This is going to be the True Life edition of Write Like a Fighter. I have some great practical posts planned, but instead we’re revisiting the topic I’m asked about most often: fighting while injured.

I’ve talked about principles of fighting and what a trained fighter would do when cornered and injured. However, I’ve had a fair number of people email with more questions here, specifically about instincts. The biggest question is “wouldn’t you be more freaked out about your injury than the fight?” This is followed by the closely related query of how much adrenaline really factors in, especially early in the fight.

Well, dear readers, now I get to tell you what happens when you get hurt in the middle of a fight. I dislocated my left shoulder and clavicle a little over a week ago while doing some advanced, worst-case-scenario ground fighting. While my injury occurred in a safe environment while training, my body reacted like we were in a very real situation. Mostly because a shoulder dislocation is overwhelmingly painful.

So, here I am, a trained fighter and I’ve just had my face and chest collide with the ground as my shoulder caved in with a sickening, gulp-y pop. The pain seared to the point my sinuses burned—which sounds weird, but as fight or flight kicked in, I went hot. At this point there was still a guy on my back, pinning me to the ground. He did not understand what had just happened. I latched my fingers on to his arm, which was around my neck and yanked with my good hand.

Instinctively I wanted to roll, to flip him on his back and injure him in kind. Only, you know, he didn’t actually deserve that. So, instead as I clamped my hand on his forearm and gained space to breathe better, I yelled that he needed to get off me immediately. He did. I probably sounded scary. Did I mention how much the shoulder thing hurt?

I have no doubt that had I been in a dire situation where I was actually fighting for my life, I would have thrown him and fought nonstop until I was free to deal with my injury. The truth is even if you don’t have the adrenaline turned to 11, a sharp injury is going to flip the switch.

Trained or otherwise, the characters in your fight scene can/should continue to battle as long as they’re able if the threat doesn’t relent. The damage inflicted can be wicked, but safety is the goal and we aren’t designed to stop until the achieve it.

So, please, no more fretting over the pain being so much as to keep your characters from staying in the fight. They might be disoriented, they might fight sloppy, but self-preservation is king.

Now, for reward for hearing about my injury, this awesome supercut of sword fights:

Note: I totally wanted to title this post “What My Dislocated Shoulder Can Teach You,” but I worried y’all would think there would be gross pictures. There will be none of that, because ick.


Important note: These posts are provided as informational for writing fight scenes. If you want to learn self-defense techniques, I highly advise taking a Krav Maga class. Practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to handling stress situations.

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