Tag Archives: the only unfair fight

Can you do an article on 1 vrs group fights. and the techniques people use and how to actually win them. So far all I hear is that I master can with great difficulty fight off a group but nothing on how. I feel this is an area that there is very little info about.

You’re in luck…

Also, no guarantee these are in the correct order. I’ve been using google to hunt them up, so it’s been a little scatter shot, and I might have missed something.

Fight Scene Strategies: The Individual Versus Group

There was also this ask chain… Which resulted in a lot of information over a couple days.

April 5th (Initial Question)

April 5th (Followup – Tactical Mindset)

April 6th (Followup – Excessive Force, Psychological Warfare, and Combat Nietzsche)

I referenced The Only Unfair Fight is the One You Lose articles here, you can follow the tag, or find Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Someone in the comments for one of those suggested looking at Skyrim and Dragon Age: Origins for insights into fighting groups, which is actually a terrible suggestion. I love both games in their own way, however they’re anything but realistic.

For Skyrim, it’s important to remember that the player character is explicitly a superhero. You see this most with the shout mechanic, but there are a ton of minor points scattered through the game where someone who’s familiar with the setting will realize magic just doesn’t affect the player character properly. As a fantasy superhero simulator it’s entertaining enough, but, as I said, it’s not a realistic depiction of combat.

As much as Bioware wants it to be an RPG, Dragon Age: Origins is a strategy game. I have a lot of nitpicks on inconsistencies in the setting (without including DA2), but even as much as they tweaked it from Neverwinter Nights, the combat is still a turn based strategy game playing out in real time. Or, in other words, not how combat works.

A little off topic, but there was an unrelated ask about angry mobs from December here.

-Starke

Regarding your recent answer to the anon question about fighting a group of bullies, I have a related question. Sort of? If the person being the “hero” wasn’t afraid of drastically escalating the violence/didn’t care about the consequences, would their chances be better? In a desperate situation where one person with some street fighting experience has to fight off three or four unarmed thugs with, say, the only weapon at hand being a plank of scrap wood, how do you think they would fare?

Being willing to start the fight with a corpse, or by crippling someone for life will do wonders for the situation. Adding a weapon that your character is willing and able to use moves this one into manageable territory. This gets into a range of psychological warfare, which we’ve actually discussed before.

Basically, this is a kind of threat management. All you need to do is make sure your opponents are unwilling or unable to fight. If your character is willing to kill someone, then unable is an easy threshold to hit; after all, it’s pretty hard to beat someone if you’re already dead.

Unwilling is a little harder to hit. If someone walks out of nowhere and summarily executes your buddy, odds are, you’re not going to want to mess with them and risk dying. If they just cripple your buddy, and look like they can keep doing that, again, that’s not something you’ll want a piece of. But, if someone simply attacks one of your friends, and you outnumber them four to one, you’ll probably feel a lot better about wading in.

This is all about creating a show of aggression that gets them to back off, but, the key is it’s an illusion, show any vulnerability and they’re willingness to fight will come back stronger. If you’re the one that’s outnumbered, this is very bad news.

Taking a hostage is also a viable way to make opponents unwilling to attack, but this one gets really complected quickly. First, the hostage’s buddies have to actually care about the hostage, which isn’t a certainty. Second, they need to believe that your character can and will harm the hostage. If the hostage is on their way to becoming corpse #2, then that’s covered, but if your character starts with taking a hostage, this could be up in the air. Finally, your character needs to have a clearly articulated objective. This is a short term solution, and if your character can’t use the hostage to leverage his buddies into doing what your character wants, it’s just a game of waiting for one of his buddies to do something stupid… well, stupider, and eventually they will.

Also, I know you stuck hero in quotes there, but this kind of a situation, and approach, will really subvert any attempt to make your character look heroic. If your character is willing to be a monster, then it is manageable.

Anyway, there’s more:

For the sake of context on my last ask, the time period is something like the late 1800s in a city the character isn’t tied to. With them is a person they care very much about who’s just been knocked out by these thugs, they (the character) intend to protect this person but he’s basically out of the picture for the duration of the fight. The character is scared, angry and won’t shy away from brutality. Is this a fight they can realistically win?

As a general rule, I’m not a fan of scrap wood over, say, an unattended piece of pipe. But, unless your character specifically brought a weapon with them, they’re limited to whatever they can get their hands on.

Depending on who these thugs are, and what your character is after, it might be winnable. An unconscious character is, ironically much easier to account for than someone who’s upright and an unknown quantity.

Not being a local, and (presumably) not hanging around in the same circles as the thugs will do wonders for keeping them out of any resulting criminal investigation (unless your character is distinctive in some way).

Now, scared and angry is a problem. Handling a situation like this requires a very cold, methodical approach. Being afraid and angry will work against that. An enraged foe is something the thugs should be afraid of, but if they sense that your character is afraid, the entire situation will go pear shaped. With anger, a genuinely enraged fighter is more likely to make mistakes and over commit. Anger also leads to tunnel vision, the combatant ignores, or sometimes outright loses their peripheral vision. In a real fight, particularly against multiple opponents, both of these will get people killed.

If they can escalate the brutality beyond anything the thugs can deal with, before a fight starts, then yes, they can get through it. If they can’t escalate quickly enough, then they’ll get swarmed.

-Starke

Got any tips for a character whose an assassin and uses underhanded tactics when fighting hand to hand?

I’d start by going through The Only Unfair Fight is the One you Lose posts:

Here, http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/52349151535/fight-write-the-only-unfair-fight-is-the-one-you-lose and here: http://howtofightwrite.tumblr.com/post/52428049557/fight-write-the-only-unfair-fight-is-the-one-you-lose

Beyond that, keep in mind, that for an assassin, they’re probably going to be killing any opponents as quickly as possible. Frequently, this means dispatching their foes before an actual fight can start.

If they do end up in combat, your character’s probably going to be looking for weapons to end a fight. If that’s a chair, lamp, toaster, or a handgun, then so be it.

I’m going to throw this one out there, since I don’t think we’ve mentioned it before: the head twist and break isn’t really a thing. Theoretically you can kill someone that way, but it takes a lot of force. And, from that position, it’s a lot easier (and quieter) to execute a choke hold and strangle someone to death that way.

Also, strangling someone takes a while. (And, no, this isn’t from personal experience.) Even after the victim goes limp, the character needs to keep choking them until the brain actually shuts down. Otherwise, they’ll just start breathing again, and recover.

I’d say look at Val Kilmer in Spartan and Tom Cruise in Collateral. Cruise is actually playing an assassin, while Kilmer is playing a government operative. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but the Thomas Jane Punisher film might also give you some ideas, there isn’t a lot of hand to hand, but that’s kind of the point.

If you have a lot of spare time, I’d recommend looking at 24. Kieffer Sutherland looks like he’s using a mix of Krav Maga and some miscellaneous CQB training. The problem is, there’s a lot of show (about 18 hours per season), and only a tiny fraction of that is combat.

There’s some good stuff in Burn Notice, so long as you remember that the only real difference between Michael and an assassin is that the latter is getting paid to kill someone. On the whole, the show is a good primer for tradecraft, which is useful for writing an assassin. Also, it’s entirely plausible to have an assassin that’s unwilling to kill people (outside of a contract), simply because it would draw more attention onto them, in which case, Michael is a very good character to look at.

Anyway, hope that helps.

-Starke

Michi wants to add Karl Urban’s character from Red, and Bruce Willis’ character from Lucky # Sleven. Fact is, we have a wall of DVDs featuring hitmen and assassins of all stripes, so this is by no means a comprehensive viewing list.

Fight Write: The Only Unfair Fight is the One You Lose (Part 2: Brutality)

This is the second part of our article “The Only Fair Fight is the One You Lose”, if you haven’t read the first part “The Nietzschean Defense” please do so. This article refers to some of the other more brutal aspects of combat. Again, we believe it’s important for every writer who wants to work with combat to understand it in its entirety. This includes the bloody, uncomfortable aspects of it.

Knowing when, where, and how far to push your character is a key part of writing a combatant. If you don’t know where the upper limits are, how can you write a character who defies them or worse, how can you write a character who goes there? This part of the article is the slightly gentler side of things. You know, if, for any reason, you don’t want your characters psyching out their enemies by becoming a monster in their personal horror movie. Below are are a few more mild options. These focus on ending the fight definitively and quickly before the fight has even gotten started. Again, we’ll be listing this with a trigger warning.

Joint Break

There are two kinds of joint breaks, elbow and knee. Elbow breaks are strictly defensive counterstrikes designed to cripple the attacker’s arm. Knee strikes exist as both defensive and offensive strikes.

Most elbow breaks rely on catching a strike, twisting the attacker’s hand like a normal arm lock, but, instead of applying force against the elbow to subdue the attacker, the martial artist follows with a hard strike to the back of the attacker’s elbow. If properly executed the strike will hyperextend the limb, tearing muscle tissue, and destroying the joint.

Defensive knee breaks work off a similar system; trapping the attacker’s leg during a kick, and delivering a hard strike to the knee.

Knee breaks also exist as a variety of kicks to the leg, designed to force the joint to tear. To break the knee all your character needs to do, is strike it so it bends in any direction except the one it had originally.

As with the attacks in the previous article; joint breaks are viewed as very egregious in the real world. These are injuries that will never properly heal without significant medical attention and surgery.

About 14 years ago, I hyperextended my knee while running. While, this was substantially less destructive than an actual joint break; I was on crutches for about a month, and was still using a cane to get around six months later. Even with physical therapy, this is an injury that’s never fully healed.

Breaking an enemy’s joint will effectively remove them from the fight, as they’ll slip into shock.

The Head Slam

We’ve talked about hair pulling, but this is the real payoff. The character seizes their opponent’s head, either by the hair, across the back of the skull, in the grip described in the eye gouging section, or by grabbing their face. They then start pounding the head into any nearby solid object with as much force as they can muster.

This works best as a preemptive strike. While a large character could grab an enemy mid fight and start slamming their head into things, jumping a character and using the force to repeatedly slam their head into the pavement is just as viable for a smaller character.

Films are somewhat fond of using these attacks, though they often downplay the danger involved. One or two strikes to the head will seriously impair any combatant.

Strikes to the front of the skull are slightly less effective, because of the heavier bone structure in the forehead, but with these attacks, exterior physical damage isn’t the point; inflicting brain damage is.

Head slams have an advantage over normal combat techniques: there’s little to no risk of hand injury from them. There’s also an equally serious disadvantage. Head slams can easily kill the other combatant, and the factors which control this are completely outside your character’s control. Bounce the brain off the skull to hard, or in just the wrong way, and they have a corpse to contend with.

The Groin

Everyone reading this should have some general familiarity with the concept of groin strikes. “Kick ‘em in the nuts, and down they go.”

This actually works on combatants regardless of their gender, though kicking women in the genitals requires slightly more accuracy to be effective since the striking region is much narrower. (Michi Note: I received an accidental knee to the groin during my third degree black belt test and it wasn’t much more than a clip, but it hurt like a…anyway, it’ll knock a girl out of the fight as same as a man.) If you’re wondering why: the clitoris is just as sensitive as the penis and has as many (or more) nerve endings. It’s just smaller, so it’s harder to hit.

-Starke

Fight Write: The Only Unfair Fight Is the One You Lose (Part 1: The Nietzchean Defense)

This is going to be a rough ride for some of you, so we’re listing this with a trigger warning for violence. Fighting is very violent, any aspect of the human condition that deals with survival usually is. I believe it’s important for authors to be aware of the full brutality of combat so they can go in with their eyes open and taper back as they see fit. The only way to ever truly be in control of your story is when you have as much information about the subject matter as possible. This includes delving into some basic aspects of human psychology and how that affects combat. We’ll be breaking this article up into two to focus on two very important but different aspects of brutal combat.

“The only unfair fight is the one you lose.”

The first time I heard this phrase was in a self defense class when I was about twelve or thirteen. At the time, I’d come to fights with the idealistic belief that there was some kind of fair play involved in how to fight someone. There isn’t.

I’ve since heard the phrase from several former military men and a few cops. Here’s what it really means. You do whatever you need to, to survive a fight. In the real world, a lot of these moves have serious legal consequences, if they’re used outside of a life and death situation, and they probably should in your story as well.

The Psychology

The moves I’m going to talk about are both based on a simple psychological assumption. The idea is to look at people the same way you look at any other social animal. Then have your character present the illusion of being more of a monster than they actually are, in order to scare off aggressors.

This works with untrained thugs, bullies, and petty criminals. It will not work as well on characters who have extensive experience with combat and or the aftermath of violence.

The Eyes

Gouging out someone’s eyes is an excellent counter to choking. This is best achieved by gripping the skill with the thumbs next to the eye, and the index and middle finger near the ear, and pushing the character’s thumbs into their eyesockets.

Going for the eyes, before beginning the actual gouge, will usually evoke a very primal response and force a character to stop choking their victim while they try to deal with the gouger’s hands. Gouges can be done from behind, if the victim is being garroted or held, simply by having the victim reach over their head and behind them. Finally a successful gouge will make other combatants leery of closing in on the gouger for fear of joining the Blind Justice crowd.

Tooth and Claw: Biting vs. Scratching

The strongest muscles in your body are located just below your cheekbone. Regardless of if you believe if it was simple efficiency or divine inspiration, your mouth and teeth are designed to separate meat from, well, pretty much anything.

On the bright side, people are made mostly of meat, so, if it comes down to it, taking a chunk out of someone’s shoulder is just a new application of something you practice three times a day.

Forget zombies, the worst bite a human can suffer is from another human. Our mouths are loaded with bacteria that we’re used to, but other people… not so much. Even if your character doesn’t take a piece off, the injury will need actual medical attention, and explaining away a bite wound to a medical professional or a cop can be very difficult.

Additionally, depending on how you bite, your molars can apply enough force to crush some smaller bones; completely, and permanently, crippling their hand.

After biting off a chunk, your character’s going to want to spit it out, along with as much of the blood as possible. There are a lot of potential pathogens that can be spread from blood or tissue contact (off hand; some flavors of Hepatitis and of course HIV/AIDS are the two most dangerous possibilities) , so, your character is taking on a fairly serious health risk from chowing down. As with the eye gouge, this is going to make other attackers back off; with the logic of, “if she just bit off his fucking ear, what’s she going to do to me!?”

There’s also a pretty serious psychological block about going toe to toe with someone who’s covered in someone else’s blood. This is just as true of people attacking your character.

In contrast, scratching, and this is personal experience, just doesn’t seem to be that viable. You do some surface damage to the tissue, and you do get some skin samples, but it’s far more socially acceptable, and far less dangerous. It won’t have the psychological effect you want and can actually spur more aggression.

-Starke

Fight Write: Pulling Piercings

It may sound odd to the uninitiated (and weird if you’ve read Divergent), but the one thing you do not want your character to have when they fight is piercings. Why? Because piercings are often put in nerve sensitive places: the ear lobes, the eyebrow, the nose, the lips, or simply embedded in the skin.

Combat is revolves around causing a damage to the opponent as quickly as possible. Ripping out someone’s piercings means that they will be put on the defensive, meaning that your character can move to the offensive by distracting their opponent with blood and pain (it’s difficult to fight if your eyebrow is leaking blood and clouding your vision or into your mouth). Pain in one region of the body, will distract the mind from pain in another, so while the opponent thrown back by the shock of “Oh god, you just ripped out my piercing!”, your character can be spending that time hitting them in the groin or the throat, or grabbing them and slamming their head/temple into a wall/table. Honor is a nice sentiment, but it has no place here: the highest priority in any combat situation is survival. Always take the advantage when it lands in your corner.

Studs are smaller and more difficult to grip, rings and any larger pieces are simply an excellent distraction piece.

Military Tip: For the most part, the Military outlaws piercings for men. It allows studs for women if they are in a non-combat position, however, it’s a bad idea. The only setting I’ve ever seen really get away from the piercing problem in a legitimate way is Warhammer 40k and their Space Marines. However, the Space Marines piercings are bolted into their skull. So, you know, good luck getting those out.

Protip: You usually don’t haul someone around by their piercings, they come out too easily and besides, that’s what hair is for.

-Michi