Author Topic: Question about Mercy's dojo scene in Bone Crossed.  (Read 8058 times)


  • Guest
Question about Mercy's dojo scene in Bone Crossed.
« on: August 03, 2009, 12:19:55 am »
I understand that the Mercy Thompson books are fantasy. They deal with things that aren't real and probably never could be real. That said, when they address real-world topics they should deal with them in a realistic fashion. To do otherwise detracts from the quality of the story. And I really liked this book.

Our Beloved Authoress really screwed up that way in the dojo scene in Bone Crossed. It's pretty obvious what she was trying to do. We were supposed to see Mercy tough, in control and dealing with her trauma in a constructive - or at least not self-destructive way. We were supposed to see a guy who didn't like gals get his. Everyone cheers. Recovery proceeds.

Unfortunately, Ms. Briggs stepped outside the bounds of believability.

I've been doing martial arts for about thirty years. I first taught close to twenty years ago and ran women's self defense classes for about a decade. Worked on the rape crisis line for a while. And a few other related things. So please believe me when I say that the scene was completely unrealistic.

The teacher knew what had happened to his student and that it was particularly unpleasant and very recent. No responsible martial arts instructor would allow a student in that situation to spar a week or two post-event. If by some freak chance he or she did it would be very carefully controlled work with the head of the dojo or an extremely senior instructor of unquestioned character and sensitivity. There is no way a rape survivor who had killed in self defense so recently that she was still having panic attacks every couple hours would be tossed in with a guy with control problems and a bad attitude about women. It just wouldn't happen under a sensei with any sort of teaching skills.

Suppose for the sake of argument that it did happen. Right off the two combatants started moving full speed, hitting too hard and at least one was trying to hurt the other. That sort of thing is immediately obvious to any educated spectator let alone the guy who trained the participants. It would have been shut down right away. It would never have been allowed to go the distance.

Ms. Briggs says that Mercy was only avoiding serious injury by moving at top speed. She got in her knockout just after taking a hard blow to the diaphragm. Under those circumstances she wouldn't have fine enough control to plan a precision shot angled and calibrated perfectly to cause unconsciousness without any serious injury. It might turn out that way due to pure dumb luck. It wouldn't happen by design. And that kick? If the recipient was out for more than a few seconds there's an excellent chance he'd be in a persistent coma or at least experiencing a serious concussion. Someone should have been calling an ambulance.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 01:04:09 pm by Elle »


  • Guest
Re: I'm sorry. It doesn't wash.
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2009, 08:47:10 pm »
Gryphon, it's fantasy, but fiction rests on that whole willing suspension of disbelief. If the "real" parts aren't believable it detracts from the whole. It could be that I've got too much experience to appreciate the scene on the level to which it was pitched.

Kate and Cavaliergirl, I've been in a fair number of schools over the years, all over the board. It just didn't pass the sniff test. Even the fair-to-poor instructors I've been around would have stopped the action when one of the competitors was that far out of control and obviously trying to hurt - not tag but really lay into - the other one.

It makes emotional sense in context, but it jarred like someone writing "She knocked down the safety on her revolver" or "She went into nursing because she liked the low stress and glamor of the job." Anyone who's spent time in those worlds goes shakes his head and pops out of the story for a minute.

I'm not sure if he knew Mercy wasn't completely human. We have the definitive answer in-house  :)

Minor criticisms of a very good book. But I just had to get them off my chest.

Mike Briggs

  • Administrator
  • Auto-Zauberer
  • *
  • Posts: 823
Re: I'm sorry. It doesn't wash.
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2009, 07:33:09 pm »
Hey there, and welcome to the boards!  I'm Mike, Patty's husband.  I'm also the source of most of her martial arts "expertise", such as it is.  

First, you're correct that a perfect sensei would know his students, and would never have allowed the fight to happen.  If it did happen, the sensei might well have stepped in to solve the problem.  However, not all teachers see the world the same way.

I did Kung Fu for a number of years, and my instructor was VERY careful about sparring, so much so that we actually did very little of anything approaching full contact.  Very safe, but not as useful as it could be.  This dojo was probably fairly typical, and the events of this story would NEVER happen there.

I had another sensei for about five years (9 hours a week), not-so-coincidentally in the same dojo where Mercy practices.  Sensei Johansen is fictional, and bears only a passing resemblance to the very real Sensei Chandia, who is a dear friend and teacher.  Also, for the sake of honesty, Sensei Chandia has dramatically changed the way his dojo is run in recent years, and is teaching a different type of karate.  The fictional dojo is based more on what was, that what is.

Back when I was studying, the dojo had only a handful of students, none of which were female.  Our Sensei stressed that he was teaching martial arts, not self defense,  and the style we studied was designed to incapacitate or kill.  It was intended for the battlefield, not for sport.  In five years we never participated in any tournament and  sparred with one other dojo, once.  Our style of fighting was not conducive to point sparring.  Frankly, they kicked our butts in points, and we tended to flatten them accidentally. We trained hard, and sparring (no pads) was the core of the instruction.  Injuries were fairly common, and were accepted as the price for learning.

We often had students join from other parts looking for a "tough" school.  Unfortunately, that often meant they were bullies with a little knowledge looking to hurt someone.  If you've been in martial arts, you know the type.  Sensei seldom solved problems directly (although the most common punishment for injuring another student was to spend five minutes sparring with Sensei himself -- that always left marks).  Sensei usually chose a student, preferably one of the lighter belts, and would ask that student to educate the bully in the difference between sparring and fighting.  

Sensei watched the ensuing matches closely, but his philosophy was that bullying was basically a lack of respect for one's opponent.   Naturally, the bully would respect the Sensei, but it was important that he also respect the less experienced students.   It was therefore better if the "lesson" were administered by a junior student.  Sometimes we learn best through pain.   Part of me recognizes that this is NOT the way martial arts classes are currently run.  My Sensei was from Chile, where he was taught by a very traditional Japanese master.  The laws and customs permitted methods of instruction that would land folks in jail in America.  Sensei's instruction mirrored his background more that was probably "proper" in America at times.

At any rate, while this scene wouldn't work in MOST dojo's (especially considering the liability laws currently in effect), it might well have played out in THAT dojo.   As far as the dipragm hits, those were one of our Sensei's special delights.  He always stressed that hesitation would get you killed, and that you couldn't let pain break your concentration.  We did lots of pain-based drills.  The only time I remember being really freaked out was a year or so after I started I was sparring with Sensei, and he shot a side kick into my diaphragm, cracking at least one rib in the process.  I cried out, dropped my guard, and grabbed my injured ribs.  Sensei started screaming, "No! No!  Do NOT drop your guard, do NOT show pain!", and kept pressing the attack, hitting me until I stood up and got back into the fight.   A year or so later another student broke my nose in a particularly spectacular fashion (obviously, I should have blocked more effectively), and I'm proud to say I didn't drop my guard or slow my attack.

As far as the KO -- spinning kicks are almost impossible to judge accurately.  The dojo didn't permit spinning kicks at the head or face for that reason (though they were allowed on the body).  However, non-spinning kicks to the head were considered quite appropriate, and it wasn't unheard of for someone to get knocked out.   One of my favorite kicks was a crescent that hooks the back of the neck and throws the opponents head to the ground . . .

However, having told all these stories, it's also true that modern dojo's look nothing like that, and I'll try to make sure that any future dojo scenes are appropriately modern.  Thanks for bringing the problem to my attention!

« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 07:41:46 pm by Mike Briggs »
Where's my super-suit?