Friday, December 11, 2015

Still Fighting: Fight Choreography Part 2

Welcome back to my mentally challenged world!  I mean… my discussion about fight choreography.  In my last post on this subject we discussed the differences in professionally trained fighters in movie and television fight scenes verses untrained actors who busted their tails to learn the trade, and if/how you can spot the difference.  Today we’ll talk about people who punch each other repeatedly with no damage, fly through the air and land on a branch with ease, and go through A-Team style bodily harm, walk away without a scratch and get to kiss the girl/guy.  I’m talking of course about Hollywood fight scenes and their believability verses how these things actually work in real life.

I love listening to fight scenes.  You are so used to the musical score and the world of cracks and booms and bangs that the thought of a world of silent fighting just makes no sense.  Besides, could you take Jet Li movie seriously if signs kept coming up during the fight that read “BOOM!”  “POW!”  “PUNCH!”  as if you were watching 1960’s Batman?  Probably not.  The problem is that real life will never ever sound like Hollywood.  Look up sound effects videos on YouTube; you will be surprised what professional and non-professional sound effects editors have used to make the sounds that you hear in movies every day.  I have seen behind the scenes documentaries that have used raw chickens being punched or whacked with a bat to simulate the punch sound you hear when a fist connects.  I have seen them rip a head of lettuce or crack a carrot against a microphone to simulate a bone crunch.  Yes…they punish innocent vegetables for our viewing pleasure, people.  Someone think about the vegetables! 

The visual effects in fight scenes can be equally as interesting.  Some are hysterical and some impressive.  I site Mortal Kombat as a movie that has some of my favorite fight scenes from both sides of that equation.  When that movie came out I was foaming at the mouth.  The soundtrack is one of my favorites in history, but that’s besides the point; maybe I’ll do a retro review of it for the blog another day.  As a martial artist I was ready to scream with glee over this flick.  I knew that being a video game based movie there would be a lot that I would have to suspend belief on in terms of realistic fight dynamics, and I was right.  With the advent of Parkour there has been a lot to be left to suspend belief on in the ways of free falling, gymnastics, and flexibility. But when you are in the middle of a real life fight I promise you that you will not run up to a wall, jump up to it, push off with your foot, and vault to the side using the wall as leverage for extra umph on a jumping roundhouse (see Liu Kang in the Goro’s dinging hall scene.)  You won’t jump up in the air and throw both of your feet into a man’s chest to crack his ribs and let yourself fall flat on your back, risking yourself to be attacked if your ridiculous attempt at a cool looking attack failed miserably (again, see Liu Kang in the first tournament fight scene.)  You won’t swing around a pole like an Olympic gymnast just to get momentum to kick someone in the face (Johnny Cage verses Scorpion.  Ahh…horribly unrealistic, but still one of the best fights in the movie.)  And I promise that the odds of them spinning head over feet when you do are slim to none.  Body mass and proportion verses momentum simply don’t work in the attacker’s favor to realistically pull off that trick.  But I have to admit that the one realistic fight scene for me was Sonya vs. Kano.  The speed annoyed me.  It was too slow, but I feel that it could have been because they were playing it off as Kano toying with Sonya and/or that in reality Bridgette’s lack of fight training prior to filming made it a necessity to take things down a notch.  But the moves used in the fight- at least up until Sonya’s famous scissor hold on Kano’s neck- were practical in any basic fight.  I can even forgive the moments she used spinning kicks to lead off an attack just for the fact that everything else worked out so beautifully.  More to the point, they landed one opponent on the ground and vulnerable near the end of the fight, which I loved seeing.  Hitting the ground is realism.  Lack of “beauty” is realism.  my next paragraph explains why.

Hollywood fights are flashy to their core.  I love watching them; they’re like a dance full of the perfect form that you see in any martial arts or military fighting style.  You can make out the techniques crisply and cleanly and see exactly where each punch/kick/grapple lands and directs the opponent.  Watch a real life fight and tell me how easy that is.  Tell me how long they stay vertical as well.  Statistically, roughly ninety-eight percent of all fights end up on the ground.  When you watch a show like Arrow or a movie like Rumble In The Bronx, the only ones hitting the ground are the unconscious bad guys.  During the course of the fight, both people rarely end up on the ground rolling over each other in a mad grasp for the upper hand to straddle the other and land punches or in a grappling match.  This is why many schools have began instituting grappling as part of their training or incorporating a secondary style that focuses on grappling/rolls/throws as an alternative styles to study or to singular study.  It’s practicality, which you don’t find in action scenes.  Expectation, reality.  Hype, real world.

But…they’re still so pretty to watch…

Yes, this is part of what I've put myself through willingly for twenty years. Ima freak.

You hear the stories all the time of adrenaline kicking in to help a situation.  A mother lifts a car off of her child.  A man pushes passed his endurance to survive the wild.  It is possible and there are too many documented stories and too much scientific and medical proof to discount this.  The problem with these medically documented cases verses Hollywood, however, is that once the adrenaline wears down- the thing that keeps you from feeling pain and increases your awareness and strength- you begin to feel the pain.  You begin to wear down physically and realize that you are in fact injured and you start to feel the damage that you have sustained…and you will crash hard.  Fiction doesn’t allot for this.  Please bear in mind that for all of us nerds/geeks in the world I am leaving super-powers beings and immortals out of the equation in this analysis.  For regular humans in fight scenes there seems to be no off switch on their adrenaline flow.  In reality this could be a dangerous thing to the human body, yet in fiction they seem to be able to weather any damage dealt to them.  At least in Burn Notice, Michael wound up in the hospital from getting shot.  How many times can you count action movies landing the hero in the hospital?  Usually, they kept going and going and going, only as calling their injuries a “flesh wound.”  There is a reason this was the running gag in “Last Action Hero,” people.  The kicking and punching seems to keep going without anyone getting winded whatsoever, which I promise you from tournament experience doesn’t happen regardless of your years of training.  The blood pours from the head, but neither person starts to get stunned or rattled; they just keep coming as if the barrage of punches hasn’t even began to make them start thinking that one plus one equals orange.  Again, not the case.  And when the fight is over, the hero who has been beaten to the point that anyone would be screaming at them to get into an ambulance simply walks (or limps) away, holding their head high as blood drips down, choosing to stitch their wounds on their own.  Never mind that that if this had really happened they would have clocked an internal injury or two.  In reality there is an aftermath to the adrenaline rush.  The beating that you took will catch up to you and you will feel it later.  Maybe not immediately, but eventually you will feel like you were hit by a train and no amount of griping “But it looks so much easier in the movies!” will change that.  Ah…the beauty of a real-world beating…

I can site one example that I was happy to see in an action movie that, for a change, visualized the reality of “adrenaline aftermath.”  In “Rapid Fire,” Brandon Lee’s character spent the entire movie beating back the mafia men that sought his life.  After the final fight, beaten within an inch of his life, burned from the fire, probably having singed lungs and cut to ribbons, he looks away with a stern and angered face…and then his shoulders slump.  His determined face melted in an exhausted look of “Thank you God that it’s over.”  By the end of the movie he, his best friend, and girlfriend were riding in an ambulance to be treated for their injuries.  As it pulled away Brandon’s character and the girlfriend leaned their heads back and visibly breathed sighs of relief that it was all finished as they slumped in the cab in exhaustion and pain.  You just don’t see that realism anymore as most movies and television give characters that magic Hollywood ointment that cures theirs injuries in one scene and the boo-boos are gone by the next episode/scene.  Take Demolition Man for example.  Stallone’s character crashes a car off of a freeway into a huge glass sign, and regardless of “secure foam,” walks away with no internal injuries.  He even manages to go to the final fight, defeat the villain, walk away from a huge explosion, kiss the girl and go home happy. 

On that same token, let’s discussed trained fighters as blunt instruments instead of cars and freeways.  Wesley Snipes (the villain in Demolition Man) is, in reality, a trained martial artist.  What many do not know is that some people that have spent their entire lives dedicated to the martial arts have more power in their techniques than most common blunt weapons.  Go to youtube and watch “Fight Science Kick Test”  They clock the speed and strength of strikes from various practitioners of martial arts styles, one of which kicked at a top speed of 136 miles an hour with a Tae Kwon Do roundhouse, clocked with over one ton of power in said kick.  On ton.  That is more than enough to cause internal injury.  That is enough to cause external injury as well and even instant death if aimed at the correct extremity.  That is why the “adrenaline aftermath” is such a huge deal in reality.  When you feel the results of the fight afterwards, you could be “feeling” a serious medical emergency you didn’t know you had until afterwards.  Makes you wish you lived in a movie, huh?

Now I am off to decide if I want to scratch the itch these posts have created with G.I. Joe, Expendables 3, A-Team, or a Jackie Chan marathon.  I’m out. 

Alpha Mike Foxtrot.  
Christina Sizemore is trained in only four things:  writing, fighting, paranormal investigating, and being a mom.  At this point in her life she truly feels that she is not qualified to attempt to learn any new field.  A twenty year martial artist, mother of three, and writer who is working on the publication of her first book titled “Finding Your Way: A Guide To Your Path In The Martial Arts,” she spends her days working out, writing, making fanvids, going to DragonCon, and playing board games/video games/out in the yard with her kids and husband who are just as geeky as she is.  She is convinced that one day her skills will be of assistance in the Zombie Apocalypse and that while she is of no use in the kitchen, she can Buffy that zombie for ya or teach you the best way to get the blood stains out of your clothes (Psst…the secret is mixing Crown Cleaner and Shout.  Just sayin’.)


  1. Most entertaining fight in the movie.

    Still, it's no Tokyo Raiders apartment fight...

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