Fight Scene Links

on August 24, 2011 in Misc

So today I’m finally gonna talk about a few resources on the Internet that writers can use for realistic fight/self defense scene information.  My blog pal Hart first suggested it (Confessions of a Watery Tart), and pal Ben (EveryDay New Year) told me that yes, there’s lots on YouTube that can help, and that he’s studied three martial arts so far.  Ben, you are so much more ambitious than I am.

But back to Hart and also Ciara (Ciara Knight) for their enthusiastic support for Buffy the Vampire Killer.  After watching a few more episodes, I got a feel for the fight scenes and enjoyed most what I saw.  But let’s start first with the slightly down side …

Some of the Buffy’s fighting techniques seem more theatrical than practical, which makes sense considering the show’s premise (high school girl fights vampires and other evil creatures).  Thus there are the widely thrown, swooping punches, which look great, but more often a direct fist back/fist forward (and put your whole body into it) can not only be more effective but crushingly faster.  As I’m always being told in fencing when I start to swashbuckle, the quickest way between two points is a straight line, so make it fast and clean.  Buffy and her foes also use lots of aerial movements and kicks when maybe more peppering of small jabs and crosses could be effective, and a few times Buffy pauses to climb up on something or whatever to get a better angle for her next attack.  That’s when the action seems to lose its pacing.

But on the upside, a lot of what Buffy does is practical and smart and she knows how to adjust herself in each fight.  She’ll use spin kicks in tight spaces to give her kicks enough power.  She’s smallish so her moving up in aerial kicks can level the playing field.  Her punches go for the vulnerable face and not a guy’s strong chest, etc.  She’s also often up against evil human-looking beasties who need to be smashed and so she smashes them; no girly, hesitant fighting on her part, and if a vampire needs to be staked she doesn’t hesitate to stake away.

Finally, there are a couple deadly techniques that (so far) I’ve never seen Buffy use, but considering her audience and the producers’ responsibilities, they shouldn’t show them.  I’m talking about chops and kicks to the throat, and of course the throat strike/tiger claw (as in taekwando) to the throat.  Since I’ve watched little kids act out what they see on TV or in movies, you don’t want them learning stuff like that.  On the other hand, in grown-up movies like the Jason Bourne ones, it’s the deadly and realistic fight scenes that can be exciting for us grown-ups.

Here’s a really handy website I found on the Taekwondo Throat Strike or Tiger Claw. As the guy demonstrating it says, this is only for taking out a guy (“…jack him”) in a serious situation involving protection of yourself or loved ones – or for us writers, for our characters who have to do as much.

As you can see, this website is called TAEKWANDO ANIMALS, and I personally think it’s a great resource for writers.  Notice the Table of Contents on the left-hand side.  If you click on the different topics, such as Punches & Strikes, you’ll bring up lots of definitions and descriptions under that topic, and for several of the topics, each definition will bring you to a video that demonstrates the specifics.  Like the difference between the jab, the cross, the upper cuts, etc. and how TKD is the same as boxing in this respect.  I loved the spinning back fist video, and the Defense Against the Side Kick techniques look like something Buffy would use, like climbing up on the guy.

A lot of these videos are also on YouTube, but this one website brings them together and organizes them in a very smart, convenient way.  For example, the link on “Kicks” brings you to a list with 14 different kicks, the definition of each, and one to several videos for each.  The filmed instructors give specifics that can make all the difference in a fight scene, from where the foot is pointed to taking a hop forward to add momentum to an attack.  In fact there’s so much on this website I’m still exploring it.

Also, for real-world fighting techniques, go to YouTube and type in Krav Maga.  You’ll find plenty of videos that break down specific attack/defense tools, such as “defense for bear hug from behind arms” and “knife to throat defense.”

For more advice, I’m going to steal shamelessly from Ben by quoting from his comment to me:

Youtube has thousands of helpful videos. If you want martial art mechanics, then the Youtube channel Submissions 101 is helpful for takedowns and Jiu Jitsu, Expert Village teaches step by step moves. If you’re looking for ideas for fight scenes, type in “Martial arts” or “Fight scene” or “Fight scene choreography” and watch a ton of videos, taking the best moves from each video you like to create a realistic yet adrenaline pumping fight scene. Readers don’t like a description of every move, though, so only a few are necessary to make it feel realistic. Fight scenes are best written (I have found) with thought narration, overview of the fight (i.e. John dodged a flurry of punches) instead of details of each punch being thrown… but, I have found Youtube to be quite helpful in my writing of action scenes.

So there you have it.  Hope you writers have some helpful resources now.  If any of you know about others, I’ll be happy to shout them out.

10 Responses to “Fight Scene Links”

  1. Ben says:

    It makes me happy to read a post about martial arts! But one thing to be careful of: make sure your character has one style of fighting. Every form of martial arts has their own style, and within that style, each fighter has their own personality of fighting. So, in Filipino Kali (look it up, it’s amazing, also it’s what the Bourne movies used) it teaches how to inflict maximum damage to your opponent. Same goes for Krav Mega. Taekwando is a “show-off-ee” sport with a lot of stylish kicks… anyways, make sure that if your character is taking moves from Krav Mega, her/his moves are short, fast, direct, powerful, and never show-off-ee. You have to stay consistent with your character’s style of fighting.

    If you’re trying to find moves for a character for a woman/girl… it’s a different ball game. Look into Muay Thai a bit. It’s easier for a woman to strike with the elbows and knees to inflict maximum damage, because for many females it’s hard to train for powerful punches when fighting against men. Watch the movie Salt and watch carefully how she fights. She does punch, but nothing is over the top. Her kicks are all aimed low to distract them so she can hit them in their chest or head.

    Side note: Anywhere on the center of the body is an extremely sensitive place for a hit. The sternum, the stomach, the groin, the tailbone, the spine, the neck, the head, the face, and the throat. They are all positioned on a line down the body, so if you aim your attacks somewhere on that line, it will be devastating.

  2. Helena says:

    Ben — Thanks for more great advice. I did bring up the Filipino art in an earlier entry re: Bourne (and the gross scene of using the pen like like a knife). But what I should have mentioned was how it was obvious that Bourne fights guys who have been trained by the CIA in the same style, which makes the pacing non-stop and the moves almost harmonious.

    I never saw Salt but that sounds like a good source for female fighting. I know when I took taekwando and had to spar with big guys my punches to their chests were useless — they helpfully told me that I could hit them harder when I was in fact giving them all I had (I could, however, break boards with my kicks). Hence the vulnerable body parts you mention, which for obvious reasons are avoided in martial arts classes, are great for fiction and real life defense in an extreme situation.

    But dang, you and I sound so nasty mean when we talk about what body parts to take out, don’t we? Maybe we should emphasize to readers that we’re WRITERS, not assassins. In real life we’re actually very nice.

  3. Ciara Knight says:

    I don’t think I was ever that impressed by Buffy’s fighting abilities. It was more the kick-butt characterization of a young blonde. I so wanted to be her. LOL Great post, I never knew so much about Buffy’s mad (or lack there of) fighting skills. :)

  4. Ben says:

    Haha, I guess we do sound quite sadistic. Do you watch UFC at all? I’m a huge fan, and it’s the only sport I watch. An excellent source would be Gina Carano. She is a female UFC fighter. She’s a real live bad ass.

  5. Helena says:

    Ben — Okay, I gotta confess I’ve never wanted to watch UFC, but I like that you admire a female UFC fighter.

  6. Helena says:

    Ciara – Buffy is tough and strong without making a physical move, isn’t she? Yay for inner strength!

  7. Ketutar says:

    I came to think about a blog entry someone had written about writing a sword fight scene and even though it perhaps was a good scene when it comes to technqieu of fencing, it was EXTREMELY BORING to read. I am not the least interested in all the fancy names, like spinkicks… a lot of your readers won’t know what it is, and then the scene becomes as interesting to read as Name of the Rose for people who don’t know Latin and are not interested to know either. In a way writing a fight scene is about as exciting as writing a sex scene. Usually it’s better to just say the minimum – they had sex, they had a fight.
    But I really recommend you expanded your martial art skills. I think you’d like it a lot :-) Krav Maga would fit Layla well.
    Also, Buffy has saved the virtue and life of many a girl… I remember especially one 15-years-old who was attacked from behind when she was on her way home in the evening, and she did what she had seen Buffy do, got rid of the assaulter and ran home. Watching television can save your life LOL
    (Here in Sweden a boy saved his and his little sister’s life, because he had been playing WOW… so you never know where the skills you learn from seemingly waste-of-time can come handy :-D)
    It’s always a pleasure to read your blog :-) I’m sorry I come by so seldom. I should really give me the pleasure more often.
    Hugs, Ket

  8. Ketutar says:

    I agree 100% with Ben in “You have to stay consistent with your character’s style of fighting”. There might not be a need to use the movements from only one form of fighting – there are the “ultimate fighters” who use everything they have learned – and most street fighters and such do. I cannot think a person like Layla would be faithful to one form or especially clean. She isn’t a sportsfighter, but does it to defend herself in the middle of the night, because she puts herself in the harm’s way… But everyone has their style, and they stick to that.

    Krav maga was designed with women in mind. (Just look at Avivit Cohen) You might want to watch “Enough” or “Sleeping with enemy” to understand the “female style” of fighting. Men has a different approach… Salt was okay.
    Also, I keep thinking about Michelle Yeoh.

    But you are not writing a movie script, are you? You’re writing a book. Perhaps you could read a couple (or all of them :-D) Modesty Blaise books, which – even though they were written a long time ago – are very enjoyable and exciting read, at least to me. I think the fight scenes are just perfect, enough to tell you she knows her business, but he doesn’t go on and on and on and on with a lot of technical terms and graphic descriptions and such. The fighting doesn’t become the focus of the story, but gives the desired flavor to it.

  9. Helena says:

    Ket, you wonderful thing, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. And how great that Buffy or playing WOW has saved kids’ lives! Funny indeed how TV and games can be good for us!
    The best fight/action scenes I’ve read have a breathless, non-stop pacing and a minimum of description. I’ve been surprised by the slow pacing and excessive use of adverbs and adjectives in the action scenes by some big-time writers (like Clive Cussler), while some of the best action scenes I’ve read have been in the Flashman series by George MacDonald Frasier. He was a WWII combat veteran, and that shows in his action/fight/battle scenes: he really captures the panic, the desperation, the blinding speed of too much happening at once when his character is attacked and has to fight back.
    Maybe I’ll give Krav Maga a try (beyond watching it on a DVD) in the next few months when my personal finances are better and I can afford some classes. In the meantime, I’m checking out your food blog. How’s the screenwriting going? Splendidly, I hope!

  10. Helena says:

    Ketutar – You’re right about Layla not fighting clean or sticking to a form. There’ really only one scene where she has to go all out in fighting back, and what I try to capture more than anything is her desperation and violence. But my male character Zach has a couple fights, and it seemed I had more trouble rewriting his scenes to get the correct speed and rhythm of the movements.
    It makes sense, now that you mention it, that it’s krav maga J Lo uses in “Enough” — next time that movie is on TV I’ll try to catch it. And I love how Michelle Yeoh’s background is in ballet, as in she almost became a ballerina but an injury detoured her into martial arts. Another former dancer is Zoe Saldana of Avatar and now in Columbiana, where she’s a kick-ass fighter and assassin of bad guys. Any of us who’ve had ballet (and yes, I sucked at it but loved it) know how this is ironically a great background for a future fighter.
    But who I want to check out now is Modesty Blaise, especially if as you say the fight scenes are perfect. Her history and character development sound great too (I read about it her in Wikipedia), so reading her books should be fun.