Tag Archives: escapes

Is it possible to fight without hands? Like if one is handcuffed or their hand(s) are injured? If possible, how effective would it be?

You can fight with your legs,with your shoulders, with your head, and with your mouth (assuming you can get close enough).

The caveat to this, of course, when it comes to the legs is being able to adjust your balance to fight with your hands bound. Martial combat utilizes the whole body for any technique, and the arms are an important part of balancing yourself when you’re on one leg. So, when your hands are tied behind your back, this disrupts their ability to balance themselves.

The other caveat to the legs is they are more difficult than the average hand to hand technique to master. They also don’t work as well in tight spaces unless you’re using a martial art designed for them such as Krav Maga, the martial art developed and used by the Israeli Defense Force.

It should be said, the first responsibility of a prisoner is to escape. If your character is in a position where they’re injured or trying to get away from their captors, they don’t have the time to be sitting around trying to take every opponent as they come nor should they want to. Unless they have some character flaw with a crazed need to prove themselves while fighting at an extreme disadvantage, their first priority is going to be getting away or getting their hands free so they can up their chances of survival.

This can ultimately be any kind of sequence you want, the old Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies often have fun over the top fight scenes where their trying to fend off multiple enemies while their hands are bound. It involves a lot of ducking, dodging, running, trying to free their hands, inevitably finding a way between using their opponent’s attacks (like with a sword) to cut their bindings, or something else before they can finally turn around and fight freely.

Usually, these sorts of scenes involve the character making use of their environment. (As all good fight scenes should.) Giving you a chance to show their cleverness and ability to innovate on the fly. An unarmed character with their hands bound isn’t going to have a lot of options against an enemy with a weapon, but they can utilize their environment do the fighting for them.

This can be simple stuff like using objects such as tables to separate them from their opponent, tricking their enemy into burying a sword in a chair instead of them, then kicking away the chair and disarming them, etc.

A more grounded sequence usually involves a bull rush breakout, stealth, playing dead, or sometimes just throwing yourself off a cliff.

The basic answer is: fight for flight. You don’t want to stick around while fighting at a disadvantage against people who have use of all their limbs, and probably weapons. Especially if it’s more than one person.

Don’t get caught up in the idea that skill is defined by winning, it isn’t. You can get about as far with social engineering as you can with violence. A character who is capable of risk assessment, and able to make choices based off their ability and environment is the way of showing a character knows what they’re doing. Sometimes, the choice really is escape so they can live to fight another day. When your character has a greater goal in mind, they really can’t afford to lose too much of their valuable time dispatching Mook Number 3. When your character is debating whether or not they’re going to fight, always ask: what do they get out of it versus the risks involved?

There’s a great episode in Justice League: Unlimited where Batman is caught by the Luthor’s evil league and he uses it as an opportunity to get intel and socially engineer the situation so they turn against each other.

There are lots of ways to take scenes like this which may not be immediately apparent, but are always opportunities to emphasize a character’s particular skill set.

Not everyone needs to be ripping out their captors’ jugulars with their teeth.


((I have bronchitis, so I apologize for everything being a little slow this week))

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Hey! Love your blog. If this has been discussed, forgive me, but I was wondering if you could talk about holds that a character might employ when they do not want to fight or injure their opponent but want to stop them from attacking altogether. Also, what options might a character have for getting out of a hold? Are there other holds a character might use if they didn’t care about causing injury? Thanks!

Well, despite someone’s best intentions fighting pretty much always means that someone is going to get hurt, even in Martial Arts like Aikido that are supposed to specialize in ending a fight by simply defeating an opponent but leaving them uninjured. The idea is basically that if you prove yourself to be an insurmountable obstacle that they’ll give up and go away. This philosophy is very rooted in Shinto and it pretty much only works in Japan (if it works at all). For an example, you see this philosophy at play a lot in Japanese Anime with villains or anti-heroes who change sides after they are defeated by the hero.

In real life people usually aren’t that amenable. They don’t just give up and go away. A character just saying they are better, knowing they are, and showing they are isn’t necessarily going to be enough. The other character may assume that because they didn’t feel pain this time, that the character cannot cause pain. They’ll come back and try again, even in a losing proposition. They need an incentive to stop, something more than just “I’m better than you” and pain can be a very nice incentive.

So, holds. A hold means holding your opponent, so all holds have several different stages that a character can upgrade to if the person they are holding is misbehaving. There are loads and loads and loads of holds a character can use that don’t involve injuring their opponent and almost all of them can be upgraded into a broken bone, limb, or genuine choke. It’s a dual usage technique.

A character will always operate on the basis of what they know how to do, the point where they stop is ultimately up to them. Two different characters with two different outlooks can use the exact same technique to achieve very different results. Focus on what the technique could do and whether or not a character takes it there, not whether or not the technique is appropriate to the situation. Your character only has enough time to learn so many things, what they do understand how to do is the basis of how they fight. Always remember that what they want to do and what they can actually do are two different things. Also, what they want is not always up to them, a fight involves at least two people.  Another character may force the first character to hurt them, simply because they won’t stop. Situations aren’t always amenable to our desires, even when we do everything right.

There’s one more thing to consider: after they have them in the hold, what do they do next? No, really, this is an important question. They can’t escape from the situation carrying the bad guy with them. The bad guy will probably still be fighting back and may not have realized yet that they’ve been subdued, or they may be playing for time until their buddies show up. Either way, your character is still going to have to call someone like the cops. This means (if it’s a two handed hold like a headlock), they’ll have to transfer the person their holding into a single hand hold, which gives the person the opportunity to escape. They’ll have to make the 911 call and talk to the dispatcher, they’ll be distracted, again giving their opponent the opportunity to escape. Today in the US it can take the police 15 to 20 minutes to show up, if they show up at all. This is a very long time to be holding onto someone, especially if you consider that the average fight only lasts about 30 seconds. The character’s legs and arms will begin to cramp, their muscles will start to protest, their hands will be slippery from the sweat, they may lose their grip. Again, giving their opponent the opportunity to come back around at them. This time, their opponent will be much fresher than they are because (assuming their opponent still has their wrist, arm, or leg intact) they’ve actually expended less energy over the long run trying to break free of the hold than the character has expended to keep them there. Ironic, isn’t it?

Finally, the discussion of escapes. To talk about escapes from holds, we’d have to discuss technique, theory, and practical application. We don’t really have time for that in a question format. But for the moment: the easiest answer to escapes is take the path of least resistance. In a wrist grab, roll the wrist against the thumb and yank, instead of pulling against the fingers. To escape from a two handed choke: drop your chin, bring the hands up between the opponent’s two hands (inside the wrists) and push outwards. In the bear hug, drop your weight. If someone has trapped you against the wall with two hands on either side of you: duck under one arm and leave.

This is the path of least resistance. For more information on holds (before we do an article ourselves), check out the Junkyard Aikido video under our Michael Janich or Michael D Janich tag. He goes over a lot of the different principles for holds and that might help get you thinking.