"Why did she have to be a cheerleader? If she was on the debate team I would've vaporized her by now!"The tendency of fight scenes involving an Extraordinarily Empowered Girl or Action Girl to also feature her doing impractical backflips, gratuitous somersaults, and gymnastic cartwheels to fight her opponents. Appears to be descended from "wuxia"-style martial arts action found in Hong Kong action films, though it may just be an excuse to show her body from every angle. Other than that, it's pretty much a direct result of the strong reluctance, still active amongst modern-day writers, to feature an attractive young woman taking a full-on punch to the face. Unless, of course, it's from a person of the same gender. May overlap with the Dance Battler. For the extreme of fanservice over realism, see Cat Fight. See also Waif-Fu and Combat Parkour. Do not confuse with Shaq Fu, or the character Shifu from Kung Fu Panda, whose name is (mis)pronounced the same way but spelled differently, and means "master" in Chinese (but only if you pronounce it correctly).
— Dr. Drakken, Kim Possible
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Anime & Manga
- Anita King, the youngest of the Paper Sisters in R.O.D the TV has a combat style that was designed by the animators via "observing monkeys, as well as the Royal Chinese Acrobats."
- Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell exhibits She Fu thanks to her cybernetic body, to the point where her first response in a reasonably close-combat situation is usually to roundhouse kick the guy to the face.
- The Angels in Kidou Tenshi Angelic Layer; possibly justified by the fact that they are mind-controlled robots and most operators appear to be adolescent girls that may or may not have seen too much She Fu on TV.
- Lenalee Lee of D.Gray-Man is guilty of this, as she's a Dance Battler whose primary weapon is a pair of superpowered boots that radiate holy power.
- Kodachi Kunō of Ranma ½. Justified in that she is a gymnast, and the pirouettes and acrobatics are an essential part of Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, her chosen discipline. Ranma Saotome also uses this sort of fighting style, even though he's male, and fought this way before becoming a Gender Bender. The anime tends to save it more for when he's in female form, but in both canons, even as a guy he's prone to using a lot of flips, jumps, handstands, rolls and tumbles, all to either evade attack or beat on his opponent. There's also an occasional usage of Murderous Thighs, but possibly only in female form (and/or only in the manga).
- Justified in that Ranma's school specializes in adapting various other styles, many of which (at least in the world it exists within) appear to specialize in mid-air combat, thus, Ranma's ability to do this even in male form before the curse makes sense.
- Noel in Claymore. Her rival, Sophia, favors a more brute-force approach. Most of the swordplay in the series is this and/or Flynning.
- Even Anzu/Téa of Yu-Gi-Oh! gets in on the action during the mummy fight in The Movie. The Abridged Movie drives this point home by adding the following line: "Spinning Bird Kick!"
- Maki of Air Master uses a high-flying variant of She Fu. It's revealed that in her past she was a world-class gymnast. Unlike most instances of this trope, however, at least once it definitely loses a fight for her — after an astonishing spinning, flipping thing which basically whips her martial artist father, she sticks the landing by reflex. He takes advantage of that moment to get her in a lock and take the victory.
- Air Master also tends to subvert the trope just in general; while all the martial artists of the series do at least some outlandishly impossible stuff, the damage that gets thrown around never shies away from leaving everybody in the fight a bloody mess— assuming it wasn't just a beatdown to highlight how awesome the winner is. Nearly all the female combatants in the show break teeth and get bloodied noses from being punched, kicked, or having their faces smashed into the street at least once.
- Subverted in Teppu: all fighting girls there practice MMA.
- Casca from Berserk centers most of her offensive and defensive maneuvers around flipping about the enemy, being the Fragile Speedster of the Hawks.
- Gunslinger Girl. Cyborg girl Rico backflips toward terrorist leader Dante while he shoots at her with an assault rifle during the Turin Nuclear Plant siege.
- In Assassination Classroom, Hinata Okano stood out from her classmates with her ability to combine her knife skills with her agile maneuvers (which is the result of being an ex-member of the gymnastics club). Even when she didn't have her knife, her kicks were still pretty dangerous.
- Anling from Cyber Weapon Z fights in a very graceful, dance-like style, aptly called "the Dance of the Phoenix".
- One of the most prominent comic book examples would have to be, ironic as it might seem, Spider-Man. As a consequence of his powers, he fights reflexively. However he is extraordinarily limber and agile, so by reflex he jumps, twirls, twists, and contorts all over the place to dodge blows and missiles. As a result, everyone gets a good look at Peter Parker's toned gymnast body from all angles.
- It should be noted, however, that this doesn't really stop Spider-Man from taking severe blows. Indeed, almost every videogame starring him features a costume selection that is torn up and ravaged from all the damage he takes during the game. Because of his Spider-Sense, he's never really blind-sided, but his enemies just tend to be that fast and powerful.
- Another Gender-Inverted Trope of this trope is Nightwing. He is also quite flexible and agile because of his circus background, and he is often subject to Female Gaze.
- In Marvel Comics' The New Universe series D.P. 7, housewife Stephanie Harrington feels silly doing moves that she admits were from her days as a high school cheerleader, but her power gives her a degree of protection, so it actually works well enough in a fight.
- Jet Dream and her Stunt-Girl Counterspies were, as the name implies, Hollywood stuntwomen, and their fights tended to involve a lot of colorful acrobatic maneuvers.
- In all of the Sin City stories, Miho only gets struck once when she is caught up in a grenade's explosion (although there is a mention of her being at the mercy of Triads at one point). This is mostly to show how dangerous she is, rather than trying to avert the "no hitting girls" rules. Sin City doesn't exactly shy away from violence.
- Unlike her genetic father, Wolverine, X-23's fighting style is much more acrobatic and in many of her fight scenes she can be seen using flips and handstands to bring her foot claws into play. Justified since Laura is usually depicted as even smaller than Logan and very lightly-built, and since only her claws are laced with adamantium her body is much less durable.
- Futari Wa Pretty Cure Dragon has this, and it shows in at least several episodes, as both Cure Dragon and Cure Fortune employ this against the villains (with the latter making some good use of pirouettes in her fighting style). It's implied that both have had at least some gymnastics training.
- Subverted in the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project: when Sailor Venus gets the other Sailor Senshi to train for meelee, she also has them train in gymnastic... But only to condition their body, as it exercises any and all muscles in the body (as with swimming. In fact, Mercury and Neptune, good enough swimmers they were tempted to try out for the Olympics, were the first to adapt), something the author of that particular side story admits he took from MMA (where gymnastics is used to train the athletes). When it comes to fight, they stick to more down-to-earth martial arts.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Live Free or Die Hard / Die Hard 4.0 features a henchwoman named Mai (played by Maggie Q) whose super-agile backflips and kicks almost manage to defeat John McClane, a super-muscular man Made of Iron; in fact, she only dies after being thrown from an elevator shaft (and exploded). McClane even comments on this:
John: I'm tired of this kung-fu bullshit!
- Though not technically combat, Agent 99 uses nimble backflips and other gymnastics moves to thread her way through a laser web in the 2008 Get Smart movie.
- Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
- The Charlie's Angels films features copious over-the-top She Fu.
- In Batman Returns, some of the circus acrobats uses both She Fu and He Fu. Catwoman also uses the same.
- In Blade Runner, the replicant Pris beats up Deckard by using She Fu. The contrast between super-powered replicant's weird style and the pragmatic survival skills of Deckard is the central drama of their fight.
- In Iron Man 2, Black Widow uses over-the-top She Fu (and a dash of Lucha Libre) to clear the way to the Big Bad's computer system. In The Avengers, the character makes further user of She Fu to escape an interrogation, including seemingly disarming a henchman with her hair.
- Bambi and Thumper from Diamonds Are Forever, making this Older than You Think.
- In the original Total Recall (1990), Sharon Stone's character uses relatively sedate martial arts moves against Arnold's character, but thanks to some good fight choreography and Paul Verhoven's superb direction, they actually look like they could punch a hole through Arnold!
- Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior on Disney Channel.
- Mystique from the X-Men films is acrobatic, prefers hand-to-hand combat (kicks in particular), and even slides.
- Put to work by Rachel from Animorphs, most notably in The Solution and Back to Before.
- Shakuntala in Belisarius Series may be a subversion. While her skill would be unusual for anyone, she does not do things physically impossible.
- Pernica in Literature/Opus Gemini plays it straight first by flipping through an open window into a surgery room. When she tries to escape by the same way, however, she gets tangled in her dress and awfully hurts herself at the windowsill.
Live Action TV
- Aversion: Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fairly free of this, no matter which Slayer we're talking about, whether it be Tae Kwon Do-kicking Buffy, down-and-dirty Faith or even some of the other Slayers like Kendra or Nikki Wood. Similarly, River Tam of Whedon's more recent Firefly, despite displaying considerable Waif-Fu in the movie sequel, also avoided such extraneous movements even when she was kicking the butts of burly men.
- It can be noticed, though, if you watch e.g. Buffy closely: it's not jarringly over-abundant throughout the show, but it is there occasionally nontheless. Might depend on the director of the episode in question. Probably the most bizarre case of weird flip-stunts occurs in the season 3 episode "Earshot", when Buffy uses a combination of flips that defy the laws of physics to get up to her high school's clock tower as fast as possible. Likewise, if you watch River Tam's bar fight scene, it's there once or twice (after all, Summer Glau is a ballet dancer herself.)
- Not surprisingly, Whedon himself lampshaded this in the commentary for the episode "The Harvest", where he states that he dislikes the use of it since it's more time-consuming to deal with the stunts and choreography.
- After becoming an instant twelfth-degree black belt followed by gaining levitation abilities, Phoebe of Charmed began to express the trope. As for the other two, the demons rarely ever even got close enough.
- Andromeda had many fights scenes which contained She-Fu.
- Birds of Prey was chock-full of She-Fu.
- Xena: Warrior Princess is the queen of She Fu, and yet she still takes plenty of punches.
- Callisto in the same series is also a skilled practitioner. Over the course of the series Gabrielle also (slowly) learned the art, though generally she failed humorously when she tried.
- It is an established part of Xena canon, based on Word of God, that cartwheeling/backflipping across an area is faster than running the same distance, so this is largely justified in series.
- The show which spawned her had a unique case of He Fu pointed out the time that Hercules was being taught how to dance. After statements such as "I don't twirl", the teacher (Iolaus' actor playing a woman) goes on to prove he does it all the time while fighting... And they proceed to get into a very twirly, flippy, ballet-like fight that is nothing like the way Hercules usually fights.
- Callisto in the same series is also a skilled practitioner. Over the course of the series Gabrielle also (slowly) learned the art, though generally she failed humorously when she tried.
- Cleopatra 2525, by the same production company, also featured vast amounts of She Fu, usually performed by Sarge or Hel.
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (the live-action version of Sailor Moon) is rife with this kind of "fighting", even though the original anime never had it. It's considerably more stylized (and substantially sillier), though; some observers have called it "ballet-fu".
- There is a notable difference in the style of fighting after the first 10 or so episodes. The first ten or so featured the so-called "ballet-fu" and it was hard to watch. The rest of the episodes feature the more straightforward She-Fu.
- Make It Or Break It has two main characters launch into textbook She Fu because they were being flirted with in an unwanted way at a gas station. Although they only use their gymnastic skills to feign the ability and willingness to fight. Had the guys not been intimidated by their faux martial arts things would have gotten uglier.
- One of Chuck's adversaries was a former gymnast who used He Fu to escape from the protagonists. His mistake: he stuck the landing, whereupon Sarah shot his kneecap out.
- Sarah herself is a practitioner of She-Fu. Though it varies from episode to episode, Sarah's fighting style often includes flips, rolls, and other Dance Battler moves. Usually depending on how short her skirt is. Also subverted, as she at times gets into some downright brutal beat-downs (both giving and receiving).
- Purdey of The New Avengers fought with moves learnt from her ballet career.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Doctor's Daughter", Jenny can backflip her way though a corridor of deadly laser beams.
- In "The Crimson Horror", (another) Jenny defeats at least ten henchmen in a few seconds.
- The Queen in Queen of Swords mixed a large amount of acrobatics into her fight scenes.
- Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in Batman, was a trained ballerina. Batgirl's fighting style was heavily dance-influenced, with lots of spins and high kicks. Unlike Batman and Robin, she never threw or took a punch (though she would fairly often throw or wield an Improvised Weapon).
- There's one interesting exception to the above rule about punching. Batgirl takes several punches in "The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra" — all from henchmen who are invisible.
- Amy Jo Johnson used to be a pro gymnast, so her character Kimberly from Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers naturally used She Fu in her fight scenes.
- Game of Thrones. In "First of his Name" Arya Stark is practising the water-dance fencing technique, finishing with a one-handed cartwheel. The Hound is watching and is not impressed, quickly demonstrating its uselessness against an armoured opponent.
- Very much averted in the case of Agent Carter whose fighting style is to punch somebody as hard and as fast as possible, preferably with the aid of the nearest piece of furniture. Or a stapler.
- This is Fridge Brilliance, as all the other women we see fight in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were specifically taught She-Fu. Peggy learned to fight in a time and place where the only 'martial art' available to her was probably boxing, and then spent a year or so hanging out with Steve "Bash The Heck Out Of It" Rogers.
- Princesa Sugehit is usually a lunging bite your leg, punch you nether regions fingers under your eye lids broken bottle wielding ruda. She's used a convoluted acrobatics approach as a technica though. Only 5'1 so she usually has to make up the discrepancy somehow.
- While Sumie Sakai is competitive judo practitioner and later, mixed martial artist, she's also 5'1, so as a professional wrestler she employs a more acrobatic style to compensate for the fact wrestling promoters tend to care a whole lot less about things like "weight classes" or "mismatches", especially in the USA, where a large bulk of pro wrestling career has been spent.
- Tons of WWE Divas, which made it somewhat surprising to see it significantly averted by Jazz(unless you saw her earlier work), whose approach was very power/mat-based and who avoided all but the most basic of aerial offense. Put in Layman's Terms, she'd rather throw her opponents around and tie them in knots than come off of the top rope. Also, despite her participation in the photo shoots for the 2002 WWE Divas Undressed,note 2003 WWE Divas: Desert Heat,note and the 2004 WWE Divas: South of the Bordernote DVDs, she was NOT pushed as a Ms. Fanservice character, rather as someone who was to be feared.note
- Cheerleader Melissa used to have a very aerial based offense early in her career. Ironically, she's come to resemble her former partners, the Spartans/Ballard Brothers more as she's since become separate from them, taking on a much more smash face wear down style and as time further went on, various power moves. She's occasionally fallen back on her old style against larger brutes such as La Nazi though.
- Mercedes Martinez has always had a very technical approach and was always deceptively strong but used to rely on quickness and tumbling to gain the advantage over her foes. While her move set hasn't changed too drastically, she's become more direct and strike reliant over the years, which can lead to a nasty surprise to those who don't know her history or else forgot she can still fly around the ring if necessary.
- Subverted by Black Rose of WWC/WWL fame (or NWA or WWN), whose entrance often includes lots of tumbles, cartwheels and splits but whose wrestling style includes lots of forearms, shoulder lifts, elbows, grounded headlock punches, back submissions and power slams. She's even been known to scoop up noticeably larger opponents like Terra Calaway and Missy Sampson. Still, as her showoff entrances indicate, she can hit La Quebrada, matrix and kick hamstrings sore if in the mood.
- Female wrestlers that come from a gymnastics or cheerleading background tend to incorporate handsprings and cartwheels into their matches (though plenty of males do so as well). Krissy Vaine said that WWE's intent is for the women's matches to be more fast-paced. That being said, Kelly Kelly is probably the most notable modern example. Eve Torres as well to a much more limited extent - combining her gymnastics with her jiu-jitsu training.
- The Funkadactyls employ this style, with their gimmick being of a Dance Battler teamnote . As such you see a lot of rolls and flips incorporated into their moves - not to mention one of their double teams involving dropping into a split onto a grounded opponent.
- Parodied with Fight The World and WSU's Candy Cartwright, such as when she threw victory against Portuguese Princess Ariel away by doing way too many cartwheels.
- Alexa Bliss on NXT takes this to new levels. She performs a somersault off the top rope for no reason at all. Surprise surprise, she's a former gymnast and cheerleader.
- The girls' throws in the Soul Calibur series tend to be like this, often putting their opponent between their legs.
- Kasumi and Ayane in the Dead or Alive series.
- Tomb Raider Legend; if the "duck" button is used while running, Lara Croft jumps, dodges and does backflips, traversing the same amount of ground in the same amount of time she does when running normally. Now and then, the two men who comprise her Mission Control randomly cheer her on when she does this. Other times they'll complain about her doing it, presumably because watching through the camera attached to the Mic she's wearing is making them ill.
- Devil May Cry 4 introduces a new character named Gloria, whose debut scene involves extensive She Fu complete with numerous upskirt and cleavage shots. This scene is a particularly blatant example considering that she is actually Trish in disguise and you never fight her or play as her in the game.
- Samus Aran, especially in Super Smash Bros.. While she's in her Power Suit, though, she becomes considerably less acrobatic but gains an Arm Cannon with which to blast things.
- Chun Li. Say it with me, Street Fighter fans: "Spinning Bird Kick!!"
- Also played straight with Cammy.
- Mai Shiranui of Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters
- Gender inverted in Metal Gear Solid 2. Not only does it give its men Spy Catsuits, but also she-fu cartwheel kicks.
- Also gender inverted in Resident Evil 4. Player Character Leon S. Kennedy performs multiple evasive backflips and wall-jumps. Then again, Ada and Krauser manage to top it off with even more pointless backflips. Then, Leon learns Le Parkour...
- Morrigan Aensland of Darkstalkers, combining Shotoclone goodness with sexy moves. Including hitting people with her hair. Felicia also falls in this with her movements, showing just how flexible her cat body is, including using her own tail as a stand or weapon.
- Swordmasters of both sexes in most Fire Emblem games.
- Dodges in Fire Emblem Awakening also invoke this. Lucina in particular back flips to avoid being hit by anything, such as giant axes.
- Tiffany Lords from Rival Schools, who mixes up cheerleading acrobatics with a little bit of boxing, including comically oversized boxing gloves.
- Echidna, from Squaresoft's The Bouncer, through Capoeira.
- Jade from Beyond Good & Evil has a fairly impressive talent for backflips (and front-flips) in battle. Then again, she does practice yoga, so perhaps she's just really flexible.
- Until the second game the only practitioners in Bloody Roar (Long and crossdresser Fox) were MALE. Then Long takes the now-defused Tykebomb Uriko under his wing. Alice's kicks and flips are moderately more functional, being short, quick, and not too flashy, at least until she breaks out her beast form. Justified in that her beast form is a rabbit, though.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- Aqua in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep. Her male friend Terra gets a long-distance forward dash, and her 'little brother' Ven gets the series-standard "Dodge Roll" somersault. Not Aqua. She cartwheels away from enemies.
- Larxene as well. Her game play and battle style are full of this, especially in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. Flips, cartwheels, mid-air spins and mid-air drilling, somersaults, etc.
- Kingdom Hearts II Big Bad Xemnas fights this way flipping and spinning like crazy in his boss battles.
- Lili from Tekken fits this trope to a T. Has stylish balletic moves, with liberal use of flips. And a move where she does an aerial somersault; if she lands on the opponent's head, she does a double snap kick in the air. Take that, Reality!
- Mortal Kombat: Sonya Blade does this, despite having Kenpo and Tae Kwon Do as her fighting styles in previous games. Her signature move is doing a backflip, grabbing the opponent between her legs, and throwing them. She also uses this move to break Kano's neck in one of the movie versions, and in Mortal Kombat 4 she has a fatality where she does a handstand and tears the opponent in half with her legs.
- There's also Li Mei.
- Nitara's Unicorn Kick special is the deadliest cartwheel you'll ever see.
- Unlike Sub-Zero, who slides around Iceman-style to escape from sticky situations in Deadly Alliance, Frost prefers to perform backflips. Subverted, however, in that several of the male characters (such as Shang Tsung and Hsu Hao) also use backflips to escape.
- This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Bayonetta. Acrobatic backflips are her standard dodge, so expect to be doing this a lot since it triggers Witch Time. She can even do this in mid-air!
- Ms. Marvel's fighting style in Marvel Ultimate Alliance involves lots of high kicks and flips, perhaps justified as she's a Flying Brick.
- Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. Partially justified in that she has a gravity manipulator and, once that breaks, magical l'Cie powers. Seriously, her fourth ATB attack is backflipping and firing a gun simultaneously.
- Alora, a Dark Jedi and The Dragon in Jedi Academy, moves very acrobatically the second time she's fought, even compared to the other Force users in the game, who can all or almost all do flips easily. Her no-nonsense outfit eliminates the element of showing off anything thereby, though.
- Tidus from Final Fantasy X is a rare male example, most notably with his 'Spiral Cut' Overdrive.
- So is Noel Kriess from Final Fantasy XIII-2, who does a lot of backflips with his attacks.
- In a very bizarre example from Monster Hunter, Rathian's special attack is a draconic air-backflip.
- So help you if you don't take care to beware her stinger tail.
- Currently, the image for this page is a shot of Catwoman in Batman: Arkham City. Her acrobatic fighting style definitely qualifies.
- Elhaym "Elly" Van Houten from Xenogears has some of her deathblows either doing somersault or backflip kick.
- Chaka of the Whateley Universe specializes in this style of fighting. Justified in that her ki powers make it extraordinarily easy for her to do so. In her first superhero fight with a bunch of ninjas, she drives her opponent up the wall by dodging his attacks with unnecessary flips.
- In justified examples, Ruby of RWBY uses a Sinister Scythe. She needs to flip and roll around to get enemies into her kill zone. The "Red" trailer brilliantly showcases this.
- Being a female ninja who can leave after images of herself, Blake also uses a lot of this.
- Kim Possible lives by it. Got her on the cheerleading team, too.
- The former circus acrobat Ty Lee in Avatar: The Last Airbender makes use of cartwheels, leaps, reverse backflips, etc., to enable her to execute her close-range, effective chi-blocking (Kyusho-jitsu) techniques. Due to the show's strong sense of realism, her She Fu feats as well as her uncanny resemblance to the show's title character cause many in the fandom to rabidly speculate on the "possibility" that somehow, she is part Air Nomad.
- The heroine of Cyber Six.
- Æon Flux, to the point that you start wondering whether she has any extra vertebrae. (which, given the Bio Punk world she inhabits, is a plausible possibility.) At one point, another character gets similiar agility with a cybernetic removable vertebrae.
- Stripperella is prone to using sexy martial arts and "killer stripper moves" derived from her pole-dancing routine.
- Turanga Leela from Futurama frequently parodies this trope by showing the audience her martial-arts moves at the drop of a hat (doing a handstand to sneak over a subway turnstile, for instance).
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- Robin actually had a fighting style like this. He was a trapeze artist in a circus before becoming Robin.
- In a straighter example, Batgirl was a skilled gymnast, and a girl in a skin-tight outfit, so she had this kind of fighting style.
- Harley Quinn did so on rare occasions, although she normally prefers the ranged novelty-weapon attack. Part of her backstory is that she was a champion gymnast in school too.
- Yumi from Code Lyoko frequently uses such moves when fighting in the virtual world, thanks to her increased agility and the low gravity of Lyoko. Less so in the real world, though, where she sticks to more basic martial arts.
- The girls of Totally Spies!.
- Blackarachnia in Beast Wars did this to a small extent, but when she got a new, sexier body in Beast Machines, she was suddenly all about twisting and stretching.
- TRON: Uprising: Beck is one of the rare male examples and the most frequent offender, fighting a lot like Rinzler in TRON: Legacy (he seems to be chary of using his disc in tight quarters because of this).
- Averted with Paige, the major female combatant, who's pretty straight forward and practical when she fights, relying on brute strength and leverage to push foes around.
- Princess Zelda of the cartoon The Legend of Zelda usually fights like this. Sometimes so does Link.
- In Beware the Batman, Magpie's fighting style consists almost entirely of high kicks and acrobatic flips.