Bonus Fight: Notes on Fight Choreography in Fiction

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I was going to do a post on something else, but instead I ended up writing to some random twerp on Google+ about the difference between prize fighting and real fights, and when to use them differently in fiction.

I will share that here so it won’t be completely wasted (as I’m pretty sure it was on him).  Also, as an aside, please understand that I have no doubt that the man performing this demonstration is a consummate athlete who could remove my ass, kick it, then reattach it to my forehead and there would be nothing I could do about it.  (Except eviscerate him in fiction, as A Knight’s Tale‘s Chaucer would put it.)

A note on fight choreography and writing.  The guy is a good wrestler, but don’t incorporate these things unless you have good reason: 4 attackers patiently wait their turn.  No one punches, kicks, or grabs an improvised weapon.  His self-defense ties up both of his hands and puts his head down, so he’s blind on a 200-degree arc.  His attackers keep reaching for his legs instead of striking/engaging the hands holding his head.  This is an excellent grappling demo, and crap fighting.  SO WHEN WOULD YOU WRITE A FIGHT LIKE THIS?  This stuff does happen, in controlled environments, for controlled reason.  Do you have an honor code, an audition to take your fighter out of his comfort zone, a test of mean strength?  This works for Secret Agent, Military, or Samurai fiction but outside of artificial rules it’s a no-no.
Undeground906: Having skills like this is a plus in a fight. You’re most likely going to be grappling anyway if you don’t knock someone out, and being able to do this is better than not being able to do this. 
Me:  Having these skills are a definite plus.  But I have heard too many fighters who thought the real world was the octagon or the wrestling mat, and got really hurt because of it.

In a pre-arranged demonstration bout in England, a fighter was winning on the ground, and neighbors misunderstood the situation, saw him beating a man on the ground, ran outside and broke some of his bones to “save” his “victim”.  Just the first example of many.

Ground-fighting skills are essential for survival, but the MMA/Cage Fighting idea that the ground is where you win is a prize-fighting/duelling idea.  Get up, get mobile, get away is a self-defense idea.  It’s the difference between Krav Maga and MMA in a nutshell.

Twerp: Are you saying grapling isn’t fighting? So if you have someone’s arm around your throat do you just try to punch them?
Me: Reading for comprehension time.  Grappling is a fight.  Real fights tend to include some grappling.  Self-defense goal / real combat goal is to avoid grappling situations.  Prize fighting / tournament goal is to get into them.

A 9th-Dan in Judo put it to me this way, in broken English one day: “In real world, someone grab, you break.  In real world, you grab and hold, you make life or death.”

But real life fights are very very rarely isolated from the outside world, one one one, with enough controlled circumstances to make ground game a go-to idea.  There are too many variables and you’ve lost most of your ability to maneuver against a second opponent or new circumstance.

Explicit enough for you?  Sheesh.

And by the time someone has their arms around your throat you’ve already made at least three mistakes.
1] You didn’t avoid the fight.
2] You didn’t stop the fight before it became grappling (see above note: life and death).
3] You didn’t prevent the choke.
So congratulations 3x loser you now have 6.5-30 seconds to reverse a really crappy position.  Enjoy.

So, since I re-read this and realized you asked it as a direct question:
How I deal with an arm around my throat:
1] Don’t get into the fight.  Give money.  Give an apology.  Back away.  Run away.  Not fighting = victory.
2] Escape the fight.  No one wins a civilian fight.  Someone always gets hurt and the other person hurts someone.  Unless some innocent is on the line, it’s never worth it.
3] Avoid the grapple.  My training teaches me that grappling is an escalation to mortal combat the same as pulling a knife.  I’m not going to pull a knife, and I’m not going to grapple.  If someone shoots in to start grappling, I will escalate the same as if they pulled a knife.
4] Then.  Yes.  Stop them.  Preferably before the choke gets locked in.  Preferably without killing them.  Many (but not all) modern wrestling and grappling moves are based on the idea that you can take a couple seconds’ worth of punishment to get your hold/lock, whatever.  That is also a ring-fighting idea.  If your opponent is willing to hit eyes/throat/burst eardrums, etc. then the trade-off changes.

The following example comes from a real-life training bout with a police self-defense instructor.  He shot in for my hips and I hit both his kidneys with full-body drop-hammers.  (He was wearing full armor, and he’d threatened my life if I stopped his heart through the vest before training began.)
“Why did you stop?”
“Sir?  You’re dead.”
“Yeah, in three days (from kidney failure), now keep fighting!”

Same instructor, different bout.  He shot in.  I faded back with a hopping snap kick that picked him up and dropped him to all fours.  “Why didn’t you follow me down?”
“Sir, this is when I run away!”

As above, the conversation was about the difference between real life fights and prize fights/tournaments, when to use what rules in fiction.

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