DAW (Dee Ann Waite): Welcome Andrew. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to help shed some light on a sometimes difficult scene to write - a fighting scene. You were so helpful in guiding me in writing fight scenes for my book that I thought it would be great to have you share your insights with my readers. So, lets begin.
First, tell us a little about yourself.
JAB: I use my real name, Jason Andrew Bond. It has a lot of meaning for me in that the Andrews and the Bonds both came out of Scotland only a few generations ago. I include my middle name on my books to de-emphasize my name’s closeness to James Bond.
I grew up in Oregon and currently live in Washington State with my wife and son. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Oregon and an MBA from the University of Colorado. When my first novel Hammerhead unexpectedly reached bestseller status, I dedicated twenty-five percent of my profits to disabled U.S. veterans. I take a hands-on approach to writing. When SCUBA research couldn't wait for summer, I found myself certifying in Puget Sound in January. Outside of writing and my family, martial arts is an important part of my life. At eighteen years of age I entered an Aikido dojo for the first time, and have since trained in Jeet Kune Do, Tae Kwon Do, Shudokan Karate, Goshin Jutsu, Judo, and Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu.
DAW: Very impressive. What a wonderful thing you do by donating 25% to disabled U.S. Vets. You have my respect on that.
When you say you have a "hands on" approach to writing, you really mean it. Look at all that martial arts training you've had. How exciting! Do you believe your martial arts training has helped make you an authority on fight scenes?
JAB: I’ve been training in martial arts for over twenty years and have been lucky enough to have some extremely talented coaches. I’ve trained under a national muay thai national champion, the former head coach of the US Tae Kwon Do Olympic team, and a US Martial Arts Hall of Famer. My Jeet Kune Do instructor was certified under Dan Inosanto (the head of Bruce Lee’s art), whom I’ve had the extreme fortune to meet and learn from. I do not consider myself an expert in any one system, but I have a much broader training resume than most other practitioners I know. This gives me a good perspective on physical conflict.
DAW: Okay, now down to the nitty-gritty. Can you provide some examples of fight scenes for us? For example, what are some of the things we, as writers, need to consider when putting together a great fight scene in order to maintain as much authenticity as possible?
JAB: There are two key elements. The first is speed. I have seen very intelligent martial artists who are also writers mess up here. They are so into the technical detail that the fight slows down. It is important to remember that highly technical techniques often do not work, and when they do, the reader isn’t going to know exactly what is happening anyway. There is a balance in describing what is happening with keeping the fight fast. I recommend writers think carefully about how it would look in real time and try and keep that real time pacing by eliminating what is not wholly necessary.
The second factor is reaction. Good fighters do not just attack, attack, attack. A good fighter will draw an opponent in, see how he or she reacts. I will throw some kicks to see if a hand drops in response. This will let me know that the next time I fake a kick, I can go for a head strike.
DAW: Interesting! I love this approach.
In grappling it is the same idea. I want to put someone in a position in which they feel a path of escape which will give me something to work with. A good example of this is an arm bar. To successfully get an arm bar, I need someone’s shoulder off the ground and their arm between my legs (perhaps a foot under the shoulder) as I wrench it with my own arms. Instead of trying to pull their shoulder off the ground, why not just get them to their back, give them room to turn away from me (lifting their shoulder), and as they extend their arm away, I trap it and apply my arm bar. This is why the ‘I won by accident’ argument doesn’t fly. Luck is based on blow by blow. I won’t go blow for blow. What I need to do is set someone up to increase my odds. Writers need to consider how they would get someone to react (lower a hand, step forward, etc.) to get an advantage. If you aren’t a fighter, ask someone who is. People always like to talk about what they are good at, but be careful. There are a lot of martial arts techniques which will simply not work in live situations. I recommend viewing arts such as Krav Maga and Jeet Kune Do for their street application emphasis.
DAW: Great suggestions. You are absolutely correct in that a lot of traditional martial arts techniques just won't work for street fighting. My hairdresser is a martial arts student (34 years) and he actually said the same thing to me just last week. :)
Okay, so how about when we’re talking trained personnel – military, CIA, FBI, police, etc., what are some things they would ALWAYS do and some things they would NEVER do?
JAB: Time to plan and caution are key. The idea of someone just jumping in and getting into a giant fight is the last thing these folks want to do. Trained personnel will take a lot of time to set up events. It is easy to lose a fight, especially when guns are involved. The idea is to get what is needed as quickly and quietly as possible. That means that I have to enter situations with a game plan. These agencies have a lot of resources. Use those resources in your writing. Also, we need to be sure of tactics.
Here’s a good example of a scene in writing which does not represent the real world effectively: The police shoot someone, and then stand around talking about it. They look back and the person they shot has run off. In the real world, when police shoot a suspect, they cuff that suspect, even if they are 100% sure the suspect is dead. This is good police procedure. I learned this by talking with a detective. They had used the technique the week before on a body after a shoot out.
If you want to get an agency right, study it. Talk to officers or agents (if you can). If they aren’t willing, read books. I wanted to know how Columbian drug cartels worked. I wasn’t about to go ask, so I read several non-fiction books on the subject.
My biggest advice is DO NOT write off of what you have seen on TV. It is more often wrong than not.
Here is another example: The police are pointing guns at a suspect who is holding a knife. They issue the command for the suspect to put the knife down. The suspect turns toward the officer still holding the knife. What happens next? We all know that on TV the officer would issue the command again, and maybe a third time and then maybe a hero would run in and disarm the suspect. This is not real world. In the real world the officer would issue the command, the suspect would turn, face off, and the officer would shoot. There is no ‘drop the gun’, ‘drop the gun’, ‘drop the gun’. I find that proper research into police procedures leads to a more interesting and rich reading experience.
A word of caution though: Even though you do research, someone may claim it is wrong. I went on a police ride-along once (a great idea by the way) and saw a windshield with a perfect skull shape smashed outward from the inside. The passenger had not been wearing his seatbelt and had head-butted the glass. The passenger needed to go to the hospital, but overall he was okay. I wrote a scene in which a person cracks a rear window of a car with a person’s head, and a reader told me that the human skull would never hold up to such a hit. The person in my novel should have died and that I didn’t know what I was doing. I just had to shrug and move on.
DAW: I asked you a question once about a small special forces operation against a slew of rebel soldiers, and your response was “Winning fights starts unfairly.” I LOVED that. Can you please elaborate on this?
JAB: If I’m in a street fight, I’m going to fight dirty. One tactic might look like this: I put my hands up and say, “Please don’t hurt me.” I’m tall 6’3” and fairly skinny at 175 lbs. I’m going to use that and look as gangly and weak as I can. I might even pretend to trip a bit and have trembling hands. I want my attacker to think I’m scared as hell, so that he’ll be confident and maybe get too close. Then I can rip the gun out of his hand and claw out an eyeball. (Don’t try to take a gun without proper training as there are some very specific subtleties that you have to have down and practiced hundreds of time if you want to not get shot, and you better have no other choice because even with training there are still odds to get shot).
Another element is the punch up. As a trained fighter in a life or death street fight (all street fights should be seen as life or death. If you debate this, ask some cops how people die when getting punched once, fall and hit their head.) I will be looking for my holy grail—I want to dig my thumbs into the attacker’s eyes. I will be trying to rip fingers off and bend any part of the attacker’s body the wrong way I can. This is why trained fighters don’t generally get into fights. I had better have a damn good reason for the judge when I explain why I blinded a man. “My eight year old son was with me and I tried to disengage from the fight, sir. He would not let me leave and I was afraid for my and my families safety.” Okay, that might be acceptable. However, “I got mad because he cut me off,” just isn’t going to fly.
As far as organizations are concerned: My best friend from high school (the guy Hammerhead is dedicated to) is currently a SWAT guy. Their job is to totally overwhelm the people they ‘visit’. The idea is that if I’m dangerous and sitting on my couch with a gun in my hand, you as the SWAT team folks want me to be so shocked and overwhelmed by your entry that not only do I not have time to get off a shot, my rational mind is totally disengaged and I can’t even think to get off a shot. I’m sitting on my couch and suddenly the door flies open, something hits the floor and BAM I’m can’t hear or see. Before I know what’s going on, I’m on the ground with a 220 lb guy on my back and my arms twisted behind my back.
What’s the perfect military option? The sniper’s bullet hits my head before even the sound of the shot (much slower than the bullet) reaches me. Click. Off like a lightswitch. Writing about this stuff is so much fun, which does make me worry about my mental health at times.
DAW: That was great advice. I learn more every time we chat. Now, how about telling us about yourself as an author? For example, what genre do you tend to write in?
JAB: I do not have a genre, or at least do not plan on having one. To broaden my writing fully, I will be moving through many in my career. My first novel was in sci-fi military. My second was modern day action/thriller with a touch of supernatural. My third will return to sci-fi military, and then I will branch out from there.
DAW: What is your current W.I.P.?
JAB: Currently I am working on the sequel to my first novel Hammerhead. Hammerhead Resurrection will pick up ten years after Hammerhead closed and features a return of the alien race which many in Hammerhead debated the existence of. They say the war had been faked, but the debate will soon end.
DAW: What are some of the books you've written?
DAW: Jason, thank you again for stopping by. I'm thrilled to have gotten to know a little about you and truly wish you all the best success with your career.
And thanks to all of you for stopping by as well. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask Jason any questions you may have. He'd love to hear from you!
All my best,