==Might post publicly later, cbf right now!==
Someone just linked me a Cracked article about something that I'd swear someone has already talked about on that very website, but whatever.
Basically, hand-to-hand fighting is very, very hard and almost entirely not worth it.
Most martial artists who have had any experience with having to genuinely defend themselves have either gone through specialized programs with a heavy psychological component (such as some soldiers) or else they firmly, firmly believe you need to buy a gun, OC spray or other weapon.
Anybody telling you otherwise is fantasizing about being the main character in a Steven Segal movie.
The reason for it is very simple. There are physical and psychological considerations that will utterly fuck you over in a real fight, and when you find yourself confronted by a violent criminal, you're at an utter disadvantage.
The people who are telling themselves they are an exception, or would "rise to the occasion" in a confrontation: stop. Get a reality check. There are exceptions (that is, people who can defeat violent criminals in a fight without being violent criminals themselves) but you're almost guaranteed to not be one.
But aside from talking about simple self defense matters, I want to talk about it from the point of view of an author that's frequently finding himself with young characters squaring off against violent adults. This might be of interest to people, either because they think I have something to tell them about fighting (I really don't) or because they think I can tell them something about writing (not really). Or if you're just morbidly curious about what crap I'll say next. This is the sort of crap you'll find yourself thinking if you write.
Young males especially sometimes tell themselves they are secretly Jason Bourne, but when push comes to shove, most of them have the wherewithal to realize when they're over-matched. The nonsense about teenagers "thinking they're invulnerable" is a flat out lie: I've never met a teenager that was truly reckless (mental problems notwithstanding). If anything, they sometimes misunderstood the risks, but most teens I've met have been actually kind of timid.
Case in point, teens rarely attack those older than them, but the reverse is very true. So, that punk that picked fights on the football field might've seemed like a tough cunt, but I've seen these very same kinds of kids run from balding, middle-aged fat bastards like they'd somehow morphed into enraged Bengal tigers.
Why? Well, that's one of the things I was gonna talk about.
Basically, teenagers can be quite physically powerful. If not powerful, then overall quite athletic. It can't have escaped anyone's attention that 16-year-olds can easily be the size of an adult in terms of height.
Yet all over the world, talk to the right guys and you'll hear the same stories. Younger males have predictable patterns and habits when it comes to physical confrontation. But before I continue, let's get something straight: for the purpose of this section, I'm referring to "normal" teenagers. I am NOT referring to 200lb 17-year-olds or teenagers that have had training to break themselves of these habits (that comes later). All of this applies to children too, but at several orders of magnitude more - forget it, a child cannot fight a determined adult.
First of all, size and strength do matter. As does experience. Generally, a teenager or child is going to be incomparable to a male of twenty-five or so in these areas. Note that I'm not 25; I'm not saying I'm any better. Some of this absolutely does apply to me, and I urge people to be honest about whether or not it applies to them too.
Teenagers and children almost never work out. They may do a sport of some kind, but in my country at least, it's not hard to find a a twenty-something-year-old that works out AND plays a sport, and teenagers simply do not have time or the inclination to do that. School is stressful, takes more out of you than a full-time job (nobody will admit that to you though) and you end up paying for the privilege.
You're still growing until you're in your twenties, too. Thus it's very common to see slender, athletically fit young males in their teens here, but in terms of sheer muscle mass and thickness, they're quite far away from what I see in older young men - that's just a basic rule, everyone knows it. Your shoulders "fill out". What people forget to mention is that even nerdy kids in high school might take up weightlifting once they get the fuck out of there.
The big problem here is that contrary to what video games and idiots tell you: there's no "trade off" to being muscular unless you're stupidly bulky. Muscle and muscle tone increases the power and speed of a punch, and grabbing power is significantly more potent in a real confrontation than young people realize... especially in Australia, where wrestling is considered "gay" and the devastatingly effective self-defense art of Brazilian Jiujitsu is mocked.
Yeah, my boxer friend mocked until I nearly tore his shoulder. Or was it after I clinched his boxing guard and kneed him in the face? I don't remember, we were drunk. No wait, the first part came later...
... Where am I?! Oh, right.
Humans grab, it's what we do. Clothes, limbs, throats, around the waist... So the speed and cardio advantage that you might erroneously assume would go to the more slender fighter is meaningless if they're grossly overpowered. Unless by "fight" you mean "run like hell."
I know someone's thinking that "Strength doesn't matter!" and remembering that their old boxing coach once told them you don't need strength to knock a man out with a six-inch punch! Stop that.
Simply put, not even adult professional fighters that work out for a living are guaranteed to have "knockout power" and scoring a sleek punch on someone expecting it is almost laughably unlikely. The head is easily protected, hard as a block of concrete and highly maneuverable. So power matters, and a knockout punch is only going to occur if you're well trained and/or in an exchange of boxing with your opponent.
In a contest of two similarly-skilled people, strength and size can prove a massive advantage.
The bad news is, the adult is almost always going to be the more skilled fighter, and he's almost always going to be more used to real violence. He's going to be more experienced, and that can translate into more "functional" skills in a fight. A typical 15-19yo against a typical 25-30yo is a mismatch. Simple.
But even delinquent punks, or thickly muscled teens, do have a habit of fleeing from adults when a physical confrontation arises, even if they have a good chance of winning. More mildly, they tend to fear close-in combat, and will run out of the fray, then back in - a phenomenon Billy Connolly finds hilarious. I've noticed this as well. My friend calls what older guys or violent dickheads do "the bully style." Rushing at you, closing the distance. Pure close-in aggression. And young people mostly HATE it, but "getting up in your face" is what most violent assholes will do right off the bat.
Basically, children aren't raised to be violent, not to the degree that adults will eventually achieve. Even the ones that are, they tend to have trouble bringing that violence to bear on anyone aside from women and other kids. Even if they stand a reasonable chance against an adult, they're programmed not to even try. Deep down, we've still got a few ape-like behaviors, and we tend to fear or follow pack leaders.
Much like you see in such adolescent apes and, say, lions: the adolescents are loathe to engage their adult peers until they've reached full maturity, preferring to scoot away from aggression.
Likewise, human children, even teenagers, that are remotely socially adjusted can have trouble even throwing a punch at the adults they've been trained to fear and respect since birth.
Humans aren't truly violent today. As others have pointed out more eloquently: untrained men and particularly youths never strike to kill. They instinctively throw toothless punches and avoid lethal areas - even if we KNOW to go for the eyes or throat, we have trouble doing it. Breaking that programming sometimes requires tough training, or for you to be a criminal with mental problems.
As I said, these things are enhanced a hundred-fold when you're talking about children. The strength disparity is gigantic.
I'm DEFINITELY not saying that teenagers will never be able to defeat a twenty-something-year-old. Georges St-Pierre KO'd a 25yo boxer when he was 15 in his first fight. But, you see, that's GSP.
This is all just stuff to bear in mind whenever you think about the dynamics of an "underage" fighter facing an adult.
How old is he? How big is he in comparison to the opponent? What sort of training does he have? Will he be comfortable with the aggression of a real fight? Adults fight more aggressively than youths do, generally speaking. Being an aggressive dickhead to other teens is not the same as coming up against a thirty-five-year-old laborer. How will he handle being on the back foot? What sort of person is he? Even if he's athletic, will he be physically dominated by a larger adult? Is he willing and able to strike at weak points to make up for it?
These things are considerations I've had to slog through myself. In Tai's Story, I had to come up with a way for a pair of preteens to defeat a massive, violent adult. Jake, who is seventeen, would not have been able to. Robert has to face Darron, but contrary to everything I said in this entry: Darron was the more dangerous, confident combatant. In the sequel, another youth has to face off against an older challenger.
I made a promise many years ago to never have an unrealistically limited "bad-guy." I want my antagonists to be credible threats to the main characters, and they won't make any idiotic decisions (holding the "idiot ball" so they can be conveniently defeated, for instance). So, when a physical confrontation occurs, a damn good reason is needed for why a child is going to defeat or escape a physically dominating adult.
Anyone who has ever wrestled a kid or anything like that will understand what we're talking about here. I even helped teach kids a martial art when I was a teenager, and vice versa I ended up stuck with adults when I needed training partners. It's an eye-opener both ways.
For instance, in a straight-up fight, Marco would've 'defeated' both Mike and Tai with great ease. There's no reasonable way for any other outcome to occur.
So, in this and in other matters, I pray you all: do not make your antagonists suddenly become utter idiots. You want to create a believable scenario, wherein all characters behave as you'd expect them to, and never diminish the bad guy to the point that he ceases to be a threat or some cop-out saves the day.
Be, if not realistic, believable, and poor villains just reflect badly on the creator. I'm fucking looking at you, Mr Lucas.