Hi! Your blog is such a critical eye-opener for me. I’ve been back-reading your posts obsessively while despairing at all my sucky fight scenes :( My story features characters who practice animal style-wushu (snake kung fu, white crane kung fu, etc). Do you happen to know of any good sources for these (books, dvds)? Also, any comprehensive books on Asian martial arts would be greatly appreciated. (I ordered the GURPS book at the library today :)

Don’t despair! The GURPS book is very good and it has a paragraph devoted to White Crane. I’m not as up on the various different styles of Kung Fu as I would like to be, but hopefully I can give you some tips that might get you pointed in the right direction.

The first and most important thing to understand when including any fighting style is the combat style is as much a part of character creation, character development, character outlook as it is about technique. With every martial style comes pieces of the culture that created it, their values and their philosophical outlook. Remember, when we draw inspiration from any culture (including our own) we always take pieces of that culture and it’s outlook with us into our own work even when it’s unintentional.

Authors that draw on Japanese martial styles or even just Japanese anime for their storytelling will bring aspects of Shinto and Bushido with them. The thematic underlay may be unintentional, but it is there. When working with Chinese martial styles you’re looking at Confucianism and the Tao. Ignore the greater parts of Asia and stick to China, study Chinese philosophy and history. I’d even throw Sun Tzu’s Art of War in there, even though that’s more for army strategy and mass conflict.

By learning about the style, it’s history and the politics that come with it, you’ll understand more about how to write the style. Look at the snakes and the cranes whose movements were the basis for these styles. Check out The Karate Kid  remake with Jackie Chan which is actually a very good training movie and brushes on some of the basics of the Tao, chi, and the spirituality that’s inherent in most of the Chinese fighting arts.

I’m not a good enough Chinese movie film buff to know which of the vast collection of movies there would be useful, I’m sorry. However, I would check online in your local area and see if there are any schools that teach either of those (or if you can’t find them any of the Kung Fu styles). Martial arts schools can pop up in weird places, really, really weird places like for instance you’d probably never guess that there was a Ninjutsu school in Louisville, Kentucky (you can only get in by reference from another martial artist who goes there). The instructors who teach are usually people who are passionate about their art and passionate about teaching others about those arts, it can be intimidating to ask questions but they are usually very nice and very patient.

If you’re upfront about why you need the information and what you’re trying to learn, they’ll most likely be more than happy to help you. If they’re not, then you might be able to start a dialogue with a different instructor, even if they are cities, states, countries, or continents away from where you are. This is the miracle of the interwebs.

Just do your homework to make sure you’ve found what you’ve thought you’ve found first. It can be difficult to navigate the world between the practical and the esoteric parts of the martial arts, but they’re really not as far from each other as we sometimes think and they do intermingle.

I don’t know if that helps, but I hope so!

-Michi

Hey guys, love this blog. You don’t know how many times it’s saved me from stupid mistakes. That being said, I know wearing hair down and piercings were already mentioned, but do you have a list of other things that would be completely impractical to wear into a fight? High heels perhaps?

Would the internet kill me if I said most female (and a lot of male) fashion? High heels tip a woman too far forward on the balls of her feet, it’s difficult to find balance there, even more difficult to move quickly and efficiently from foot to foot. They’re designed to make the leg look good, but they’re hell on the knees and the hips as the years go by.

Make-up will sweat off and it hurts when it gets in your eyes (personal experience), which is why I always get a good chuckle off of some of the female Urban Fantasy protagonists when they’re dressing up for their dates and talking about all the make-up they’ve caked on their faces. It’ll look less great if they end up in a tussle and the sweat starts bleeding the heavy stuff like foundation and mascara into the cracks and corners of their face (mouth, nose, eyes). Go light with the make-up if the female fighters wear make-up at all. The salt from sweat burns when it gets in the eyes anyway, it sucks even more when it’s become black goo. There are ways to get around this usually make-up that’s designed for female athletes (gymnasts use special) but you’ll notice they tend to stick with stuff that’s not water soluble and stay lighter than the average supermodel.

If your character fights, jewelery is a bad idea unless it’s a bracelet. We talked about piercings, but someone could also pretty easily wrap their fingers in a necklace and start using it as an easy access choke chain from behind, so if they’re going to go out, they should wear a necklace that snaps off easily under pressure.

Anything movement restrictive isn’t great, whether it’s skin tight jeans or a skin tight dress. You see a lot of moments in movies where a woman’s ripping a tear up the outside of her skirt, that’s why. You need much wider stances for balance than most of the minis allow.

That said, there are ways to get around this. When the character goes shopping, they’ll probably do so with an eye for practicality. They’ll buy pants that will have more elastic fabric and hang more widely off the leg. They’ll do weird things in the dressing rooms (okay, I do) like throwing punches and even kicks if there’s room to check the clothes for comfort. They’ll go in for bras that provide more support and less bounce, some women just go with sports bras entirely.

That said: no woman needs to give up her femininity to be a fighter, she just needs to balance the requirements and needs of her job (whatever job that is) with her desires for girlishness and general femininity. If she’s that sort of girl, a woman can be a serious fighter on the mat and the most popular girly girl you’ve ever seen off of it. So long as the author understands and balances for both (or uses one to get her in trouble with the other), they’ll be fine.

-Michi

Welcome to Fuck Yeah Character Development: Anonymous Asks: Fighting and Urban Fantasy

Welcome to Fuck Yeah Character Development: Anonymous Asks: Fighting and Urban Fantasy

Hey, I don’t have a question right now. (Though I am obsessive about learning about body movements and forms.) But, since I have noticed a lot of asks I was wondering what are the “rules” more or less for an ask to be published? Do you guys try to answer all new questions? Do you answer a lot of specific inquires privately? Would it be okay for someone to send a lot of asks about their individual stories and characters? (Assuming they are polite about it of course.) You guys have a great blog!

We try to get to all the asks in our inbox, though sometimes we are slow. As of right now, the only rule about an ask being published is if the user doesn’t want it to be published publicly (and assuming neither of us accidentally forget in the heat of the moment), then we keep it private.

If it’s something you’re worried about with a more specific question, we can answer it via private message, so you don’t have to worry about character limit. We can’t always promise to give the wanted answer, but we’ll try to the best of our ability.

We’re still sort of figuring out how to ride the tumblr wave. If it starts getting too specific and character intensive, we should probably keep it fairly private. But that’s the sort of thing that’s better established on a case by case basis. But for general questions, it’s fine if the same user keeps coming back.

Besides, we can’t help if you don’t ask.

For some body movement stuff we did:

http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/56564103318/weapon-primer-basic-kicks-part-1-body-parts

http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/56000674967/fightwrite-the-art-of-blocking

http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/53334209001/fight-write-watch-the-whole-body

http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/52255843496/tip-your-character-can-only-strike-in-the-directions

http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/51253828844/fight-write-a-basic-upper-body-primer-fists

http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/50873785048/fight-write-the-art-of-stepping

Those might be helpful.

-Michi

Anonymous Asks: Fighting and Urban Fantasy

Hi! I’m trying to decide the most appropriate fighting style for a character I’m writing. It’s a fantasy setting and this character is training to fight supernatural creatures since she was young. She’s now 16, tall and skinny, and training is a big part of her life. She fights with a katana-like sword, but I’m also looking for a character skilled in unarmed combat. Which styles should I be looking for? Sorry for the silly question, I didn’t know who else to ask =X
Anonymous

This is really going to depend on the setting you’ve built, and what she’s hunting, but here are a few things to think about:

A lot of real martial arts deal with the idea that you’re fighting something that is roughly, physiologically equivalent to yourself. That is to say, you’re fighting other people. There’s no martial art in the world that will help you fight a grizzly bear or a lion in hand to hand combat.

When you’re talking about monsters in a fantasy world, you’re often talking about things that are bigger, tougher and stronger than humans. That can be almost anything, from a minotaur, to a vampire. The basic assumptions about hand to hand combat don’t apply.

Swords are kind of similar; the sword isn’t a hunting weapon, it’s a weapon designed for killing humans. This works in some contexts, against some monsters, if your character is hunting creatures that used to be human, or are roughly humanoid (like an orc or goblin), then it might still be applicable.

But, if your character is fighting monsters considerably larger than her, like, say, werewolves (of the 9ft tall, bipedal, snarling, deathbeast variety); a sword or hand to hand will get her killed. It’s bigger than her, stronger than her, and it has a significant advantage at ripping people apart in close range.

Against something like that, she’s better off at range, with a crossbow or a gun. If she needs to use a melee weapon, then I’d suggest a spear; it isn’t a perfect solution, but she’s got a better chance of tearing something up with a spear at close range without being disemboweled, than she does with a sword.

Whatever she is using, she’s probably going to have to tailor her combat tactics to what she’s dealing with at the moment. If she’s facing off against werewolves, she’s going to need to switch out to a crossbow and spear, (and remember, Silver is a very soft metal, it’s why it was used for cutlery and not combat, so she’ll need a steel weapon AND a silver plated one, if that’s something she’s dealing with regularly) when she’s dealing with vampires, she’ll need to be carrying gear to deal with their weaknesses, whatever those happen to be.

-Starke

Hi new followers, there are suddenly a lot more of you than there was a few hours ago. I wave. (Also, I may have fallen out of my seat.)

It’s probably important to inform you that for a tumblr blog, we don’t post that much, we try to do one a day but we’re in the middle of unpacking our house so it could take a little while to get back to our normal schedule. We pretty much create all our own content, so that’s why we’re slow. We reblog relevant information here and there when we find it or it rolls across our dash.

Starke is the weapons guy, I’m the martial arts gal. Together we can probably answer most of your questions or provide you with good starting tools to help widen your research into this subject. Fighting can be hard, especially if you’ve got no experience on the subject. Beyond just the fighting, we’re also put together information to help build better characters by providing traits, quirks, better understanding of training, and trying to de-mystify the fighting arts.

We hope you enjoy your stay. And I know, the blog needs a revamp and we need a sidebar, preferably one that helps you guys find the most useful topics. We’ll get on that…as soon as we figure out HTML. v.v

-Michi

Regarding the ask on fighting the supernatural with a katana: C’mon. It’s fantasy land. The martial artists will have adapted to their surroundings. I would suggest saying instead that the writer should focus on how vulnerable the character is, which affects her fighting style. She’ll have to learn to be quicker, how to use her long reach, and how to find the weakest point. I don’t know what styles that’d imply, so that’s what I’d google.

If there’s one thing I find utterly irritating in supernatural fiction, it’s the Buffy approach of beat everything until it drops. Look if your character is fighting monsters then there has to be a legitimate reason in story for why the locals can’t just punch them to death and need your character’s services. They need to be about more than just fighting, they have to be smart in how they approach each situation. Or they’re dead. Monsters in supernatural fiction are usually better, tougher, faster, and stronger.

That’s half the fun.

But, for a character who is ultimately human (we assumed her character is human) that means they have to be careful and that also means the writer needs to make sacrifices to create a believable setting. If fantasy meant that we could do whatever we wanted with no limitations or rules, then the stories we told would be very dull.

It’s important to remember that fights in your story aren’t about proving what your character can do. They’re about showing how well your character can adapt to challenge and change. Fights we build around a protagonists opponent, by getting to know the mooks and the monsters, their strengths, their weaknesses, and what they bring to the table are inherently better for our protagonists in the long run and better for the story in the short run.

When dealing with opponents that are inherently inhuman or superhuman with supernatural characteristics that enhance their strength, their speed, there’s no amount natural skill improvement that may help in that situation. A 9ft tall snarling deathbeast of a werewolf will rip through a normal human in seconds, they will rip through a trained martial artist in seconds, and they will snap a normal iron katana in two, no matter how well it’s forged, assuming the katana can even penetrate their body. If the katana is a mystical sword or silver-plated with an iron core, we may have something. But that still brings the character into the strike range of a monster that has much greater reach and speed than they do (assuming they are a normal human) with many more weapons at their disposal than the protagonist’s single sword. A single swipe of the claws could be lethal, if the werewolf bite is infectious in this setting, then they’re risking becoming the monster they chase by going mano-a-mano with it. Especially when there may be saner and more practical solutions available.

The best characters in this genre in stories like The Witcher, Nightwatch, and Hellboy know how to plan ahead, how to prep for what they’re dealing with, and change up their strategy when it’s not working. They work within the setting limits, the rules the author has set up for dealing with the monsters, and they fight smart.

It keeps the tension going.

-Michi

Hi! I’m trying to decide the most appropriate fighting style for a character I’m writing. It’s a fantasy setting and this character is training to fight supernatural creatures since she was young. She’s now 16, tall and skinny, and training is a big part of her life. She fights with a katana-like sword, but I’m also looking for a character skilled in unarmed combat. Which styles should I be looking for? Sorry for the silly question, I didn’t know who else to ask =X

This is really going to depend on the setting you’ve built, and what she’s hunting, but here are a few things to think about:

A lot of real martial arts deal with the idea that you’re fighting something that is roughly, physiologically equivalent to yourself. That is to say, you’re fighting other people. There’s no martial art in the world that will help you fight a grizzly bear or a lion in hand to hand combat.

When you’re talking about monsters in a fantasy world, you’re often talking about things that are bigger, tougher and stronger than humans. That can be almost anything, from a minotaur, to a vampire. The basic assumptions about hand to hand combat don’t apply.

Swords are kind of similar; the sword isn’t a hunting weapon, it’s a weapon designed for killing humans. This works in some contexts, against some monsters, if your character is hunting creatures that used to be human, or are roughly humanoid (like an orc or goblin), then it might still be applicable.

But, if your character is fighting monsters considerably larger than her, like, say, werewolves (of the 9ft tall, bipedal, snarling, deathbeast variety); a sword or hand to hand will get her killed. It’s bigger than her, stronger than her, and it has a significant advantage at ripping people apart in close range.

Against something like that, she’s better off at range, with a crossbow or a gun. If she needs to use a melee weapon, then I’d suggest a spear; it isn’t a perfect solution, but she’s got a better chance of tearing something up with a spear at close range without being disemboweled, than she does with a sword.

Whatever she is using, she’s probably going to have to tailor her combat tactics to what she’s dealing with at the moment. If she’s facing off against werewolves, she’s going to need to switch out to a crossbow and spear, (and remember, Silver is a very soft metal, it’s why it was used for cutlery and not combat, so she’ll need a steel weapon AND a silver plated one, if that’s something she’s dealing with regularly) when she’s dealing with vampires, she’ll need to be carrying gear to deal with their weaknesses, whatever those happen to be.

-Starke

Advice and suggestions for writing fight scenes.