1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Martial Arts

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Catrin Lewis, Jul 27, 2016.

    This is for a sequel I may be writing to my first novel. I'm thinking my female main character needs to learn a martial art, and I'm wondering which one would be best to choose, and what I can expect out of it.

    As I've sketched out the plot in my head so far, my FMC has seven to nine months to get good enough at her chosen martial art so that when confronted with a bigger, stronger attacker, she can at least deter him or her well enough to get away. Though if she could put the thug out of commission for awhile, that'd give me more options.

    The setting is a medium-sized city in the American Midwest in 1982 - 83. As I recall, back then all the classes we had available were for judo/jujitsu and karate. I'd better not get more exotic than that.

    Keep in mind she's an ordinary citizen: I don't have her training for a mission or anything. It's just that she's been the victim of previous attacks (in Book One) and her fiance (the MMC) suggests she get MA lessons just in case it happens again. She doesn't think it will, but does it to please him.

    However, she's a good student, very attentive, and the memory of how it felt to be helpless will be a strong motivator. She's courageous, a clear thinker, and quick at assessing a situation.

    She's 29 years old, 5'-1", 115 pounds. With her work and personal schedule, she'll have time for two lessons per week, max. She's in decent shape for someone with a sedentary job, but is not a gym rat. Though I could have her join up, under the circumstances.

    How far could a student like that get in that period of time?
    I'm not that interested in belt levels, though that'd be good to know; more in what someone like her would reasonably be able to do if attacked.

    And while I'm at it, the male MC will be taking MA classes, too, also "just in case." He's 35, ex-US Army, 6'-4", around 200 pounds. I'd say karate for him, except that he's an architect and lives by his drawing. For that matter, both of them live by their hands. Does karate, done right, pose the risk of hand injury? Or would it actually strengthen them?

    So, what do you think?
     
  2. Sifunkle
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    Sifunkle Dis Member

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    I don't have experience with either karate or judo (well... tiny amount with judo), if those are your only choices due to setting, but to answer your question regarding hand injuries, the martial arts I've done have taught not to hit anything hard with fists in a street fight/self defence context, because you're likely to break fingers, etc if you do it forcefully enough. You'd often use the heel of your hand (bottom of your palm) instead, although you could still use fists for softer tissues, like if you were trying to wind someone. In fact, the incidence of brain injuries in boxing went up after they introduced gloves, because when it was bareknuckle people didn't tend to punch opponents in the skull nearly as much/as hard for fear of damaging their fists (--> livelihoods).

    As for how far she'd get with 7-9 months of her regime (again, grain of salt as I'm inexperienced with those particular martial arts)... she'd certainly improve technique-wise (get a decent idea of how to strike, kick, do some basic throws or grapples) but she'd have a long way to go. I'd probably still put my money on a bigger, stronger attacker (especially if they're confident enought to assault her in the first place) if it was a fight they were both tied to, but she might be able to deter him or her if s/he wasn't interested in targets that weren't easy. Especially if her martial arts school had a focus on self defence, there's a reasonable number of 'common sense'-type tips that can help, even if you're still not that strong/good technically.

    Such as:
    • Not aiming kicks any higher than the attacker's knees (risky to have your leg grabbed in a street fight)
    • Effective distractors to help get out of someone's grasp (e.g. if throat-barred from behind: elbow to the diaphragm, fist to the crotch, or firm stomp on a foot)
    • Focusing on the torso (centre of mass) to track attacker's movement (lots of people get distracted by eyes)
    • Keeping guard up - fists held roughly level with eyes so its easier to block head shots (the main problem there can be stamina, but that's something she'd be working on while training - one of my teachers had a policy where if he could easily slap you in the face during exercises, he would)
    • Positioning - e.g. avoid getting cornered, with multiple attackers try to move so that the frontmost blocks the line of the others
    • Using what you have to hand (even if just for intimidation) - e.g. keys held in a fist or between knuckles can be pretty off-putting (especially the less modern types... all those serrations, like a really blunt knife)
    • Using centre of mass and momentum against the opponent (that's kinda where that 'bigger they are, harder they fall' phrase comes into play) - e.g. if an attacker is running at her, a well-placed back kick (like what a horse does, aiming over the shoulder) to the knee can be debilitating; a lot of judo throws, I believe, are achieved by lowering your centre of mass below your opponents and using yourself as the fulcrum in a lever
    • Moving off the line of an attack (e.g. step/rotate to the outer side of a strike as you block/parry it; harder for them to follow up with their other limb)
    • Escaping as soon as a chance presents
    If the classes focus on self defence, it's likely that they'd teach counters to common ways one might be attacked (being pushed in the chest, throat-barred from behind, headlocks, etc); if she practiced them enough they could be useful. They might teach disarming techniques (e.g. for knives), although I doubt she'd be competent or confident enough to risk that in her 7-9 months. I doubt any responsible beginner's school would encourage her to try anything but surrender against a gun.

    Is she flexible/agile? Flexibility goes a long way in many martial arts and is probably an advantage women have over men in general (hence a strength that can be played to).

    Anyway, hope that helps a bit, or at least gets the ball rolling. Happy to assist if you have other questions, although I'm by no means an expert (and different people will have been taught different things about fighting, so others may contradict some of the things I've said... as with everything, a lot of it depends on context; I'm not claiming anything I proposed is universally applicable).
     
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  3. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks. This is very helpful.

    Yes, I remember reading that statistic about more head injuries in boxing since the introduction of padded gloves, but I don't believe the article said why. So not wanting to endanger one's hands and one's livelihood was a real-life consideration.

    Many of the techniques you outline are often presented as basic women's self-defense moves. I'm thinking that in a good martial arts school a pupil would be trained to use them effectively and confidently. My FMC could get practiced at them, instead of just knowing about them in theory and going blank when danger comes.

    I understand what you say about her not being ready actually to defeat a guy after such a short training. The baddies in this particular book would include women, so when I involve my FMC in a fight, it could very well be against another female.

    Thank you again.
     
  4. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    9 months of twice-per-week karate is unlikely to give her any serious advantage against a stronger assailant - particularly if the assailant is prone to frequent thuggery. Ironically it's the fear of harming others that can be difficult to overcome in self-defence scenarios. Having said that, anything can happen in combat. If it's a he-attacker and she knees him in the nuts, well, game over. Wouldn't take 9 months of karate to learn how to knee someone in the nuts though.

    Karate will strengthen the hands in time, but injury is always a risk.
     
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  5. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm thinking judo might be better for her. What difference would that make, do you think?
     
  6. pyroglyphian
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    pyroglyphian Member

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    Judo tends to suit stockier people as it places considerable emphasis on grappling, however it generally contains more joint locks (see Kansetsu Waza) than you'd typically find in karate and so might lend itself better to a lady looking for self-defence. Joint locks can theoretically nullify an assailant's size advantage because they are intended to exploit weaknesses in the body's mechanics - weaknesses which even the biggest, baddest of thugs have. After 9 months of training she should be able to apply some of the more elementary locks with a degree of competence.
     
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  7. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Marine martial arts instructors have a practice where they imprint techniques onto a student who needs to know them NOW. Martial arts is a broad term covering the physical, mental, and SPIRITUAL state of a learner, not just now to punch someone. When to punch, why you punch, what punching does to you as a person, what it does to the enemy. That sort of thing. Certain techniques are designed to be less HUMILIATING to an opponent, the subtleties apparent to only those students who understand the entire concept of the technique.

    However, sometimes you only have nine months.

    If you need to teach an impromptu point-man how to deal with a violent ten year old with a screwdriver, and you don't have ten months to talk about things like force preservation and leadership traits, there are expatiated methods you can use to teach them almost all combat methods, bringing them to a high level of skill in a short time. This is VERY DANGEROUS, but is sometimes required.

    My point is that your character can be deadly at 9 months, although they will have HUGE holes in their understanding of what they are doing.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2016
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  8. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Some people learn really fast and have a great hand-eye coordination naturally, so if your character happens to be one of those people, she could get adept fast, especially if she spars instead of just punching and kicking a bag.

    A woman who has never trained anything can deter a male assailant and get away, so I guess what's key here is that you'd need to know how you'd like her to do it. You could look up Melissa Soalt, who's been teaching women self-defense since the '80s, and come up with an instructor character based on her, who'd teach basic self-defense techniques to women in your story. Her first martial art was aikido, by the way.

    If we think about reality based self defense disciplines, Krav Maga, Senshido and Defendo come to mind, but only KM would be old enough to be featured in your story. It was introduced to the States in the early '80s, so there could be a Jewish community in your story where your character goes to learn it, but as I don't know the history that well, I don't know how plausible it'd be, so you'd need to look into it. But that's the only discipline I've actively trained and if you keep it up, 9 months is more than enough to deter a male assailant. Having said that, self-defense isn't rocket science for a very good reason, so many disciplines share techniques and you don't necessarily have to mention any specific one in your story.

    Martial arts are a bit different, as many have belt systems and can be more complex. I don't have any experience of Chinese and Japanese martial arts, but I think they also often have a spiritual component, so e.g. your FMC developing some kind of bushido attitude could be interesting. Thai boxing I'm more familiar with, and it's very hands on. It certainly has its traditions, but the techniques you learn are effective and can turn out to be useful even on the street (elbow and knee strikes, clinching, punches and even kicks), plus it builds character because sparring can get pretty brutal sometimes, lol.

    Savate and savate défence are another option, but I don't know how commonly they were trained in the US in the '80s, plus I've never trained them, but if I were to write a character who did, I'd go to YouTube and watch videos about it, and maybe go attend or observe a class.

    Have you considered the option your character happened to carry something she could use as a weapon, or use something she'd find nearby when the attack happens? That could even allow her to incapacitate the man if your plot required it. Punching rarely works. A rear-naked choke can choke out even a big guy, but it's not very easy to pull if you're grappling with a bigger, stronger opponent, imo. In any case, the ground is the last place you want to go. Since your FMC lives in the US, if she's concerned of her safety she could even consider purchasing a handgun and learn to use it for self-defense. Lots of women do that.

    I don't think you need to worry that 9 months won't be enough for her to fight off an attacker, and how adept she'd be in 9 months would also depend on her athletic prowess. Furthermore, a self defense situation can go south even for a black belt karateka 'cause they are unpredictable situations and if your assailant gets a jump on you; knifes you, strangles you, or bashes your head in with a brick, the color of your belt or even lack there of may be irrelevant. However, what martial arts and self defense training do is prepare you mentally and physically, and in the best case scenario, you will see the attack coming and your muscle memory helps you to react quickly enough, perhaps to block a knife, or to use force and muscles correctly to yank off their hands from around your throat, or to strike effectively with your palm heel, or to know where to scratch and bite, or how to move your hips if they're pressing you down, trying to rape you, or look for a weapon/escape route/help.
     
  9. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Aikido is a great self-defense MA. Barring that, judo's next best. Being in excellent shape isn't a necessity - judo is more about leverage and using the opponent's weight against him than strength (not to say that strength isn't useful at all, but someone who knows how to make an opponent move can knock him down). A short woman like her would be best suited to using leg sweeps instead of throws - it's very hard to throw shoulder/hip throw someone who's more than 6 inches taller, and especially against a much heavier opponent (her vs. the other MC, frex).

    How far could she get in nine months? I'd say not very, depending how long the sessions are - she'd get the basics (learning how to fall, basic sweeps, shoulder/hip throw, maybe a few pins/holds); if she picks it up quickly, she might be advanced enough and/or have the muscle memory to react without thought.
     
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  10. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    Shoot, I did a whole thing recommending LINE training, but then looked it up and the Marines didn't start using it until 1989, just a few years too late for your story.
     
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  11. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Self-taught in most major martial arts - the judo throws, the taikwondo - pathetic toe nips, and the such-like, I am a bedroom boxer, street roller: Rocky, Big Boss, Police Story for research purposes, the rest is kind of natural inclination to swing [through trees].

    Martial arts is a business, franchise of the Yuri Geller variety from my observations and very creepy. However, the greatest thug of our times is the celebrated Fedor Emelianenko, he is my champion and why surely we shall lose the next war, brothers.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2016
  12. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    as someone whose practised karate, (of the Shotokan variant) 9 months is enough to get basics, (and to somewhat defend yourself adequately) but not to really get anywhere. there are some instances within my classes where someone's skipped a whole grade to a higher belt and been really good.

    here's a breakdown of the belts

    White
    White with red stripe (normally for little kids)
    red with white stripe (another kiddie one)
    red
    orange
    yellow
    green
    purple
    purple with stripe
    brown
    brown with one stripe
    brown with two stripe
    (six months training)
    1st dan black

    realistically with that and if she were to grade normally, she'd get to yellow belt, but if trained hard enough and was motivated to lern more there isnt any difficulty with her getting to at least purple... (going from my experience anyway)

    as with actually hurting people, i've been blinded for a few moments by a good hit to the temple, and i've managed to crack a couple of ribs before now it's supposed to be more of a defensive one, but used right it can be used offensively as well.
     
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  13. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I hold a black belt in Uechi-ryu Karate and for what you want for your character, she'd be better off taking a self-defense class. The best ones are offered by your local police. They concentrate on disabling opponents fast and making a speedy escape.

    And BTW, judo isn't vicious enough for what you need. It's about take-downs and throws, not disabling opponents.

    There are very few karate or kung-fu styles in which she could reach the level of proficiency you want in just seven months because the focus is on learning forms (commonly called katas), committing to discipline and gaining rank. I'm not saying it's impossible, but the self-defense classes will teach everything she needs in a few weeks. What's more, the moves are:
    • simpler and easier to remember,
    • based on real-world assault situations,
    • aimed at disabling opponents who are bigger and stronger,
    • cover defending yourself in the home, on the street and in your car, and
    • teach the use of unconventional weapons (read: whatever you can get your hands on).
    Over a seven-month period, she could take the class and go back for a refresher course if she wanted.

    FYI, self-defense is not about waiting around for the police to show up to make an arrest after you've taken someone down. It's about maintaining your safety and getting the hell out of there.
     
  14. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is not good. Let's deal with the girl first. She's 29 years old (almost thirty), and she's 5'1 and 115 lbs and a female? That is TINY. Second, you want her to learn enough martial arts in just nine months by taking classes only twice a week? I think you should rule out Judo and Ju-jitsu. I've had to grapple with girls much bigger than this, more athletic, and much more experienced, and sorry to say, but the difference between men and women in strength is drastic, and as much as Judo/BJJ teachers like to claim their martial arts allow for a smaller opponent to beat a bigger opponent, size still plays a role here, especially when we're talking about a tiny girl like yours.

    Moreover, if we're talking about a normal girl taking normal self defense lessons, I'm assuming there's no sparring here. That's no good. Learning a technique in a contrived situation is not, I think, going to help you much on the street. Could she land a lucky shot in the balls? Of course- I think, given your information, that's about the most you can expect from her. If you make her assailant a clown, really drunk, or a college millennial, his getting beaten up will be all the more believable.

    As for the guy, if he was in the army, you might expect something more practical from him than Karate.
     
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  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Most women do not have a good understanding of balls. Even my own wife thought I balanced upon them when I sat down - and as if anybody would ever do such a thing? Subsequently, my efforts at beta phase, upon the glass dining table, disastrous afternoon with the kids at school, thankfully.

    However, David must defeat Goliath in prose, but why writers depend upon logic is beyond me. Little guys get lucky, fiction, do it, write it.
     
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  16. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    Wouldn't a good kick between the legs take down anyone, dangly bits or no?
     
  17. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Guys train balls. Google 'the executive toy, desktop pendulum theory in combat,' then get yourself a place at that top table.

    sorry, I'll go write something, get off the internet
     
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  18. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the absence of dangly bits, I don't think a kick between the legs would be significantly worse than an equal-strength kick anywhere else...
     
  19. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    If you get hit in say, the shoulder, your body would bend back to absorb some of the blow, you know the whole force = Mass x acceleration/time. the time would increase and force be significantly less.
    Between the legs though, the entirety of that persons weight is pushing back down, causing the body to absorb close to 100% of the blow.

    I mean, unless you jumped.
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, that's what I meant by equal-strength - I guess I was thinking of the strength of the impact, not the strength of the person making the hit.

    I'd say a well-aimed kick to the side of the knee would slow me down more, or certainly a punch to the face/throat. Lots of areas that I think are more vulnerable than the crotch, for women.
     
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  21. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, that's true. I forgot to address this when I posted earlier...

    In any military branch, he's gonna get the same (if not better) training in hand-to-hand self-defense. If she's that small going up against him, she's better off to either shoot him from a distance (in excess of 50 yards, which would require it's own kind of training) or running away before he even sees her (if he doesn't know she's there, he won't know to chase her).

    In short, she's gonna require a boatload of luck to come out on top.
     
  22. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wait... She's going against HIM??????!!!
     
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  23. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Au contraire. Speaking as someone who has been dealt a swift, hard kick between the legs, I can testify to the fact it has pretty much the same effect on a woman as it does on a man, but without the immediate of risk of rupture, and soft tissue bruising. It put me on my knees immediately; I was tearing up and I had a pain in my abdomen I still can't find words to describe. I might have been kicked on the outside, but the referred pain went all the way to my ovaries.

    I NEVER want to feel that again.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2016
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  24. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @Catrin Lewis Is your FMC fighting the ex military guy or is there a third guy? I'm kind of confused.

    Generally speaking, a petite woman can fend off a 6'2'' guy if she knows what she's doing and doesn't hesitate. It gets more difficult if he too has martial art / self defense / combat training.

    @obsidian_cicatrix That's why I've always worn women's groin guard in Krav Maga and BJJ. :D Sure, many women don't, but, hey, it's not my crotch that might accidentally-on-purpose get kneed or elbowed. :p
     
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  25. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    It might be pure coincidence @KaTrian, but I found out very soon after that experience that I had become infertile. I still wonder to this day whether that was the cause, as the docs could find no other obvious reason for it.
     

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