I got punched in the face this weekend.

More than once.

By my friends.

Here’s the thing about people who fight for sport/exercise/self-defense: We have a weird sense of fun. This last weekend my Krav Maga training center held a Muay Thai sparring seminar.

Almost all of the Krav Maga striking techniques (kicks, punches, knees) are derived from Muay Thai fighting. The nice thing about that, I thought, was I was given the go-ahead to be in the intermediate Muay Thai class.

Five hours later, I realized that class had enough advanced folk in it to make me a humble, humble lady. In addition to the super cardio workout (burnout drills for roundhouse kicks will do that to a person), I got knocked around a bit. A light punch with boxing gloves on isn’t too bad to take, really. It isn’t painful so much as disorienting.

It took me a few tries to recognize my opponent’s attack quickly enough to block it properly. Misread the signal and kapow! to your face. Still, the process forced my brain to work harder. I needed to read body language more quickly.

That’s a big take away for your fight scenes. Make sure your characters are reading body language. The eyes lie. The head fakes you out. If you’re far enough back and the fight hasn’t really kicked in yet, you can watch shoulders—or more specifically right at the collarbone—for shifts in body weight. You’ll see the balance move there before the arm strikes out.

If your character has already gotten in nice and cozy and officially entered A Fight, her hands will be up. They’ll be blocking punches to the upper body, but that does make staring at someone’s clavicle much more difficult. Trust me here. This is how I missed an incoming hook punch. I asked my much-more-experienced (several years of Muay Thai fighting) partner how I could watch for his punches and kicks if I was blocking the high stuff. His answer: I’m watching your hips. All the power for punches, kicks and the like in fighting comes from the hips. Watch for the telltale shifts and the beginnings of torque, then you’ll be able to react in time.

However, no matter how experienced your character is, they will not block every punch. The big guys tried to use their height and reach against me, so I’d duck down and kidney punch those suckers. (They weren’t really suckers. Everyone in that class was fantastic and incredibly kind.)

There’s always a give and take when you reach out to strike. You will be open to an extent, and that means you have to be willing to trade your possible fight-ender for a little pain. It’s good to know how to take a punch and even better to know how to keep moving after the distraction of a glove to the ear.

It’s important to know that your character can and should be able to take a punch to the face. More specifically, a solid pop to the forehead isn’t going to be a problem. It’ll hurt the attacker more than your character. It’s those knocks to the jaw and cheek that can cause unconsciousness. Face shots don’t hurt the way body ones do, but if they’re landed correctly they’ll end a fight. So, do make sure your character tucks their chin when in battle. If they can’t get the uppercut in, it’ll help.

Note: I’m changing the name of this blog series to Write Like A Fighter instead of Krav Maga for Writers, as I’m expanding into Muay Thai as well. (More sparring classes later this week!)

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