For my story I have been doing research on fighting in order to better write the fight scenes. However, once I got a better handle on how fighting in real life works I've noticed I've started nit-picking actual fight scenes in movies.
I'll watch choreographed fight scenes and cringe at how the characters leave themselves wide open, or they'll ignore an opening that would result in victory, or refuse to fight dirty in a matter of life or death (and they aren't written as some paragon who would avoid stooping that low). Especially fights that in-story are supposed to be matters of survival rather than non-lethal. Of course, taking that logic to its fullest conclusion results in a brutally efficient method of fighting like "kick them in the crotch, cut their throat while they're reeling, boom, dead in two moves", which isn't very interesting to read. And unfortunately that kind of mindset is the kind of mindset I feel most of my characters have.
It’s also pretty unrealistic because for a fight to be prolonged that long requires both combatants both be equally matched in combat skill (or, alternatively, equally incompetent to avoid noticing openings) in order to appropriately match blow for counterblow, which almost never happens in real life. Someone would get tired or accidentally let down their guard.
I understand there are very good narrative reasons for doing this. For one, in real life fights usually only last about a few seconds and one person is either dead or incapacitated within the first couple of blows (with the person who strikes first usually winning). Not very dramatic. On top of that writing every fight scene “perfectly” wastes potential characterization. A lot of fight scenes use individual differences in combat style and their approach to fighting to reveal character, as shown in every martial arts movie or shonen anime ever made. That includes experience and skill level. Writing every character as a technically flawless combatant is unrealistic. It's the combat equivalent of every character, from gutter urchins to upper-class snobs, speaking perfect RP English with no variation in slang, accent, or personal tone.
As a result, fight scenes generally have to be "suboptimal" and not flawless on a technical level in order to be interesting. And, in fact, my fight scenes are pretty boring because there's little variation in how the characters approach the problem. When I try to choreograph fight scenes I tend to think "what would I do if I was in the character's position" and that tends towards brutal efficiency. In fact, it makes the characters who are supposed to be "brutally efficient" not stand out. I think a lot of it is my plot was originally written as a screenplay and so focused on visual spectacle, whereas in writing the draw of fight scenes is primarily (that isn't to say screenplays can't have fights reveal character, just that the crutch of visual spectacle isn't there). I just have trouble getting out of the brutally efficient "point A to point B" mindset and allow myself to write something flashier.
I understand that fiction does not reflect reality, and reality can often be less believable than fiction. What I’m trying to figure out is how can I write my fight scenes to be dramatic without cringing at how sloppy the characters are fighting (i.e., breaking suspension of disbelief)?