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My story has generally humanoid, human-sized creatures with insect-like exoskeletons. Assuming their joints and bone structure work as closely as possible to their internal-skeleton counterparts (and that lower gravity allows the exoskeleton not to collapse), would hand-to-hand fighting/fist-fighting have any major differences? Are there weak points/strong points in an exoskeleton that could be exposed with peak-human-level strength? I thought for example that a fighter may grab and tear the other’s shell away, or that a heavy blow could fracture chitin and suffocate an opponent. Could this generally work, or would hand-to-hand fighting be generally fruitless with an exoskeleton?

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    $\begingroup$ Watch ANY video of insects or crustaceans fighting. They'll all have techniques, styles, tools (pincers, etc.) to make an endless variety of melee possible. youtube.com/watch?v=JtRrNfbKKLg $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 30 '21 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus I’ve watched a few of these for inspiration- mostly of praying mantises and ants. I guess I’m trying to ask if having humanlike hands/limbs or being much larger and more massive than insects would make a difference. Maybe there’s a reason insects didn’t evolve with fists and two legs, though. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Nov 30 '21 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, exoskeleton materials don't scale up as well as bone endoskeletons, and respiration is tricky for something that resists the respiratory structure expanding and contracting. For science-based, this would be a problem. For your purposes, I'd model after insects, but there would be strong evolutionary pressure for your species to have at least some melee structure allowing it to crack rival exoskeletons. I'm guessing a lot of it would center around exploiting specific weaknesses in shells or leveraging force to rip off limbs, etc. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 30 '21 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ BTW it's bad form to accept an answer in less than 24 hours. It stops people from giving new, potentially better answers and doesn't give people in other parts of the world a chance to respond. But upvoting is always okay! $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Nov 30 '21 at 1:51
  • $\begingroup$ @DWKraus my bad. Can I unmark it, or will that cause more problems? $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Nov 30 '21 at 1:57
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If there are no tools, it would seem that attacking joints to pierce, sever or tear limbs would be very effective. Depending on the biology, lost limbs could be a nuisance or they could be fatal.

From a sheer strength standpoint, unless the creatures have special snapping limbs to provide incredible impulse or momentum, I doubt a single hit could crack the "chest" or "back". For two reasons:

First, look at humans. No matter how hard a powerlifter or boxer punches another person in the chest, it is unlikely to cause complete destruction of the ribcage. Most humans simply cannot destroy others in a single hit. It takes repeated hits in one place to break bones for most attackers. In part, I think this has something to do with the idea that you (generally) cannot exert forces that would break your own body. It would just kill too many creatures by accident. If you could punch with enough force to shatter a skull or ribcage, you would be subject your own skeleton to some non-trivial amount of the hit as a counterforce.

The second reason is thematic. If they have exoskeletons, these creatures are probably hard to kill. It would seem silly to just have them able to crack each other open, when nothing else on the planet has evolved along the same lines.

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    $\begingroup$ This makes a lot of sense. I'm curious whether fracturing an exoskeleton would take similar abuse as fracturing a rib, as that can happen to humans in combat (with repeated impacts as you said), though finding that out would probably need more specifics. Out of curiosity, is the "snapping limb" you mentioned inspired from an existing animal? That would definitely be a useful reference. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Nov 30 '21 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ Nice first answer Grimmash welcome to worldbuilding. Mark, there's the pistol shrimp with its shock-wave weapon or the mantis shrimp with it's spear-fishing technique. @MarkPrice $\endgroup$ Nov 30 '21 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, marked this as an answer prematurely $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Nov 30 '21 at 2:21
  • $\begingroup$ I was thinking of the mantis shrimp: A very specifically evolved solution to a very specific set of problems. As for the amount of force to fracture an exoskeleton.... that is really variable. Maybe looking at the hardness of the largest crustaceans on earth would be a start, but we are really out on a limb here. And are these actually hard carapaces, or more "soft-shelled"? $\endgroup$
    – Grimmash
    Nov 30 '21 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Grimmash I was thinking of a hard chitin carapace over a softer sub-shell, though that’s probably harder to justify with such a large organism. The yield strength of the exoskeleton is probably just down to design, though, since there’s not really a precedent. I really like the design of the mantis shrimp’s punch, after doing some research on it, so thanks for the recommendation. A bit tough to translate it to a humanoid arm with a shoulder and wrist, and you’re right that it’s hard to justify it just to punch harder in a fistfight, so I’d need to figure that out. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Nov 30 '21 at 3:25
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The "smasher" varieties of mantis shrimp accelerate their club-like claws at over 10,000g to deliver shell crushing (150Kg force) blows to their victims.

Similarly for our humanoids, the "fists" of the exoskeleton are heavily armoured and used like a mace that can break bones. Highly elastic tendons of the triceps, like those found in a kangaroo's hamstrings, can store tension while the contracting muscles (biceps) hold the fist back until ready to strike, which when released happens in the blink of an eye.

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Boxers knock people out not by destroying their skulls but by shaking their brains. A human head is the closest we have to an exoskeleton part of the body. People can be knocked out or killed even wearing steel helmets.

The major difference would be to target punches to areas overlying vulnerable organs. The strikes can transmit force through the carapace.

But just like humans almost any melee weapon is preferable in a fight to the death than your fists. If only as a force multiplier or puncture weapon.

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would hand-to-hand fighting/fist-fighting have any major differences?

The Martial Arts that we have created on Earth are a specialized series of attacks and movements meant to deal with humans. Through generations of study, we created attacks methods to attack the organs and joints and deliver a series of blows that are meant to strategically corner your human opponent.

All of that goes out the window when you're fighting something that isn't a human. Martial Arts designed to deal with non-human targets would need to be redesigned to attack their new weak-points and defend against their new range of motion.

For example, many martial arts have grapples and holds that are designed to restrain a human efficiently, and put the attacker in an advantageous position. Those holds only work with a human's joints and skeletal structure. A Hold that would restrain a human-sized insect would need to adjust to the new joints, ranges of motion, and attack the weakest angles of their musculature.

Entire styles of fighting will be obsolete due to the difference in strength, number of arms, body height, body weight, etc.

Martial Arts in your world would be very different that anything we have come up with on Earth.

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  • $\begingroup$ That was what I wanted to flesh out with the question, was how said martial arts would differ. The insects are humanoid, so their joints and range of motion would be generally similar to a human's. Maybe it depends too much on how the exoskeleton is constructed. $\endgroup$
    – Mark Price
    Nov 30 '21 at 23:57

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