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Big, slow fighters with training?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Feo Takahari, Apr 13, 2015.

  1. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    At this point, I've read a ton of stuff about how small, zippy characters can be trained to fight. And I think we all know how big brutes with no training fight. But how about big, slow characters with combat training? What techniques would they use to properly handle someone small and speedy, and avoid getting baited or caught off guard?

    (Does anyone even write big, slow characters with proper training? Every example I can think of relies on brute force and/or constantly gets Worfed.)
     
  2. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    Being able to hit your enemy before they close with you would be helpful. So greatswords or polearms would be good melee weapons. A smaller fighter is probably going to either fight at range or use hit and run tactics against a bigger enemy. So a weapon and shield set up might let you counter a ranged fighter.

    As for big, slow characters with proper training, I can't really think of any in fiction. It's much more exciting to root for the underdog.
     
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  3. Tom

    Tom Istar

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    I once fenced a big, slow fighter. I'm a small, light, relatively fast fencer, and so I use a lot of footwork to move around quickly. I also have a sprinter's build, so after a few short, intense bursts of energy, I'm worn out. To win, I rely on my ability to rack up a ton of points in the opening portion of a bout, then fall into defense for the remainder of the bout as I regain my energy, finishing up with more fast, aggressive attacks when I've recovered.

    So, this guy I went up against once was far taller and heavier than me. Where I utilized fast footwork, he focused on bladework--a technique slower fencers often use. He let me run myself ragged trying to get through his defense. Then, when I had completely exhausted my endurance, he was able to defeat me with little effort.

    He'd been conserving his energy the whole time, never making any unnecessary movements, and that played to his advantage. He also had a longer reach and stride than I did, and for every one of his retreats I had to take two or more advances. He took advantage of that, attacking me as I was advancing. That was the day I learned never to underestimate larger, slower opponents.
     
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  4. I wrestled at 160 lbs in high school. This is three weight classes or so below the "heavy weights" The smallest class I think was like 110 or 120. In any event I was in the upper tier of weight classes. Every so often the lower weight classes would get a bee in their bonnet and want to wrestle a higher class either before or after classes. We did exactly what Tom's opponent did, wait the little guys out. Basically we let them spring around and made sure none of our movements were wasted, since if we wrestled like a little guy we would get tired more quickly. If they ever took a shot at our legs (meaning do a double leg or something similar) we would sprawl. Once we sprawled we laid on top of them and got them tired from trying to stand, hip heist, granby roll, or some other escape/reversal move. After having 160 lbs on you the little guy would tire. Once there we would do simple moves like the arm bar, half nelson, or one of the various cradle moves in order to pin the opponent or get back points. This worked to the bigger man's advantage if they were roughly as skilled as the smaller wrestler.

    I imagine in any fight this is a similar sequence bigger guy would defend for a time and wait until the little guy got tired and go for the most efficient killing stroke.
     
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  5. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    Big guys are not slow. This is one of those things that authors who don't fight for a living have been bullshitting their readership about for many years; either out of professional ignorance, or as a way to level the field for scrappy protagonists who otherwise would be ground into hamburger. The whole thing about Oberyn Martell vs. the Mountain was a load of crap.

    A larger fighter has every conceivable advantage over a smaller one. This is why combat athletes fight in weight classes. In regulated combat, even 10 lbs. of weight advantage is a game-changer. A larger fighter has strength, mass, leverage, reach, and, yes, speed over a smaller one.

    A bigger fighter has a considerable speed advantage because a bigger fighter only has to "chamber" a blow halfway or less instead of making a full return between blows. He can just cock his hip, drop his knee, and throw from the shoulder instead of looping his weapon all the way behind his back.

    Also, instead of, say, beginning an overhand blow from behind his back with his hand over his shoulder and a full body windup -- which a lot of small guys have to do as standard technique if they're going to break armor -- a big fighter can throw an equivalent blow from a hanging guard, with his swordtip in front of his shield, just by shifting his weight and flipping his hand over. That's about a six-foot disparity in the distance the focal point of the blade has to travel. That's a massive advantage. A bigger fighter can throw blows much faster, both in tempo and in general time-to-contact, than a smaller one.

    Fighting big guys really, really sucks.

    If your fighters are considerably disparate in size -- I gave a hand to hand demo at NorWesCon with Tinker Pearce, who at 6'5" and 300 lbs has half a foot of reach and over a hundred pounds on me, and we demonstrated exactly this -- the bigger fighter has a speed advantage because the smaller fighter has to close the gap. The footwork, the lunge, the extension -- all necessary for a smaller fighter to get into attacking distance -- all take time. And more than that, they telegraph the attack.

    Speed is primarily a function of perception. A well-trained athlete in any sport has worked to strip away excess motion so that his opponent can't anticipate his next movement; whether it's a soccer player who has worked the chambering of his foot into his natural stride, a runningback who has learned to plant and cut with no warning, or a boxer with a ranging jab off the shoulder that literally moves faster than his opponent can blink. Lack of ancillary movement is interpreted by the human brain as speed. This is why snakes seem to strike so fast; there's no telltale tensing of muscles before they lunge. Same principle, here.

    A larger fighter may rely on his reach and power to give him a speed advantage, and he may -- MAY -- not concern himself as much with removing excess motion; this would give a well-trained adversary an advantage. A highly-trained big guy, though . . . your smaller protagonist is screwed. He'll have to pull a full-on Nicky Santoro: throw dirt in his eyes, snap his fingers backwards, check him at the knees, and then jump up and down on him a few dozen times.

    What a big fighter generally can't do as well as a smaller one is change direction. The sidestep -- especially the "barn door" type pivot on the ball of the leading foot -- a sudden change of direction once he's committed, and most of all, the recovery once a big fighter is off-balance, are all a fraction slower than a well-trained smaller fighter. Usually, though, it's not enough to matter. A smaller fighter has to hit him low and get that mass moving in a direction that's undesirable for the bigger fighter -- ideally downwards, or into something large and unyielding. Walls are good; so are telephone poles and parking meters. I can personally attest to the efficacy of a parked vehicle in this situation. Because if your little guy meets a larger combatant on his own terms, he's going to get pounded into the ground like a fence post.

    Good options for a much smaller fighter are the front foot sweep:



    the hammer lock, shown here with a much smaller combatant pinning a larger one:

    [​IMG]

    - coupled with a knee drop to pull the shoulder apart as he falls;

    or a classic low tackle:

    [​IMG]

    -- which actually works better the bigger the tackle-ee is and the faster he's moving.

    You can use all three of these techniques with a weapon in one hand; the hammer lock can be employed from prise de fer.

    I hope this helps. Size matters. Sorry, but it does. It really, really does.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  6. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    This has been on my mind a lot lately, I guess from playing Dragon Age Inquisition with its class of little rogues running around the battlefield able to match armored fighters. Just no.

    It's a bias that creeps into so much fiction, that "hustle beats muscle"-- let alone what you spelled out so brilliantly, Malik, that size and strength create speed too. But it's painfully predictable that so many fight scenes will end up being written in the form of a stronger, slower villain and a faster hero "on the defensive" but able to make that work.

    I can see two reasons scenes get written that way. One is the "geek bias," the assumption that readers are more likely to have been the smaller kids in class and sympathize with the little guy, not the big one. How often that's true I wouldn't guess, but I think it's a perception in the mix.

    The other is it's just plain easier to depict an exciting (and prolonged) fight from the hero dodging for dear life-- and it's easiest of all to film it. Fine, but let's keep in mind that it's likely that the big guy will be a lot stronger (and better armored, and with more endurance) than the little guy is faster, because strength just comes in a wider range than speed does, at least among decently-trained fighters with the above advantages. Let's remember that the really flashy evasions are desperation moves, that nobody would use if anything more efficient was open; a hero who throws himself all over the battlefield is just showing that the writer hasn't found him any better options.

    There are better ways to write combat than keeping the hero on that unlikely razor's edge of "weaker but just fast enough"-- and doing it for every other fight.
     
  7. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    OT from my own thread, but now I'm wondering what you'd make of Heroman, which pits a bulky giant robot against enemies that are typically faster, but have nowhere near his endurance. One of the major fights is with a super-speedy flying bug alien, who can dodge or fly away from all Heroman's attacks, but would clearly be squashed if caught. I liked the setup, since it required outthinking the little twerp and catching him off guard.
     
  8. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi,

    Big fighters are by necessity going to be slower than smaller fighters. That's simply a dictate of the finite speed of nervous conduction and the effect of momentum, plus the inverse square rule as it applies to muscle strength against mass. There is a reason why fleas can jump two hundred times their own body height. In essence if we talk about the human animal nerve impulses travel at a speed of roughly two hundred mph and bigger people have longer nerves which means it takes longer for thise impulses to get from A to B. Power to weight ratios also favour smaller people simply because the strength of a muscle is proportional to its cross sectional area but mass is proportional to volume (or the cube). But these advantages are not overwhelming.

    At the same time as Malik points out a big guy can compensate for a slightly slower reaction time by being able to put more power into his blows with essentially a shorter run up.

    The question here is more about strategy and tactics. Size does matter but it's not an overwhelming factor - unless both fighters are not thinking at all. However if both guys are thinking, then they will both know to use their relative advantages in a fight. And big guys do have some significant advantages. If you've ever watched boxing you will know that reach is critical. And if you're a kiwi like me, you'll know that this was what undid David Tua. He is five ten, fighting opponents six inches taller than him. He could have won, and if he'd been thinking in these matches he would have won. But instead he refused to go inside and got boxed to death.

    Power is a huge advantage too since it means that less punches do more damage. The smaller opponent may be able to dodge, but he's still going to get hit unless he's got some immense speed advantage. And each hit is going to do him more damage. Your small guys edge is to try and avoid as much as he can and focus on critical weak spots. Your big guy as a boxer has the basic edge of essentially crowding his opponent (force him onto the ropes) so that he can't use his speed advantage. All the speed in the world won't help him if he has no safe area to dance away to. He's just going to get hit.

    In a battle speed will favour the smaller guy all things being equal. Stength and the ability to do damage and absorb it will favour the bigger guy all things being equal. But these are only small edges. The big edge and what will most likely decide the battle is thinking - strategy, tactics, knowing your territory and knowing your weapons etc.

    Feo I can't give you any really good ideas as to your second question because I simply don't have enough info to work with. But I suspect your speedy flyers weakness is going to be momentum. Shifting his entire body weight by flying is not as quick as using legs. A man can turn on an almost right angle, a bird, especially a large one, turns in curves instead. As for your robot, holding his arms out wide will limit the bug's ability to dodge to the sides, though it will make him vulnerable to attack. Also most birds can't fly backwards. That's why cats beat birds so often. They pounce forwards and the bird can't evade by flying backwards. They have to go to the sides, and the cat has its arms outstretched as it pounces, limiting dodges.

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. As already stated, a big well trained fighter will beat a small, well trained fighter. The training would more or less cancel it out, and that leaves you with a heavier, likely more muscular warrior with a longer reach. That's not to say that every time a small person would loose - you've always got what boils down to luck and chance.

    It also depends on terrain and how the fight goes on. If you've got some scrum, a pitched battle, then my money would always be on the big man. He can take more armour and, crucially, he can stay on his feet better in the heaving mass of battle. To quote, or at least para quote, Harry Dresden "there's a reason why throughout history, he fell is synonymous with death."

    But then, say this is some running skirmish, maybe in a wood or boulder-studded moorland, broken ground, not suitable for shield walls and phalanxes, then all that weight and mass goes against him. As Malik pointed out with that picture of a rugby tackle. I've played a fair bit of rugby, and let me tell you, as someone topping about 6,4 and about 14 stone (you U.S heathens can work that out for yourselves :), someone a foot smaller and several stone lighter can take me out pretty easily. And if I've got enough speed up, well, it can be a bit painful. And when running like that, smaller lads are harder to catch.

    However, I've not actual fought in armour :( and I'm not exactly the fastest person ever. And this isn't even starting on the weapon choice and fighting styles. . . But if you want a rule, big people beat small, presuming they're on a level ish playing field - as opposed to the small guy having a gun :)
     
  10. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think Malik has it bang on, and I can confirm it via hard experience.

    Where I fight real steel, there are two brothers over 6'5" who are fast and well trained. They could bring speed, technique, strength and reach advantage to every bout.

    I would describe fighting them as trying to fight a polar bear from a different postal code. It was very, very frustrating and rarely productive.

    The comments about reaction time are simply myths. I am just finishing a trial where perception-reaction time was a key issue and I can tell you that there is no perceivable trend for smaller people to have faster p/r times than larger people.

    Many of the characterizations about size/speed are simply myths. Ali fought heavyweight and that kind was scary fast. Usain bolt is 6'5". That dude is even faster.

    The ability to deliver damage is indeed enhanced by size. I am not convinced there is any science behind the idea that the ability to absorb serious damage is increased by size to any significant degree. Organs fell and blood flows quite well from the largest amongst us.

    I think the advantage for the large fighter only ends when he is uncomfortably large resulting in health or co-ordination issues.
     
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  11. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    I've known big guys who are uncoordinated. It happens. I've also known little scrawny guys who are uncomfortable in their own skin and walk like Muppets. A big guy who is athletically gifted -- who understands what he's capable of, and who has intense kinetic focus, and who practices his ass off -- is a nightmare to fight.

    The worst thing a big guy can run up against in a small guy is a small guy who has trained against big guys. Someone who has mastered aikido, jiu-jitsu, or judo, and was the smallest guy in his dojo. And holy shit, judo. An experienced judoka will make you feel like you're fighting in roller skates. Judo is like jiu-jitsu's cooler older brother. And many of the techniques are paralleled in texts of swordsmanship so it's not a huge leap to imagine that any society where people fight for a living has developed arm bars, hip throws, and "Sweep the leg, Johnny."

    Conversely, a guy who knows judo and has six inches and fifty pounds on you will kill you, or make you look stupid, or both.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  12. I think when people think of "large men" they think of people like this
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Big guys in both height and girth, making them less laterally quick. Of course, this is compared to other elite athletes. I would bet money they could crush any "normal" person in a footrace/ladder/cone drill. So if a person of smaller size and similar athleticism is paired up against someone of larger size and similar athleticism we could conclude that the smaller man will be more laterally quick, which I think is what people mean when the reference speed and "reaction time."

    If people are referencing reaction time, well I got nothing for that because they are dead wrong.

    Again, I think when people say bigger fighters they think linemen, not players like quarterbacks or corners.

    (For reference: Star Lotulelei the red football player in the above is 6'1" Marcus Mariota is 6'4". The former ran a 5.14 40 and the latter ran a 4.52 40.)
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2015
  13. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    High quality O-linemen type would be terrible to fight. They will often have quick feet, very fast hands (for punching, hand checking and hand fighting), crazy reach and great strength.

    There is not doubt a RB, DB or LB type could run away from them...but that is not the same as fighting them.

    Properly trained, with good footwork, the big man is very, very effective.
     
  14. I'm not saying big men aren't effective; I'm saying that people are saying big men aren't quick, rather than not fast. And that their perception is skewed because it's freakish athlete vs freakish athlete. Although, I'll still contend that a slimmer athlete has a lateral quickness advantage over larger athletes. NFL shuttle times bear this out, as seen here . This lateral advantage is needed in order to combat the reach, size, and strength advantages.
     
  15. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    But the question is, how often is being able to zigzag and throw your entire body around by speed--compared to what you can do anyway using strength, reach, and skilled footwork--useful in a fight? If someone wants to run past distracted opponents and around obstacles in a battlefield, sure, but in dealing with an enemy who's already in your face?

    Nimble is all very well, but it's only so useful when you're trying to keep your balance when blocking, let alone dodging, attacks coming right at you. Compare that to the lazy writer who lets the hero just keep backpedalling (running backward as quickly and surefootedly as the villain runs forward) and flings his body clear of attacks (his whole body's faster than the villain's sword, every time). The trick is, in close quarters like that, is the difference between "fast (trained little-guy mode)" and "mid-speed (trained big-guy mode)" really very much, compared to the difference in power? I think the point is that strength and size do more-- and a fast hero has to really earn that victory.
     
  16. If sword fighting is about controlling the center line then lateral quickness is rather important. In the generally rare exception Royce Gracie dominated even heavyweights in the early UFC because he used his lateral quickness to mount and submit. Or take Bruce Lee dude was nasty fast. I would bet he could strike fighters by moving to the side landing a quick hit and dance out of reach.

    You even see this in the heavyweight classes in high school wrestling or even at the UFC level the smaller heavies circle their opponent quickly and attack from the side making defense and counter difficult because of the awkwardness of doing do. However, I will concede where the field is closed like in a pitched battle I concede that advantage is reduced to nil.
     
  17. Elrik Blackhaven

    Elrik Blackhaven Minstrel

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    I'm a big guy, not exactly slow when I fight but I'm definitely not one of the "zippy" ones. I'm built for comfort, not for speed. Anyway, the best way to combat "zippy" fighters is with good, no, GREAT defense. Let them wear themselves out then move on for the kill. Having a great defense will usually frustrate "zippy" fighters who are used to quick kills. This can cause them to make foolish moves out of desperation and a skilled opponent can usually capitalize on this so, you don't always have to wait for them to get tired.
    I do have a slow, trained character. He's a half troll, huge and slow, but also skilled and patient. He's able to bide his time in a fight and look for an opening.
     
  18. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    Doesn't the cliche boil down to: Big guy underestimates small guy, you know, because he's small, and small guy fights cleverly then wins? Training bouts and professional fighting are not the same as a fight for your life and the rules don't just change, they evaporate. I think writing a small person who beats big people is a matter of consistency within the story and a level of believability for the tactics used.

    Big guy swings big sword, faster than expected, and little guy falls to his back. Grabbing a handful of sand, he throws it in big guy's face and then follows it with a throwing knife to the eye. Big guy falls hard.

    If you had set up little guy as an at least semi-skilled fighter with major knife-throwing skills (Shout to Napoleon Dynamite) I'd take that outcome at face value. Also, IMO, if a big guy and a little guy are equally trained, the little guy has still spent more time thinking in his fights because he has to. He probably has never hit someone once and ended a fight. The big guy might have. The technicalities apply statistically but they don't have to apply for individual fights. Meaning; in real life I place my money on the big guy but in my book, I decide.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
  19. psychotick

    psychotick Auror

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    Hi Russ,

    Just to comment on reaction times. It's not a myth. In order to understand reaction times you must consider the reaction process. So consider that you put your finger on a hot plate. Your reaction is in three stages. The first stage is essentially the information from your finger tip reaching your brain or spinal column (for some reactions). That takes a measured amount of time based on the speed of the nerve impulse and the distance that has to be travelled. Then comes the neural processing, ie deciding that the impulse says I'm in pain, and then deciding on the appropriate course of action, ie move the finger. This as far as I know doesn't really depend on size. Then comes the last part, sending the impulse to the finger to move, and again the response is dependant on the speed of nervous conduction and the length of nerve it has to travel.

    Bigger people have longer nerves. But usually the difference of a couple of inches is a miniscule amount and not noticeable by most tests considering everything else that's happening. However there is plenty of evidence to show that this effect is there. Consider the difference between sticking your finger on a hot plate and sticking your toe on one. The distance between your finger and your brain is roughly one metre. The distance between your toe and your brain is roughly one and a half metres. And considering everything else, we would expect the reaction of the toe to be slower. And there is plenty of evidence that it is.

    Equally the question of power to weight holds. The strength of a muscle is based onthe crossectional area of the muscle. This is because muscles work by a process of having muscle fibres slide over one another as they contract. The larger the cross sectional area of the muscle, the more fibres are able to slide over one another and the greater the strength. But the mass of the part of the body moved - say the arm - is dependant on its three dimensional volume. So as a person increases in size all other things being equal, his strength increases by the square of his linear size increase, but his weight increases by the cube. So consider a three foot tall person and a six footer of exactly proportional dimensions. The strength between the two increases by a factor of four (two squared) but the mass of what he has to move increases by a factor of eight (two cubed).

    These are biological factors that cannot be ignored. But in a fight that other advantages confered by size may well outweigh any speed or power to weight ratio advantage given to the smaller fighter, especially if the size difference is only a few inches. And the factors, of training, knowing how to fight, where to hit, your opponent and the terrain completely outweigh everything else.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  20. Lvl20wizard

    Lvl20wizard Sage

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    Size, reach and muscle are all advantages. But they're not the only thing that counts, though a hand-to-hand fight against a much bigger opponent tends to fall short.

    In a sword fight some other factors can equally tip the scales, but strength and size are still some of the most powerful assets.

    My about 1-2 years of practising medieval swordfighting at novice level seemed to confirm this.

    Technique, needless to say, is great. Being practised enough in counter-attacks, attack series etc. (and for that matter thinking in counter-attacks, and not parries) allows you to act more intuitively, and thereby faster, against an opponent.

    Ferocity is another factor. One of the guys at the HEMA club is relatively small, but he jabs and fights like a wolverine. It's having the mindset of "I'm going to beat/kill you" instead of "I've gotta survive!". For him it's more "mind-over-matter" I suppose, and his technique and ability to intimidate you can sometimes just rattle you out.

    Reach, oh yes, and that would be my territory, is glorious. There was nothing better for me to have "stabbed" a guy who attempted the same thing on me - only to see that he lacked 2 or 3 inches of reach.

    As to speed, I find that most of those I've fought have been pretty fast, the question was more how coordinated they were in their speed.

    And lastly size can really account for a lot. Especially if you are fighting with shorter weapons. Big and strong guys have a way of just "cleaving" through your parries and shoving you around like a ragdoll. The trick for me to beat them, "bulls" we called them, was to "kill" them with my reach before they rammed into me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2015
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