What kind of fighting skill is this?

Usually when a player at a table is all “I spin kick his nipples off!” I just say “Roll Martial Arts.” Boom. Done. If they say, “I, uh… bonk him with my helmet!” I’ll (usually) say “Roll Brawling.” It’s usually a pretty clear distinction: Fancy/controlled? Martial Arts. Desperate/dirty/spur-of-the-moment? Brawling. However, someone brought it to my attention that the dividing line is murkier than I thought. Take this series of fights from the movie Jack Reacher, for example. (Batman Begins apparently uses the same kind of style, a brutal-looking combination of martial arts and street fighting that goes by the name Kaysi.)


You’d never actually see this really played out this way in a Fight! or something (though you could imagine it being narrated something like this during a Bloody Versus), but if a player were to clearly describe this is the kind of fighting he was doing (which one of mine has intoned), how would you rule it? My first thought was Martial Arts forking Brawling, but that means the dude is a die better almost all the time as long as he can keep it interesting - not necessarily a problem, but an obvious consequence.

(Aside: All those fights in that video are really nice examples of the feel that I think Burning Wheel Fights have. Brutal, chaotic, rhythmic, and over in no time. [Even the comedic one in the middle kinda feels like a lot of Fights I’ve really had at the table: whiff whiff whiff whiff BANG awwwww.] You can just picture where you’d pause and start scripting again. I’m keeping this in my back pocket for explaining Fight in the future.)

I’m not sure why that wouldn’t just be martial arts. The difference in brutality/practicality seems to me to be more about the directorial style of those movies than anything to do what skill is being used.

That looks like fighting to me.

That sounds like the opposite of a problem to me. The player having extra motivation to give exciting and vivid descriptions of his actions = everyone wins!

Depending on game style, willingness to FoRK Brawling and fight dirty may well be worth a die all the time. Rules of engagement and graceful style are for those who can afford the luxury and/or lack the drive to win.

It depends on the martial art. If you’re using the suggested Boxing skill, no, you can’t sucker punch them, knee them in the face, and then break their arms. That’s not boxing! But if your skill is Kampfringen then all’s fair. And if it’s wuxia-flavored, it’ll include the Twelfth Finger Kidney Transposition Destiny Strike too.

Given that Boxing/Martial Arts is actually an abstracted category as a catch all for fighting skills - in much the same way History is a catch-all for History skills - you’re saying that if the thing in question doesn’t seem fit for whatever specific type of Martial Arts skill the player writes down, anything that doesn’t fit the style is Brawling or at the very least the skill + Brawling?

Kinda sounds alright, though if they write down… say… (searches brain for an exotic-sounding Martial Art…) Krav Maga and I don’t know what counts as Krav Maga and what doesn’t, that makes it harder for me to pick the skill, not easier. (Plus, there’s actually almost a bonus for doing something your thingy doesn’t train you for… which makes a weird sort of sense, I guess.) In which case, just choosing plain “Martial Arts” gives access to ALL Martial Arts.

I guess I just prefer interpreting Martial Arts as Mixed Martial Arts and just letting people Fork in Brawling for brutish improvisations or to straight up use Brawling if they decide to start a fight by braining a dude with a chair or something.

You’re probably right about that. Never mind!

The only time I have ever seen a straight up martial arts fight was in a dojo or tournament, real life altercations are a lot more chaotic and more often than not technique takes second place to survival.
(Even a M.M.A. match has its rules.)

Game wise, if a player wants to FoRK Brawling into Martial Arts I take it as a normal, healthy survival option. The extra die from the FoRK still affects the type of test earned by raising the number of dice rolled. Using straightforward boxing or martial arts isn’t any different than using straightforward sword, staff, or knife. FoRKing Brawling skill into another fighting or weapon skill means you are fighting hard, no holds barred, down and dirty. Breaking bones, striking vital areas, kill or be killed.

It’s something that might go against some characters B.I.T.s, and they should look at it that way before deciding to even use the skill.

I think you’re also selling boxing short. The rules of sportsmanship in boxing today are less than two hundred years old, and for most of that time only applied to “gentlemanly” fights.

In burning wheel terms practically any Jackie Chan film he is avoiding, blocking, using martial arts to strike and counter strike, and using brawling and throwing for any and all found weapons. As his characters always take the noble approach, you never see them breaking fingers or gouging eyes, it would be against their beliefs. (Just like the Lone Ranger would never shoot to kill).

Seperating various martial arts would be akin to seperating the various sword styles. In burning wheel we don’t worry so much about kendo versus fencing. One skill allows the use of any type of sword. The same thing holds true for martial arts, why get bogged down in rules regarding this style versus that?
State your intent, choose your task, script your fight compare actions, play your role and roll your dice.

True! And even at that, there are at least fourteen pressure points that are above the belt and clean.

Also note that all martial arts evolve with time to include life experiences, you never stop learning.