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KungPowKick 9242

Elder: My, my, it's like they're filming a movie!

Sakaki: I agree, these kids have too much excessive movements!

Think Flynning, but with martial arts instead of swords.

This page is dedicated to all of the 'amended' martial arts that populate Martial Arts Movie, manga and anime, especially high-flying spinning kicks and other telegraphed moves. Lots of times, this comes from the directors following the Rule of Cool, but many other times, they just Did Not Do the Research. If there is a Hand Wave coming up, appeals to Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers may be thrown in - after all, a "highly telegraphed" multi-spin roundhouse is a lot less easy to counter when your foot meets your opponent's face in the time it takes for him to blink, and if you can shrug off a tonne of hits and kill the one guy with one then a punished whiff is not as critical.

Even in the more realistic video games, you will find at least one attack at this absurd level among the movelist of Shotoclones. Usually it will be the Hurricane Kick Sub-Trope, alongside its buddies the Kamehame Hadoken and Shoryuken. They look great and all in video games, but would be needlessly showy in real life.

This trope can apply to as minor a grievance as an inefficient move or as major a martial insult as 80s ninja films.

Fun game: Take a martial arts scene. Now, ask yourself; "Would this move work in Mixed Martial Arts?" If the answer is no, it's likely under this trope.

Compare Martial Arts and Crafts, Chop Sockey. Contrast What the Fu Are You Doing?.

Note that this is for works that are presenting a move or martial art as serious (or an Acceptable Break From Reality.) If it's intentionally being Played for Laughs, it would be I Know Kung Faux.

Examples of Artistic License Martial Arts include:


General Edit

  • Flip, flip, flip, flip. Everywhere you look in fiction you see martial arts depicted as being at least 1/3 acrobatics. In real life moves like flips and handsprings are excessively dangerous unnecessary show-off moves to use in a martial arts match, and the few martial arts moves which do include such spectacular gymnastic feats tend to be very high risk maneuvers. Flying kicks, broadly, fall in the same category. One issue is that once you leave the ground, you have no control over your path, which of course will be towards the opponent. Martial artists (as an overgeneralization) train these moves because they are a good way of working on balance, control, and fitness, which will then translate to simpler moves, but it's incredibly rare to see anyone sparring with a flying side kick.
  • You can sum up about 90% of this trope in anime (and movies too) with a single point: an efficient strike is not telegraphed. Each time you see someone preparing his punch by putting his arm far BEHIND him to get more momentum, it's just for show. Used a lot because it makes the strikes more impressive and make them feel stronger, but it's just bad in a fight, where a smart opponent will simply crush your face with a less impressive, but much faster and more efficient, direct strike.
  • Cross Counter: Depending on the martial art, in a real fight you always keep your guard up when you punch (with your free hand) or kick (with both hands). This is done, precisely, to avoid your opponent's counter strikes. This is less typical amongst grapplers.
    • Dan Hardy demonstrates why keeping your non-punching hand up is a good idea. His opponent, Carlos Condit, made the same mistake but had the better chin.
  • Any time a martial artist fights off two, three or more people at once, this trope is being invoked. Even an excellent fighter would be considered lucky to defeat or even get away from two people attacking at once.
  • Breaking is a complicated subject. Not all martial arts styles include it at all, and those which do can do things that would certainly surprise most people. On the other hand, generally breaking is performed on materials which are fairly weak under tension (brick, concrete, wood broken with the grain), and also supported only at the ends. It also required careful training of the impact area (especially knuckles), which can leave it looking fairly ugly. If someone is breaking most of these rules (kicking a hole in a chain-link fence with a move they saw an older student doing once), this trope is probably being invoked.


Anime & Manga Edit

  • Suzaku Kururugi of Code Geass is infamous for these, hence the Fan Nickname, "Spinzaku". His trademark gravity-defying attack allows him to run up walls, destroy machine gun turrets (while dodging their fire), disarm pistol-wielding opponents from across the room, fall great distances, shatter steel weapons, and send guards flying. Naturally, his personal mecha can do this, too, with the added benefit of his opponents exploding.
  • Although martial arts are mostly portrayed accurately, History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi has some instances:
    • One character starts spinning in place a few times before planting an outside crescent on Kenichi, while he gawks in disbelief. Try that in the UFC.
    • And then there's Attention Whore Rachel "Castor" Stanley of YOMI. She specializes in Luchadore wrestling moves, and considers keeping the audience's attention more important than actually winning the fight (though she has yet to lose a fight in the series). She and her YAMI master "Laughing Fist" Diego believe that using Awesome but Impractical moves to win fights is the way to go.
    • Averted in Historys Strongest Disciple (no Kenichi), the manga History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi was based on. It's basically History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi with more realistic martial arts, more realistic training, more realistic gangs, and ending right before History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi introduces Yami.
    • Chapter 134 has an aversion and Lampshade Hanging (starting here), where Hermit is fighting Berserker, who doesn't actually knows martial arts. Berserker winds his fist way back to launch a finishing blow, creating a massive opening that Hermit takes advantage of to turn the fight around.
    • It is also lampshaded in chapter 136, as shown above in the page top
  • Averted in every single Digimon incarnation. This might sound odd in a "mon" show, but whenever humans need to fight, they either get their ass handed to him (most of the time), employ judo moves, use 4 moves in 4 seconds (in order, making an opening, flipping the opponent to the floor, making an opening in the next opponent sideways, uppercut). The last example was taken from tai-chi, apparently. Flashy moves are only used when the opponent is stunned and maximum force of impact (with a giant mecha is needed.
  • As Bruce Lee Clones, Rock Lee and Might Guy from Naruto also use a lot of flying kicks (KONOHA DAI SENPUU!).
  • Must Taijutsu in Naruto is impractical, especially attacks that involve using the heel of the foot to kick downward from eye level. Besides having bad leverage, this attack would be extremely painful to the users, almost all of which seem to be male. This kick is often done by spinning in midair, which is also physically impossible.
  • The Crane stance is done as well with complete seriousness in Fist of the Blue Sky by Zhāng Tài-Yán (except with his hands together), as well as Falco early in the second half of the Fist of the North Star manga; just to make it more mind-boggling, the leg he was standing on was his prosthetic leg.
    • Keep in mind the Daniel Russo's leg had been swept pretty hard and was unable to apply any pressure to it. The Crane Kick was used as a last resort.
    • It's the grandfather of "Impossible But Cool" martial arts. The titular martial art, Hokuto Shinken, uses a fictionalized version of the Meridian/Dim Mak acupressure points called the keiraku hikou, of which there are over 708 on the human body according to the story. Depending on how much force they're struck with, they can be used to destroy or heal one's body.
      • He MAKES YOU BLOW UP! Several seconds after he hits you.
      • There are other martial art styles in the series as well which are just as exaggerated. The main rival style, Nanto Seiken, uses sheer force to slice and stab the opponent's body.
  • Airmaster: Gymkata in Anime form!
  • In one of the title sequences of the anime Death Note, L performs some rather implausible spinning kicks which, depending on your point of view, either look downright amazing or downright hilarious.
    • This is stated at various bits of the canon to be Capoeira. See the entry below on it.
    • Besides, if L can outsmart food, why not gravity?
  • Even Gundam has them! At least the martial art/super robotesque stepchild, G Gundam. How'd you call their fighting techniques otherwise?
  • Averted in Holyland, which is all about realistic fighting. When dangerous moves like high kicks come up, the narrator even notes how one should distract the target first rather than try to use them off-the-cuff when the enemy can prepare a counter.
  • Hajime no Ippo mostly shows realistic depictions of the sport of boxing but some characters use moves that are clearly flat out impossible to do in real life. The most blatant examples are Takeshi Sendo's Smasher (A leaning full body side uppercut), Eiji Date's Heartbreak shot (A corkscrew punch aimed at the heart, capable of freezing opponents on their feet) and Masaru Aoki's Frog Punch (A full body uppercut). And there's Woli, a boxer who does high flying stunts WHILE fighting.
  • Riki Oh every thing
  • Rurouni Kenshin: In real life, sheathing your sword in the middle of a fight is a bad idea; for Kenshin, it's required for his finishing move. Saito's gatotsu doesn't have the advantages a left-handed thrust has in real life, surprise and an accompanying extended reach.
    • Enishi, the series' final Big Bad, utilizes a sword whose design is based on the tachi, a weapon whose blade was traditionally anywhere between 70 and 80 centimeters long. Enishi is shown to be quite capable of wielding his sword in one hand, even twirling it around between his fingers at one point to demonstrate his skill; in real life, the tachi was used primarily by cavalrymen, and while it could be used for ground combat it was more awkward to wield than if the swordsman was still on his horse. (It may be somewhat justified in Enishi's case, however, as his sword's particular design consists of a traditional Chinese sword handle and a Japanese blade, and Chinese-made swords are designed to be significantly lighter and more flexible.)


Comic Books Edit

  • Lampshaded, in all places, in the first ever Groo the Wanderer. A soldier comments on Groo carrying his swords on his back, only to have Groo pull out a sword and put it up to his nose before he even finishes his sentence.
  • When Frank Miller draws martial artists in Sin City, he loves having them perform some weird split kicks that look like they would be awkward in Real Life.


Film Edit

  • Steven Seagal's earlier films such as Out for Justice and Under Siege have some pretty realistic techniques. On the other hand, the most recent ones, where he can't even run, reflect this trope perfectly.
  • In spite of his reputation as the world's greatest martial artist, Bruce Lee's movies feature a lot of this. He admitted that jumping high kicks were only good for movies, and he would never use them in a real fight.
  • Jackie Chan's films. Chan was schooled in Peking Opera since a young boy to perform stage fighting and acrobatics. He and his fellow opera school graduates such as Sammo Hung excel at creating fighting scenes that indulge fully in the Rule of Cool or Rule of Funny (or both).
    • On the other hand, Jackie's movies are one of the few that realistically depict how much it hurts to punch a guy in the face.
  • Jet Li films, such as the Once Upon a Time in China series, tend to be a little more realistic (Li was trained as a martial artist), but even then his characters are still capable of feats that push plausibility, especially when fighting multiple opponents.
  • The entire Wuxia genre of films, such as Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are based on mythic stories of supernatural swordsmen. As such, their reputation of combat features a great deal of magic.
  • Gymkata.
  • The "Crane Kick" from The Karate Kid. It doesn't come from any actual martial arts tradition. The filmmakers invented it simply to look impressive.
  • Bud Spencer's trademark move, called the "pigeon." It's a fist bash to the top of the head, the hardest spot on the human body.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo Montoya not only blocks an attacker's blade behind him but stabs him to death back there as well, without looking. He's just that good.
  • In David Mamet's Redbelt, one character applies a standing rear naked choke, then the other one runs up a wall and does a backflip over him to escape. Mixed Martial Arts competition does sometimes feature a "wall walk" to get out of submissions, but they're always used while grappling on the ground. Fighters who apply a rear naked choke will wrap their legs around their opponent's thighs, "getting the hooks in," to prevent their opponent from using thir lower body to escape.
  • Christian Slater in Uwe Boll's Alone in The Dark movie manages to initiate a somersault kick while lying on his back, violating several different laws of physics in the process.
  • In the second Kill Bill movie the Bride is buried in a wooden coffin and uses a one inch punch to break it. The one inch punch gets all its power from the stance and hip movement and is thus impossible to do when lying an the back. Since the Bride had to do it over and over again, it's possible that they only help she got from her training was toughened knuckles.
  • Jean Claude Van Damme's "spinning splits jumpkick," displayed most prominently in Bloodsport, is telegraphed years in advance, and it's only the use of slow-motion and very low camera angles that make it look like a head-height attack instead of the chest-height hop it actually is.
  • In a weird variant of the trope, Tom Yum Goong has Tony Jaa take a full-speed/full-power meia lua de compasso from significantly heavier-looking Lateef Crowder squarely on the jaw. Suffice it to say, if you actually do that in real life you won't be waking up for a good while - and once you do, you'd probably wish you hadn't.
  • An early scene in You Don't Mess With the Zohan had Adam Sandler's character dealing with a ignorantly racist businessman in New York City. The two are standing about a foot apart the entire time. Through the use of camera shots and props, Zohan starts kicking the guy in the face, alternating between both feet, before grabing his nose with both feet and starts twisting it. All while standing perfectly eye-level with the guy the whole time. This is all for the Rule of Funny, of course.


Literature Edit

  • Writers of Chinese Kung fu epics have been doing this for decades if not longer. It's also translated into the television series based on the book. One of the most popular examples being the epic "Condor Heroes."
  • In The Destroyer, Sinanju gives you superhuman strength and speed, and it might make you the hero of prophecy and the Avatar of Shiva, the Destroyer. It also lets you fall from airplanes without injury, detect snipers with the hairs on your upper arms, perform chiropracy on dinosaurs and redirect electronic signals to hack door locks.
  • In Time Scout, Author Appeal distorts the depiction of martial arts.
  • Played with in Nick Harkaway's The Gone-Away World when discussing the so called martial arts secrets that obviously must exist, since every single Chop Sockey film has made use of them. The master of the main character says that there are no such things as the Inner Teachings or any such nonsense. Then he makes one up on the spot as a joke just so that the students can say they have some to other martial artists. Of course later the protagonist realizes that the teacher's secret teaching was totally legit, and proceeds to use the Ghost Palm of the Voiceless Dragon... fucker. The zig zag moment comes when the narrative completely justifies the use of the secret: the protagonist spends some time getting his older opponent's heart rate up by forcing him to expend a lot of effort in using a hard style martial arts. Then when the opponent's heart is racing along at 190 bpm, the protagonist lays a nice solid palm strike to his sternum, causing cardiac arrest.
  • The Avenger's sidekick Nellie Grey knows jujitsu, which allows her to throw men three times her weight around like tenpins if they so much as extend an arm in her general direction.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle introduces the Adem, an entire culture of warrior-philosophers who practice a martial art that is so powerful that 10-year-old girls can defeat grown men. The discipline is based on an understanding of morality in addition to athletics. Because women are morally superior to men (!), women are better fighters than men.


Live Action TV Edit

  • Star Trek features a few moves of dubious authenticity.
    • The chopping blows to the base of the neck or elsewhere, sometimes remembered as "Judo chops," though Judo is a grappling art that does not allow strikes, much less strikes to the neck. The principle behind "chopping" strikes is that the "blade" of the hand has a smaller surface area, and has been recommended in a few real-world fighting systems.
    • The famous Vulcan nerve pinch, in which the base of the neck is pressed with the fingers and induces instantaneous unconciousness. Leonard Nimoy invented the move on the spot when he decided that simply clubbing an opponent with a phaser didn't seem very Spock-like. The original concept was that Spock produced a bio-electric shock through his fingertips, turning his hand into a taser. When Spock uses it in the Original Series, he simply touches the necks of his opponents. However, the move was misinterpreted as a nerve pinch, and remained this way through future incarnations of the series.
    • Kirk used a horizontal jump kick so often that when William Shatner nearly got into a Real Life fight, he realized that he was instinctively planning on using it. After a moment of consideration, he realized that flopping onto the floor at the beginning of a real fight would go very badly for him, so he walked away.
    • Hand-to-hand fight scenes in every series almost invariably feature a two-fisted hammer punch that's been dubbed the "Kirk special."
    • The "style" is sometimes known as "Kirk-fu".
  • The long-running Pili series from Taiwan. What's that, you ask? Kung Fu puppets with wire-fu, precision-guided swords and CG special effects. It just doesn't get any more awesome than that. Despite how implausible the series sounds, give it a watch, it's great. It's basically a continuation of the tradition of Chinese puppet theater, and there's a reason why it's been running since 1985. Unfortunately, the English adaptations are pretty bad and the subtitled versions make no sense. Still, wire-fu puppets is just made of win from the get-go.
  • Phoebe on Charmed has done this. Justified in that levitation actually is one of her powers.
  • When the Canadian science fiction channel Space still used the "Space Bar" intros to its regular "Movies From Space" segments, one character demonstrates a traditional martial arts kata of his people; it looks utterly ludicrous. The bartender asks if it actually works. The alien says it works very well; their opponents laugh long enough for them to run away. The character's people are extremely good at Obfuscating Stupidity, to the point where they're not entirely sure if their stupidity is in fact obfuscating...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer... some of the early fights are alright, but very quickly, it turned into Gymkata: the Series.
  • Zig Zagged in Chuck. One confrontation with villain of the week starts with him showing off in a series of backflips and high-acrobatic martial arts. It's justified, as his backstory includes competitive gymnastics but no actual combat, which means he's the kind of person who could do backflips and wouldn't realize it's a bad idea. So a martial arts fight is set up, but then Sarah just shoots him in the knee.
  • In Doctor Who the Third Doctor's Venusian Aikido pretty much counts as this; it seems to have mostly been designed to make Jon Pertwee look good in a cloak.


Professional Wrestling Edit

  • The entire medium, or at least the actual matches. Even the simplest of punches is painfully slow, clear to the opponent weeks in advance (sometimes literally) and aimed at low-damaging areas, frequently the opponent's massive pecs. And that's not even considering the more ludicrous maneuvers detailed below.[1]
  • The Ring of Honor pro wrestling promotion had one of its early pro wrestling matches use this trope: Amazing Red brought the flips, Low Ki brought the high-impact kicks. However, ROH also occasionally subverts the trope; both Kevin Steen and Samoa Joe have countered acrobatic attacks by simply walking away rather than standing and waiting for the move to complete.
  • The Irish Whip is extremely common. It involves swinging someone around by the arm to send them sprinting across the ring, bounce off something springy, and sprint back towards you to receive a follow-up attack. While certain joint locks and such can give you control over an opponent's movement, The Irish Whip takes it to absurd levels.
  • "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith was sued for assault, the plaintiff claiming that the wrestler had attacked him and powerbombed him. Smith's entire defense was demonstrating that the powerbomb was impossible to do without the 'victim's' cooperation. The court found for the defendant. Oddly enough, Mixed Martial Arts matches have occasionally seen powerbombs when one fighter is attempting a triangle choke with his legs wrapped around his opponent's head, leaving him vulnerable to slams. Rampage Jackson famously knocked out Ricardo Arona this way.
  • The Canadian Destroyer (a flip piledriver), which is actually physically impossible (the 'victim' does all the work). This was highlighted when Kota Ibushi received a series of Canadian Destroyers from YOSHIHIKO, a blow-up doll.
    • Even though the "victim" does do all the work in this example, there's always that one-in-a-million chance...
  • The RKO, which, despite inheriting the People's Elbow's Most Electrifying Move title, is basically a move where the victim does about half the work and then pretends to be out of it. Even if it was real, it'd be the kind of move that only stuns for a few seconds. Also, Piledrivers are mostly fake, as, if done the way they seem to be done, they'd be mostly lethal (As these two found out), or at least crippling (an unprotected piledriver broke Stone Cold's neck).
  • Performing a stunner on a hard floor might just break your opponent's neck or back. You'll probably also break your tailbone.


Video Games Edit

  • Street Fighter (even discounting the Ki Attacks) throws everything about martial arts out of the window with such impossible moves as the Hurricane Kick. Oddly enough, some of the attacks do bow to reality - if a Dragon Punch misses, you can smack the user out of the air with just about anything.
    • Guile's upside-down kick gets bonus points; it breaks the laws of physics and it's not even a special move. It's like they ran out of space for the sprites, and decided to just flip an existing one vertically.
    • Hilariously, the game developers still try to make people believe the fighter's arts are based on real life martial arts. Never mind that Kung Fu doesn't work that way, or, in the case of newly introduced fighter Juri, that being a Taekwondo master doesn't mean you can spin vertically in mid-air multiple times.
    • Heck, let's just be honest here: if you're a Fighting Game developer, you've long since used this trope pretty much by starting your project. Even in more realistic series like Virtua Fighter, characters can still do ridiculous things (Sarah Bryant executing a perfect backflip kick in the heat of battle, for instance). If you want to make a game that actually simulates a real fight between trained martial artists, you'd probably end up with something like UFC Undisputed.
  • Virtually any Kunio-kun game. Especially River City Ransom, its "sequel", and remake. Mainly because it's both awesome and funny at the same time. Running in mid-air indefinitely is only one of the examples.
  • Double Dragon II was one of the earliest games with a Cyclone Kick, and it was way more effective than it realistically should have been (maybe enemies are just too impressed with your ability to briefly deny the laws of physics).
    • The 2-Player mode in Double Dragon III (in both, arcade and NES version) allows both players use a Double Cyclone Kick, the strongest attack in the game. Luckily no one ever shot you down when you tried it. The arcade version allowed any pair of characters to do it, but in the NES version only Billy and Jimmy could perform the Double Cyclone Kick together.
  • Subverted in God Hand. While there are flashy, showy moves, trying to abuse them will generally get your ass kicked and it is better to stick to the simple stuff. Those that you can get away with are almost all Limit Breaks. Also upheld at the same time, though, as mooks - not least the kung fu practitioners - can and will get away with over-the-top stuff that Gene usually gets punished for.
  • Righteous Fists, the basic attack of Unarmed Martial Arts in Champions Online, apparently consists of teleporting between several poses, striking them in mid-air.
    • With a high enough frame rate, one can see they DON'T teleport, just change direction and momentum faster than would be humanly possible. As this is a superhero MMO, this is understandable.
  • The Martial Arts power set from City of Heroes is way too flashy to be genuinely useful, one of your most used moves is a flying spinning kick that a real fighter would see coming a mile away. Though it's probably justified- most all heroes can take bullets without flinching, so they probably don't care about leaving an opening if they can get a stronger attack from it.
    • Subverted with the recent inclusion of alternate animations (which added more punches to the Martial Arts set, and allowed more street-brawly looks for Super Strength attacks). "Storm Kick's" alternate animation is a much less telegraphed palm strike to the gut.
  • Bujingai Swordmaster takes this trope Up to Eleven, using Wuxia as a motif. Apparently in the demon-infested future of Japan, martial arts will allow you run up and leap off of walls, do a spinning backflip kick while Dual-Wielding swords, and even fly!


Webcomics Edit

  • Subverted and Lampshaded in SSDD. Subverted in that, when Action Girl Tessa tries to use a Bruce Lee-style jumping kick in a CQC sparring-match, she gets a pair of cracked ribs for her trouble. Lampshaded in that her opponent immediately realizes that she threw the match by giving him a huge opening.
    • Although that strip also provides an example. Taking the full force of that in a direct block would break your arms.
      • Not to mention knock you flat on your ass
  • In Sluggy Freelance Oasis is fond of doing unnecessary gymnastic showmanship moves while fighting people, though admittedly she saves the big poses until after she strikes a critical blow. She's also clearly superhuman, so perhaps it would really work for someone like that.


Web Original Edit

  • A short film by the ZeroGravity stunt team, "US vs HK," manages to parody it both ways by playing the same fight scene as both Hollywood and Hong Kong martial artists would do it. The US version is a Fight Scene Failure played for laughs. The HK version is Crazy Awesome, played for laughs and jaw-dropping.


Western Animation Edit

  • Some of the earlier fights in Teen Titans had poor choreography on Robin's part. Several times he backflips away from the enemy to kick them. Fortunately he cleaned up his act in later seasons.
  • In real judo, a "throw" is any maneuver that knocks an opponent off his feet. In an episode of The Flintstones, however, Wilma used judo to throw an intruder all the way into the next room and out the door.
    • Lifting and throwing an opponent several times larger and heavier than you happens in nearly every single piece of Western Animation which deals with one of the characters learning some sort of Martial Art.
      • Which isn't wholly unrealistic, since among the first things a beginning judo (or jujitsu, judo's antisocial older brother who just got out of prison) practitioner will be taught is that proper leverage is crucial even if the opponent doesn't have you outmassed by a factor of three (but if he does, proper leverage can still let you heave him around pretty good). The unrealistic part is when they can turn a friendly handshake into a mugger-eliminating throw.
  • Since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles couldn't use their weapons to shed blood in the cartoons, they went all out on the martial arts instead.
  • In the Double Dragon animated series, Jimmy Lee has what Billy called "deadly Shadow Moves", which one of the kids learned when he watched Jimmy practice.

Notes

  1. The reason is, of course, that they're only trying to put on a good show, not actively trying to kill each other.