Tag Archives: Brutal Combat

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.


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.