At the 2022 D23 expo, Marvel finally confirmed that the cast of Thunderbolts will feature Yelena, Winter Soldier, Red Guardian, U.S. Agent, Ghost, and Taskmaster. Each has made at least one appearance in a previous MCU project but for several, it will be the first opportunity fans have to get to know more about their fighting styles.
When it comes to hand-to-hand combat, every MCU character has their own unique style whether it be based in martial arts, improvisation, or just all-out rage. Some end up being so distinctive that they become an extension of the characters themselves, giving birth to iconic fighting styles that will be remembered as some of the best in the MCU.
It’s been a while since Hulk has been seen as the giant green rage monster he was introduced as in The Avengers. He may now be an amalgamation of Hulk and Banner, but Hulk was once a just seen as “the other guy” who had one driving purpose: to smash.
Hulk’s fighting style began as something very erratic but became distinguishable by the time he appeared in Sakaar’s fighting arena in Thor: Ragnarok. Full-powered punches are always a guarantee, but Hulk is also well known for throwing his enemies into oblivion and slinging them around like rag dolls when necessary. His combat style assures that every time he fights, it will be an all-out brawl.
Having grown up fighting and learning from each other, Gamora and Nebula’s fighting styles bear a close resemblance. However, out of the two sisters, Gamora has more of an established style, putting heavy emphasis on strength, power, and weapon use.
Gamora possesses a strength beyond what many would expect of her because of her size and is also extremely agile which often gives her an immediate upper hand against her opponents, no matter their size. Though her most identifiable fighting technique is her use of knives and swords, often incorporating them into all of her hand-to-hand battles.
8/10 Ant-Man and The Wasp
The ability to adjust size for combat purposes may have been made popular by Scott Lang’s Ant-Man but Hope van Dyne has shown that she just as if not more capable of using it to her advantage as the Wasp. Ant-Man and the Wasp have very different fighting styles, but they find similarities through the Pym Tech that both utilize.
Hope’s fighting style is graceful whereas Scott’s seems more improvisational. Both however are known for their iconic use of Pym Tech to size shift for the element of surprise and to add power to their hits by shrinking and enlarging themselves mid-swing during battle. No other characters currently in the MCU have displayed this ability making it an exclusive fighting style to only the two characters.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings marked the MCU debut of Xu Shang-Chi, a talented martial artist that spent most of his childhood training under the direction of Xu Wenwu, founder of the Ten Rings army. While his parent may be well known for their dance-like fight scene, Shang-Chi was able to display his own fighting style as well.
Many MCU heroes and anti-heroes have a fighting style that is based in martial arts but Shang-Chi’s technique is closer to what someone imagines when they think of traditional Chinese martial arts fighting disciplines like kung fu. He utilizes Tai Chi, Hung Ga, and several other forms of kung fu making him one of the most technical fighters in the cinematic universe, as explained by Screen Rant.
6/10 Dora Milaje
Black Panther may be able to hold his own in battle, but it doesn’t hurt that he has the full force of the all-female Wakandan warrior group, the Dora Milaje, at his back. The Dora Milaje have joined the fight in only a few MCU projects including Black Panther, Infinity War, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but in that limited time, they’ve made it obvious why they’re entrusted to protect the kingdom and its people.
As the General of the Dora Milaje, Okoye displayed the most significant amount of the warriors’ fighting style which usually included the use of their signature spears and a team-driven mindset that helped them work seamlessly together. The warriors’ fighting style is so unique and different from any others in the MCU which would make it interesting to see how a fighter like Taskmaster could use their style.
Tom Holland’s most recent appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home as the web-shooting crime fighter showed a completely different side of the characters’ fighting style. In his final fight sequence with the Green Goblin, for the first time, fans got to see what it would be like if Spider-Man didn’t care to pull his punches. It brought a new intensity to his usually light-hearted fight sequences.
Spider-Man is most known for his incorporation of webwork to give him extra leverage in his strikes as well as for his acrobatic abilities, and instinct-driven in-battle fighting techniques. While each Spider-Man has given the character its own unique style, in No Way Home, fans got to see all three Spider-Man’s fighting side by side which helped display some of the most iconic qualities of the Spider-Man fighting technique that often resemble the arachnid they’re named after.
4/10 Captain America
It’s interesting to see how far Steve Rogers’ hand-to-hand combat skills have developed since he only went through the Army’s basic training. He clearly kept up his own combat training so that he could better utilize the power given to him by the super soldier serum. That training likely included a focus on boxing and other mixed martial arts as well as agility training and some shield target practice.
Captain America quickly became known for his physics-defying shield use, powerful punches, and some especially acrobatic flying kicks. Since taking the mantle in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Sam Wilson has adopted some of Steve’s go-to fighting techniques and combined them with some of his own so while Steve may have laid a foundation for the iconic Captain America fighting style, it’s certain to develop more as Sam makes the title his own.
3/10 Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes is one of the few MCU Characters that have taken the super soldier serum and as intended, it greatly contributed to the most identifiable aspects of his fighting technique.
Surprisingly, one of the most iconic pieces of Bucky’s fighting style doesn’t have much to do with his viburnum arm or super strength but everything to do with his weapon use. His knife work is easily the most recognizable element of his combat style and combining that with his base of Russian martial arts makes him one of the most distinctive fighters in the MCU.
2/10 Black Panther
As a child, T’challa was trained in several styles of hand-to-hand combat so that when he would eventually take on the Black Panther mantle, he wouldn’t just be relying on the power granted to him by the Heart-Shaped Herb. This shaped him into becoming a fierce fighter known for his swiftness, agility, and striking power.
Fans were thrown headfirst into the power that was the Black Panther with an unforgettable franchise introduction in a fight with another one of the MCU’s strongest fighters, the Winter Soldier, in Captain America: Civil War. While there is a lot of strength seen in the Black Panther, it’s the underlying feline qualities sprinkled within his fighting technique that make it his own style, easily differentiating him from other heroes that use martial arts as a base for their hand-to-hand fighting styles.
1/10 Black Widow
The very first time MCU fans saw Natasha Romanoff was in Iron Man 2 where she demonstrated her fighting skills in the ring with Happy Hogan. There have since been adjustments to her characterization, but her fighting skills have only stacked on, combining elements of several martial arts styles with impressive acrobatic maneuvers from her gymnastic and ballet background.
The other Widows that were seen in Black Widowutilize similar fighting techniques since they all underwent the same training with even Yelena demonstrating some similarities. However, there are some moves that will always be identified as Black Widow’s like Natasha’s signature scissor leg takedown and of course her mid-fight pose.
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