Weapon Name: Hands, Fists
Even unarmed, we are still armed.
Description: Those things attached to the ends of your arms. They generally have five fingers* and a flat palm surface.
*Number of digits may vary with species
Where Can You Get One? You have two already. You are not capable of getting any more.
Natural Genres: Absolutely everything.
Unnatural Genres: Well, okay, maybe not everything. If you wrote a story about fish people or birds, they wouldn’t have access to hands.
What’s It For? Punching, chopping, slapping, striking, and changing the channel on the TV.
How Long Can You Fight With It? Several minutes.
What Muscles Wear Out First: It’s not so much muscle fatigue that ends a fistfight as it is overall exhaustion and lack of breath.
Lethal: Can be, if used with lots and lots of training, or with no training and some poor choices.
Can it leave enemy debilitated but alive long enough to deliver a monologue? Yes, quite.
Learning Curve: Low if you’re writing a street brawl. Any sufficiently muscular guy can throw a punch. If you want a technical, intelligent fight, it takes years to learn to fistfight well.
Nifty Fact for Authenticity: Different martial arts have different schools of thought on what surface of the fist should be used in a punch. Some say the full flat side of the closed fist, some say just the first two knuckles, etc. There are also different schools of thought on the best way to form a fist.
Will You Hurt Yourself With It? Doubtful. Although, I have punched myself in the face before, so…maybe.
Things Your Characters Can Do With It:
4. Spearhand. Don’t have your characters do this to hard surfaces. It is possible to break boards and such with this technique, but why bother when something else is way easier?
5. Palm heel strike.
7. The double-fist punch they use a lot on Star Trek. Seriously, watch for it. It’s in every fight scene.
8. Block other characters’ punches.
There are many types of blocking, but they’re all variations on “smack the attack out of the way.”
9. Pull hair.
10. Dozens and dozens of joint locks. (A joint lock happens when a bendable part of the body, like the elbow or wrist, is twisted to just shy of the breaking point. It hurts a lot and generally makes the opponent stop fighting.)
11. Throw opponents.
12. Break stuff.
13. Use chopsticks.
Things Your Characters Cannot Do With It:
1. Win a fight in a single blow. While a single punch can technically cause a knockout, it is unlikely to land at exactly the right angle to do so. Expect any fistfight that begins to take a little while to end.
2. Block weapons. The reason people use weapons at all is that they multiply force, which makes them better at dealing damage than bare hands. This means bare hands are not going to fare well against them.
That’s a whole lotta nope right there.
3. Do tons of flashy things, one after another. A realistic fistfight looks like this:
Not like this:
That said, unrealistic fistfights are among the coolest-looking things in the world, so if you can make it work in your book, go for it.
4. Remove limbs. This is just not happening unless the character has superhuman strength.
5. Fight without damage. Nobody can deflect every attack in a fistfight. Your characters will get hit.
6. Fight using a disabled limb and win. Your character can keep swinging with one hand after their other arm is broken, but they’re not going to win unless their opponent suffers from narcolepsy or is really, really stupid.
7. Punch through extremely solid objects. This includes heavy doors, cars, and sturdy furniture. There’s a reason we break wood and not metal when training in class. Some things are just stronger than the human fist.
Bare hands are versitile weapons and can be used in fight scenes ranging from the extremely technical to the extremely inept. A skilled fighter can do a heck of a lot with his/her hands, while an unskilled but sufficiently buff one can do the same against an unwitting opponent. Bare hands are not for every fight scene, and they quickly become outmatched when weapons are added to the mix, but they’re a great addition to any fight scene’s choreography.
This information is provided for assistance in writing fight scenes only, not for real-life application.