Several people have requested I cover fighting while injured in the Write Like a Fighter series. It sounds good on paper, but I’ve held off a bit because I didn’t want the answer to be too simplistic. However, the timing is perfect for talking about how your character can continue the fight with a significant injury.

I’m in that boat right now. Not the imminent danger of a fight, but the injured part. Sometimes we overdo it fighting, and injuries happen. Usually joint injuries. I’m no exception. I’ve torn the cartilage in my right wrist, which means no fighting among many other things*. (Turning door knobs was overrated anyway.)

For the first few weeks of the injury, I actually still participated in some Krav Maga training. Caveat: This was a really idiotic idea, and at the time we thought it was simply tendonitis. Things didn’t heal quickly and I ended up having to get a cortisone shot to deal with the inflammation. I have decided to quit being a dumbass and rest it properly. Like an adult. However, the process did let me put more of the situations I train for regarding fighting while injured into practice.



1. Use what you’ve got.

Fighters train to deal with any situation. As I’ve written time and time again, it’s about opportunity. That is still the divining principle here. Your character is going to use the remaining weapons (in this case I’m calling arms and legs weapons) to the best of her ability. The ones closest to the attacker are great places to start.

For example, let’s say your character has had her right arm broken, and assume she’s right handed. She can keep her injured hand close to her body, angled back a bit in a standard fight stance. She still has her left hand, which with proper torque and power from the hips can deliver one wicked hook punch. She can gouge her attacker’s eyes with her left hand. She can grab his ear and pull. It’s only going to take 8 lbs. of pressure to take it off. Even when we limit her to a single hand, she has options.

Lana knows how to snap a wrist.

2. Overwhelm them.

If your fight would take longer than 30 seconds in the real world, it’s too damn long. If your heroine has sustained a significant injury—we’re talking bloody and broken—to a limb or two, she needs to inflict the maximum damage as quickly as possible. Don’t worry about this making your fight scene too short. In her mind 20 seconds of fighting feels like years, eons. She’s going to be focused on worrying about blood loss, trying to ignore the menagerie of sharp and throbbing pains from the injury and living in the moment.

As such, go for the big moves. If you’ve provided your heroine the chance at a weapon, be it a stick, broken glass, etc., make sure she goes for it. Whatever will hurt the attacker the most and give her the winning edge is what we do here. Body shots are smart. It takes time for a punch to the face to register; they don’t hurt so much in the moment. A solid fist to the liver? Man down. Same goes for hard strikes to anywhere on the neck, but especially the nape and along the spine.

3. Get some distance.

It’s not always an option, but it should be a goal for your injured fighter to get away. Even if you have the brash heroine who is determined to stick it out until the bitter end, the smart thing to do when injured is to get enough space to protect the injury. Get the wounded part out of your opponent’s reach so he or she can’t use it against you.

This is a great place to make use of kicks that look cool even in written form or weapons that can be used as a threat without being pressed against someone.

Any scene when your character is injured gives you a big opportunity. Not only are you able to illustrate how resourceful she is, but this is a moment that allows a better understanding into how she reacts to pressure. Is it easy for her to compartmentalize the pain? Is she thirsty for vengeance? Does she really hate that blood is ruining her new jeans? This moment can give us greater insight into the character.

Plus, you know, it’s pretty badass.


* I have a fancy splint that makes me look part bionic, and thanks to its excellent structure typing isn’t an issue at all. Lucky you.


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