The Writer’s Guide to Women in Single Combat

One of the most difficult positions a writer can put their female combatant is in a one-on-one fight or alone against multiple opponents. This is especially true if the attackers are bigger and stronger. Does that mean that a woman will lose every one of these fights? Absolutely not! There are women throughout history, including in our modern world, who can go toe-to-toe against a superior opponent and win.

As always, magic is the exception to the rule. Because magic.

Unevenly Matched

I covered several of the setbacks to female fighters in my previous article, The Writer’s Guide to Women in Combat, and offered some suggestions to overcome them. In this section, I will ignore the barriers created by culture, menstruation, and pregnancy and just focus on the physical challenges. Unless a female combatant is facing off against another woman or a weaker man, the odds are good that she will be outmatched. She will probably be at a disadvantage in several categories, including strength, height, and reach. This disparity increases with the number of opponents.

However, there are several areas a woman can focus on to give her an advantage. One of the biggest is skill. Most of the time, the more skilled fighter is the winner. This is true of both armed and unarmed combat.


One of the beautiful things about weapons is that they are force multipliers. This goes a long way in evening the playing field when fighting a physically stronger and taller opponent. She can gain an even greater advantage by carefully choosing her weapons. Shadiversity has a wonderful video here.

One of my favorite examples of a woman who excelled in dueling is Julie d’Aubigny. She was a 17th century French opera singer and fencer who wounded or killed at least ten men in duels. She was trained in fencing by her father, who taught the pages of King Louis XIV’s court. Also, one of her many lovers was an assistant fencing master with whom she toured France, performing singing acts and fencing exhibitions. She would often dress in men’s clothing and her fencing skills were so impressive that during one show, a drunk in the crowd loudly declared that she couldn’t be a woman. She dramatically tore off her shirt to prove him wrong. Another colorful story was when she attended a royal ball dressed in men’s clothing and spent most of the evening courting a young woman. Three of the lady’s suitors challenged her to duels when Julie publicly kissed her. She gladly accepted and won all three duels. I encourage you to read her full story because she had a wild life.

Julie d’Aubigny, also known as Mademoiselle de Maupin. Photo source.


It is harder for a woman (or a weaker man) to win in unarmed combat against a superior opponent, but it isn’t impossible. Again, training and skill go a long way toward evening the odds. I know this from personal experience since I have a black belt in bujinkan ninjutsu. I have trained for years against bigger guys.

First, it’s learning the weak spots such as the elbows, knees, throat, and ears. A targeted attack against these areas can do a lot of damage without a lot of force. For example, it only takes seven pounds of pressure to break an elbow.

Applying an arm bar. Photo source.

Second, it’s learning how to keep yourself safe. This is done by understanding the distance at which you are outside an opponent’s attacks. Of course, reach varies from person to person, but there is an average distance at which you are out of range, if just barely. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is taking advantage of the “corners.” Most attacks are circular. If you swing your arm or leg, you are tracing the edge of a circle. If you picture a circle inside a square, this means the corners of the square are outside the circle of attack, unless your opponent moves.

The green areas are your “corners.” Photo source.

Another way to stay safe is to move off at an angle. Most people want to move forward while they attack. It is where they are strongest. However, if you back up at a 45° or 90° angle, your opponent must change direction, which dissipates their momentum and disrupts their flow.

I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or by writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

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Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2022 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

6 Comments on “The Writer’s Guide to Women in Single Combat”

  1. Pingback: The Writer’s Guide to Women on the Battlefield | Rebecca Shedd - Author

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