Monday, October 20, 2008

He fights / She fights

What I'm reading: Just Breathe, by Susan Wiggs

What I'm writing: Chapter 31. My aviation scenes are mended, thanks to a very nice airline pilot who took a lot of time making sure I understood how things worked--and didn't work.

Today, I'll start sharing some workshop notes from the Emerald City Writer's Conference.

Martial Arts expert Deb Maynard presented a workshop on fighting—the physical kind. The notes I'm sharing, as always, are filtered through my interpretation and sometimes shaky memory or illegible handwriting. For this workshop, we also had the added excitement of a fire alarm going off about 1/3 of the way through.

The points here are based on her research, and are also generalizations. I'm sure everyone can think of exceptions, but for the most part, the following are the differences in the ways men and women approach fighting. And, if you've read my his brain/her brain posts, a lot of it is grounded in our basic hard wiring that goes back to men as hunters and women as nurturers.

Basic differences between male and female fighting instincts:

Men fight to feel power.

Men will aim for the face and head; women aim for a man's groin and face. (Note: men are always alert to groin attacks, so go for the throat.)

Women slap, pinch and bite. Men rarely punch women; they don't feel it's necessary to use that kind of force—they're more likely to backhand her.

Men want control. Women want to get away.

Men chase. Women run (and too often stop to look back to see if the man is still chasing her)

Men want to demean. Women want to get away.

Men don't care if they hurt someone. Women don't want to hurt.

(Interesting side note here. The other day our local paper ran an article about the upsurge of women using Tasers—the article called Taser demonstrations the "new Tupperware party." While a cop's taser fires for 5 seconds, which is considered enough to subdue the suspect, the civilian model delivers a shock for 30 seconds, which is designed to let the woman escape. While testing these models and watching the electrical display on the target, a woman said she really didn't want to have to use it because she didn't want to hurt anyone. But she supposed she would if her life was in danger.)

Men will kill in a fight. Women try to avoid killing.

Men will attack without thought of defense. Women defend themselves first, then attack.

Over the next day or so, I'll post more about differences between the way men fight other men, men fight women, and women fight other women.


Jess said...

I prefer going for the knees if you can. Drops 'em but good!

Terry Odell said...

We didn't have time for a lot of actual demo stuff -- we got a lot of theory, which is helpful in characterization. I'll rely on you for my actual choreography.

Lee Lofland said...

Great post, Terry. I taught defense tactics and officer survival in the police academy. I also taught self defense and rape prevention at a few colleges and at my gym. Deb's points are some of the same I taught.

By the way, I rarely see writers getting the how-to's of fighting right.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Lee. I try to get my fights accurate -- one of my daughters does the 'choreography' for me. I tell her what I need to happen and she gives me the moves.

Jude Mason said...


As always an incredibly interesting post. There are times when it's annoying to be a woman. Why do we worry so much about a guy who's attacking us? He'd hurt us with no problem, yet we cringe at the thought of doing damage. It's nurture verses self-preservation and the nurture part isn't helping.

Terry Odell said...

Agreed, Jude. But the hard-wiring is there, and despite advances in "women's lib" some things are tough to overcome. Biology can't be ignored.

Kimber Chin said...

Really interesting.

This ties in with what I see in business.
Women want to keep their jobs first, advance second.
Men will advance, to heck with keeping their jobs.

Looking forward to reading more!

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Kimber. Women who behave like men in the workplace are perceived as 'unfeminine' at the very least. And not in a flattering way.

Debra St. John said...

Interesting...this makes for good research. Thanks for sharing!

Savanna Kougar said...

Fascinating post, Terry. I work on my own mindset, to kill if I have to, like a man would. Since I'm alone most of the time when I have to go out shopping, etc.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Savannah. I think my posting was as much for writers as for individuals. I think I'm more likely to "understand" what my male characters will bring to a fight. Being female, I have to watch putting my own mindset into a man who's fighting someone--and now I have more background to make it accurate. All this information helps make sure I understand both the motivation and the consequences if my characters get into a physical fight.