The problem with training to fight is we so often fall into habits. Maybe you break out of a choke and throw a knee, then a hammerfist strike, and so on. You do that every time in practice because it flows easily in the moment and your body is familiar with the motions. Only fights don’t go to plan.

Fights are about opportunity. You want to finish as quickly as possible and get the hell out of there. As such it’s important to size up your attacker’s vulnerabilities and strike while you can. This is part of why we always go for the groin or the face first. They can be showstopping moves. But they’re no guarantee.

As a fighter, you build up your arsenal. You learn new combatives. Punches, kicks, elbows, knees, cavaliers and the like. You learn the simple and the fancy ways to do all these things. As a fighter you want to avoid falling into patterns here. Same goes for writing your fight scenes. You want your characters to pull out different skills. (A signature move is fine, though. We all have favorites. I like to finish with a roundhouse kick to the knee.)

Your scenes are more vibrant by varying the actions in your fights, but you also can help readers gauge your characters’ skill sets. Do they only know one or two moves, or can they bust out all sorts of things depending on the situation?

There’s a drill we do in Krav Maga training to keep us thinking on our feet. When we practice, say, escaping from a headlock, after the initial maneuver we do a minimum of three combatives to fully disable our attacker. The next time? None of those combatives can be repeated and so on. This forces us to think about what opportunities are actually available. Sometimes the same move is going to be there. Other times it’s a lucky moment (uppercuts are almost always a lucky moment).

Try to think of your fight moves as Legos. Those hook punches are the red bricks. Knee to the groin? The green ones. Kidney shots are obviously the yellow ones. And so on. You can stack them any way you want to build your fight scene.

For an example of the fluidity of fighting this way, just watch this demonstration:

MORE WRITE LIKE A FIGHTER POSTS

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.