In the Krav Maga for writers posts, I’ve talked about the actual fighting, the moves and the reactions. These, of course, are valuable for plotting out fight scenes. There is another element that comes into play during these action sequences: fatigue.

Sure, a 20-page fight scene is going to tire everyone out, but that’s not what I’m talking about. During a fight, every attack (and defensive move — attacking the attack, if you will) is done full-force. We want to overwhelm our opponent as quickly as possible. This means in the real world, a fight more than 30 seconds means you did something wrong and are about to be so very tired.

In Krav Maga, we train for this scenario. Fights do not come on when you’re well-rested and focused. Attackers look for weaknesses. Maybe it’s late at night after an atrocious day at work. You’re exhausted from staying up too late reading. You are not at your best. We work to build muscle memory so in those situations we can immediately burst in with the proper movements.

Last weekend I took—and passed!—my yellow belt test. It was just over three straight hours of high-intensity fighting. This is the list of skills we had to perform well. We started by throwing punches and elbows as hard and as fast as we could. Then kicks. Knees. Then defending and deflecting punches. Now, that we were good and exhausted, we started self-defense techniques. Reaction times were slower, which is where training came in. No thinking just motion.

This is how your character will be in a fight (excluding a preternatural trait giving oodles of extra energy). They’ll scrounge for every ounce of energy, because every hit needs to count. They will get hit. If you’re in close enough to punch someone, they’re in close enough to punch you.

The mental thought process here can bolster reader connection with your character. Panic may set in, and we can see how they react to fatigue and fear simultaneously. If you’re plotting longer sequences with multiple attackers, think about how your character’s body is moving and where she’s going to start to feel twinges first. Fighting stance breeds tired quads, but shoulders, lats and wrists are all likely targets for noteworthy discomfort in the process.

Also, expect bruises from defense moves. Anytime you’re stopping an attack with your forearms, they turn purple. If you do it right, connecting your wrist to theirs, you should also feel a zing up your forearm to the elbow. This will be unpleasant, but much worse for the person who attacked you.

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