Tag Archives: biting

Hi, Aunty Scripty! Thanks for running this blog! It’s such an amazing resource, and I appreciate all the hard work you put into it! On to my question, my character is in a bad situation, and as a last resort, because his hands are bound behind his back, bites his attacker’s throat. Would it be possible for him to actually tear out his attacker’s throat with his teeth? Sorry that it’s such a gruesome ask! Thanks again!

scriptmedic:

Probably not, but it’s certainly worth trying.

The throat is pretty well protected. The skin is thick and tough, the trachea itself is made of hard cartilage rings, and it’s actually surprisingly difficult  for a human to get a good mouth-hold on another human’s neck. (If you have a significant other who is okay with this, give it a try; don’t actually bite down though).

Hunters who do the throat-ripping thing usually have longer mouths than we do, which helps them get a grip on their prey. Humans have fairly short mouths by comparison, and really aren’t evolutionarily adapted for this task.

Now, that is not to say that having a human try to rip out your throat is not an absolutely fucking terrifying thing, because it is, and flesh missing from the neck can be psychologically devastating even if it’s not actually physically lethal. Your character could probably significantly damage the musculature and the skin, and possibly cause a severe venous bleed from the external or internal jugular.

If your character is going to get any better of a bite than that they’ll need their hands to hold the neck in place while they bite.

(Also, bites in fights is proooobably more @howtofightwrite‘s territory much more than it is mine 😉 ).

Best of luck!

xoxo, Aunt Scripty

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We’ve answered this kind of question before on several occasions, they’re in the biting and the only unfair fight tags. For a better exploration of this topic, read this ask answered by Starke about biting off fingers.

The short answer is that physically you certainly could take a good sized chunk out of their neck with your teeth (terrifying enough in and of itself), the problem is the psychology necessary to follow through with it. Biting is straight up nasty and, when it comes to other humans, runs up hard against a whole bunch of self-preservation instincts that any protagonist would need to fight past in order to pull it off.

More than that, with his hands bound he’d have no way to hold onto his opponent thus not enough time to get a good bite off. He’s got to get to them, lunge in fast enough to get his teeth around their throat or (possibly) lure them close enough to get the bite off, and hope they don’t stop his head with their hands (or head) before he gets there. Attacking the throat, even with the element of surprise, is a great way to get someone to guard it.

The truth is in the heat of battle you’re more likely to come up with
ramming your head into your attackers throat (more effective) to a
temporary stun, then follow up with a headbutt to their face or move on
to using your shoulders and legs before thinking of your teeth. (It’s
difficult, but you can kick with your hands tied behind your back.)
Strikes to the throat can crush or halt your ability to breathe entirely
with enough force, but are more often used as stunners, to distract via
fear (brain freak out, vital place has been attacked, internal screaming) and temporary loss of breath. These create what we call “openings” as in openings in defense.

As @scriptmedic says, the throat is
fairly well defended by your physiology.  This is going to be true of
the most obviously vital places.

You get far more mileage out of convincing someone they’re being attacked there in order to strike elsewhere because your instincts will move to defend those places at all cost. Like your hands automatically rising to your throat if it feels like someone is going to hit it. (This doesn’t make you good at blocking, it’s just instinctual order of operation. Sacrifice the less necessary body part for the essential one. This is why we never fight on instinct.)

And frankly, depending on his position, a fake out headbutt to the
throat while actually hitting the stomach (rising on that upward
diagonal into the diaphragm) will probably be more effective. Then, if
they’re still standing, headbutt to the face.

The first question is: can he bite?

No, really think about it. He cannot hesitate, not at all. A split second hesitation and he’s done for, he must complete the act in one simultaneous move. He can’t drop the moment he tastes the dirt and sweat coming with their flesh, then the blood running over his tongue, and get enough for a lethal rip away while his opponent is trying to get away. (And the attacker is, he started backing up the second the protagonist came at him, and the protagonist has no way to make him stand still.)
Remember, we humans don’t have the sharp teeth of a carnivore to sink in and keep our prey from running.

I mean it, spend some time thinking about what it’d feel like, taste like, and smell like. Then think about it from his perspective, it’s a dramatic idea but can he follow through?

The second question is: can he move in and bite in .5 seconds?

This is the sort of attack where he doesn’t get a second shot, and the kind where threat level is upgraded into automatic kill territory. Biting is socially unacceptable, dishonorable, and offensive.

The four scenarios for the victim are terrified enough to be paralyzed into inaction, terrified into action, so terrified they run, and righteously pissed. The protagonist has got to kill before fight, flight, or freeze takes effect. (And they can’t, really, unless they somehow manage to take out the carotid.)

The third question is: will the attacker be shocked enough by this bite to not retaliate while it’s happening?

The problem with the mechanics of a bite is you’ve got to get your teeth on the other guy’s throat for a solid rip away (and not miss because they moved their head or the teeth slip off), this takes time. The worst thing if he gets seized by the hair, punched in the face, stabbed by a knife, or gut checked by a sword pommel in the middle of (or slightly before) this bite going down. The protagonist needs to be mostly through the process of tearing by the time this antagonist realizes what’s happening. Even then, he’s in just the right range for some vicious retaliation. Even if he gets enough of a bite to kill, the other guy isn’t going to die right away. That could easily lead to an “I’m Taking You With Me” scenario.

The good news is that if he does manage a bite, he doesn’t need to take their windpipe. The human mouth is a vile, dirty, disgusting place and his victim will most likely die from either blood loss (depending on where he bites) or an infection.

The downside is his mouth will be full of their blood, and he’ll probably get sick too. If he doesn’t manage to escape, whoever else is working with his attacker will probably kill him because biting another human is as feral as it gets and automatically shifts whoever does it from “human being” into “animal”. While dehumanizing yourself to terrify your victims is a great strategy for psychological warfare, it doesn’t work so well when the shoe is on the other foot. In writing, you also run the risk of dehumanizing the character for the audience too. If it fails or the other guy lives, then he’s still the crazy idiot who tried to grab a guy’s throat with his teeth.

The trick to writing good fight scenes is being able to see and plan from the perspective of both parties in a fight. When trying to figure out whether something is possible never assume the guy they’re doing this action to is just going to stand there and take it. Everyone wants to live.

When talking about fighting, you’ve got to go through two steps. The first is the purely theoretical of “would it work?”, if the answer is maybe then ask “what would the other guy do in response?”

Most of the stupidest fighting ideas in real life die in this second stage (sometimes on the battlefield itself) because a live actor is much more difficult to deal with than lifeless dummy or someone whose given you permission to put your teeth around their throat. If the idea doesn’t float or sound good when pit against resistance then it’s usually no good, even if you’re crazy enough or desperate enough to try.

If rapid escalation into sudden, terrifying brutality isn’t in this character’s skill set (eye crushing, biting, and others) then this approach probably won’t work out for him. Does he think about ripping people’s throats with his teeth on a general basis? Has he ripped throats out before? Does he find the idea repulsive? If there’s a no to any of these questions or a yes to the last one then this approach may not be right for him.

Alternate approaches:

1) With only his head, shoulders, and feet, your protagonist could put his attacker on the ground and then crush his throat with their foot. It would take slightly longer, be less shocking, and require a finer grasp of tactics, but that’s possible.

This has the potential to be exciting. I understand, however, that it is very difficult for someone without a martial arts background to think with their feet or plan a fight scene around kicks or anything other than fists.

2) Ram their attacker and drive them both to the ground, and give their head a few solid hits with their forehead if they manage to land on top. Then run for it.

This one would be much easier to go with, though their chances of killing via this method are slim unless they manage to land a concussion or damage the brain some other way. However, it could provide them with a chance to make an exit if they can do enough damage so their attacker doesn’t try to stop them from escaping.

There’s also the risk of what the other guy does with his hands. However, the one who lands on top is usually in the best position.

3) The environment surrounding your character and where they are fighting can become a weapon they utilize in their escape.

This is often overlooked in fight scenes, but utilizing the environment and terrain is a huge factor in combat. There may be a way for your protagonist to kill their attacker sitting right next to them, or they can take advantage of.

Throwing your body weight around is something anyone can do because your utilizing your core and momentum to destabilize the enemy’s balance. This can be done with just your shoulder and feet planted in the right place. Knock ‘em into walls. Use this force to create new, creative means of attack and opportunities in the environment.

4) Stun this guy, duck past, and run for a crowded area to make his escape.

This is what it says on the tin.

5) Or wait and plan an escape later when he’s in a better position.

This may not work depending on what’s about to happen to him in prison. The best time for a prison break is not from the prison itself but while the prisoner is in transit. Try to remember, depending on the situation, your character needs to escape in a way that keeps his pursuers from following him. This doesn’t necessarily they have to die. (At least, in this exact moment.)

6) He tries it and fails.

He tries it, he fails, or might be mildly successful but not successful enough, gets caught and the situation plays out another way.
Sometimes, scenes don’t go the way we want but that doesn’t mean the
story ends. Another interesting path is waiting right around the corner.

7) You ignore all advice and just do it. YOLO.

Try it and see what happens.

-Michi

Would having sharp teeth actually give a human an advantage in combat?

According to the slowly healing gashes on the left side of my mouth, my teeth are already sharp enough to turn a person into pulled pork.

But, seriously, your teeth are already enough to get the job done, and you can drive enough force with them to crush bone, if you get it back up between the molars.

As we’ve said before, the hard part isn’t physiology, it’s psychology. Your mouth is already pretty good at ripping chunks of meat off of something or someone, the hard part is actually being willing to do so.

-Starke

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Could my character (a somewhat small woman) conceivably rip out her would-be rapist’s throat with her teeth? Also, if someone were completely awful at swordfighting in general but was just the most determined person in the world and just kept going at it until he attained something resembling skill, what would his fighting style be like?

In reverse order:

Like someone who had practiced until they got it right. When you’re training, how good you were at the beginning doesn’t matter when you’re done. If you have the dedication to commit, and push yourself you can do pretty much anything. You practice until you get it right. That’s where the dedication comes in. It’s about not giving up until you’ve learned.

An unremarkable student who commits to the training, puts in the time, and has a drive to “get it right,” can become a formidable fighter.

In comparison: a talented student who views training as a distraction, wants out as fast as possible, and thinks their starting point is “good enough” is doomed to mediocrity.

Just because you don’t have a natural aptitude for something doesn’t mean you cannot do that. It just means you’ll need to work harder. If you’re ready for that, then initial talent is no obstacle.

Okay, on to the first question:

Physiologically? Yes. Psychology? Maybe not so much.

It is physiologically possible. The throat is comparatively soft tissue, and if your mouth is right there, against a foe who is otherwise distracted, it’s a relatively easy target.

Failing that, the nose, ears, and lips are also vulnerable in this kind of a situation. But, it is entirely possible to bite a chunk out of an attacker.

The real question is, “can your character get to a place where they’re willing to kill someone with their teeth?” For most people, that answer is “no.” This is a state of mind that runs contrary to all of your social conditioning.

Biting someone else is a behavior that has been conditioned out of you since childhood. Everything you’ve been taught about acceptable behavior says, “this is not okay.”

For example, ask yourself, “could I bite that guy over there?” I don’t mean as a gag, for fun, or foreplay. I mean, can you look at that human being as 200lbs of ambulatory meat? Not just at an intellectual level, but in such a way that you could just rip pieces out with your teeth?

For most people, the answer is, “no.” They can’t force themselves into a mindset this feral. They won’t even consider it as a possibility. Maybe as an intellectual exercise, but not an option in the heat of the moment.

As I’ve said before, this is some pretty messed up behavior, with some very serious social consequences and medical risks. It can be done, but it’s something you need to build towards when creating your character.

This can work with a character who is feral in their own right. Either because they were never exposed to civilization, or because they’ve chosen to reject it. A D&D style barbarian or a character with some kind of animalistic approach. Expanding on fantasy concepts, a character who magically transforms into animals (D&D Druids and Rangers, or lycanthropes) could also probably get there pretty easily.

A character who is incredibly opportunistic, brutal, and disciplined enough to fully disregard social norms when it suits their purpose could work.

In either case, this will cause others to view the character as little more than an animal. In the case of the later, you’re informing your audience that said character is more of a trained attack dog rather than a person. In the former case… you’re telling your audience and anyone who witnesses the attack that your character is (at least partially) more animal than human.

Just remember: If one of your characters is willing to bite their attacker, this is sending a permanent message to your audience about who this person is. If you want that, then this is an excellent way to send a message. If you don’t, then this is probably something you should avoid.

-Starke

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Considering that humans can deliver a bite strong enough to sever a finger, how effective would a bite be against an assailant trying to put you in a headlock? Would biting the arm be enough to make them let go?

Assuming the arm was in a position you could get to? Yes. Given a little time and the inclination, you can completely destroy someone’s arm (or, really, just about any body part,) with your teeth. The difficult part isn’t biting chunks out of someone’s arm, it’s being willing to bite chunks out of someone’s arm.

Think of it this way; your teeth are there to remove meat from bone, and they’re actually pretty good at doing it. On top of that, humans are one of the worst kinds of bites to receive. We build up some really nasty bacterial colonies in our mouths, and applying them to an open wound is a recipe for infection. Our immune systems (usually) recognize and know how to handle our own colonies. But, those are unique to an individual, so if you’re bitten by someone else, there’s no immunity, and the results are very unpleasant.

The hard part here is actually being willing to chow down on someone else. There’s a lot of social and psychological conditioning telling you not to bite fellow human beings.

The thing is, that conditioning is there to protect you. Exposure to blood is a fantastic vector for all kinds of illnesses that are otherwise non-transmittable. Some forms of viral Hepatitis and HIV are the big ticket items here; but, given the choice, there are many reasons to never touch a random stranger’s blood, much less gargle it.

So, you need to be willing to actually push past your own self preservation instincts, which is much harder than it sounds.

You also need to be willing to commit to seriously injuring your opponent. That’s a much easier threshold to hit, but combining it with the ability to shuck self preservation to mangle your opponent creates a weird paradox.

There’s a strand of combat philosophy that advocates rapid brutal escalation. Literally, “the best defense is a good offense.” You can see elements of this in a lot of the armed self defense forms. The problem is, outside of very extreme circumstances, biting someone takes the defense part of that equation out at the knees. You’re not using rapid escalation to protect yourself from attack, because you’re exposing yourself to far more potential harm now.

Now, obviously, you can end up with characters that have no problem taking out someone else’s throat with their teeth. But, that’s a rather singular kind of brutality. I did talk about the combat applications of brutality awhile back. So, that might be worth reading, if you haven’t seen it.

-Starke