The normal caveat applies twice for this one: This is advice about writing about fighting based on the experiences and training I’ve had, not the be all and end all of self defense advice. If you want to learn self defense/how to fight (which are two different but related fields of study), find a good instructor to learn from in person. While the stuff I’m about to talk about has worked for me, it might be the wrong call for you if it came down to a real life problem. This is also a huge topic, and learning these things has taken me a long time and some painful lessons, so think of these tips as pointing you towards doing more research if you think they’re right for your character.
I’ve talked quite a bit about different fighting techniques and how your characters might apply them, but a friend of mine pointed out that I’d never talked about what it’s like to lose a fight, or what to do when you’re up against someone who is bigger, faster, stronger and better than you are.
In short, it’s horrible to lose a fight and if you’re up against someone who is that much better than you, all you can do is try to survive.
I’ll cover how it feels to lose, and how hard it can be to recover from a bad beating in another article. For now I’d like to look at how your characters could handle facing down against someone who has them outclassed on every level.
- Leg it.
Always an option to consider in any real fight. Running the fuck away from danger is an amazing plan if it’s something you are physically capable of doing, the situation allows it and you’re not running into something worse. In a pitched hand to hand fight against one or more opponents you might not be able to actually beat the person you’re fighting, but if you can even momentarily knock them back (or preferably, down) you can make enough of a gap to run through.
2. Turtles and cats
Perhaps things have gone too far for simply running away. Say you’ve been knocked down and are about to be on the receiving end of a serious kicking. There are pretty much two options other than simply wishing for it to be over (although you can do that too). The first is the turtle position. Basically it means curling up in a ball on your knees, tucking your head in with your hands up to protect your head and neck. You can still get badly hurt from here, but the position does protect your head, neck and groin and it makes breaking arms and legs a tough ask for anyone who isn’t an half decent grappler. It’s also pretty much the only semi-safe position to endure a gang kicking if fighting back has become impossible.
It does have some downsides. It’s useless against a weapon attack. An unarmed kicking will hurt but unless your attacker knows to target the kidneys or spine, you’re probably not going to die while you’re curled up. But if there’s a knife involved the turtle leaves you open to getting stabbed in the kidneys, lungs and heart. I have it on good authority that that’s not a good time. It’s also a surprisingly hard position to get up from unless you’ve been trained how to, at least not without eating even more blows.
The other option is to fight off your back. I’ve never heard it called the cat before but I’m calling it that because I just rubbed my cat Connie’s tummy and about a minute in she decided she was going to try to deglove my hand. Off her back she could effectively use all four pointy limbs to rip me to shreds. Fighting off your back has its own downsides (for one it’s not hard for someone to stomp on your groin) but it’s amazing upside is you can kick from your back, you can grab anyone who gets too close and you’ll see the attacks coming. You can also stand up more effectively from your back. It sounds counter intuitive but it’s a lot easier to get up off the ground while keeping your offensive weapons pointed at the bad guy than it is from your front.
3. Grab and hold
I once fetched up against a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guy who had been training for two years when I started. He was two inches taller than me, twenty pounds heavier, well muscled, fit and very strong. I asked my instructor for advice about grappling him and he just shook his head and said ‘survive’. I lost, but it took a lot longer than anyone thought it would because while I had no hope of out grappling the dude he hadn’t expected me to cling on to him like he was a life raft.
This doesn’t work for long, someone good will eventually shuck you off and resume thumping/strangling you…but it can buy you some time.
4. Filthy, filthy tricks
These don’t work nearly as often as they’re supposed to, but when up against someone you have zero hope of beating in a fair fight…stop fighting fair (assuming this isn’t a sporting match). Eye pokes, groin strikes, biting and small joint manipulation (grab their pinky finger and try and make it touch the back of their hand) can completely derail an opponent. It can also prove horrifically ineffective at inopportune moments.
When I was training MMA a lot I was in charge of taking new students through some basics before we let them loose on the mats. Several times I tried teaching a guy who wasn’t there to learn anything, he was there to show me how much he knew. I’d be half way through showing him the basic positions of jiu jitsu, or a takedown and he’d suddenly try and eye gouge me (or in one case bite me) full force…while saying ‘but I’d just eye gouge you like this’. At which point I would feel compelled to show them exactly why trying a dirty trick when you’re in a bad position will only work about one or two percent of the time.
On the other hand I have been accidentally poked in the eye a few times while sparring and it totally stopped me in my tracks. So it’s not that these things can’t work, but bear in mind that it might end up making things even worse for your character (which can be a good thing for your story).
5. Change the fight
This…doesn’t always work. Sometimes though, you are outclassed because you’re fighting someone else’s fight. I am 100% sure I can’t beat a professional kickboxer in a stand up fight. But if I can alter that fight so it’s a grappling match I’m in with a chance. Your protagonist might be getting the crap kicked out of them…until they move the fight onto a slippery floor where they’re the only person with a good hand hold.
A blade changes any fight when it makes a sudden appearance, in fact any weapon does.
Giving your characters the chance to change the circumstances of the fight can lend them a victory (or an escape) against opponents they have no business beating. This can lead to its own problems, like gaining a reputation they can’t back up, and further angering the monster they just beat, but it’s a good option if you want to show your character can be beaten, but don’t want them to actually lose.