TL;DR I have a race of half-dragons in my near-future scifi story. I know that having wings and a tail would affect my characters hand-to-hand fighting abilities, but I'm not sure how. Additionally, how would these anatomical differences change fighting techniques developed by the half-dragons?

This question deals with the same story as in my previous post What limitations can I put on wings for more tense/risky action scenes? That post, in short, focused more on the flight-related limitations of the Arronians (that's the race of half-dragons) and there were some amazing answers from the fantastic people here on that topic. However, those answers got me thinking about the limitations on combat specifically, since there will be some (well, a lot) of fight scenes in my novel. I’ve already figured out some possible modifications to modern firearms for my characters to use while flying and on the ground (something similar to the Third Arm gun mount), but I’m a bit stuck on hand-to-hand combat, i.e. specifically unarmed fighting. How would having wings and a tail be useful or detrimental in a fight with another unarmed (or at most, a knife wielding) Arronian or human? Here’s a few thoughts I’ve had about how this might impact current fighting techniques:

  • Their wings and tail add quite a bit of mass to your back, and might make them easier to knock backwards. That said, the extra mass can be thrown around quite precisely, so it may make balancing and recovery easier.
  • The tail could act as a brace against the ground, allowing for more powerful forward movements. Also great for sweeps.
  • Wings could be used as a bludgeon, but they’re probably too weak to cause any real damage without breaking something.
  • Flying would obviously seem useful, but realistically they can't take off without a large open area and a running start: no VTOL dragons.

These points make sense to me, but I'm not sure how these factors would fundamentally change martial arts. Furthermore, I'm not sure if I'm leaving anything out, since I have a pretty limited knowledge of fighting techniques. So here's my question to SE: What kinds of limitations/advantages/new possibilities would they have due to their wings and tail? In essence, how would martial arts change?

If it helps, here are some characteristics of the Arronians:

  • Body structure is essentially human Wingspan is 3-5m
  • Wings are bird-like, and are attached around the shoulder blades (edit, mistake in copying from my notes)
  • Tail is around 1m long, and is prehensile.
  • Somewhat tough scales instead of skin, with feathers in specific areas

Edit: This question is specifically about unarmed fighting; I'm leaving weapons for another post.

  • $\begingroup$ @011358 smell I just made an edit to that question. I hope this helps clarify it. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @011358 smell That's a good point. I refined the question to just unarmed combat. I'll leave weapons to another post. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 20, 2019 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ How strong are the wings? Can they withstand a blow either made to them or delivered with them? Would you be able to use them as part of attack or defence? Or are they fragile and one would avoid using them in combat? Also, what is the winged individual fighting against - other winged beings or non-winged ones? $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ Considering that the wings will be holding up the entire Arronian, and then some, they should be very sturdy along the direction of flapping. As for the strength along the axis perpendicular to that, it would make sense that it would be relatively strong likewise. After further consideration, I think they would be just fine for combat, as long as they weren't really reckless. They will usually be fighting against non-winged characters in the novel, but the martial art would most likely be developed for use in both cases. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 22, 2019 at 7:46

3 Answers 3


A few things:

  • a tail is meant for balance and is a truly horrible thing to bludgeon or sweep with. Imagine trying to sweep someone with your spine, only it is less robust than your spine and meant to move away from dangerous forces to prevent breaking it.

  • the wings have a surface area that carries the person in flight and offers enough force to not just hold that person up but get them to basically "jump" on the air. These forces are transferred into the wing bones and into the back to carry it. The wing bones would be stronger than your leg bones and be able to bludgeon someone perfectly fine... assuming you use the bones closer to the shoulder blades, the wingtips are much thinner (to conserve weight) and would more easily break. Yes I am ignoring that the bones of wings are usually hollow since these semi-dragons probably have a "normal" skeleton and their wings will still need to carry that weight. So magic muscles is defeating the square cube law here.

  • wing attachment below shoulderblades suggests magic muscles and attachments again. You cant bend your spine much with your torso area where the shoulderblades are. The forces to pull the wings down and the Arronian up would have to come from attachments to the sternum, hips and if you dont mind crushed internal organs and a lack of being able to flap wings independently the linea alba (the line seperating your 6-pack that is actually an 8-pack). The hip and sternum attachments arent ideal for this and the linea alba would still mean you need extra bone structure to make sure the forces dont crush your intestines, kidney and liver from all sides with each wingbeat.

Ignoring the last point your Arronian would use its wings and fists in a fight. With 3 to 5m wingspan I guesstimate the strong bone that you want to bludgeon someone with stsrts at 1 to 2m length, allowing for quite a reach. The drawbacks are that you dont want to expose the weaker bones near the tips, the wings have to be folded most of the time as they slow down turning, they catch a lot of air and push your body away from the target reducing the blow and since they are on your back you have to aim them by turning your body.

Fightingstyles would focus on first trying to hit with a fist, then as the fist is still impacting with the target the wings are brought forwards so your opponent cant block properly. Most techniques will be grapple techniques as that allows the wings to be brought forwards to use as giant scissors, crushing your opponents abdomen including their spine in one crushing hit. If used for sweeping the Arronian needs to use his entire body. The tail is used to keep balance while the wings work, but preferably this tail is never used for bracing or touching an opponent.


So, from a Martial Arts fighting style point of view, I'm thinking that, especially when flying, you're not wanting to be grappling, unless you're in a very dominant position, as falling out of the sky is generally not good for the health.

I'm thinking a fast martial art that emphasizes kicks and punches, something like Capoeira maybe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira), would be a good basis for the fighting style. Having wings also means the fight between 2 or more winged fighters will undoubtedly go 3D, with the person higher up able to attack the head more easily etc. ("It's over, Anakin. I have the high ground.")


The easiest method is thinking of an existing martial arts and changing that to fit you race. So if you are looking at something like sword fencing then the question becomes what new possibilities and limitations would be involved in sword fencing for that race. Here is a couple of points that makes sense when dealing with the race you describe.

  • They would probably prefer longer weapons and always keep the enemy at a distance. The describing of the wings makes this race way to vulnerable at that area. Humans have extended limbs and they are frequently targeted in martial arts, especially armed ones, but we can armor ourselves up to Gothic style armor and even chaimail is useful. For that race they either bulk up top much to the point's it much heavier and more exhausting than anything we use. That also comes at a trade off as with that much armor they won't fly. So I imagine spears, poleweapons, glaives, halberds...etc. is the norm for them.

  • Shields. Probably the most useful form of armor to them. Portable and can be easily dropped if they take flight. It also helps that they need to cover a larger body so they need to constantly move.

  • As with the larger bodies then it only makes sense that they are always moving and constantly changing fighting stances with every move. One of the key elements about fighting is presenting the enemy with a smaller target and so that should be reflected in their martial arts.

  • Tails would be vital here. They won't just look cool. They would be armed and armored. A tail with that description would be deadly and against humans it would be a challenge to have to worry about this armored 3rd limb attacking you.

  • Wings would could be used in combat for dealing damage. They will most likely be be used to feint attacks. Even a simple wing lash could cut or knock down an opponent or just distract them. They can also be armed with stuff like small blades on simple and light metal frames. This way they could cut and do some damage to opponents. But a well armed fighter can actually use this to their advantage. Let the wing attack you and do little damage then snap the thing in two.

  • But you know what is the perfect style for them? Air to ground attacks. Flails, archery, and stone throwing would be all quite useful.

  • The most overpowered style is archery or dropping stuff down. Your stone is gaining more destructive power, thanks gravity, and your arrows can be constantly falling on the enemy while you fly around the army just peppering them with arrows and they can hardly fight back. Their arrows are fighting gravity and the wind and all sorts of things.

  • Similar to the above javelins would be deadly. Just a simple wooden shaft with a metal end would be light enough to use in great numbers and deadly enough to penetrate armor.

  • Flails, maces, axes, and just larger cutting weapons I can imagine being useful in the air. Just fly around swinging a Dane axe or a glaive. Even with less accuracy you are still hitting something.

  • Lastly. Martial arts develop in specific contexts. They don't appear in a void of warfare, civilian life, technology...etc. So a fighting treatises of the high middle ages is different from a treatises dealing with rapier fencing or 1800's saber fencing. So in order to fully develop a martial arts you have to develop as a part of the time as a whole.

  • $\begingroup$ OP is specifically asking for unarmed combat (no weapons at all) $\endgroup$
    – BKlassen
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 16:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If we're talking air-to-ground melee, it would make sense to weaponize the feet, since they're generally closer to the target. Maybe stilettos, or ice-skates with extended, curvier blades? Or something on the knees / shins, since dropping your feet to attack will screw with balance and create loads of drag (relevant with or without weapons). $\endgroup$
    – CAE Jones
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 17:26

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