In Mission Impossible, Ethan Hunt gets kicked, punched, pushed, etc, yet he still manages to fight. If a skinny, 16 year old girl with no training (she just used to getting beaten up) were to get attacked, how many hits could she take before her body physically cannot go any further?


  • She gets punched in the face (not enough to knock her out cold) - how long would it take her to get herself up and ready to fight again. Would it be a small stagger then up and at 'em? Or would it be more like, 'Gimme a few minutes.'
  • If kicked in the torso a few times, how long would it take for her to not be able to move from pain?
  • Would the fact that she gets beaten up a lot make her body more resilient or tender.

Essentially, I wanna know the limits someone can go to (in specific scenarios) whilst still being able to keep fighting.


  • Girl is in a punch up. Starts by gtting punched in the cheek, able to turn into the punch ever so slightly. She then gets kneed in the stomach/guts, falling to the floor then getting kicked in the ribs.
  • They would have left her alone but she said something snarky so they turned round and got back to it (and my question is, would she have been able to?).
  • She's more ready this time and manages to dodge a punch and return a punch to the other's gut.
  • She then gets punched in the face again (also again slightly rolling with it) before getting kneed in the stomach/gut area. Disorientated she get's thrown into a wall and kicked whilst she's down.
  • She attempts to fight back (if still able?) but is in a lot of pain. She stand and gets punched full on in the face (presumably breaking her nose) before getting kicked a few more times.
  • By this point, she is left alone and cannot move. Someone else finds her and manages to get her home. She's very badly beaten up.

If there are any tips on how to make this fight more accurate/more action packed/more fun to read, that would also be appreciated. But yeah, do you reckon she'd be able to make survive?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hits come in all different shapes and sizes; so do victims. This isn't something that someone can put an exact number on. It sounds like you already have a general outline for how you want the fight to go; maybe if you sketch it out in some more detail, we'd be better able to say what's plausible and what isn't. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ Asking how much trauma a body can handle seems very story dependent, which is not really answerable here and is grounds for closure.. Coupled with when it comes to the human body 'it depends'. is probably the best answer. Given your sequence it might be better to ask something like "Given these conditions and a fight scene that runs like so would you find this plausible? Even then might run into too story based. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ This also depends a lot on the person, the mind and will has a huge effect. but if she is used ot getting beaten up she likely know when to fold and protect and endure, which can take more courage. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget that facial punching does as much if not more damage to the bones in the fingers of the puncher. Body-shots are easier on the attacker and can be devastating to the victim. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ Hello @BubbleQueen. We try to avoid closing the questions of new users, but you're asking multiple questions (the head? the torso? develop resistance?) and asking more than one question per post is literally a reason to close a question (Needs More Focus). Worse, this is a bit opinion-based as it will depend on her physiology, race (believe it or not), prior experience, the quality of the beating, the circumstances of the beating, and many more factors. There really isn't just one "right" answer. What's stopping you from choosing an amount and moving forward? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 5:03

6 Answers 6


The human spirit is strong, but the body has its limits. For the untrained girl facing repeated blows, much depends on her will and pain tolerance.

A single solid punch can disorient anyone initially. Stay calm, roll with the force, regain composure quickly. The knee to the gut far more damaging - this strike can paralyze the diaphragm, prevent breathing. She must fight through pain, regain breath and footing.

The kicks to the ribs likely fracture bones, cause intense pain. But anger, fear or survival instinct can push us beyond imagined limits. She could summon strength for another strike or two despite injury through pure adrenaline and grit.

But repeated brutal blows exhaust the body's resources. Pain causes muscles to tighten and deplete oxygen. Organs begin to shut down. The nose break disorients the senses. By the end, her body enters survival mode - movement limited, consciousness fading.

In such a fight, all one can do is channel courage and training to maximize each moment. But ultimately we must understand and respect our body's limits. With preparation and wisdom, know when to stand firm, when to yield.

The key is balancing realistic physical limitations with the potential of human willpower and spirit. Start with anatomy, adjust for factors like pain tolerance and adrenaline. Remember, external injuries manifest over time internally. Pace the fight thoughtfully. Show her courage without sacrificing believability. Let her rise up beyond expectations, but eventually the body will give out. But the heart? That's up to you my friend.


Permit me to quote an ER doctor I knew: It's amazing how much it takes to kill a human being, and it's amazing how little it takes to kill a human being.

There are people who have survived hideous pummeling, and there are people who have died from a single blow. It is recuperation and old injuries that are fundamentally unrealistic in fiction.

The art is depicting it in a manner your readers will believe.


frame challenge

Its not the number of Hits that is important, but the damage inflicted by those hits.

There was a 'thing' for a while called 'King Hitting' - essentially sucker-punching someone.

There were a number of notable fatalities due to being hit in the back of the head by surprise and face-planting onto Concrete.

So - first for survivability - have the fight on Grass.

Next up, so long as no fatal fractures are sustained, no organs are pierced, there's nothing affecting the lungs, heart and brain (permanently) and no massive bloodloss- the Human body is scarily resilient.

On top of that, the old adage about not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of Fight in the Dog is 10000% true.

Case in point - the Gurkha Rifles. Himalayan Tribesmen who fight for the British and Indian Armies - they are generally short and less stocky than UK/US Soldiers and sometimes can't hump as much weight.

But if you read the stories of what lone Gurkhas have done and survived, you'd be surprised.

There's also a case of an Australian killer that didn't finish off a victim, she had multiple stab wounds and s severed neck, but surprisingly survived.

In short - it's possible to kill someone with one punch and it's possible to be shot, stabbed, blown up and still survive.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 Police officer Stacy Lim is a notable example of resilience - shot in the heart with a .357 magnum from ambush, ran at her attacker and killed him with a number of shots. (And then survived, albeit with heroic medical efforts!) Enormous variation in how people react to damage, some go into shock from taking a .22 round in the hand, some people keep fighting even when mortally wounded. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 7:00

Ethan Hunt has the insane recovery of an action hero. In fiction, physical damage only lasts as long as the audience's memory, and that has nothing to do with reality. Bottom line, fights in fiction ARE NOT realistic. You're going to have to get a better feel for what your audience will tolerate.

Having been in my share of street fights, there is no realistic way to portray your fight unless the attacker isn't taking her seriously until it's too late.

Talk to any experienced fighter about how much difference a 50 lb. advantage can make, or a six inch advantage. I could probably soak punches from your typical 16 year old, male or female, until they wore themselves out.

I've seen large, experienced fighters knocked cold by a single punch to the face. A good punch will disrupt blood flow to the brain, and blood flow is directly tied to your ability to think straight. You can't even formulate "give me a few minutes." This will allow a bouncer or thug to throw you out into the street and finish you off before you can formulate a reply.

In the other direction, I was in a fight where I took multiple hooks to the face in succession. I was surprised at how little it phased me because the other guy didn't have any weight behind his punches.

I watched one fight between a couple of 240 lb. cage fighters where a guy got hit once, and spent the next three minutes trying to figure out which of the two guys he was fighting was the real one.

You don't build muscle in your head. You just build reflexes that allow you to avoid those hits or roll with them.

Repeated blows to the gut can induce internal bleeding. Being kicked in the gut can kill you while still allowing you to finish the other guy off. Your spleen can't be toughened up, and it doesn't have muscles. Men actually have an advantage when getting kicked in the gut because they don't keep their gonads there.

The good news is that, if it doesn't break anything open, the effects of a gut punch will dissipate in a few minutes.

Getting hit on your muscles will eventually cause the muscles to swell, reducing the strength in those muscles and possibly temporarily disabling them. Experienced fighters always block with their long bones. Once a muscle starts swelling from damage, it's out of action for a couple of days.

This doesn't even cover having a joint dislocated, which tends to be a show-stopper, or having a long bone broken, for which there is no rational "coming back from" unless it's your second or third time, and you have some other overwhelming advantage. After the second time my shoulder got dislocated in a fight, I started training one-handed.

I hope this helps. Fight choreography is all about audience tolerance for fudging on reality. That's why eastern wire-fu looks so weird to westerners.


I'm your best cadindate to answer this since I got wrecked a lot.

-Punches to the head unless coming from someone way heavier than you will result in:

If they punch your chin, jaw, forehead or eye sockets... they are going to hurt themselves more than they are going to hurt you, a few bruishes and black spots on your face but nothing that you can't ignore.

if they hit you on the back of the head or the neck, you might go blind for a few seconds or go weak on your knees

-Hits to the flank of the ribs:

These can be paralizing in therms of pain, and I'm talking you falling down on the ground struggling to breathe since the tendons and muscles between your ribs are amongst the thiniest and least robuts... so even a few hits can rupture muscle fascia or cause enough micro tears that it actually feels painful to breathe.

-hits to the stomach, front of the ribs or collarbone:

Unless you are fighting an actually professional fighter with some medals on his neck... they aren't gonna do much to you other than blowing the wind out of you for a split second.

It has shock value if you are not used to getting punched and you will feel like "Oh god I'm suffocating" for a smear of a second... but as the fight goes on the fear passes and you ignore this


When I was 8 years old I was whipped with 2 belts buckle end I ended up with 11 deep cuts on my back I needed 58 stitches to close the wounds on my back The pain was like red hot irons stabbing me in my back when I got home I wouldn't take my shirt off because of all the scars on my back I got stopped from going swimming because some parents complained about the scars on my back I still have bad days


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