Melee Academy: Bar Fights and Being a Bouncer, Part II

Note: The title is a bit of a misnomer, since only half the post deals with actual bar fights – but I like the title…so there.

Grappling has been talked about a lot on the forums lately and it’s gotten me to thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know). What have I seen performed in real life vs. what happens most often in a GURPS game? First, let me pre-face this with the fact that I am by no means a trained combatant, but I have extensive experience actually fighting. Anyways, grappling as I’ve seen it:

Choke Hold
The GURPS version of choke hold is pretty awesome. You got to grapple someone from behind using both hands (at a -2 for Judo or -3 for Wrestling). Your target can attempt to break free, but you get a +5 bonus on the Quick Contest. On your next turn your target loses 1 FP or you can cause crushing damage equal to your margin of victory (x1.5 after taking into account DR). Damn. That is awesome. You can knock out a normal guy in about 10 seconds as long as you can maintain the hold. I’m the local king of choking someone out. If I can get my arms around you…it’s over. I’ve never lost a close-in fight in my life – that’s why most people who know me or my (limited) reputation know to stay away from me. Hell, you see someone my size and you’re not going to be dumb enough to get close. Anyways, I’ve never knocked someone out that fast, I think my “best” attempt was about half a minute and I had grabbed the target around the neck and locked my arm around his throat while lifting him into the air using a knee on a stool. This is a personal favorite because it maximizes my strengths. I’ve actually seen this used in gameplay before too, and quite often. One of my players once performed two one-handed choke holds, followed by a “Kiss the Wall!” maneuver that involved knocking the target’s heads against the wall.

Anecdote: I was at a Wal-Mart in search of watermelon back in 2004 when I saw a man hitting what was probably his wife. She must have been five feet nothing at most and there was a small group of people watching when I went down the isle. I calmly asked the man to stop and removed my cell phone to call the police when he picked up a can of soup and started hitting her in the face. At that point I waited for a opening, grabbed him around the neck, and secured my arm to act as a lever. I then dragged him down the rest of the aisle until he passed out. He fought, elbowing me in the ribs, but he just wasn’t strong enough to get out. I checked his pulse, flipped him over, and then opened a extension cord package on a endcap to tie him up. The police had been called by then because the security guard was screaming at me to back away (where was he five minutes ago?). I explained to him what happened and the other people who saw it backed me up. The woman wasn’t going to press charges till I explained that I would be regardless of whether she did or not. I usually get a card at the start of the summer of every year from Sheila; she’s living happily (re)married to a man that treats her right with her daughter from her first marriage and her son from her current one.

GURPS Terms: I performed a Telegraphic Attack (for +4 to skill) and then grabbed the guys neck and initiated a Choke Hold using an All-Out Attack (Double). Since I’ve a high ST, it didn’t take long for the man to begin to suffocate as I used my step each turn to drag the man down the aisle. He threw numerous elbow strikes against my ribs, but nothing I would say did even 1 HP of damage.

Arm Lock/Wrist Lock
Doug’s got a excellent look at Arm Lock over here, so I’ll just note that I’ve seen this both in game and real life pretty often. My best friend can put me in a Arm Lock I have a hard time getting out of. Hell, I’ve seen him do it to two grown men at the same time once out our then FLGS – you do not mess with a pissed off Filipino because he eats 9mm bullets for breakfast (Bullet O’s – start your day the Filipino Way!). My old boss made a point of teaching all his guys how to perform this at least at the most basic level along with which nerve clusters were the best targets to pacify a target.

Anecdote: It was the late 90’s when I met my best friend at a gaming store (the old Campaign Headquarters), on one particularly late night, while I was running a campaign of Werewolf the Apocalypse, the store manager was having issues with two (obviously) drunk sailors. When they started yelling, my best friend and I came out of the back room to see what was going on. It eventually devolved into one guy throwing a bottle at the store manager. My best friend, C, moved forward faster than I’ve ever seen a man move before then, grabbed each of them by the wrist and squeezed until they started screaming. He then dragged them out of the store like two disobidient children.

GURPS Terms: C has studied some Akido and a few other odds and ends and is still more trained than I am even today. What he did was probably a All-Out Attack (Double) to grab each wrist, followed by wrist lock to inflict pain (which must have been a lot because the sailors were screaming bloody murder) and then kept stepping with his drunk cargo until they left the store.

Finger Lock
Like Arm Lock, but for fingers. I’ve seen this a handful of times in game and all of those were for causing pain (see Inflicting Pain with Locks, GURPS Martial Arts, p. 118) rather than breaking fingers. In real life, I’ve seen this done a LOT. My old boss was fond of using this on drunks who would try to start a fight by punching him. He’d duck out of the way, grab the hand, and start twisting a finger till the other submitted. It works wonders when trying to get rowdy drunks to do what you want – especially if they are traveling in packs like your typical Homo Sapins Americanis Redneckis. My girlfriend knows how to do this too, some form of self-defense class she learned years before. Like all girls who know how to fight, she’s vicious. I personally have no patience for something like this – I prefer more brute-force methods like Wrench Arm (see below).

Anecdote: Tom-Tom is a scary old fart. This side of fifty when I knew him he was in better shape and meaner than someone half his age. In addition to some of his other antics I’ve seen Tom-Tom perform a finger lock on someone my size, while kneeing someone in the groin. It was a late night and I’d been doing schoolwork in the back (per the usual), when I heard the bartender, Milly, call out. Coming out I saw Tom-Tom duck underneath a punch thrown by a drunk SOB about my size. Tom-Tom then grabbed the guys’s wrist and began applying pressure to it. SOB ended up opening his fist and then Tom-Tom grabbed his index finger and twisted. SOB went to his knees, but not before his partner Dumb Bastard tried to punch Tom-Tom in the side. DB was instead rewarded with knee into the balls that put him on the floor.

GURPS Terms: Tom-Tom parried SOB and followed it up with a Wrist Lock to inflict pain and then performed a finger lock for a few rounds. When DB tried to get in close, he Dodged out of the way and followed it up with a All-Out Attack (Double) on his next turn to maintain the finger lock and then hit DB with a knee strike to the groin.

Wrench Limb
So in GURPS you need to grapple the targeted limb with both hands, your target can try to break free, but if he doesn’t then next turn you can tug on it like a futhermucker. You then roll a Quick Contest of your Wrench Limb vs. the higher of your target’s ST or HT (he gets +4 if it’s his leg). Failure means you tickled him (and you’re probably both very unconformable now). If you win you do swing crushing damage to the limb with rigid (only!) DR protecting. I’ve seen this done in game play fairly often (half a dozen times in every campaign I’ve run) and it’s my second favorite thing to do if I’m forced into a physical confrontation. Again, if I can get in close…it’s usually over. I’ve actually done this so fast it looked like nothing happened – until my victim began to scream anyways (dislocations succccckkkkkk)

Anecdote: I was on my high school wrestling team all of two minutes (okay, more like two weeks, but you get the idea), before our first scrimmage. I’d not gotten enough training and they didn’t think the opposition would be fielding a extra-heavy class. But they did, a recent transfer from another school, and I ended up having to wrestle (which I was happy about). The bout was pretty normal, with nether of us gaining ground until my opponent decided to “accidentally” knee me in the groin. I responded by grabbed his arm  and then tugging it so hard that I pulled it out of joint. Within seconds his arm began to swell and he was rushed off to the ER.

GURPS Terms: I would probably say what I did qualified as a All-Out Attack (Double) with the first attack grabbing his arm and then followed up by me using Wrench Arm to pull it out of socket. It happened extremely fast, so fast that it didn’t catch up to my opponent until several seconds later.

Picking Over the Bones
Being in a fight sucks. Avoid them if you can. If you can’t, pray you’ve trained some or at least have experience. If not…well…run. The best way to “win” is not to fight. And if that option doesn’t work you go all in. Most of the time you’re going to be fighting for you life – act like it. If you read my blog, you know that I’ve been in security work for years, most of it working as a “doorman” at this club or that. First thing you learn doing that sort of work is that you never ever lose your temper. You just don’t. Again, I’m not a trained martial artist or solider, I’ve just been in a lot of confrontations. According to my school records I’ve been in over 140 documented altercations (that’s code for “fist fights”) and if we’re being honest probably at least half again that amount in scraps that the school facility ever found out about. I’m not going to lie to you and say I one all of them or even most of them – because that’s bullshit. I easily lost at least half, that’s because most of them were me vs. two or more people and I got my butt stomped. I always stood up (and still do) for those weaker than myself and I will admit I did pick fights with bullies who were hurting others. But I never threw the first punch of any of those. Not once. But I always finished them. Again, I won’t lie. I’ve hurt people. In some cases…for life. I’m not proud of that. The reasons were right, but the methods were wrong. I live in a part of the US where fifteen years ago the murder and crime rate was as high as some cities. Where gang violence is a real factor and domestic abuse is one of the key factors for homicides. Where the dropout rates of high schools have stayed around 60%. Yay, for my hometown. You live in a place like this and you either (to quote Johnny Cash) “get tough or die.” Now, my hometown is a bit better today, the murder rate is down by nearly a third of what it was ten or fifteen years ago and so’s the crime rate, though most of the violence has moved into some of the more northern counties where gang violence is a everyday occurrence.

Posted in Melee Academy.


  1. I wonder if that's because I've never had any real training? I've never been able to knock someone out in less than 30 seconds. Though, I do admit, I almost always use one hand to do it while my other hand is restraining them punching.

  2. The important thing is that you are using your bicep to put pressure on the carotid artery. If you execute it correctly you won't put any pressure on the trachea at all (it should be protected by the position of your left elbow. If the person feels that they can't breathe, you are doing it wrong. Instead they should feel light-headed and start to blackout because there's not enough blood getting to the brain.

  3. My assistant scoutmaster was a navy seal. He taught us many things. Most of it was how to protect yourself when you are in (insert foreign country here). He taught us "stuff" to take down or disable adults. He had us promise to only use these secret techniques on kidnappers and terrorists. I had to break that promise to protect "big sister" from the drink squids. I was so tempted to toss them into a group of drag queens next door. Our game store sat between a gay night club and an adult "clothing" store. -C

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