Fight Choreography – How I Develop Fight Scenes that Pass Muster with Actual Martial Artists

Author of WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, Aimee Hix

Write what you know. Maybe that works for crime fiction writers who are former cops or prosecutors. I was a professional statistician. People won’t chat with you at a party longer than two minutes when that crap comes up so they’re not going to stick around for a whole book of it.

I solved that problem pretty handily by making my protagonist a newbie. She’s a former uniform cop who quit and is now apprenticing as a private investigator with her father – a father who is out of the country for the entire book. She knew how to pull people over and write them tickets or respond to domestic violence calls but tracking down a murderer from clues? Nope. Not a clue. Yeah, I just did that on purpose.

Just like I was plunging into writing a book about a woman tracking down a murderer without having ever done it. And, for the record, the police frown on you calling up asking to shadow a detective the next time someone gets murdered. The more you know ….

What I did know something about was martial arts. Not because I do it … hahahahahahaha. Oh, you’re cute. I can’t walk through a doorway without tripping and slamming into the frame. No. No one with any brains would let me near a gi and sparring gear. Well, one person does and he’s usually quite smart. Maybe the mistake happened long ago. Once upon a time I was a young and lithe … okay, younger and more lithe, quit snickering, Malmon … whatever, on to the flashback.

“Your form looks good. Let’s give power some work. Go ahead and kick as hard as you can.”

That kick, delivered by someone with strong thighs that had gotten plenty of warm up, cleared the top of the force shield the kneeling instructor was holding and slammed into his ear. The man slid to the ground, eyes flickering briefly then closing entirely when he landed flat on his back, force shield dropping out of his grip.

“Holy shit! Are you okay? Oh my god, I am so sorry.”

The man pushed up off the ground, still looking dazed. “No, that was perfect.”

And that, dear reader, was when I knew I would marry him.

It’s a one hundred percent true story. That multi-black belt, single brown belt, man is my husband, father of my 5’10” super model-esque sixteen year old daughter (also a black belt), and my fight dummy. Some people have a creepy looking heavy bag called Bob, I have a 6’1”, 200 pound Senior Network Services Engineer.

But Eric is much better looking and he also provides feedback specific to a certain move – if it’s feasible, if it’s effective, if it’s the best option for the situation. He also says “ow!” so I know if something really works. I mean, my character is about the same height I am and, at least, *mumble* pounds lighter. She’s in reasonable good physical fitness whereas I have sprained my wrist opening a flip-top of mayo. She’s two decades younger too so if I can pull off a move, a well-padded, middle-aged, suburban wimp; I know she can.

Planning and trying out these fight sequences is about as athletic as I get, which I know I should do something about. I’m not getting any younger, I’m not getting any thinner, and I’m not getting any stronger.

At this rate, I’ll barely be able to trundle downstairs to the laundry room to whine that one of his monstrously heavy gis is still in my washing machine when you know I darn well need to wash my writing leggings, buddy!

It’s true that I’m not as physically fit as I should be. I wish I could say it’s because I’m a lover and not a fighter but I’m kind of a feisty bi- … uh, individual. I’m pretty nice to most people. I always smile and reply when I’m greeted in a store. Which is practically witchcraft considering what an introvert I am. And I will always let you take the bigger of the two cookies on the plate but that’s mostly because I shoved two more into my mouth before I offered you the plate. I even baked those cookies because I think baking equals love which might explain why I’m not as physically fit as I should be, come to think of it. Hey, we all have our baggage.

My point is that despite being feisty and sarcastic, most people would say I’m nice. Unless you come for a loved one. And I have a looong list of loved ones. A lllllooooooooooong list. Or I’m playing a game with you because that shit is deadly serious – Monopoly is take no prisoners in my family. I have permanent scars from multiple incidents of plastic-molded hotel-related scuffles in my childhood. But unless you’re trying to hurt a loved one or attempting to put a hotel on Illinois Avenue, the property you’re most likely to land on based on statistics (it’s only the second most likely spot but you can’t build on Jail), we’ll be cool

But come for a loved on and I will make you hurt. I get a Hulk-smash-lift-a-car-off-a-kid surge of adrenaline and tend to lose all sense of propriety and civility. I’m definitely the person you want in any kind of melee because I turn into a snarling white-hot ball of fury like a switch is being flipped. And I’m wearing leggings so I’m not hindered by being in constrictive clothes. Leggings are the great equalizer, folks. Remember that the next time you see some unassuming pleasantly soft and motherly-looking suburban woman picking up peanut butter and fruit roll-ups … girlfriend could probably take you down with those two items alone if you even side-eye little Tommy.

It’d probably go something like this.

In the absence of any danger to my friends, family, or pets though I’m just a simple writer, standing in front of a computer wonk, asking him to let me manhandle him in the name of accurate made-up stuff.

“Does that hurt?”

“A little. Anything with that floating rib is going to … owowowowowowowow! OW!”

“So, if I jam my fingers in there and twist ….”

“Please don’t …. OWWWW!”

“Oops. Sorry.”

“Maybe we could just go over this as a verbal exercise.”

“But how will I know if it’s possible and how it feels?”

*heavy sigh* “Fine.”

“And then if I sweep the leg while I’ve the arm barred …”

*Eric topples to the ground face first, arm yanked up to his mid-back*

“So, like that?”

*mumbled response*

“What?”

*louder mumbled response*

“Honey, I can’t hear you.”

*lifts his face from the rug* “That was perfect.”

Aimee Hix

Aimee Hix is the author of WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU, out now from Midnight Ink.