I make part of my living evaluating fights. I’m a pro boxing judge with the World Boxing Association and I do world title fights. I’m also still a gym rat who crawls between the ropes to mix it up with other guys who have made equally ill-advised decisions on how to spend free time. Before I got into boxing I was a black belt Tae Kwon Do instructor.
I also write the Duffy Dombrowski mysteries that feature a run-of-the-mill pro boxer who works as a social worker during the day. He has a few more wins than losses, but almost every time the caliber of his opponents is stepped up he gets beat.
Like most writers I’m an avid mystery reader. I’m okay with the whole willing suspension of disbelief thing but really bad fight scenes bother me. Just like a gun guy would hate to read something about the wrong cartridge going into the wrong type of gun (I’m not a gun guy), I bristle when I come across authors that just don’t get how fights go. What to they do that’s wrong?
Here are some of my favorites.
- The kung-fu guy who can go from standing straight up not doing anything to kicking someone in the head. Look, there are karate guys with great skills but they don’t defy physics. Un-stretched muscle will tear when it’s put under such trauma so quickly. It’s almost impossible to do with tight jeans too.
- My apologies to the ladies but 110lb women cannot beat up 250lb guys. Even 13th degree black belt women aren’t coming out victorious against tough guys. Again, its physics and a woman of that size is not going to be able to generate the force to injure a strong man who is that big.
- Punching someone in the head will break your knuckles and possibly the bones in the back of your hand. Your hand will swell and you won’t be able to use it. Pro boxers with taped hands and gloves frequently break their hands when they go knuckle to forehead.
- Guys who fight a lot can take shots and endure more pain than those who don’t, even if the individual who doesn’t fight has very strong resolve.
- Boxers beat karate guys. Sorry karate guys. Boxers train at full contact all the time, they fight better competition, and much of karate doesn’t work in street applications.
- Wrestlers and other grapplers can beat boxers especially if the fight goes to the ground, which most street fights do.
- Usually it is very hard to knock someone unconscious and for very long. I watch the very best in the world and in the hundreds of fights I’ve judged fighters have been rendered unconscious only a couple of times, and for seconds not minutes.
- Most real street fights are very short, particularly if one of the combatants is a trained fighter.
- Guys who fight don’t mouth off, they don’t threaten and they don’t make a show of it. It is far easier to cut to the chase and throw the first punch and end things while the other guy is still talking.
- Everyone gets their ass kicked, even Spenser and Hawk. Ali lost, Joe Louis lost, Ray Robinson lost and yes, even Chuck Norris lost. Guys who never lose are truly part of fiction.
Fight scenes in fiction are filled with clichés, and as we know clichés are usually a sign of bad writing. Fights, in and out of the ring, are filled with enough real drama that they don’t have to be exaggerated to make them entertaining.