Tag Archives: writing reference

Weapon Primer: Elbows and Knees

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about elbow and knee techniques, especially regarding their combat versatility, power, and general usefulness. In fact, this will probably be a very short article because there’s not actually that much to talk about.

Let’s start by bringing this close to home and talk about the source of your elbow and your knee.

Elbows and Knees are joints:

This is very important to remember, not just because your character is going to be working with half of their arm and half of their leg instead of the whole one, but also because elbow and knee strikes are high risk versus high reward. Your elbow and your knee are joints. This means that unlike breaking a toe or a finger in your punch or kick, you break your elbow or your knee on a hard surface and its goodbye arm and leg movement. A broken joint is major surgery with the possible side of the arm never moving right again.

So, where do you take the elbow or the knee: soft targets.

A soft target is a part of the body that is unprotected by bone like the stomach, the groin, or the front/side/back of the neck.  You don’t really want your character putting their elbow anywhere near the vicinity of someone else’s face, unless they’re doing an elbow strike that comes up under the jaw. This is because the most armored part of the human body is the face.

Remember that feeling you had the last time you banged your elbow against a hard surface like a metal pole or a wall, or a wooden desk? Yeah, that’s what putting your elbow into someone else’s face is going to feel like.  An elbow is not a powerful enough strike to be worth that risk.

Limited range of motion means less power:

When used appropriately in close quarters situations, elbows and knees can be very effective strikes. The problem is that on their own they don’t have much power.  Elbows and knees are joints; this means that unlike a punch you cannot achieve a full rotation of the body. Remember, power comes from extension and from the hips, shoulders, and joints working together to achieve maximum effect. An elbow and knee halves that equation because you can only use your hips and your shoulders, instead of the full arm or full leg. Less momentum equals less inertia which equals less force which equals less power overall. A fair amount of fighting does come down to physics.

Now, you’re probably thinking: but I’ve always been told the best way to take a guy down was by kneeing him in the groin? Yes, but that’s not because the knee is a powerful strike. The groin has more nerve endings than anywhere else on the body, when struck the reaction is painful immediate in either gender. A knee has a better chance of reaching the groin than the foot, this is because the odds are the girl is going to be standing near to the guy already and the pants are a great visual guiding line for someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.

Proper application will overcome a lot of limitations. Unfortunately, an author needs to know what those applications are before they can use the technique in their work.

So, where does your character need to be to the other person for their technique to have a chance in hell of working?

You need to be nose to nose:

There’s a very quick way to double check that: lift your arm and put it out in front of your face, now bend your hand back to your face. See your elbow? That’s pretty much the full length of the rotation. Your character is going to be nose to nose with their attacker, probably in some sort of grappling situation. A front facing choke performed with either one or two hands has more range than an elbow strike. Elbows and knees are for those moments when you don’t have room to punch or kick, when you’re so close you can smell the other person’s deodorant and what they had for breakfast.

So, when should your character be using these strikes?

Elbows and knees are for when you’re trying to gain complete control of the attacker:

Elbows and knees don’t actually do that much damage compared to punches or kicks, but their limited range of motion means that the attacker can get away with quick subsequent repetitions and you don’t want to permanently injure your opponent. This is why they are often taught in self-defense because they are both easier to learn in a short period of time than punches and kicks, but also because there’s not a lot of chance that the student will actually permanently injure their opponent which keeps them mostly out of trouble with the law.

You can actually perform multiple elbow strikes to someone’s windpipe without risk of crushing it, compare to the half-palm strike which has a much greater chance of doing just that. The elbow and knee are good for stun locks, but not for killing.

So, what techniques can you perform with an elbow or a knee?

Let’s talk about it:

The Elbow:

Though the elbow only has a very limited range of motion, there are places where it truly does excel. The elbow is one of the only hand/arm techniques that can be performed in all four directions and the easiest and most natural one to do against an enemy that’s looking to grab your character in a bear hug. (A bear hug is a technique in which the opponent wraps their arms around both of yours and lifts you up off the ground, squeezing and nullifying your motion so that their buddy can come and pound on you.) When a character is coming in from behind but is too close for an effective kick, an elbow to the gut can provide the time they need to turn while opening their attacker up to an effective counter.

The bony tip of the elbow is rarely used in combat, because yes that is indeed exposed bone. Exposed bone against a hard surface is very painful and a person has quite a few bony places on their body. So, that advice Divergent gave about sharp knees and elbows being an advantage? That’s complete bull.

Here are the different directions you can perform with an elbow strike:

Forward: the elbow comes across in a diagonal arc in front of the face. This strike hits with the meaty portion of the forearm and not the bony tip, while it can go to the nose, it’s best to stick with safe places like the neck. This one will only work when your character is driving their body forward.

Up: Too close for an uppercut? Bring that elbow up under the jaw! Again, this hits with the safe, meaty portion of the forearm and not the elbow’s tip.

Sideways: Left or right will depend on which arm your character is using, the elbow drives out sideways into the incoming attacker. Again, usually aiming for the neck or the pressure point in the upper arm, because this strike does use the tip of the elbow your character is going to want to aim for soft places. Also, this strike has very limited range of motion and high is the only place it can really go.

Back: Bring that elbow back and the arm creates a natural triangle right into the opponent’s gut. If your character can time it right, this is an exceptionally useful defense when faced with someone attacking from behind.

Down: So, you’ve exposed the back of your opponent’s neck but you don’t want to risk a massive injury to his or her spinal column, drive that elbow downwards. Unlike the knife hand, this move is legal in MMA.

The Knee:

The knee is a nice stealth strike to the lower portions of the body, the movement of walking up to someone else can mask the character’s intentions and a solid strike to the pressure point midway up the thigh can take a leg out early in the fight. Unfortunately, because of the knees limited range of motion it only has one direction: forward. It also can’t reach the face and, depending on who your character is fighting, even the groin without help.

To use a knee as a finishing movement for a fight, it needs to be combined with a clinch. In boxing, a clinch is when an opponent has their hands around your head and is controlling your range of motion. Remember, where the head goes the body follows. The elbows close in around the face and they grip you tightly, driving their knee up into your body. Because of the clinch, the knee can reach the groin and even the stomach region which can be devastating for the fighter. When in the clinch, the opponent can even pull the head down and drive their knee up into your character’s face.

This is where the knee gets its reputation from and why it is bad news bears for your character or their opponent in that sort of situation.

-Michi

Do you know if people with bipolarity could have an irrational hatred towards someone? And get too attached to someone?

nimblesnotebook:

I’ve looked around a bit and some people say they get too attached to people too quickly or have irrational hatreds and can’t explain it, but I really don’t know anything about it or why it occurs in people with bipolar disorder.

Do any of my followers have an input?

I really suggest starting with the DSM IV Entry For Bipolar before trying to get into the minutiae of behavior. Can they develop an irrational hatred for someone else? Yes, but don’t most people? There are plenty of examples out there of perfectly “normal”, “sane”, and “rational” individuals who develop an irrational hatred for someone else and act on it. They kill people over it and they have done so for centuries without the help of a chemical imbalance in the brain. The same is true for attachment, someone who is lonely may subsequently become too attached to someone else who takes an interest in them during a short period of time. What matters are the circumstances surrounding the character.

Or are you wanting a disorder that will allow your character to hate someone else just because they are there and they exist? In which case, that’s not really bipolar. Are you looking for a character who suffers from having high emotional states that they swing between so fast it makes your head spin? Again, that’s not really bipolar. Bipolar isn’t someone having an excess of emotion and it doesn’t necessarily lead to paranoia. Most people who suffer from or were born with bipolar behave like mostly “normal” people for most of the year, they cycle in and out of their manic states. It’s more seasonal than anything else, though what that season is depends on the person. If an event or action happens within their manic period it may set them off, it could be something small or stupid like accidentally taping over an important event, getting into a fight with their kids, getting a parking ticket, anything really could be a triggering event that will lead to a blow up. But it will only be while in their manic state and a few seconds later, everything may be fine and they’re back to normal. Do they hold onto those feelings for long periods of time? That’s going to depend on the individual and it’s not necessarily a hallmark of the disorder itself.

It’s also worth remembering that bipolar is one of the easier disorders to treat with medication. If you’re working with a character in a modern setting, you’re going to need a reason in the text for why they are not seeing a psychiatrist and why they aren’t taking steps to “deal with” their disorder. A character who knows that they are bipolar will behave differently from a character does have it but refuses to admit it. Bipolar is also one of disorders where you can track its genetic history through a family, if they have it then it’s likely that someone else in their family does also such as their mother or father, grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc.

Like all disorders, how much it affects their behavior will depend on how strong their bipolar is. Not all people with bipolar are created equal, people are individuals, they have different personalities and they handle situations differently.

Much like ADD, Autism, and Schizophrenia, Bipolar is poorly represented in the media and much of the information you’ll find on most television shows, in most movies, and in most books is painfully inaccurate.

Here’s what I think you should do if you’re serious: get a psychology textbook, contact a psychiatrist in your local area who handles disorders and see if they’d be willing to talk to you about it, take a psych class at your local community college or at the college you may be currently attending if you’re a college student, find out if there’s anyone in your own life who lives with the disorder who might be willing to talk to you about it. It’s going to be very difficult for you to write about someone with a mental disorder, any mental disorder, unless you yourself posses it or know someone else in your life who does. The mental thought process and the behavior will be too difficult to manufacture on the page otherwise.

My two cents.

-Michi

I have a character skilled in hand-to-hand combat, spear use, and swordsman ship. The thing is, does using these weapons change said character’s build? How do I show the reader something realistic without drowning it out by over detailing the fights? And do you know of any good reference for this?

Build as in body type or build as in RPG?

If it’s build as in body type, then that’s going to depend on the kind of armor he’s wearing, not the weapon he’s using. I know, it feels ironic, but it’s true. The armor is the additional weight his body is going to be lugging around and has to get used to moving quickly in, etc. Different kinds of armor create different body types.

For example, your typical martial artist will have a body type that’s similar to that of a marathon runner: long and lean. If you’re trying to identify them out of a crowd, you might accidentally pick someone who does parkour instead. Compare to someone who spends a fair amount of time wandering about in plate mail, they’ll look a little more stocky like a gymnast with a lot of muscles built up in their upper body (shoulders, back, and arms). They’ll also have thicker muscles in the neck. This isn’t because the sword is heavy, most swords were actually light weight, it’s the armor (which also isn’t that heavy, it’s cumulative over time: more weight on the body requires more stamina to keep fighting for a longer period of time and stave off fatigue).

The other thing you need to decide (though the weapon choice may have already decided it for you) is which weapon is your character’s primary? My guess would be the spear, simply because they’d always be carrying it in their hand and it’s a weapon that’s very difficult to store (you can’t put it on your hip and it’s awkward across the back), so it’s what they’d turn to first. Then, to the sword, then to the hands. The hand to hand combat they’d be most used to and use most frequently wouldn’t be punches or kicks but wrestling and grappling. The techniques you need when an opponent has gotten past your weapon’s guard and is threatening to take you to the ground. They’d be supplementary techniques for desperate situations, your character’s first instinct is going to be: always reach for the weapon. He’ll either grab for his spear or move to draw his sword, depending on what’s available. In situations where he’s feeling threatened, he’ll probably move his hand to rest on the pommel of the weapon or grip the shaft of his spear more tightly.

When writing your combat sequences focus on what the techniques are doing, not what they are. You want to craft sensations intertwined with what the characters are feeling, leave the minutiae for when they’re not in combat. The best way to prove your character knows what they’re doing is how they behave when they’re not in combat. This frees you up to keep on point during the fight sequences.

Fight Write: Your Characters Weapon is also a Character

If I were you, I’d start checking out both the Italian School and the German School of Fencing, these are the surviving schools of European sword combat styles. Also: ARMA: Association of Renaissance Martial Arts and Wiktenauer a site run by the Historical European Martial Arts Alliance and contains the worlds largest library of historical training manuals. Both groups have experts who’ve written books on the subject, I’d check those out too.

On the spear, you need to do yourself a favor and pick which style of spear combat your character is using. I’m assuming we’re talking European for sword combat, but it’s worth remembering that almost every culture throughout history across the span of globe with access to enough iron deposits had their own variation on the sword and sword combat. This is also true for the spear. The Chinese version of spear combat is wildly different from, say, the Greek, but both are effective. So, narrow your scope. If you’re doing European forms of sword combat and not say, Chinese, I’d suggest sticking with Europe but unfortunately there aren’t that many visual examples of European spear combat available. So, heh.

The Hidden Fortress by Kurosawa show cases a sequence with spear combat. Hero with Jet Li has a phenomenal combat sequence between sword and spear. 300 uses spears, obviously, I don’t know if it’s accurate to the Greeks but it’s worth throwing on the research pile. Also: the Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce has some of the best fight scenes regarding staff/spear/glaive combat and hand to hand. I’d read her entire Tortall catalog, she’s one of the few authors I feel comfortable recommending. You can tell she’s got some experience with the techniques and this series goes over some jiujutsu holds and grapples in the early books. Those will be helpful to you.

 I also recommend picking up a copy of Wally Jay’s Small Circle Jujitsu and Taiji Chin Na The Seizing Art of Taijiquan by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Min. Dr. Yang, Jwing-Min also has several other books detailing both Tai Chi Chuan and Shaolin with a combat focus that might be worth a look. Both are great because they talk about concept, not just technique.

-Michi

How does one exploit an opponents inertia, momentum, and body physiology? I thought that was their speed, weight, and power?

Yes, but thinking the other way tends to result in students putting too much stock in size, height, and weight. Most of the common misconceptions about martial combat involve erroneous assumptions about how techniques work and what kind of people have the advantage. For example: the common reasoning behind why women can’t fight is that they’re often shorter on average than most men, their build is naturally more compact than their male counterparts, and they often weigh less. The assumption is that because they weigh less and have a more difficult time developing upper body strength, they generate less force.

Not so.

Strength comes from the way the joints work together, because most women have wider hips than men do they can generate more momentum. The rotation of the hips and shoulders together is what creates the force for a punch. Their naturally lower center of gravity means that they can create a stronger base when dropping their weight into their feet, this means they can easily unbalance a taller fighter.

Terminology changes the way we see the world. Words influence perception, by changing our perceptions we change our approach to a problem. You don’t switch to different techniques to face a bigger fighter, you can use what you know against an opponent of equal to greater size. When I was studying martial arts, our techniques weren’t broken down to: here’s a special set for facing a big guy, here’s the normal set for everyone else. What matters is what you know versus what they know.

If you want to exploit someone’s technique, you have to figure out how the body functions and how the pieces work together. For example: someone swings at me, I lean back, they miss, but their momentum will continue to carry them forward and because of that momentum it will take slightly longer for them to come back around. In the meantime, they’re vulnerable. I hit them in the ribcage they’ve provided for me, or depending on what’s open to me I might go for the shoulder. The shoulder is a joint, stun lock the joint and they can’t use that arm for another swing. Now, they’re in pain and they only have one arm they can use. Pain and fear are distracting, they lock up the mind. I have more openings, depending on what I have I could go to the stomach or since I’m already high, I could go to the throat with an elbow. When they have reached the point where they can no longer fight back, I leave.

This is how you exploit: one technique to the next, to the next, when you have your opening don’t let up until they’re done. Debilitate, incapacitate, and finish them off. So the question is: how does the body work together and what points on the body can I exploit to keep them from attacking me?

Let’s do another: a shin is exposed bone that’s unprotected by the muscles of the body, when hit it hurts. Now, pain has distracted my opponent. He’s facing me, his feet are on an even line between each other. Because I’ve kicked him, I have to put my foot somewhere, I step down between his feet. I’ve now changed the balance equation, I put my hand on his chest and push, he stumbles backwards. Now, he’s far away from me and outside of hand range: front kick to the stomach. Now, his shin is hurting and the wind is knocked out of him, the fight may end here or if he’s not done yet, I may step forwards and since he’s already doubled over wrap my arm around the back of his head putting my forearm against his throat and arc my back into a guillotine choke and hold him there until he either passes out or dies.

Reaction depends on the opponent, the techniques your opponent uses will provide your reaction. Create opportunities from the options they give, know how the body works and what it needs to function, then don’t let up until it’s over. When martial artists talk about combat like it’s a dance, this is what they’re discussing: the give and take in the combat between fighters that begins to look very intricate to an untrained outside observer. It has absolutely nothing to do with actual dancing, but you know artistic license.

The problem is that writers and untrained practitioners only consider the technique and that’s all they see. They’re thinking: how do I exploit the technique? Or how do I exploit their speed? Their weight? Their power? That’s the end result.

How do I exploit their arm? There are lots of options: shoulder, elbow, wrist, the gap between the ulna and radius bone, the place on the upper arm where the biceps and triceps meet, the pressure point midway up the forearm. How do I exploit their leg? There are lots of options: hip, knee, ankle, shin, foot, heel, toes. How do I take their speed from them? Exploit their legs. How do I nullify their weight? Change their balance by moving your feet. How do I negate their power? Take it from them by using all of the above.

There are vulnerable points everywhere on the body. All you need is to know that they’re there and what they lead to.

-Michi

I’m writing a fantasy novel right now in which one of the characters is a monk who uses martial arts. One of the problems that authors writing different worlds come up against often is that they must make up a lot of the details that others can just research. So my questions are these: is there a good way to make up a fighting style? What are some pitfalls to watch out for? Should authors describe real-world fighting styles instead? Any more tips you have for how to approach this would be great!

I wouldn’t recommend building your own martial art, even in a fictional sense unless you have a few black belts underneath you. The problem is that the innate understanding of how techniques are put together, which techniques are used and taught and how they feed into each other and build off each other as you advance up the tree just isn’t there.

It’s just going to be easier in the long run to find a martial art that fits your purposes and warp it’s history to suit the history of your setting. Preferably, it’ll be one whose history already mirrors the themes and philosophies your story supports. The quickest way to figure that out is by deciding what you want from the martial art, like everything it may require a lot of research into different martial arts and their backgrounds.

You might also want to look where you’re drawing your inspiration from for your story to begin your search. For example: while monks in both Europe and China did go into battle and learn the fighting arts, if you’re pulling primarily from D&D you want to go with Shaolin. The reason is that the basic philosophies of Shaolin, The Tao, and Confucianism are already present in the way D&D structures and puts together the monk class. Your monk may subconsciously end up reflecting those tenets even if you didn’t intend for that to happen.

When you know what went into something and the inspirations it took from , you can extract what you need back out. You can strip away the superfluous elements that are unique to the setting you took inspiration from and keep the idea you wanted to take without the risk of someone pointing to you later and saying: oh, this came from X. Most monks in modern fantasy fiction are drawn from the D&D mold, because of the Tao and the use of Chi (energy). Because of Star Wars chi is often accidentally translated into magic. If you want a Christian monk, you need to use European styles of fighting. Christian monks often carried staffs, cudgels, maces, and even swords (Friar Tuck is an example) because they would often be facing armed and armored opponents even among the peasantry. By the time the Catholic Church had spread across Europe, hand to hand techniques would have been mostly useless to them. This doesn’t mean they were less skilled, different circumstances call for different tactics.

Remember: martial combat is reactionary, what feeds the creation of a style is the challenges the practitioner will face in the world around them. By figuring out what those challenges are, you can then turn to a society that also faced similar challenges and find a martial art with a philosophy that will fit your setting.

Most writers start at the end point, the results are what they see. Don’t start there, back up to the beginning: what are the pieces at work and what sort of world do they build together to create. Know your world and you’ll find your combat style.

-Michi

I have a question, I’m wondering how to write a fight between two people using their fists. How do they defend themselves what are the right movements? I just wonder what is needed to be taken into account to write such a scene. I’m sorry if this has been answered before.

Don’t be sorry! Writing about fighting when you have no practical experience is a difficult challenge and writing fight sequences when you do is still time consuming. There are a lot pieces working together and figuring out how they function is difficult and something very few writers actually do well.

Here are a list some of our posts that may be helpful to you:

Five Simple Ways to Write Convincing Fight Sequences

Fight Write: A Basic Upper Body Primer (Open Hand)

Fight Write: A Basic Upper Body Primer (Fists)

Fight Write: The Art of Stepping

Fight Write: The Art of Blocking

Tip: Fights Start for a Reason

ObsidianMichi’s Real World Fight Facts

Fight Write: The Only Unfair Fight is the One You Lose Part 1

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

Unusual Martial Art: Street Fighting

Fight Write: Art, Sport, Subdual, and Lethality

Also check anything in our Michael Janich tag, he is a very good instructor who teaches self-defense. I refer people to his videos for the work he does with concepts, where he actively explains what a technique is, what it does, and why it’s used before teaching the technique. As a writer, you need both technique and concept before you can put it on the page.

I plan on doing a write up on both elbows and knees in the near future. There’s a lot of misconceptions about how these techniques work.

Also check out Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series particularly First Test and Page in The Protector of the Small quartet. Tamora Pierce is one of the few authors that write fight scenes I feel comfortable recommending for reference.

Good hunting!

-Michi

One of my characters is an agile and skilled fighter with a short blade, but needs both her lower legs amputated above the knee. With prosthetics, what difficulties or differences would this cause to her fighting ability?

Hoo boy. We’re not medical professionals and haven’t done a lot of research into prosthetics or their effect on combat. A lot of it is going to rely on the available technology in the setting and how good the prosthetics are. There are paraplegics who train in martial arts, run martial arts dojos, and teach others self defense. So, if it’s something you really want to pursue, I’d suggest doing extensive amounts of research.

But she’d have to learn an entirely new way of fighting. The feet, the ankles, and the lower legs handle our mobility, our weight adjustment for strikes. Fighting relies on footwork, not just for speed and agility, but to be able to perform complex strikes at all. It would take her years of work to be able to recover her fighting ability and she would never really achieve the level of prowess she had before in a competitive sense. There’s a huge difference between being able to defend yourself from an untrained combatant and a fight between two professionals.

This is just on the physical level and doesn’t touch on the psychological struggles that she’d face. Athletes and injuries aren’t a good combination, they have a habit of pushing to hard to fast during recovery and often injure themselves more. Someone that has been used to high levels of physical activity will face significant struggles when they’re suddenly forced to stay in bed for six weeks, when they can’t get up out of bed without help, when an orderly has to help them go to the bathroom, when their wheelchair (which she’ll need while she’s learning to use the prosthetics) won’t fit inside their house because the specifications weren’t built for it, when they can’t climb the stairs, when they’re looking at six or seven months of recovery and have to watch all their friends going off to do the things they used to do without them.

Could she retain enough mobility to continue in her current line of work? Probably not, unless you’re working with a futuristic setting. She’s going to have to figure out what else she can do with her time. I suggest looking up Oracle Year One by John Ostrander, before the New 52 reboot, Oracle was the most well known disabled superhero, you might be able to pull some inspiration from her journey and her transition into a different kind of superhero.

Here’s a personal story that might be helpful to you:

When I was twelve, I broke my left leg. I was training for my first degree black belt test at the time, that day our instructors were teaching us the tornado kick. It’s a jump spin kick where you perform a roundhouse, spin into a turn and perform a followup jump roundhouse. Do it fast enough and you start to turn sideways in midair. Anyway, it was on my third try, I’d finished the first kick and as I went into the spin, I felt my foot get caught on mat. My leg stopped moving but my body kept going, there was pain and then I was on the floor. I tried to get up, but my leg gave out like there was nothing there and I fell down again. I remember saying “I can’t walk”. It took two instructors supporting me on either side to carry me to the bench. My parents weren’t there and my mom didn’t arrive until the end of class, fifteen minutes later. One of the adult students gave me their jacket to use as a pillow, they took it back when they were leaving about five minutes before my mom came.

My master instructor carried me out to the car and my mom took me home, this was before cell phones. I waited in the car outside our house while she talked to my dad. Then, she took me to the emergency room where they put me in a cast and sent me home in a wheel chair because I didn’t know how to use crutches.

Our house isn’t ground level, every walk way into it has stairs. My room was on the back end of the house on the second floor, up a set of very narrow steep steps. The hallway leading back to my room was not wide enough for a wheel chair to fit. So, I slept in the guestroom in the front room for two months before my surgery. The guestroom was the only bathroom in the house with a standing shower that could fit a stool for me to sit on while I bathed. I wouldn’t have been able to take a shower in a tub and even with my leg wrapped in plastic bags to protect the cast (and later the external fixator) it would have been hard to take a bath. The shower didn’t have a handrail, so if I slipped and fell, there was no way for me to get back up. My wheel chair could not fit inside the bathroom, so I had to support myself by gripping the sink and the wall to the towel rack while hopping on one leg to get into the shower. Then, I had to sit on the toilet while my mom wrapped my cast up in a plastic bag. I also had to sleep on my back with my foot elevated on a cushion, I couldn’t roll over, and I couldn’t turn to find a more comfortable position in the bed.

My leg itched constantly.

For the first two weeks or so at school, people were very nice to me. They constantly offered to push my wheelchair from class to class, carry my books, hold the doors open for me, etc. After that, they stopped noticing, stopped doing nice things, mostly forgot about me. I’d always been a bit of an outsider, the weird smart kid with ADD but the difference between a mental disability and a physical disability is that you can’t hide from the physical one. People will see it and they will react to it: pity, disgust, curiosity are common. Mostly they don’t look at you, or when they do, they’re condescending to you, trying to be helpful without really being helpful like holding open one of the double doors instead of both and not really getting out of the way (you’d have to turn the wheelchair on a diagonal to get through and they were standing in the way). If you don’t take their help with gratitude (even when it’s not helpful) they get upset.

Things people say and do when you’re disabled that are really annoying: they use the handicap stall even though they’re not disabled and there are other stalls available, especially when they take the stall right in front of you because they’re ahead in line and didn’t see you, they tell you how lucky you are that you don’t have to participate in PE especially when all you want to do is to participate in PE, they ask to take rides in your wheelchair, often in inconvenient places such as while on the tennis courts, complete strangers ask to see your injury because their friends told them about it and when you show them they go “ewww, that’s gross!”. When someone takes your crutches and hides them outside the classroom because they think it’s “funny”. When people are nice to you because you’re in a wheelchair. When people think you can’t do anything for yourself because you’re in a wheelchair. When people think your mind got broken the same time as your legs because you’re in a wheelchair.

Things that are really annoying about being in a wheelchair: traveling between classes feels like going a few miles, you notice every crack and uneven piece ground, a slight diagonal in the ground feels like Mount Everest, having to roll all the way around a building to find a ramp, when a building doesn’t have wheelchair access, having to sit at the back of the class, having to get a new locker lower to the floor because you can’t reach your old, cherished one, not being able to go get a Christmas tree with the rest of the family and having to sit in the car while they go pick, having to sit in your wheelchair while other people bring you the presents even though that used to be your job. Having to wait for someone to pick you up and drop you off, because you can’t get home by yourself anymore. Not seeing the inside of your own room for two months because you’re in a wheelchair.

It all adds up and it’s a huge change in your life. Everything you once took for granted is gone and you have to find an entirely new way to live. If you’re really serious about having your character be a paraplegic, these are all things that you have to consider seriously for your story. It’s ultimately what the story is going to be about: finding a new way to live against the backdrop of who you used to be and what you used to do but can’t any longer.

I don’t know if that’s helpful, but it’s what I’ve got.

-Michi

(I should probably point out also this happened when I was twelve, I spent an entire school year in a wheelchair and then on crutches. I’m twenty-six now, but I still double check every building I walk into for wheelchair accessibility.)

l’enfer, c’est les autres: 60 Awesome Search Engines for Serious Writers

l’enfer, c’est les autres: 60 Awesome Search Engines for Serious Writers

Hey there, folks! Be welcome home! Have a question for ya, here it is: How can one with a simple knife or dagger fend themselves against an user of swords/clubs/any longer weapon, really. Also, this same dagger user, fighting against someone who uses swords and shielf. Thanks in advance, for everything :D

Shank them. Shank them before they see you.

You can stand and fight, but a dagger or even a short sword/long dagger is at a significant disadvantage against someone wielding a long sword. The problem isn’t necessarily a better weapon (it is) or a more skilled fighter, the trouble is reach. When it comes to weapons, reach and weapons that are further up the technology tree will have a significant advantage over one that’s further down. We don’t tend to think about medieval weaponry and swords, particularly long swords as technology but they are.  So, let’s break weapon lengths down. Someone working with a sword or club will be at a disadvantage against someone wielding a staff or spear, particularly if that staff or spear is metal plated and can take someone hacking at it. They did actually do this in Europe. When facing someone carrying a weapon that is the same as your own, spear versus spear, sword versus sword, then it becomes an actual contest of skill. The long sword has greater reach than a short sword and the dagger, putting the dagger wielder at the disadvantage because to win they have to fight their way past a very dangerous weapon before they can even get into striking range. Throwing a shield in on top of that is just unfair.

For you, the comparison is similar to punches versus kicks, someone who primarily uses kicks will keep the other person out of range and if they’re kept at range, they can’t do damage (unless they can catch the leg). Cun Lee does very well on the MMA circuit, for example, because most of the fighters he faces come from a boxing/wrestling/jiujutsu background and he uses a mix of taekwondo and muay thai kicks to keep them at range and knock them out.

So, how do they fend off an opponent with superior force? The best answer is: don’t fight on their terms. Stop and think about the strengths of the dagger as a weapon, it’s either a supporting add on used in desperate circumstances or its a weapon of surprise. It can be hidden fairly easily and does incredible amounts of damage swiftly in close quarters, in the ranges where the sword and staff become less useful (if you’re working against a European long sword watch out for the pommel, it’s a close quarters weapon if the sword is already out of it’s sheath…a shield can also be used as a bashing weapon to knock someone back). The character just has to figure out how to get there.

So, disengage, run away, come back later when they don’t expect it and shank them. Or take them by surprise the first time out, then run and hide. It’s not noble, it’s not pretty, but it works.

-Michi