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 will be towards the opponent. Martial artists (as an over-generalization) 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. Even the most acrobatic martial art in popular culture, Capoeira, teaches specifically to relegate fancy flips to friendly rodas and keep at least one hand or feet firmly planted on the ground during convoluted moves.
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.
Any time a martial artist fights off two, three or more people at once, this trope is being invoked. It's hard, but possible to fight multiple opponents if a fighter maintains techniques to control the fight and keep it close to one-on-one. In fiction however, the lone fighter will typically be able to KO or incapacitate the people attacking him with a single blow each as they rush at him one at a time, whereas people are generally tougher in real life, and more willing to avert Mook Chivalry.
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 note That is, with the grain in one of the short directions, the way that lumber is not usually sold for very good reasons aside from trees not growing sideways), and also supported only at the ends. It also requires 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.
Ninja are almost never portrayed realistically. (Hollywood tends to go for the Highly-Visible Ninja Trope, which is a big Artistic License.) Real practitioners of Shinobi usually wore disguises, and weren't the type for a fair fight (if they fought at all; some were simply spies). A ninja who wanted to kill someone usually struck by ambush, fleeing after he made the strike (successful or not). They were never seen in public wearing or using anything that would identify them as such.
When a martial artist appears in fiction using a weapon that is called a sai, it's almost always something that would more properly be called a dagger or a stiletto. A real sai is a blunt weapon that is used defensively. (Historically they were used by police for crowd control, much like the jutte, which is similar.)
Technically sais can be pointed, or even bladed, but rarely are. But they'll invariably be used as simple daggers, with weapon catching being the only one of it's multiple uses that ever gets addressed.
Martial artist characters tend to face unarmed opponents, or opponents who use weapons in absurdly ineffective ways. Marching toward the fighter with knife or club held rigidly overhead, holding the blade extended instead of cutting on the retraction, making huge swooping swings that your grandmother could dodge, and the classic "walk up to kissing distance with a gun instead of shooting him from across the room."
Flynning is this trope with swords, and all forms of swordsmanship are martial arts. Additionally, pretty much every weapon that this trope can be applied to will have this trope applied.
Anime & Manga
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.
Any other martial artist would do a lot less than 720 degrees before his leg connects. For Suzaku it's more like 1080 degrees.
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.
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.
Dragon Ball in general is full of this, but there are two particular points that deserve mention:
Whenever the characters do any form of side kick, they throw their hands above their heads or out to the sides. This is a bad idea in real life, as it leaves the vital areas wide open.
There was a scene in the original Dragon Ball series where Yamcha remarked that Goku was leaving no part of his body unguarded. Goku was standing face-on to his opponent, with his hands held downward at his sides. His head, torso, and groin were all wide open to attack.
To be fair, he actually said that Goku had no openings. The fact that he wasn't currently guarding everything doesn't mean he wasn't prepared to guard against anything.
Amusingly, in another episode (during the first World Martial Arts Tournament) an opponent of Goku's remarked with some puzzlement that Goku was standing unguarded on all sides (specifically, with his arms out and his fists as far from his chest as possible). Why Goku was doing this is an open question. Perhaps as a Self-Imposed Challenge?
As Bruce Lee Clones, Rock Lee and Might Guy from Naruto also use a lot of flying kicks (KONOHA DAI SENPUU!). Hand-waved in-universe because most of these folks are augmenting their martial arts abilities with chakra, making those impossible moves possible and/or allowing them to hit far harder than should be possible.
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.
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. It's supposed to be Capoeira.
Even Gundam has them! At least the martial art/super robotesque stepchild, G Gundam. How'd you call their fighting techniques otherwise?
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.
Sendo's Smash punch is based on Canadian boxer Razor Ruddock's signature punch. Not nearly as impossible as it looks, but Sendo's version leaves him far more open to getting tagged with a counter.
The frog punch was Japanese boxer Koichi Wajima's specialty.
Also, the Dempsey Roll. Now this is a perfectly normal (if risky) technique for fighters of small build, and is named after its most famous practitioner. The artistic license comes from the fact that Ippo maintains it on his opponent for a good 8 seconds straight. If that was done in real life, there would be 2 outcomes: either the opponent would counter it somewhere in that time frame (since the Roll puts out so much offense that it leaves next to no defense), or they were knocked flat on the ground from its beatdown long before 8 seconds had passed.
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.)
Science Ninja Team Gatchaman occasionally averts this trope (such a straight elbow to the guts of someone trying to be sneaky) but more usually plays it very straight. Bad enough with the rank-and-file (who tend to be slow and dumb as bricks), but when the SNT and the Elite Mooks go up against each other, both sides are very guilty of this trope. Partially justified in that both sides have help.
One episode of La Seine no Hoshi had an interesting mix of this and Shown Their Work: a one-shot character featured in it had some rather improbable techniques, but not only the martial art chosen for him, Savate, was appropriate to the place, era and social status (the series being set in Paris right before the French Revolution, when Savate already existed but was only used by soldiers, sailors and street brawlers), the character was noted as extremely skilled, doing things that shouldn't have been possible, and the one time he fought a skilled foe (another Savate practitioner) he fought in a very sensible manner, aside for the flying kick that won him the bout (with the foe actually being caught by surprise by the attack and unable to dodge in time).
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.
John Byrne once said, since he did not know Kung-fu, he would draw Iron Fist pulling off fighting moves that simply looked cool and didn't care about how real it looked. Since Iron Fist learned how to fight in another dimension, it does make some amount of sense.
Not only do comic-universe martial arts work absurdly well, they're incredibly quick to learn. Batman trained a ten-year-old kid in a matter of weeks to clear out roomfuls of armed mooks. Captain America (who himself had limited time to learn) trained Bucky to do the same on a modern battlefield, without benefit of shield or super-serum. You have to wonder why more criminals don't train to the same level, if it's that easy to become a one-man wrecking crew.
In the fic Daughter of Nyx, the teenage protagonist fuses tae kwan do, karate, and ballet together into one style. At the very least, such a melding would be awkward, slow, and defeat the purpose of self-defense.
During the "I'll Make a Man Out of You" sequence they do deeds worthy of Bruce Lee.
Take a look at when Mulan kicks Shang. She pivots on her toe- in martial arts, you typically pivot on the ball of your foot.
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 from childhood 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. He can still kick your ass.
The 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.
The first Best Of The Best film features a group of martial arts experts sent to Korea to compete in a World Karate competition. And certainly, the martial arts on display resemble karate, with an even mix of punches and kicks and even some judo throws for good measure. All in all, a mild example since the 80s were chock-full of karate films, if not for the fact that Korea has no karate tradition and, in fact, is the birthplace of the Taekwondo martial art. And the film makes it so blindingly obvious that the plot is meant to fixate on Taekwondo that it goes beyond Limited Reference Pools into willfull disregard.
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.
The 2010 reboot, apparently needing to upstage the original, climaxes with a magical reverse flip kick that wouldn't be out of place in a Wuxia film.
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 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 their lower body to escape.
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 the 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 grabbing his nose with both feet and starts twisting it. Standing perfectly eye-level with the guy the whole time. This is all for the Rule of Funny.
Zohan is this trope personified and taken Up to Eleven. Among his other feats: catching a bullet with his teeth, tying people up into pretzels with their own limbs, trying on shoes in the midst of a fight, destroying a bomb and subsequently a whole city block by singing (OK, he had some help with that one)... the list goes on.
Subverted in an early scene in Ninja Cheerleaders. Some unfortunate orange-belt (a low rank in Karate) utterly fails to impress April with his backflips...and gets his arse handed to him.
Parodied all over the place in Kung Phooey! One particular scene has the hero blocking a series of punches with his legs in an anatomically impossible fashion. Then the camera pans back and it turns out he was using his arms, but had shoes over his hands for some reason.
The Crane Kick from The Karate Kid shows up in Ashens And The Quest For The Game Child, and its impracticality is lampshaded: the villain brags about how powerful the move is, and Ashens takes a few steps back, bringing him out of the kick's range, and the villain cannot get closer because he is standing on one leg, which is getting tired. The villain asks Ashens to not hit him while he is changing the leg he is standing on, and Ashens hits him anyways.
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.
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. Later the protagonist realizes that the teacher's secret teaching was legit, and proceeds to use the Ghost Palm of the Voiceless Dragon. 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 jujutsu, 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, a 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, and because women are morally superior to men (!), women are better fighters than men. Never mind that the style as described closely resembles Aikido, which is not an art where one can easily think of a little girl defeating a grown-up practitioner.
In fairness, a couple of caveats need to be added: first, the women as morally superior is an attitude held by the Adem, one the narrator disagrees with, second, he's barely starting, this little girl has been practising since she could walk, which makes it a touch more plausible, as well as the whole wouldn't hit a girl thing, which hobbles the narrator.
Subverted in the first Artemis Fowl book. Artemis asks Butler to create a distraction. Butler insults a bunch of drunken longshoremen and defeats them using flashy kicks and punches. The subversion comes in because he's purposely using such moves to make the fight last longer and to stand out more, giving Artemis his distraction. In his inner monologue, Butler cringes at some of the moves he performs, because they're so inefficient. He defeats multiple opponents mostly because they were all drunk and enraged. Lampshaded by Artemis immediately after: "Your sensei must be rolling in his grave. A spinning kick? How could you?"
In Goldfinger, Karate is described to be "a branch of Judo" with Chinese origins, and how there are "only three practitioners with Black Belt" in the world.
Live Action TV
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/psychic 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."
Worse still, the Spin Offs tend to use it. Seems it's part of Star Fleet basic training.
Klingons on the newer spin-offs tend to just hack with bat'leth swords and head-butt each other, despite Worf's claim that the elaborate tai-chi-looking moves he practices are "Klingon martial arts".
The long-running Pili series from Taiwan features Kung Fu puppets with wire-fu, precision-guided swords and CG special effects. It's basically Chinese puppet theater.
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...
In one episode, Buffy and her friends are watching a martial arts film and Buffy comments on how unrealistic the fight scenes are.
In early seasons Buffy's stunt double actually knew martial arts, leading to fairly realistic combat with a few exaggerations easily explained by her super strength. Later, the actress lost so much weight that only gymnasts could fill in for her without the switch being obvious, leading to a lot more wire-fu and gymkata.
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.
In the Spanish adventure series Aguila Roja, Gonzalo, the main character dresses and moves like a ninja, but his fighting style is somewhat indetermined, and doesn't resemble Ninjutsu at all.
In Babylon 5, it's revealed that Lennier is proficient in some branch of martial arts. Not much is revealed about it, except that it seems to involve a lot of spinning around. Probably because the way it makes his robes whirl looks pretty sweet.
The medium, or at least the actual matches. Even the simplest of punches is painfully slow, clear to the opponent weeks in advance and aimed at low-damaging areas, frequently the opponent's massive pecs. And that's not even considering the more ludicrous maneuvers detailed below.note The reason is that they're only trying to put on a good show, not actively trying to kill each other.
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.
The move is supposed to need some cooperation by the opponent, who presumably is trying to use the momentum of the move against the opponent, but then it rises the question of why would a little wrestler want to try to revert-tackle a superheavyweight Wrestling Monster, which is the most common occasion.
It gets even weirder when it's not too uncommon to see an Irish Whip victim grip the ropes before they can be sprung back at their opponent, faking them out and likely causing a whiffed attack. Sure that makes sense... but then what about all those other times you didn't and ate a clothesline to the face?
"British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith was charged with assault in 1993 following a bar fight, the complainant claiming that the wrestler had attacked him and powerbombed him. Part of Smith's defense was demonstrating that the powerbomb was impossible to do without the 'victim's' cooperation. The court found for the defendant, as a police officer witnessing the fight testified the man simply tripped and fell on the back his head. Oddly enough, exceptionally strong wrestlers can pull a deadlift powerbomb with much trouble (Big Van Vader being a popular example), and 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 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.
Sin Cara (the original one played by Místico) had a particularly silly finishing move that basically involved doing a moonsault from the top turnbuckle and somehow dragging the opponent (in superplex position) with him. Even with fully trained, co-operative opponents there were very few wrestlers who would receive this move because of the high agility required on the part of the "victim". In real life you would most like end up falling on your head with the opponent on top of you.
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 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.
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.
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 takes this trope Up to Eleven, using Wuxia as a motif. Apparently in the demon-infested future of Japan, martial arts will let you run up and leap off of walls, do a spinning backflip kick while Dual Wielding swords, and fly!
Largely averted in both Bushido Blade games where characters couldn't jump more than a foot or two vertically, sword strikes can kill you in one hit, and the few scenarios involving more than one mook opponent seriously challenge the characters.
Double subverted by Toribash, a fighting game that's — surprisingly — based on strategy instead of fighting game skill. Despite the relatively unrealistic start of a match, it maintains a fairly realistic approach to martial arts (for a video game), allowing the player to control individual joints and body parts, with matches playing out in intervals of 0.1 seconds. There are even play styles that take cues from real martial arts (Judo and Aikido, for example). Subverted again when you start dueling higher ranking players who will remove body parts with kicks and throws, or even literally tear you to pieces, then top it off by finish the match in a flashy pose.
The subversion could be summed up by this: The method of control for realistic moves. The game engine allows for some oddball moves. There is, for the most part, more realism in the game even when you're being dismembered because, for example, a hurricane kick is a pain in the ass to pull off, and isn't as effective as another kick you could have done in the time, and in order to access the odd stuff you have to learn what motions would deal damage in real life.
To this day, Mestre Marcelo Caveirinha, who was the mo-cap model for Eddy Gordo, gets crap from other capoeiristas over Eddy (and later Cristie) not doing the ginga right. It's not his fault, though; ginga—capoeira's distinctive guard, consisting of "swinging" back and forth from the opponent, with one arm up to guard your face—is counterintuitive for many non-capoeiristas, especially if they've also done an Asian martial art. Making a proper ginga a base for a good fighting-game move-set is even more challenging.
In line with Street Fighter and other 2D fighting games, Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters use this trope a lot. Mai Shiranui offers a notable example in having a move that, were it to be performed in real life, would probably hurt her much more than her opponent: her musasabi no mai, which has her dive headfirst towards her opponent; she doesn't even use her head to hit, but her face. The first version of this move (back in Fatal Fury 2) was different but not much better; its sprites strongly implied that she was attacking with her ample bust (Electronic Gaming Monthly even dubbed the attack "Mai's swan dive").
Subverted and Lampshaded in S.S.D.D. 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, and 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.
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.
Jeff The Killer has a fight in which two teens (about 13 or so) engage in a Hollywood-style fight scene, including throwing each other around like ragdolls, pretty much no-selling multiple kicks to the face, and Jeff even killing a guy by stopping his heart with a punch to the chest.
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 is always portraited as basically judo-esque.
It isn't wholly unrealistic, since among the first things a beginning judo (or jujutsu, 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.
Speaking of the Turtles, Master Splinter's portion of the title sequence sees him demolishing a wooden tower by breaking individual boards with a sequence of moves while falling through it.
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.
One episode of W.I.T.C.H. has Will go into a Crane Kick pose, but not use the attack, when she and the girls race back to where they were hiding Yan Lin. Equally frustrating was the fact that, as they were running, at least one of them climbs over and jumps off a big rock, which would just use up strength needed to fight if something bad WAS happening.
Similar the the Flintstones episode mentioned above, one episode of Dexter's Laboratory had the characters learn a "free Judo lesson" that involved shrieking "AAAAAH, SHITAKE!!!" while flying through the air at the opponent.