Martial Arts in Fantasy/Sci-Fi

Discussion in 'The Locker Room Bar & Grill' started by skribs, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    I like to write. In particular, I like to write sci-fi action, and might dabble into fantasy action. Either way, I think Fantasy and Science-Fiction are just two sub-genres of non-realistic fiction (I know fiction isn't reality, but there's a difference between a story about LA cops going undercover in a drug cartel and elves fighting orcs). Since starting martial arts, I've grown more and more interested about martial arts as they pertain to the sci-fi and fantasy genres, and how I can explore these themes going forward.

    I'd like to bring up a few different series/books/movies, and a bit about how martial arts work in those series: Star Wars, Equilibrium, Animorphs, Dragonball/Harry Potter, The Matrix.

    Star Wars
    Star Wars includes fictional weapons, such as lightsabers and blasters, the former of which can act as a shield against the latter. It also includes the Force, a power which some can wield for increased physical traits, awareness, and better reaction times, as well as wield for telekenetic powers.

    Star Wars Expanded Universe/Legends have exploded with theory and history behind the lightsaber and its use in combat, to include 7 Forms (which are really styles, and there's two Form 5s and two Form 7s so really 9 Forms) of combat. Some are based on real-life sword styles like Kendo or Fencing, some are based on defense against blasters, and some are based on using the Force to power your techniques.

    In modern times, dueling lightsaber clones are available to the public, from companies like Vader's Vault, Ultrasabers, Kyber Light, Saber Forge, and others. These combine metal handles with high-strength polymer "blades", along with internal electronics like super-bright LEDs, sound cards and speakers. These allow people to explore the martial arts in Star Wars and even compete. There are schools like Terra Prime Light Armory which teach "LED sword" techniques (to avoid copyright infringement) based on the martial arts as discussed in the Star Wars Legends.

    Equilibrium
    Equilibrium is set in a dystopian future where emotions are outlawed. In this future, they have a martial art built around guns, called the Gun Kata, in which gunfighters have analyzed thousands of hours of footage from gunfights, and picked stances and points of aim most likely to shoot your enemy without being shot yourselves. This art is taught to the Tetragrammaton Clerics, who dual-wield pistols in impressive forms, basically "dodging" bullets with proper stances and knowledge of probable trajectories.

    To someone who understands how guns work, it makes very little sense, but it's a cool idea and a very impressive visual spectacle that, for the most part, allows me to suspend my disbelief. This was a fictional martial art created based on real-world weapons with a fantastical application for them.

    Animorphs
    Animorphs is a book series about kids who gain the ability to morph into animals, for the sake of fighting against an alien invasion. The aliens are parasitic slugs that enter the brain and take over the host. They are starting a conquest of Earth, but they have already taken over the Hork-Bajir (7-foot-tall muscle-bound aliens with foot-long spines on their knees and elbows) and the Taxxons (giant centipede-like creatures which are basically useless in combat). Also included in this series are Andalites, who have the morphing technology, but are already powerful in their own right. Andalites are centaur-like creatures with a scorpion-like tail that has a scythe-like blade on the end, which is long, fast, strong, and flexible enough to cut off limbs and heads without you even seeing it move.

    Animorphs brings up a few interesting martial arts aspects. On the one hand, it gets to the true nature of many traditional Asian martial arts that are designed after animals, like Tiger style or Praying Mantis style, because the kids are taking the form of animals to fight. They're literally taking the form of bears, tigers, wolves, and gorillas, and then going hand-to-hand with the aliens mentioned above.

    There's also the Andalites, who have a martial art built around their tail-fighting. There isn't a whole lot of lore here, as most of what you see is simply the main Andalite in the series slicing through enemies, but there are a few parts in the series where two Andalites train together and hone their tail-fighting craft, and give each other advice on technique and on hiding their tells.

    I really like this, and it's actually one that interests me the most to explore, especially as I'm in the process of writing a fan-fiction reboot of the series. There's several ideas to explore here:
    • Martial arts in their primal form, as in the fighting arts of animals
    • Along the lines of animal fighting styles, is animals with human minds, and how that might be different
    • Martial arts of aliens, arts designed based around alien anatomy, i.e. Centaur-like Andalites can't do turning kicks like in Taekwondo, they have weak arms so they're not likely to be boxers or karate experts, but their tail blades are impressive weapons to weild
    • Less explored in the series, but something I'd like to explore: human martial arts adapted to a world with aliens or fantasy creatures. How would Judo work against a centaur? How about Hapkido against a Harpy? Boxing against a ghost? What styles would be best against the Undead?
    These ideas also come up in Transformers, i.e. the fighting styles of the Transformers and how they are similar to or different from that of humans.

    Dragonball/Harry Potter
    Dragonball is the extreme extension of the mystical idea behind martial arts, that you can use martial arts knowledge combined with your energy (or some other nonsense) to do ki attacks. I believe this is common in a LOT of Kung Fu movies, but I typically don't watch them if they delve into this territory.

    Unless it takes place in a complete fantasy setting, like The Seven Deadly Sins, Dragonball, Warcraft, Avatar (the airbender series, not the blue people movie), etc. I really don't like the idea of making martial arts unrealistic. I prefer movies like Ong Bak Thai Warrior, Enter the Dragon, or Undisputed 4. Many of these have terrible acting, but they have impressive technique. This is why I love Scott Adkins and Tony Jaa, is they seem to prefer doing movies without wires.

    However, as a kid, I loved Dragonball Z, and all the different energy attacks they had. Similarly, in many fantasy games, you have mage or wizard classes that can summon balls of fire or ice to attack their enemies. These are typically not portrayed as martial arts, but in a sense they are, as you can use your knowledge of the world to fight against your enemies, either unarmed or armed with special weapons to help channel your powers.

    This is why, halfway through writing this section, I decided to include Harry Potter. DB and HP are completely different in how they approach martial arts, but both show an extensive repertoire of techniques and show people learning, practicing, and developing those. Whether you're talking about the Kamehameha Wave and the Special Beam Cannon in Dragonball Z, or you're talking about stun spells, kill spells, and cutting spells in Harry Potter, there is a definite art to what the fighters are doing.

    The Matrix
    The Matrix presents a reality where things are not normally possible, but we've kind of already covered that with Star Wars. However, the Matrix also provides a way for people to become instant experts in an art. Dollhouse follows a similar pattern - imprint the Doll with the memories and skills of a martial artist, and they are a martial artist.

    I wrote a book called Numan, in which the main character was basically Captain America with an eidetic memory and better senses, among other things. He was able to learn martial arts in a similar way, where he would see the form diagrams and from those was able to learn the moves. However, just learning the moves wasn't enough. He had to be trained in tactics and practical applications (which admittedly didn't take long).

    This style of learning martial arts through implanted skills instead of through years of training is certainly an interesting topic. Ways this topic can be explored include:
    • Jealousy of people who took years to master martial arts vs. those that were able to carbon-copy install the arts like in The Matrix
    • Efficacy of experience vs. raw downloaded technique
    • The search for better versions of the download file, i.e. a "master copy" vs. a "distributed copy" vs. the shareware/pirated version. Alternatively, people can have tweaked files to include better technique or prune out "fluff", and people can search for the best file available
    • Exploration of situations like Frankenstein or Gamer, or any other fantasy/sci-fi version of putting the consciousness of a great fighter into a younger or more powerful body.
    This Thread
    I've brought up a lot of different series and ideas, and honestly I'm not sure where I want this thread to go. I just love science fiction and fantasy action, and I also love martial arts. So I guess I just wanted a thread to talk about how the two can mix. This includes:

    • As a writer, developing martial arts as they pertain to aliens and fantasy races or creatures
    • How martial arts would be different for a human in worlds with aliens and fantasy races and creatures
    • Martial arts as they exist in fantasy settings, such as those with magic, The Force, or where ki is a tangible thing
    • Martial arts with fictional weapons
    • Martial arts training in these fantasy settings
    • Instant gratification martial arts training
    • Fantastical styles for real-world application, such as gun kata, and their training
    I'm curious about your thoughts on these topics, or other topics that bridge the genres of unrealistic fiction with the subject of martial arts.
     
  2. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    I need to think on this for a bit.
     
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  3. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    Oh boy where should I start. Lol
     
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  4. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Are you trying to dissect what I've said and tell me how terrible my points are?
    Are you trying to address the points I bring up?
    Do you have your own ideas on topic, but unrelated to mine?
    Do you enjoy the same books and movies I do and just want to discuss those?
    Do you also write sci-fi or fantasy and want to bring up your experiences in writing martial arts in those genres?

    Plenty of places to start! I'm not helping, am I...
     
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  5. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    i do not write sci fi but i would enjoy it. i just do not have enough hours in the day.
    so my approach would be to first come up with a little back story on a fantasy race. i would look at it from an Ethology, Evolutionary Biology and Psychology level. but this would be an example.
    Vodran (species)

    i would start with the species biology and put behavior in place. from the behavior patterns and the species value system and mythology/ religion i could begin to piece together how they would fight and their own agonistic behaviors.
    i can assume most people when they write they just let their mind create. i would need some deeper research but i would enjoy that process. i think this is why i find so many movies detestable.
    for me the first star wars was the best. Lucas had a lot of plot line help from Joseph Campbell. if you dont know him you should youtube him. he is a mythology expert. but after the first one Campbell was not involved and Lucas created from his mind and to me things got worse and worse. changes in plot and concepts. horrible mistakes in my view. the whole one teacher and one student relationship was ill conceived. dont get me started lol.
     
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  6. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Skribs, is your story going to be plot driven or character driven?

    And good on you for writing, bro.
     
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  7. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Mostly plot driven. I suck at writing characters.
     
  8. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    I hadn't considered behavior, value systems, mythology, or religion. That's an excellent idea! You really caught me, regarding focusing on simply creating unique biology and then building based on that.

    For example, I'm working on that Animorphs reboot right now, and I have one of the Animorphs morph into a Hork-Bajir and then fight with a Muay-Thai fighting style. They're creatures with huge blades on their elbows and knees, so an art that uses a lot of elbow and knee strikes makes a lot of sense.

    Of course, this is the behavior of a human who has morphed into an alien, and not the behavior of the alien itself, but it still kind of gives you an idea of what I'm doing with mine.

    As I mentioned in my last reply, I suck at writing characters, and so it would be harder for me to focus on values and behavior of a species as it would pertain to martial arts, but it is something I can try. Thanks for the idea!
     
  9. Touch Of Death

    Touch Of Death Sr. Grandmaster

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    The is only Destroyer, and the rest is pale pig's ear stuff... o_O
     
  10. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    yeah im just the opposite. i really want to write a fictional horror story about a serial killer. the book would be in the form of a diary. written by the killer. im actually scared to write it with the fear people will think i am really a killer. i can go deep into character. but that also scares me a bit because i know that "going there" actually can re wire the brain and the plasticity of the brain is not something i want to mess with.
     
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  11. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    So what would you categorize Bright as? JK

    Great topic!!! Concerning form V, are you referring to the Shien sub-style that utilizes the reverse-grip? Don't forget about form 6's sub-style of Jar'Kai as well.

    Interesting movie, the Gun Kata was an interesting concept, I felt the Gun Chi-sao was kind of glossed over though.

    Writing about martial arts in a fantasy/sci-fi setting isn't that different than writing about anything else. I'm writing a scifi/martial arts novel and I've learned you need to explain it in terms the reader will understand. Not only martial artists.

    Essentially the anatomy and physiology of your opponent will change what techniques you use. Internal organ location, bone alignment, structural density, etc.

    Balancing it all is in my opinion the most challenging. A championship kick-boxer vs Darth Sidious probably won't end well for the kickboxer. Creating balancing mechanism so such encounters are possible are both time consuming yet fun at the same time. Reading how other novels deal with balancing there characters is a great way to to get started.
     
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  12. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    this would not be an issue for me if the characters are from the same universe or solar system. from an evolutionary view they would have evolved to compete with each other. unless you want that power discrepancy for plot where one species takes over or controls another species.
     
  13. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    but is also changes behavior. there are tournament type species where they compete for females and resources. think about how moose and rams joust for dominance. the dominant male has multiple females. there are agonistic behaviors like Peacock showing off " showing off an antler rack ect. most conspecific competition is not deadly. on the opposite side of tournament selection is pair bonding selection.
    in tournament selection the male is much bigger than the female and much more aggressive. in pair bonding selection there is only a small difference between males and females. so pair bonding types would be good for male / female warrior species. there is almost no "fathering behaviors" in tournament species. so if i look at star trek Klingon's if the male has a pair bonding relationship with women and participate in child rearing then it would make sense that the women are just as aggressive and warrior like as the men.

    anyways that is how my brain works
     
  14. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    I see your point. That's another challenging thing to determine, who and where do you want power discrepancies. You want the villains to be powerful and imposing. However; you want the protagonist to be able to contend with the villains, but you must make it believable.
     
  15. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    Yes, the psychological dynamics will be very interesting to explore. I was more so addressing it from a human perceptive. For example, fighting a Hirogen(yes I'm using a Voyager species) will be different than fighting a Vulcan. Though Vulcan are extraordinarily strong for their size, the Hirogen sees you as prey, while the Vulcan doesn't. This will change the way they both fight, and how you will fight them.
     
  16. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    The Yuuzhan Vong race from Star Wars are a great example of what you're referring to
     
  17. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Shien vs. Djem So. Juyo vs. Vapaad.

    All very good points.

    What is a good way to read HOW other novels deal with balancing their characters?

    It depends on the situation. Most science-fiction involving aliens the species grew up far away from each other. For example, Independence Day, we were not evolved for fighting against those aliens.

    Very interesting analysis.

    Sometimes the protagonist has no business contending with villains, and does so either by making deals with other villains or relying on his own allies. But I guess that doesn't help in a martial arts discussion.
     
  18. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    It depends on the genre you're writing. For example, fantasy novels have dozens of mechanism on how the "farm boy" can contend with the warlock. Magical teachings, enchanted items, tactical weaknesses, etc. The mechanism itself isn't that important, but the backstory, explanation and rationalization of the mechanism is. Voldermort placing parts of his soul into various items wasn't a new idea, but Rowling did a great job explaining it. Tolkien had that idea(The Ring) 40 years earlier, but Rowling had an entirely different backstory. Drawing inspiration from various sources, read books that are of a similar genre, just make the story your own.

    I was referring to the one on one showdown, but allies can be a balancing mechanism as well.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2018
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  19. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    yes but you wrote,
    so to be fair i am not familiar with Hork-Bajir but you desribe them as having blades that extend from their elbows. i would ask why do they have blades from their elbows?
    most conspecifics do not fight to the death so they would not be a tournament selection species where they fight amoungst each other with the blades. perhaps they evolved as a protection device so they would have a natural predator to battle against. if the blades were for predatory food hunting that would interesting. they could be a tournament selection species but then they would fight to the death and would be lone warriors and not function as an army. where other wise blades as a protection devise against predators they might work in large armies like ants. their could also be different classes of males like in bees where there is a warrior class and in other males the blades are not as large and these males work closely with females in other activities like worker bees.
    you can see how i would work through the character species development.
    so some evolutionary development caused the blades and it just so happens to work well within your plot of fighting the Borg,,or some other species.:borg:
     
  20. skribs

    skribs Master of Arts

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    Actually they have blades for slicing tree bark. They are an artificial species created to be arbors.

    The Yeerks are the brain parasites that control Hork Bajir to use as shock troops in their conquest.
     

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