The Krav Maga (and Muay Thai) fight stance isn’t the same as a boxer’s. We keep our hands open and in front of us. There are multiple reasons for this. It’s easy to snap forward with a palm heel strike or gouge someone’s eyes with your hands already open, for instance. However, the more important reason is it is a placating gesture. You don’t want to have to fight with this person. It’s the standard hand movement for: “Hey, now, guy. Let’s calm down.”

It just happens that your hands are up to protect your face and ready to punch in any moment. (Krav fighters are sneaky; it’s our thing.)

This stance, which is one of the very first things new Krav Maga students learn, is indicative of a bigger theme to street fighting and self defense: Switching from victim to attacker.

This, in most cases, is applicable to your fight scenes. Unless your character is a thug or assassin, she’s probably not going out to find a fight. Instead she’s going to be the one finishing them. Regardless of the scenario—blitz, escalating talk at the bar to a brawl, mugging, fighting a demon armed with a knife, whatever—your character will likely be attacked and need to flip the switch to become the attacker.

The first part of this is, of course, mental. How will she react to a fight-or-flight scenario? Is there an option to run? How many attackers are there? (Upcoming post on techniques for choreographing your multi-attacker fight scenes.) Even those trained in combat have physiological responses to attacks.

When I’m practicing self-defense moves with those more advanced, we choke each other for real. They’re my friends. I know they wouldn’t really hurt me. But when someone slams me into a wall with their hands clenched around my neck, adrenaline surges through my veins, my chest tightens and then I throttle into proper moves. They aren’t going to let me out easily, so I fight my way out. It’s important training so that in a real-life scenario I could fight past that “Oh, shit!” reaction and break free to turn them into goo. Rule of thumb: Someone tries to significantly injure you, return the favor.

In addition to your character’s internal and physical reactions to being attacked, she has the opportunity here. When the original attacker has landed a cheap shot and knocked your character back, he gets cocky. Play up your character’s injury. Stay the victim until she’s close enough to explode with violence in kind.

Take advantage of your attacker underestimating you. This is particularly effective when there is a size differential. As we’ve discussed time and time again, the small person can absolutely overpower the large one with the right knowledge.

I’ve been watching The Following on NBC, which focuses on a serial killer who has created a cult to do his dirty work and the FBI agents trying to stop him. Many law enforcement agencies use Krav Maga. The FBI is one of them, so there are times when we see these skills used on the show. Recently there was a scene in which one of the agents is kidnapped by a group of cult members.

A six-on-one fight doesn’t boast great odds. In the scene the agent Mike Weston, played by Shawn Ashmore, gets beaten, and then bursts back. Over and over. I’m including the scene below so you can see the dynamic of him shifting into and out of attack mode. I will warn you it is graphic, and they gang up on him as it progresses and weapons are introduced later in the clip. (He survives.)

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.