so on the ball of the foot. The ball is useful in a variety of kicks, but primarily in the front kick and the roundhouse.

The blade: The blade is the outside edge of the foot, opposite from the instep. It sees less use than the other parts of the foot, though the instep sees even less than it does. It’s commonly used in some varieties of side kick (depending on style) and other, more uncommon kicks like the outside crescent kick.

The instep: the instep is the inside of the foot, not many kicks use this part of the foot and none we’re going to talk about in this article. The only kick I can remember off hand that uses it is the inside crescent kick.

The heel: A lot of kicks use the heel. It’s a tough and solid part of the foot that’s great for dealing damage. It’s most common in the back kick, some varieties of side kick (depending on style), the mule kick, the axe kick, the hook kick, and the wheel kick.

The top of the foot: this is mostly just for sparring and competition to make some kicks safer, the top of the foot does less damage than the other parts when it connects. The reason is that it spreads the kinetic force over a wider area. However, if your character is wearing shoes or some sort of footwear in which they cannot pull their toes back, then this is the best way to perform the roundhouse without risk of a broken toe. I have broken boards with a roundhouse using the top of the foot, so keep in mind that any kick that connects solidly can be dangerous.

The Set Up + Basic Terminology:

The Fighting Stance: Every martial art will have its own variation on the fighting stance; each one is built around the tenets of the style. So, you’ll need more research to study up on just what this stance looks like for the style you’re planning on using. Since we’re dealing with kicks, the stance I’ll be detailing is the Taekwondo one.

Step-by-Step:  From a standing position, your character will either step forwards (offensive) or backwards (defensive) into this stance. The feet will be on a diagonal from each other, the back foot turning outwards on a 45 degree angle facing the opponent and tips forward onto the ball of the foot. The hands come up matching the feet, with the left (or right) slightly forwards with the right (back) guarding the cheekbone. (Protip: because of the reliance on the legs as the primary weapon, Taekwondo fighters have a nasty habit of dropping their hands when they fight. This is less true of other kicking martial arts like Kickboxing, where more hand techniques are mixed in with kicking techniques.)

The Front Leg: Much like the jab and right cross in boxing, the front leg represents the speed leg, while the back represents the power leg. Kicks done with the front leg are often combined with a slide step forwards to achieve even faster momentum. Unlike in the Boxing combo, it’s not necessary to kick with the leading leg to begin a combination.

The Back Leg: This is the power leg and is used for power strikes. A leg swinging up from the back achieves greater momentum than the forward leg, which comes from a shorter distance. It is not as fast. It’s always the leg that is furthest back on the fighting stance diagonal.

You may have noticed that the legs lack the left and right tags like the fists do. The reason for this is that the legs will constantly switch between these two positions during combat depending on what position the legs land in after a kick. A good Taekwondo fighter will be ambidextrous, moving fluidly from one kick to the next as the situation calls for it and be comfortable using any kick, from any position, with either leg. (This is good in theory. However, most fighters tend to favor the side they’re strongest with for their power leg. The higher level the kick, the more obvious it will become.) A fighter who uses hands has little reason or need to switch their stance up other than to confuse their opponent.

The Chamber: The chamber is the intermediate step between the beginning of the kick and the end of it. It’s usually the points where the knee bends as the leg comes up and the hip turns over, before the leg unfurls to connect. The chamber will decide where the kick is going and how high it’s going to go from its positioning. Every kick has some sort of chamber.


1, 2, 3

I think this will be at least three pieces, the kicks and the steps are next, then character information and the stuff you need to know to make them work. I’ll post those when I’m done and link them here.

Alright, so the Primer we’re working on for kicks has essentially reached critical mass. (4,000 words and it isn’t done yet, yikes!) I’m going to be posting it in different parts as those parts reach completion. I’ll try to link them all together, so remind me if I forget.

Having done them my whole life, I forgot how kicks are ridiculously complex in concept (even if they’re not to physically practice), there’s a lot to include. It’s really too big to post as one whole piece at this point, so I’ll throw it at you in pieces.

The first part of it just covers the important body parts.


I’m sorry if this ends up being unrelated to the actual blog, but I’ve always wondered how defenestration should work believably. Say, someone was thrown out of a window, or through glass, or even jumped through glass on purpose. Would a regular window shatter, like in movies, if someone was thrown into it/pushed in a combat situation. How would this affect their ability to fight?

Okay, first caveat, I’m not an expert on glass, either being thrown through it, or breaking it…

Films used to use something called sugar glass. This was basically a transparent candy that looked enough like glass on film, but was brittle enough to shatter without tearing someone’s hand apart. (I seem to recall this stuff was actually edible.) According to a quick web check, they’ve moved over to synthetic resins in the past few years, so in films where you see someone punching glass or getting thrown through windows, they’re either going through a sheet of candy, or a polymer.

Real glass comes in a lot of different varieties, with a lot of different characteristics. The glass in modern cars is designed to shatter into small cube-ish pieces with relatively dull edges. They’re then coated in a plastic sheath to keep the window from spraying everywhere in the event of an accident. The windshield itself is made from a slightly different reinforced glass; that will break around point of impact. Though, this can take someone being thrown into it.

I’m not 100% certain about glass in residential or commercial construction. This should be able to withstand the force of someone being thrown into it, or survive a stray punch. Anyone with a weapon or tool should be able to shatter glass with it, specifically I’m thinking of claw hammers, crow bars, tire irons, baseball bats, or golf clubs.

Reinforced glass (with a metal crosshatch) is designed to take a lot of physical abuse. I’m not sure how much force is needed to break this stuff, but it’s a reasonable guess that a crowbar wouldn’t be enough.

Ballistic glass is basically just an amalgam of two different sheets of glass designed to absorb gunfire. It can be penetrated with enough force, but you’re going to need high powered weapons to get through it. I remember reading a few years ago about the introduction of an aluminum compound into ballistic glass, that pushed it’s durability even further, but, I don’t think that has made it into the commercial sector yet. I have no idea what explosives will do to either variety.

Punching through a sheet of glass can result in some pretty serious injuries to someone’s hand. Most glass tends to break in a spiderweb pattern from the point of impact. The individual wedges are very sharp, and will tear through someone’s muscle tissue. Throwing someone through has a similar effect, except instead of just mangling their hand; it will be their entire body. The statement about three inches of penetration holds; If they end up with a shard of glass that penetrates into their body, they’re probably going to die quickly.

There’s actually a similar risk if someone uses explosives on a window. The explosive itself should force most of the glass away from the character setting it, but anyone on the other side will risk being impaled by flying glass shards.

Getting thrown out of a window above the second floor is also pretty serious. A bad landing will kill them, and even a good one can shatter bones and leave them unable to move. Obviously, there are a lot of factors, a few people have survived falling out of airplanes (without chutes) while a bad landing can kill from a six foot drop.


What style of martial arts do you practice?

I’ll be honest, I haven’t practiced seriously since I went college. I’ve been thinking about starting up again in a new style, once we have money and *cough* medical insurance again. The answer to your question for me (Michi) is a little of this and a little of that.

Taekwondo is what I have my belt ranks in, but our organizations style started leaning more towards an MMA type curriculum over the last few years I was part of the school. We (the black belts) used to joke that we knew “the basics of many, the master of none”. I school I studied with was part of the Ernie Reyes’ West Coast World Martial Arts Association in the Bay Area. It’s a pretty huge martial arts organization, actually.

Don’t tell him I said this, but Ernie Reyes can be a bit of a magpie when it comes to the martial arts styles he has the masters learning and eventually passes down the chain. The curriculum of that organization does a lot of things, so let me lay it out for you: Taekwondo (but they steal the wrist locks from jiujutsu and they don’t teach all the forms), basic MMA (grappling, kickboxing, with a splash of Muay’Thai), Escrima (basic stick and knife techniques), and that’s about it. Ernie Reyes has a lot of connections throughout the martial arts community, so he would run extra Seminars for all the schools in the area. These would include MMA professionals, Escrima masters, Muay’Thai fighters, and all sorts of other crazy martial arts that I can’t even remember the names of. I’ve also got a few CTC self-defense certifications on the first level of basic hand to hand and gun disarms. The NDA on both of those hasn’t run out yet though, so don’t ask. Ernie Reyes isn’t traditional, but he’s very good about getting his students a lot of exposure to a vast number of different martial arts styles. You can learn a lot, even just from a few hours. If your family could pay, of course.

Our Master (Gary Nakahama) was friends with one of the local Wushu masters, so he came and taught special classes for oh, nearly a year. He was incredible, by the way. He taught us a lot of the Wushu basics, including a variety of weapons such as the butterfly sword and staff.

I also had a semester of Shotokan Karate in college. I have no idea how my brother found him, but I had a few lessons with a ninjutsu master on my holiday visits home. One of his students runs a business called “Reposturing Yoga”. His workout is incredible. Seriously.

So, like I said: a little of this and a little of that. I can talk about a lot of different basics for multiple styles with some authority, but not about the advanced techniques.

Yes, crazy as it that sounds, I did everything above most of it before I could legally drink and yes, I’m female. Starke will probably edit this later, for his side of it.


Fun Fact: Under the law in California, New York, and possibly Nevada anyone at (I think) the level of second degree black belt or above gets upgraded from assault to assault with a deadly if they hit someone. I was considered a lethal weapon in my home state before I could legally drive. (If it’s third degree, then it was before I could legally drink.)

Crime Novels: “Undercover Officers” & Reference Materials for Research

The following is taken from Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide For Writers by Lee Lofland and published by Howdunit.I recommend all three books in the series. The Forensics book and the book on poisons are all worth the money. If you’re low on cash, put them on your Christmas list. If you want to write crime novels, procedurals, or anything involving the police or investigations, it’s really worth a look.

This is taken from the first portion of the section on Undercover Cops, which is really interesting in it’s own right. So, take a look.

Police officers who work undercover are usually detectives from one division or another within a police department. Any officer, from any section of a police department, may be called upon to work a covert assignment; however, to work in the capacity as an undercover officer (UC), they must first learn to rid themselves of all the habits that would give them away as cops. Police officers have a tendency to walk with their arms out and away from their bodies a bit more than the average person, because they’re so used to wearing a gun. If police officers allow their arms to hang normally at their sides, the hammer of their sidearms (pistols or revolvers) will cut, scratch, or scrape the skin near their elbows.

Police officers prefer to sit with their backs to the wall when in public buildings, such as restaurants. This habit allows the officer to watch the entrance and exits of the business, and prevents a criminal from sneaking up on him. Officers have a tendency to absent-mindedly tug upwardon their belts or waistbands–pulling up their pants, because they’re used to the weight of their equipment hanging from their Sam Browne belts.

Police officers are naturally suspicious of people, so they have a tendency to examine others carefully with their eyes, watching every move. They stand with a familiar defensive stance–one foot slightly forward with their gun-hand side to the rear. Police officers look people directly in the eyes when speaking, and they wear clothing that almost spells out the word cop, such as the combination of black, spit-shined shoes with jeans.

Seasoned police officers ask questions–lots of them. They constantly interrogate people; they’re hyperaware of their surroundings, and they drive defensively, always wearing their seatbelts and their hands positioned at the 10 and 2 positions on the steering wheel. These are great traits for uniformed police officers, but not for cops who are attempting to hide their identities.

Crooks look for these surefire signs of police officers. They watch the actions of anyone new in their group, and they ask questions. They ask if the stranger is a police officer, and they sometimes test the newcomers by asking them to perform illegal acts…Officers can be forced to expose their identities, or blow their covers, if a heinous crime is about to take place. They must stop the commission of any capital crime, such as murder or rape. Sometimes the officers are fortunate and can stop the crime by alerting back-up officers and having them foil the crime, which allows the undercover officer to maintain his secret identity.

Police officers have been known to work “deep undercover,” keeping their identities hidden for periods as long as two or three years. This deep undercover mission is the most difficult assignment an officer can encounter. Working in an assumed role for such a lengthy period can have adverse effects. The officer can easily succumb to a criminal lifestyle. He’s surrounded by the criminal element for so long he begins to think and act like the very criminals who are the targets of his investigation. Undercover officers sometimes develop actual friendships with these criminals. It’s important for a department to rotate undercover assignments to prevent officers from giving in to the pressures associated with the project.

Police officers are human. They have emotions like anyone else, and they can become sympathetic or emotionally attached to their target criminals; therefore it’s up to supervisors to monitor the officer’s well-being and state of mind. In the event that adverse mannerisms or behaviors develop in the officer’s character, her assignment to the mission should be terminated immediately. (p. 89-90)

Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers by Lee Lofland

The book is really good, I’m telling you. Some other good sources of research in media for undercover operatives are:

Reservoir Dogs (1992) Quentin Tarantino

The Departed (2006) Martin Scorsese

The Shield (2002-2008) with Michael Chiklis

Heat (1995) Michael Mann with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Val Kilmer. (This isn’t undercover, so much as a story about the similarities between cops and the crooks they chase.)

I really recommend looking into police procedure and investigation techniques, even if your character is a PI and not a cop. The more you know, the more realistic your story will get. If anything, the major problem I’ve found with most of the Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy stories that lean towards the PI is a genuine lack of understanding for how cops, investigations, and people who live the lifestyle actually function.

So, I hope this helps.


WriteWorld: A Few Quick Thoughts on Promoting Your Writing Blog

WriteWorld: A Few Quick Thoughts on Promoting Your Writing Blog

5 Stupid Habits You Develop Growing Up in a Broken Home

5 Stupid Habits You Develop Growing Up in a Broken Home

Hi again! Thanks for your previous answer–it helped very much, and I still love your blog. Today I’d like to ask about futuristic weapons. I like writing sci-fi, and I try to look at history and how weapons and fighting have evolved (I try to keep space swords out, even though they’re cool as fuck). I was wondering if you had any input towards futuristic weapons/fighting/combat, both widespread (war-like conditions) and mono y mono or similar. Thank you times a billion!

Honestly, with this, I’d say dig into existing settings and see what they’ve used.

Warhammer 40k comes to mind. The setting dials itself up to parody, but a lot of it underlying logic is actually surprisingly well thought out, and there are a lot of bits you can take inspiration from.

The quality of the tie-in books waffles pretty wildly between completely unreadable and some of the best tie-in fiction I’ve ever read. The Caiaphas Cain novels (by Sandy Mitchell) are a pretty good introduction to the setting, and should give you some ideas. I’m not a huge fan, but Dan Abnettt’s Eisenhorn novels are also a good look at the setting, though you might need to do some outside referencing on a 40k wiki.

The tabletop game itself is expensive as hell to get into, but, you should be able to find some of the army codices cheaply in used bookstores. Those should give you some ideas of what you could outfit your characters with.

As a bonus, 40k does have some fairly good justifications for melee weapons in a distant future setting. That said it is supposed to be a Dark Age fantasy world in space. And there’s a lot of material you’ll probably want to filter out; it IS still a fantasy setting, psykers are Mages, Eldar are Elves, Necrons are Undead, Daemons are demons, and Orks are… well, Orcs. But it could still be useful for giving you ideas.

I’d also recommend looking at GURPS. GURPS isn’t a conventional RPG, so much as it’s a toolbox for the GM, and while I’ve never been a fan of the system itself, the research that goes into the average GURPS book, makes them invaluable research tools. I’m not sure if Space, Ultra-Tech, or High-Tech is the book most suited to what you’re doing, but if you can find any of those used, you’ll should have some top notch material to work with.


Advice and suggestions for writing fight scenes.