Tag Archives: combat

I have always wondered this. Is it easier to fight in really tight skinny jeans or in a floor length, ridiculously full, flow-y skirt? Or would it depend on training or fighting style or something? What about just in a random brawl? I’m thinking jeans so tight you can’t do splits in them or bend over too far, and the skirt not being tied up out of the way, because that’s the logical thing to do with a skirt like that in a fight. thanks!

The real question for clothes is always: does it allow for freedom of movement?

If the skirt allows for the legs to move freely without tripping you up or trodding on the hem, then that’s fine. Ultimately a loose skirt that comes down to around knee length is going to be better, simply because it allows for a better spread of the legs in order to create a base. If you’re kicking, then the long skirt is going to get in the way or have a greater chance of tangling the legs up in the fabric.

Skinny jeans seem like the obvious choice, but the question lingers on how well they stretch. When you’re fighting, you need a wide range of motion. When you look at most athletes working out, military uniforms, or martial arts’ gi’s, you’ll notice they all have two things in common: heavy duty, loosey goosey.

In the UFC, female fighters often wear tank tops or just bras. This is in comparison to male fighters who fight without shirts. There is a secondary, more practical reason for it, however. Tight sleeves will interfere with their ability to throw punches.

Physical combat like punches or kicks rely on rotation of the body’s joints to achieve momentum. Momentum creates power. You’ve got to turn and pivot, twist your hips in conjunction with your shoulders and achieve a full stretch of the arm.

Tight clothes interfere with that, thus limiting the body’s ability to move and generate power. It’s ultimately self-defeating.

What you see when someone takes a female character and dresses them up all cutesy without regard for the realities of what they’re facing is someone taking a character who is assumed to start at disadvantage and giving them more disadvantages. Then, they tell them to strive to meet the same high standard as those without handicaps.

Nothing is going to stop you from getting creative with your fashion choices, but conventional women’s fashion and a combat lifestyle don’t naturally mix. If you want a female character who dresses fashionably while they kick ass (and don’t mind their properly picked choices getting destroyed in the process), you’ve got to do the legwork.

I’m still wondering why the hell they’d even care, but there’s room to work within the paradigm for character flaws.

Fashion is ultimately what you make of it. Trend setters set trends. Androgynous fashion for women is a thing. If your girly girl character doesn’t mind tears and stretches in her flower print skirts or spending an extra $40 to buy a new blouse when hers gets spattered in blood then what does it matter?

The question is not what your character should or shouldn’t wear. It’s accepting the connotations implied and deciding on how do you want to deal with their lifestyle choices.

The power of knowledge is that it allows you to make choices rather than luck into happy accidents. Those choices are what ultimately give your character personality and depth.

The point of choosing the clothes one does for combat is:

1) Protection

A lot of different kinds of clothing, like leather, can function as makeshift armor. Layering on an outfit like loose fitting jeans, work boots, and a motorcycle jacket works well. All three pieces are designed for active/working roles roughly similar to the damage you can take while in combat.

Women’s clothes are, sadly, by and large not designed with practicality/activity in mind. They tend to be tighter and more form fitting, designed to enhance the figure rather than protect it from general scuffs, friction burns, and bruises. They’re also lighter and made from thinner fabrics.

Men’s jeans, for example, are thicker and denser while women’s jeans are thinner.

2) Freedom of Movement

Power is created via momentum, momentum is created by the body’s motion and rotation of the joints. If any piece of clothing restricts that, then it is hampering a character’s ability to fight.

Sometimes, you’ll see gif sets going around Tumblr of female martial artists doing sidekicks in high heels. They’ll talk about how impressive it is and it is, but then you’ll see someone else talk about how it justifies feminine beauty in conjunction with combat. It doesn’t.

One of the problems with high heels is not just balance but also rotation. When you perform a sidekick or a roundhouse, the foot pivots to either a full 180 or a slightly lesser 90 degree angle. The upper body tilts in relation to the height of the kick to mediate balance, while the hips either turn over or rotate across. For a successful connection, speed is also necessary. Kicks like the roundhouse or the sidekick are a big eye catching motion and fairly easy to avoid if you see them coming. It’s a huge resource commitment and can create a massive defensive opening if you fail.

A kick in high heels is a test of balance but no matter what you do, it will halve the power of the kick and it will be much slower than it might be in flats, sneakers, or barefoot.

You’ll often see this problem with stuntwomen in tight clothes. They don’t move as well as an stuntman or woman in loose clothes. They’re inhibited and it hurts their ability to fight.

Ultimately:

This is where some of the jokes about women being magic come from. It’s also where discussions in feminism begin about unrealistic expectations, that women are expected to do more than their male counterparts for similar results.

“I want my character to be feminine and kick ass!” sounds innocuous on the surface but it emphasizes the duality in expectation. A female character who fulfills society’s requirements (which a woman must in order to be considered good) and still be successful enough at fighting while actively choosing to inhibit themselves so as not to die.

Kim Possible was probably a happy enough median, if you ignore the bare midriff.

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron.

art-of-swords:

6 Things Films Get Wrong About Swords (An Inside Look)

In fantasy novels and action movies, we like to see weapons at work but we don’t particularly care how they were created, sort of like sausage. We want to see our protagonist double-wielding pistols while shooting holes in the faces of their enemies, but we certainly don’t need a whole montage on who handcrafted those guns. Yet for some reason, swords are different.

There’s a special place in our hearts for knowing exactly where and how each blade was forged before the hero pokes someone with it. Some swords have even more elaborate origin stories than the characters who wield them. All the stranger then, that no one writing our favorite books and movies ever bothered to google how these weapons are really made.

Chris Farrell, a bladesmith for 13 years and owner of Fearghal Blades in Austin was kind enough to sit down with the peeps at Cracked in what was likely the closest we will ever get to actual journalism and explain why everything films and novels have taught us about making swords is complete bullshit.

Source: Copyright © 2016 Cracked

If a character wishes to disable their opponent’s arm by stabbing them with a knife from behind, which would deal more damage – leaving the knife in, or pulling it out?

Pulling it out.

If you leave a knife in the body, then it blocks the blood from leaving the body. As the attacker, this character will want their opponent to start bleeding out and to keep their weapon. It is worth noting that a knife is a solid stabby weapon that’s very good at killing.

This is why characters who dramatically pull the knife out in media are morons. They are in a highly stressful situation, engaging in strenuous physical activity, both of which will lead them to a quick bleed out. (Your heart pumps your blood through your body and it will not stop just because someone cut you. The faster your heart goes, the more quickly blood is being pumped. The blood must flow somewhere. In this case, right out the hole.)

-Michi

Kinetic Force, A Fight Scene Must

Kinetic force is a must in every fight scene. You need to get a sense of motion going, so the audience feels it. There’s weight to hand to hand strikes, the generation of cause and effect between the force of motion and the reaction to being hit. Whether your character is using soft or light techniques, movement is going to be involved and as an author you need to get a sense for it.
Once you have that, you need to be able to both incorporate it into your story and communicate it clearly to your audience.

In
this post, we’ll offer up an example (written by me) and discuss some
ways in which you can start incorporating this into your writing.

The Example:

Eirwen’s
fist whipped up, plunging into Andras’ stomach. Stepping forward, her
hands rose and slammed into both his ears. The older elf stumbled.
Cranking her knee to her chest, she rammed the ball of her foot into his
gut.

“Yeah! Go Woodsy!”

Andras flew backwards. Hitting
the wooden fence surrounding the practice yard, his back to the cheering
soldiers. His bald head gleamed in the noon day sun, dappling across
the new fuzz of fine, white hair springing from his scalp.

Someone in the crowd slapped his bare shoulder.

“Get her, Andras!”

He
lifted his head, yellow eyes gleaming. A smile yanked hard at the side
of his mouth. Wiping his lips with muddy knuckles, he stepped forward.
“You have been practicing,” Andras said.

Lifting her hands,
Eirwen reset her position. Fingernails brushed her cheek, the other hand
low and guarding her waist, she kept both loose and open. Settling back
on her left leg and dropped into her stance. “Oh, yes,” she laughed. “I
wouldn’t want to shame my teacher!”

“Kick his ass, Wood Girl!”

The hand by her cheek tightened into a fist and she raised it, gave it a shake. “Without a doubt!”

Laughter rippled through the surrounding crowd.

“Ah,” Andras chuckled. “I see you again overestimate yourself, little one.”

“Today is my day, old man.” A smirk twisted, lopsided, on her mouth. She held up a hand, fingers twitching. “Bring it.”

He lunged.

Catching
the first kick with her shin, she whipped it out and knocked his leg
away. Foot planted in the mud, her body twisted, right foot lifting as
she wheeled. Her knee swung up, tight in a chamber, and then her hips
rolled over, kick sweeping through the air toward his temple.

His elbow tucked tight against his ear, violet-blue barrier flickering.
The top of her foot slammed into him. Her energy rolled against his, shimmering, quivering, shaking.

Andras
shoved her away, sweeping her left leg. His ankle hooked hers, his palm
flat against her chest. He yanked his foot back in time with a hard
shove, and she went down. Back crashing into the mud, Eirwen slid back.
Cold water clung to her neck, tickling her scalp, splashing over her
chest in a spray of black-brown sludge.

Andras’ heel struck downwards.

She rolled, springing to her feet.

Another splash of water hit the air, his foot connecting with a vacated puddle.

She
swung away, circling. Eyes flicking over the curvature of his bare
chest, his pale skin, the rippling abdominal muscles, his muscular arms
toned by over a thousand years of dedicated training. Swallowing, Eirwen
let her fists tighten up. His legs aren’t so bad either. Nice to see the tight armor wasn’t just for show. She nearly shook her head. Focus.

“You continue to surprise me,” Andras said. Yellow eyes followed her, his smile pulling wider.

“I know,” Eirwen replied.

“You adjust well to our training.”

“As you have said.” Eirwen leaped forward, launching a flurry of blows at his chest and head.

Rough
calluses of his palms and fingertips slid over her skin, her knuckles,
her wrists, tingling. “Still.” He knocked each punch away. “This path is
not for those faint of heart.”

She slid beneath a return strike,
fist hammering his ribcage. “And?” She gripped the back of his head and
drove her knee into his stomach.

His barrier sparked. Crackled. His head flew forward.

Their gaze locked.

Eirwen grinned. “Is my heart faint?”

Andras
caught her, whipped her around, arms wrapping across her body.
Squeezing. Her bare back pressed to his equally bare chest. The cut of
his muscles rubbed against her, left a warm, tingling sensation running
up her spine. He lifted her high. His voice murmured in her ear, “We
shall see.”

“Oh, ho!”

“Andras!” Elves in the crowd chanted. “Andras! Andras! Andras!”

Rocking, she tucked her legs to her chest. They sprung out. Head knocked back. It clashed with his nose.

His barrier cracked. Failed.

Grin widening, Eirwen hit him again.

He stumbled.

Her feet hit mud. Her leg lifted and struck out, heel driving deep into his abdomen.

Andras grunted. Blood dribbled down his lip, slipping off his chin. Fingers sparking, blue energy rippled over his shoulders.

Head
turning, Eirwen spun, wheeling, her right leg whipped toward his skull
and… went through him. Off balance, she slid on the ground’s slimy
surface. Andras’ fist struck out, slamming into her diaphragm. Air
hurled from her lungs, she staggered back. Gasping, gulping, she tried
to straighten. Saw the second hit come. His fist caught her under the
jaw, the third slammed into her chest, and she flew back.

Her barrier shattered.

Hitting a fence post, Eirwen slid into the mud with a groan.

Andras
strode through the mud. He came to a stop, his broad back blocking out
the sun. She half-expected him to grab her by the hair but, instead, he
extended a hand.

With a smile, she took it and let him haul her to her
feet.

So, I wrote this for *gasp* a fanfic. I
changed the names, but the full thing is posted somewhere else on the
internet (also on my personal Tumblr page and AO3 account, along with
some of my other writing assuming you want to go there…).

Some
people would tell you action words and you should learn as many of them
as you can. You’ll hear a lot that you can cheat on fight scenes by
using shorter sentences to make the action flow faster. You’ll also hear advice suggesting
you use more active words, more verbs while cutting out adjectives. Cut out metaphors. Create images without relating them to another object.

This is good advice and you should learn it. However, both avoid the heart of the issue. The true
key to when it comes to actually writing a good fight is learning to be
efficient with your language. Focusing on details to convey a sense of weight, where objects
and characters within the text actually begin to feel like they are
moving.

What you want is the movie playing behind your eyes, where the audience can see everything that happens.

How do you do it?

Physics
are key. To be able to write about objects in motion, you must first
understand how objects move. What happens when they do? Even if your
story involves magic or superpowers, all your characters will be subject
to physical laws.

In discussion of this, we will be using
Newton’s Three Laws of Motion because to talk about physics in fiction,
we must remember that physics exist and your characters are affected by
them.

1.) Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Writing
combat is give and take. There’s what one character does and how the
other character responds. If a character gets hit, they’ve got to fight
against it or be stopped by some other object. They can’t just fly
forever, they’ve got to fall into something.

Keep in mind
that an uncontrolled fall can be as dangerous as the hit itself, more
because you never know what someone will fall into. A hit might break a
bone, but cracking the skull on concrete can cause a concussion just as
easily. Falling down can scrape the skin, it can break bones, getting
knocked into a wall can cause injury. If your characters are bouncing
off objects, they are going to get hurt.

This is part of why
fighting to keep control of a person is significantly more difficult and
significantly more taxing than simply killing them.

2.) The relationship between an object’s mass m, it’s acceleration a, and the applied force is F is F= ma.
Acceleration and force are the vectors (as indicated in their their
symbols being displayed in slant bold font; in this law the direction of
the force vector is the same as the direction of the accelerated
vector.

Do you actually need to do the math to
know how hard your character is hitting? No, of course not. The trick to
remember is that your character can’t simply hit with the power of a
mac truck on a whim. More importantly, as you write hand to hand, you
need to remember that different parts of the body generate more force
than others.

A kick is more powerful than a punch. A spin kick or a
jump kick are more powerful than a regular kick. Why? They use motion
to accelerate faster and generate more force to hit the object with. The
trick being that the faster you go, the less control over your body you
have. If you miss, then the body will keep going and that creates an
opening in which the other person can strike.
This happens in the sequence above when Eirwen throws a spinning kick at Andras.

Head
turning, Eirwen spun, wheeling, her right leg whipped toward his skull
and… went through him. Off balance, she slid on the ground’s slimy
surface.

Because she expects the kick to land (the
muscles tighten up in the seconds before, because of the equal and
opposite reaction), she’s thrown off balance by the fact she didn’t
touch him at all. This leads her to slip, she can’t entirely control her
motion and thus it creates an opening for Andras to exploit.

Andras’
fist struck out, slamming into her diaphragm. Air hurled from her
lungs, she staggered back. Gasping, gulping, she tried to straighten.
Saw the second hit come. His fist caught her under the jaw, the third
slammed into her chest, and she flew back.

What do
you notice about this? Andras uses his fists. Earlier in the piece,
you’ll see that the kicks cause more damage than punches. Where Eirwen
could send Andras flying with a kick to the gut, he needs three separate
hits in order to return the favor. One to destabilize her (the gut),
the second take advantage (uppercut), with the third as the finisher
(chest).

Boom. Boom. Boom.

Eirwen also reacts to where he
hits her. Stomach/diaphragm controls breathing, hitting someone there
will stun/destabilize them by forcing an exhalation of air from the
lungs and cause the entire body to roll forward as it tucks inward to
protect the damaged core. She staggers in response to his first hit and
starts sucking down air.

We’ve established how hard each character
can hit utilizing the different limbs as striking mechanisms. Which
part of the body the character chooses to use will dictate how hard they
can hit, where on the body they hit their opponent will govern the
resulting reaction.

This is why combination hits are important.
Most of the time, you can’t simply power through another fighter’s
defenses. Combatants use rolling hits to generate more momentum and thus
more force. Strikes build into each other.
Instead of thinking about your hand to hand fight scenes as a wrecking ball, start imagining it like dominos.

3) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

When
you hit somebody, something happens, some result will occur. It may not
be the result the character wants, but something has to and should be
documented.

Hitting a fence post, Eirwen slid into the mud with a groan.

She
hits the fence post, she makes a sound. It tells the reader, “Ouch.
That hurt.” She also slides down into the mud, the language denoting she
is not entirely in control of her movement.

Rocking, she tucked her legs to her chest. They sprung out. Head knocked back. It clashed with his nose.

His barrier cracked. Failed.

Grin widening, Eirwen hit him again.

He stumbled.

First
time his barrier fails, the second time he stumbles. It takes two hits
to get the result she wants. Later, he wipes away blood because his nose
is bleeding. This bring us back, to lesson 2: creating force. You’ll
also notice, he lifts her in the bear hug, she begins to rock in order
to create greater force. It is not enough just to slam her head back,
she uses her entire body to reach him.

The human body acts like a spring, start loose, tighten up, and then explode out. Loosen up again, tighten up, and boom.

Reaction is what creates a good fight scene.

However, writing reaction requires keeping an eye on detail and that means you need to start learning to look for them. Which means, either A) people watching or B) movie watching. Preferably both.

This also means, if you’re new and aren’t in the habit of watching martial arts, you need to start with slow combat over fast combat. Remember, the point of watching isn’t to learn to fight, it’s starting to figure out how people react to when in action.

Movies like the first Matrix, for example, where the stunts are predominately performed by the actors are going to be better as a starter than Jet Li films, Jackie Chan films, or the whole Wuxia genre. Keanu Reaves is slow enough for the average viewer to follow, whereas Jet Li moves fast enough the camera loses frames.

Youtube videos, particularly of sprinting, gymnastics, dance, field hockey, discus, and other sports will also help you. Whether it’s football or horse racing, your study is the human body. Kinesiology. What does it look like when someone speeds up? Slows down? What do they do? When do they start to breathe more deeply? Take that second wind? Understanding the body in motion will help you understanding the body in combat.

If you throw a ball at the wall, what happens? It bounces back. When a roundhouse successfully connects (or even when it’s blocked), it also starts to bounce back which is a major reason why a martial artist learns to “stick it”, to tighten up in the few seconds before impact so they connect more strongly and keep their force instead of losing a good percentage when the leg bounces back off their opponent’s body.

This is true of all hits and a major reason why beginners can sometimes wail on someone for several hours without doing that much damage.

Science is great, isn’t?

Imitating reality requires understanding reality. Writing fiction that feels like a movie means recognizing those basic details of everyday life we normally don’t look for. Your mind knows physics even if you don’t totally understand them, it looks for them within a work.

If you can’t see your fight scene in your head after you practice writing, don’t say, “I didn’t do it right.” Say instead: “What’s missing?” Sometimes, all you need is a few more passes. If you still can’t imagine it, look up similar examples of what you’re going for.

Learning to notice new details in the world around you takes time.

Don’t give up.

Happy Writing!

-Michi

Want more articles from us:

Cause and Effect: Fight Scene Examples

Seven Deadly Fight Scene Sins

Five Simple Ways to Write Convincing Fight Scenes

tamorapierce:

art-of-swords:

Which sword is best in a one-on-one duel?

Longsword? Rapier? Sabre? Backsword? Assuming the fight is strictly one-on-one, no armour of any kind, only one sword-like weapon of medium length allowed…

Source: YouTube

Really well presented and interesting.  The man knows his swords and he’s into the presentation.  A great resource for writers!

It should come as a surprise to no one that the circumstances Scholagladitioria lists in his video favor the rapier because that’s exactly what the rapier was designed for. Take a specialized weapon into a situation that the weapon was specialized for and you’ll find the circumstances favor that weapon. Also, watch the video because there’s a lot of interesting information there about design elements for different swords.

Some important aspects I think our followers should keep in mind for their fight scenes when they watch this video:

1) The points where Scholagladitoria talks about reach with weapons. In the past some of our followers have had difficulty wrapping their heads around the idea of reach, such as the machete versus the longsword and how that affects the fight. This is mostly due to a lack of experience and the access to actual hold the blades in their hands, sometimes imagination can be difficult without concrete examples. Anyone who spars with a naginata versus a katana or unarmed versus a knife will recognize the difficulties right away, but it can be difficult when it’s just your imagination. I think this video makes some really good points about that aspect of combat.

2) The cross-guard hand protections. One of the big issues I see in a lot of fight scenes is that writers tend to place an over focus on going directly for the body’s vitals (throat, chest, heart, and head specifically) and ignore the process of opening up the defenses to get there. The points he makes about attacking the hands, arms, and legs are important because your hands, arms, feet, and legs are the means by which we use to defend ourselves even when we’re using weapons. In fact, when we’re fighting unarmed those are our weapons and initiating attacks to take away those options make the final killing blow easier.

3) There is no 100% or “best”. There are always going to be circumstances which heavily favor one weapon over another because that’s just the way humans work. It’s easy to assume “advantage = never” but you shouldn’t because that’s not what it means. You’ll always face situations where you’re at a disadvantage in real life and your characters will end up facing situations where they are at a disadvantage within your stories. They should because it makes things more interesting. All an advantage means is that you or your characters either need to work harder to overcome it or change their approach. Look at a situation and try to figure out how your character can take it and turn it to their advantage. One of my favorite examples of this is looking at the sets on the Highlander tv show, specifically for where, when, and in what spaces they choose to film their fights. A katana is a weapon primarily used for cutting, which means it strikes on a wide arc. Put it in a situation with limited space like a modern hallway, doorway, or room with a lot of clutter and it may end up getting stuck in things when the wielder tries to attack. This can create opportunities for a disadvantaged character wielding a knife or one who is unarmed to attack while the katana wielder tries to get their sword out of the dry wall.

It’s a matter of learning to use your terrain and set pieces in your scenes as opposed to being overly focused on what weapon does what with X plus stats.

4) This is a good time to remind our followers who are working on characters that are professional combatants i.e. they fight for a living that professional warriors of every time period learned to fight with a variety of weapons so they could transition between them depending on the situation. There’s a nasty habit developed by Anime and other sources where a character is only supposed to carry one weapon and be skilled at one type of fighting as opposed to many types of combat that feed back into each other. While this is helpful for defining a character’s relative position within The Five Man Band, it’s not particularly useful for creating a well-rounded fighter. Most martial arts involve training in different kinds of weapons as the trainee increases in rank and it’s always worth remembering that the collection of Japanese martial arts that subscribe to the Samurai Code of Bushido were, for the most part, all intended to be learned together as part of a whole.

5) Follow Tamora Pierce and Art-Of-Swords here on Tumblr and Scholagladiatoria on Youtube because they are awesome, also check out the Schola Forum for more discussion by HEMA martial artists on these topics.

I hope everyone is having a happy Nanowrimo!

Write! Write! Write!

-Michi

Fight Scene Strategies: The Individual versus Group

In this article, we’ll talk some about structuring and writing combat between an individual and a group. As the title suggests, this article will focus primarily on unarmed/hand to hand strategies for dealing with multiple opponents. We’re going to avoid weapons for the most part in this discussion because the strategies can change dramatically depending on what weapon it is that your character is using and this article is going to have a heavier focus on how different groups behave and the problems you have to watch out for in your story when working with them.

So, let’s start by tearing down a few myths.

The Group is the Most Dangerous Opponent Your Hero will Face

No, really.  A group of mooks together are going to be an all around tougher fight than the antagonist who waits at the end of the tunnel. Due to the rise of comics and Hollywood’s building up of the “One True Badass”, the difficulties an individual faces when fighting a large group are often overlooked. In real life, groups are much more dangerous to the lone combatant than single individuals and even the toughest fighter can be easily taken down by the untrained if he or she fails to control the situation. The reason it’s become commonplace on television for the roving badass to dispatch a group of random mooks with ease is because it is so difficult to do so in the land of reality.

This is important.

The truth is that even when you have years of training, something that seems as simple as a two on one bout can seriously screw someone over. The more people you add, the more difficult it gets. The maximum number a well-trained human being can take on at any one time is eight. The brain cannot handle tracking a number higher than that, but the truth is that even three or four is a difficult challenge.

Why is fighting groups so hard?

There are a higher number of limbs versus the singular defender

The part about there being more limbs is important. A person only has two arms and two legs (unless they are a mutant or an alien) with which to fight. Those two arms and two legs will have a difficult enough time fending off the attacks of one person, much less having to deal with four more coming in on vectors that your character can’t control. It doesn’t matter how many punches your character blocks, one will probably get through and that one can be the deal breaker. This is bad enough when the character’s opponents aren’t communicating. It gets much worse when they start, which they will because it’s a thing.

People work together

Yes, they do. Humans are social animals and they work well together in teams, very well in fact. You know the scenes you see in the movies where the stunt doubles will circle up and wait around the fighter (as seen on Buffy) for their turn to attack in a series of duels? They have a habit of coming in one by one. That doesn’t happen because it doesn’t play to the group’s strengths.  If your character lets them, a group will attack together. If they can, they’ll surround the character, dogpile, and knock them to the ground. Often in more sophisticated groups that are used to working together, one or two will distract the fighter from the front while others close in from behind and either hit them in the vulnerable places like the spine, the hamstrings, and the lower back or seize control of them via the hero’s neck or limbs.

All groups work together on some level, even the uncoordinated ones. The better trained and more used to working together the individual members of the group are such as gangs or professionals like soldiers, cops, and mercenaries, the harder the fight will be.

Yeah, even the untrained will naturally start flanking your hero. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

The Hero expends energy faster

Fighting is high energy exertion, it’s like sprinting and thus, it doesn’t last long. So, the hero must take down all their opponents before they themselves can no longer fight. Thus, they walk a much tighter tightrope of how fast it will be before they’re done.  They have to track more variables, their opponents, their surroundings, potential weapons, escape routes, how much time they have to hold out or finish it up before they or their enemies receive reinforcements, etc. It’s tough, tiring work. They have to know and keep track of where everyone is, actively strategizing, and moving to outpace their internal body clock.

Professionally trained combatants will approach a group, any group with a certain level of caution. For the untrained or untried hero, fighting a group can be where they find themselves in over their heads. It’s common for us to focus overly on the dangers we understand and ignore the ones we’re unaware of. Martial training can breed a certain level of arrogance in the early parts of an individual’s career before the fighter learns that everyone has the potential to be dangerous to them. Yes, even the little kids and old ladies. Disregarding the dangers of a group of lesser fighters or random idiots on the street is in character for most heroes.

Punish them for their mistakes. It’s a good humbling experience.

Well, it is if they survive.

Strategies

So, how can a character deal with groups?

Run away

This sounds like the coward’s way out, but it’s not. There’s no shame in living to fight another day or retreating to find a different approach instead of wading in. Don’t think of running away as giving up, think of it instead as retreating to find a more advantageous position. When faced with superior force and superior numbers, it is important for characters to seek to fight on their terms if they have the option to do so and to try anyway, even when they are pressed for time.

Run Away With Purpose

I call this rabbiting. When dealing with two or more individuals running away is an acceptable option as a means of breaking up the group so that they become easier to manage. You see this happen more commonly in action movies with stars that already know how to fight. (Example: Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx) By chasing the character, the more athletically adept will pull ahead and the less will fall behind. Characters with a firm grasp of their surrounding area can lose members of the group in the terrain. The character can then turn the situation around to their advantage and fight the smaller groups or individuals on their own terms.

This is only an effective strategy for characters that have good stamina, understand their area, and excel at thinking on their feet. It can go wrong for characters up against groups who can communicate over long distances and who are trained to outmaneuver that tactic. This includes the police (Example: Southland), the military, former military professionals, mercenaries, characters who possess some sort of telepathy, and characters who draw from a Pack mindset (werewolves, animalistic characters, etc).

Keep the opponent in front of you and protect the back

If a character cannot run or doesn’t have the option, then they might have to stand and fight. This can be difficult, given the tendency of a group to circle around and dog team (one distracts from the front, while another shoots in from the back or the side to tag the fighter before shooting off again, as the fighter attempts to recover from the blow, another comes in, and then another, and then another until they’re done) their opponents. A character fighting a group needs to keep the group in front of them. It can be difficult to defend from behind and while there are techniques (such as elbows and kicks) that allow characters to defend against individuals coming in behind them but they are limited. Characters fighting groups will want to keep moving, forcing their opponents to stay in front of them to limit their avenues and vectors of attack. By constantly moving, the character forces their opponents into each other as they attempt to attack and attack their enemies one at a time.

You can only attack one opponent at a time, so don’t waste movements

A character may switch between enemies, but they can only attack one enemy at a time. All their enemies may attack them and they don’t have to take turns. At best, they can block two, if they are really, really Jackie Chan fight scene choreography good then maybe three. But it’s best to have them focus on one at a time as they attempt to lock up the others. A fighter only has time for six to eight movements per fight, so they have to be dispatching each of their opponents in two or three blows depending on the numbers. Even the gentlest character may be forced to become ruthless.

All fights end on the ground, the character should make sure they don’t go down first

Suggestions on Writing:

This sort of chase scene or group fight can be tense an exhilarating and is helpful for establishing the nature of the fighter, especially if the audience is aware that they are up against a greater force. It can be a better reveal for who they are and what they’re willing to do when they are forced to be on their A game. However, as the writer, you need to be on the ball. Each of the characters in the group need to be clearly identified to the reader so they can track what is happening. Writing combat against a group is actually very difficult, because it is very messy and confusing. The sequence must be carefully choreographed in order to keep the tension kept high.

Graph out the setting area where the scene takes place, much like mapping an environment, writing and creating becomes easier when we know the pieces and materials that are at our disposal. A fight scene needs it’s the environment to be an active part of the scene because it changes the nature of the fight. A character running into the woods to escape a group hunting them will have different tools available than someone starting a chase in an urban environment. A character fighting in a bar may have nowhere to run but more objects at their disposal to throw and use in their own defense (beer bottles, chairs, tables, glasses, etc).

If you’re writing your character is going up against a group, then their understanding of their environment may be key to their success. Fights with groups are tense and require more than just skill for survival, creativity is also important. So, get your set pieces in place and see what happens.

Clearly identify each member of the group. Give them names based on distinguishing traits that a character observes about them, such as Number One and Number Two, The Brown Haired Guy, Blue Eyes, Buck Teeth, etc.

It’s important not to humanize the group members too much unless you want the audience to feel sorry for them, they shouldn’t be clearly evil, but they need to remain menacing. Knowing a character’s name humanizes them, so it’s not just a question of description, it’s a question of how much. Writing violence requires walking a careful line with the audience between just enough and too much.  Managing the emotions that your story evokes is important; too much makes it difficult to sympathize with the hero.

Examples:

Garvey came at Kel from the right, punching at her head. She slid away from his punch, grabbed his arm, pushed her right foot forward, and twisted to the left. Garey went over her hip into Vinson, who’d attacked on her left. Joren, at the center, came in fast as his friends hit the wall. Kel blocked Joren’s punch to her middle, but his blow was a feint; his left fist caught her right eye squarely. Kel scissored a leg up and out, slamming her right foot into Joren’s knee. Joren hissed and grabbed her hair. Someone else—Vinson—tackled her. Kel let his force throw her into Joren. Down the three of them went in a tumble. Joren let go of her hair, fighting to get out from under her and Vinson. Kel elbowed him in the belly and turned to thrust her other hand into Vinson’s face, encouraging him to get off her by pressing his closed eyes with her fingers.

Page by Tamora Pierce

This sequence by Tamora Pierce is compact, but it shows the sort of attention to detail you need when writing an individual versus a group. It’s not the only way to do it and whatever we suggest here, there are always many more strategies for you to uncover and develop in your own work.

We hope this has been helpful!

-Michi

http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=nCzpVS5EE-VFAN-goZTZeQ&u=/watch?v=SOU9jLLMw0Y&feature=share

http://www.youtube.com/attribution_link?a=nCzpVS5EE-VFAN-goZTZeQ&u=/watch?v=SOU9jLLMw0Y&feature=share

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9rtmxJrKwc

John Cleese on Creativity (by bedroomstudiotube)

This lecture by John Clesse has some very important implications both for you as a writer but also for your characters, with wider implications for what they can get away with in their behavior in combat situations.(Though he doesn’t discuss that in the video.)

The idea is this: combat happens when your characters in the Closed mode, it’s a high pressure environment where your characters need to make decisions immediately and decisively with no room for error or doubt. Humor in those situations is a luxury. It pushes the character into a more contemplative mode, the Open mode. It gets them thinking when they don’t have the time to be thinking( a distraction) in a fight.

Trash talking, joking, and one liners can happen before and after a fight, but not during. The only sort of trash talk that can occur during is the sort where your character doesn’t have to stop and think about it, but even then, remember that talking is not a free action. It requires breath, takes oxygen that should be going to your character’s muscles, while both loosening and relaxing the jaw which leaves your character more open to a knockout blow or biting their own tongue when they get hit.

Always dedicate points in your story for the times when your characters are capable of cracking jokes to release the tension (before and after) and when they need to buckle down for work (the fight itself).

So, watch the video, it’s useful and informative plus it’s John Cleese. It’s hilarious.