Follow TV Tropes


Animal-Themed Fighting Style

Go To

The animal kingdom is host to all manner of vicious and terrifying creatures. It is therefore appropriate that some fighters will base their techniques or fighting styles on animal movements.

In Real Life, there exist several forms of martial arts based on the behavior of animals. The most famous examples are the Five Animal fighting styles which originated south of China's Yangtze Rniver around the late Ming early Qing Dynasties, as well as the Northern Praying Mantis style.

In some cases, this can reflect a character's personality. For instance, a person who uses a tiger-based fighting style might be characterized as aggressive and quick to anger while a snake martial artist may be sneaky and untrustworthy. Count on some characters with animal themed fighting styles to have their design reflect their animal as well.

Sub-Trope of Animal Motifs. Can potentially overlap with Animalistic Abilities if the fighting style is a superhuman martial art that also grants animal-like abilities or if the animal-like power allows the opponent to create a fighting style based on the animal source. May also be a result of Raised by Wolves.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba:
    • Shinobu's Insect Breathing Style mimics insects, specifically their flight and lethal stings. Shinobu developed this style to compensate for her lack of physical strength and durability.
    • Inosuke was reared by a wild sow and calls his fighting style Beast Breathing, though these moves have little to do with actual beasts. However, Tanjiro observes that Inosuke has a peculiar way of attacking when he's barehanded, making extremely low strikes as a boar would.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Yamcha's "Wolf Fang Fist" technique involves him rapidly punching and clawing the opponent like a wolf.
    • In Jackie Chun and Goku's 21st World Martial Arts Tournament match, Jackie uses Drunken Boxing to surprise and confuse Goku. Goku responds with his "Mad Dog" and "Crazy Monkey" techniques which have him imitate a wild dog and monkey, respectively, to catch him off guard.
  • EDENS ZERO: Most of Homura's techniques invoke animals in their movements, names and stances.
    • Her "Leopard Stance" attacks focus on quick simultaneous slashes invoking a leopard using its speed to attack its prey.
    • Her "Dragon Flash" has her lunge towards the opponent and knock them off balance while thrusting off the ground, then spinning towards the opponent before slashing downward across the chest. The move references the movement of an Eastern Dragon.
    • Her "Snake Strike" and "Snake Bite" consist of sword thrusts that mimic a snake lunging and biting.
    • Her "Crane Form" is a stance that has her balancing on one leg like a crane.
    • Komura's "Tiger Form" attacks revolve around use of claws she creates out of Ether.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: We're introduced to Buccaneer of the Briggs Mountain Soldiers when he erupts from the snow to ambush the Elric brothers. The weapon he uses is an automail arm equipped with a giant pincer and motorized teeth inlaid with which he tries to grab the boys. The model name of the automail? The Crocodile.
  • Naruto: The Inuzaka clan's "Four Legs Technique" is based on animal movements and enhances speed and accuracy.
  • One-Punch Man:
    • "Snake Fist" Snek is an A-Class hero who fights using "Biting Snake Fist", a Fantastic Fighting Style based on Snake Kung Fu. All of his attacks are accompanied by an image of a viper striking.
    • S-Class hero Watchdog Man attacks and defends on all fours while wearing a costume resembling his namesake. This fighting style allowed him to trounce Garou who was unaccustomed to facing an opponent with such techniques. Garou later decides to copy Watchdog Man's fighting style in his battles with Genos and Bang.
  • O-Parts Hunter: Having been trained by a wolf, Jio's fighting style is often compared to a wolf's movements.
  • Vagabond: Sasaki Kojiro uses the "Swallow Cut" technique his real life counterpart was known for. See the Real Life folder below.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man:
    • Spider-Man's rogues gallery contains several enemies who follow this pattern to go with their animal motifs. In fact, for a time this was almost the only type of foe Spidey fought. Rhino, Vulture, Doctor Octopus, Kangaroo, Scorpion, Leap Frog, Puma, and Razorback are a very short list of villains who, through one method or another, tend to fight using the same kinds of attacks and tactics as the animals they're patterned after. How effective this is varies.
    • In The Amazing Spider-Man (Dan Slott), Spider-Man's Spider-Sense was temporarily disabled. To compensate for this, Peter underwent martial arts training from Shang Chi to develop a fighting style called "Way of the Spider" which focused on spider-like strength and reflexes.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Inverted in the original Mirage Comics — Splinter was the pet rat of ninjutsu master Hamato Yoshi. Splinter learned martial arts from Yoshi by mimicking his movements.

    Films — Animation 
  • Kung Fu Panda: The Furious Five are a more literal case of this, as they are anthropomorphic animals whose fighting styles are based on real-life animal form martial arts. The first film's Big Bad, Tai Lung, who is a snow leopard, uses the leopard style. And Po, the eponymous panda, primarily uses bear style.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Around the World in 80 Days (2004): One scene has Lau Xing telling a bunch of kids about the Ten Tigers, a team of fighters who specialize in animal martial arts. Fogg dismisses the idea of learning to fight by mimicking animals as a silly legend until he witnesses the Ten Tigers in battle himself.
  • The Batman: Selina's fighting style is based on a cat, fitting her Animal Motif. Zoe Kravitz even watched footage of cats and lions fighting, and integrated their movements into her character's fight scenes.
  • Bloodsport: One of the Kumite fighters uses a fighting style based on monkey behavior, with lots of evasion and Combat Rolls. His stance even keeps him crouched on his haunches.
  • The Karate Kid:
    • The Karate Kid (1984): The Crane Kick is the move Daniel uses to defeat Johnny in the tournament. It consists of balancing on one leg, while lifting the other and spreading the arms similar to how a crane spreads its wings.
    • The Karate Kid (2010): Inverted and played straight. Han takes Dre to a Taoist temple in the Wudang Mountains where Dre witnesses a woman making a cobra reflect her movements. In the climax, Dre uses the woman's snake stance to defeat Cheng.
  • Kill Bill: The Bride is trained in Tiger Crane style Hung Ga. Unfortunately for her, it was no match for Pai Mei's Eagle's Claw.
  • Kung Fu Hustle: The Beast's "Toad Style" technique allows him to mimic a toad's stance, headbutting force and leaping ability.
  • The Man with the Iron Fists: Jungle Town runs on this, with each of the warring clans being named for an animal, which informs their fighting style. This doesn't just cover normal animal themed kung-fu disciplines, but other animals as well, such as:
    • Rat Clan, who use camouflage and skulking about to conceal large numbers of fighters for sneak attacks. They're individually fairly weak, but specialize in coordinating their attacks to confuse and incapacitate stronger opponents.
    • Spider Clan, who run the local brothel and are quite adept at using the normally decorative curtains in their home to move about when fighting. They also possess poisoned needles they can mount on their tongues to deliver a powerful toxin that almost instantly paralyzes and kills their targets.
  • Snake in the Eagle's Shadow: The film lives by this trope, featuring featuring three schools, each with their own focus on an animal martial art (Snake, Mantis and Eagle's Claw). The Hero develops his own "Cat Claw" technique after watching his pet cat kill a cobra.
  • Star Wars: The Jedi teach distinct forms of lightsaber combat, each named after a creature whose overall nature it emulates.
    • Form I, called Shii-Cho or the Way of the Sarlacc, is the oldest and simplest and employs a stubborn and direct approach to combat, emulating the ambush predator's great patience.
    • Form II, called Makashi or the Way of the Ysalamiri, is primarily used for lightsaber duels and employs deliberate, precise and elegant strikes over power and strength, seeking to disarm and tire out foes. It is named after creatures know for, among other things, their stubborn tenacity.
    • Form III, called Soresu or the Way of the Mynock, is primarily defensive and especially effective against blaster fire. It is named after the creatures' skill in avoiding attacks.
    • Form IV, called Ataru or the Way of the Hawk-Bat, is a very aggressive form useful against single opponents and which makes extensive use of acrobatics and jumps, emulating the swift aerial predator it's named after.
    • Form V, called Shien, Djem So or the Way of the Krayt Dragon, uses a combination of powerful attacks and defenses immediately followed by aggressive counterstrikes, emulating the ferocious reptilian titans that rule the deserts of Tatooine.
    • Form VI, called Niman or the Way of the Rancor, is a Jack of All Trades form that combines the previous ones into a synthesis that lacks strong advantages but also significant weaknesses.
    • Form VII, called Juyo or the Way of the Vornskr, is an extremely aggressive form that uses a constant barrage of ferocious, erratic attacks to unbalance opponents; it is named after a species of cunning and vicious pack predators. It has a variant, Vaapad, that employs attacks that are too fast, furious and omnidirectional to count or react to; in the Star Wars Legends continuity, this is named after an eponymous predator whose tentacles strike too fast to be countered unless the creature is dead.
  • Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior: Wendy's martial arts training involves learning from four Kung Fu masters trained in animal martial arts. The snake master teaches her flexibility, the leopard master teaches her speed, the the crane master teaches her balance and the tiger master teaches her aggression.

  • Heralds of Valdemar: The Black Gryphon gives us Zahneel, a female gryphon who manages to take down three makaar solo by using her greater speed and ability to gain altitude to perform strike and run kills on them. Skandrannon, another gryphon known for unusual fighting styles, likens this to a falcon diving after much larger, stronger prey. This serves as subtle foreshadowing that Zahneel's body type is deliberately based more off a falcon than the eagle traditionally associated with gryphons, both in the series and in real life.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition:
    • The Unearthed Arcana proposes an array of fighting styles that can be adopted by monk characters as alternate class features, giving the opportunity to learn some special ability in exchange for a more rigid feat progression. Among them:
      • The "Cobra Strike" school of martial arts emulates the venomous snake's deadly fast strikes, emphasizing mobility and accuracy. The masters of this style have a reputation for cruel training methods resulting in skilled but hardened students, with rumors of dire fates for those who fail their teachings.
      • The "Sleeping Tiger" style uses powerful strikes and smooth motions, favoring ambushes and a first-strike approach, just like the tiger it is named after. It is a rare and challenging style, requiring lots of strength and agility to properly master.
    • The Tome of Battle – Book of Nine Swords introduces nine martial disciplines with poetic names, two of them invoking animals:
      • The "Tiger Claw" discipline makes use of short slashing weapons (including actual claws) and emphasizes jumping on the enemy, close contact combat and bloodlust. Several of its maneuvers are also named after ferocious animals, such as the wolf, wolverine, mongoose, bear or girallon.
      • The "White Raven" discipline, on the other hand, favors cooperation and group tactics, like a flock of ravens.
    • A couple tactical feats, each granting three separate maneuvers, are also animal-inspired:
      • "Drow Scorpion Warrior", only mastered by the dark elves, studies the deadly tactics of the scorpion, and its maneuvers are called Deadly Sting, Lunging Sting and Rending Sting.
      • "Raptor School" is a set of martial arts techniques inspired by hunting birds, including Eagle's Swoop, Falcon's Feathers and Hawk's Eye.
  • Onitama depicts a martial arts contest between two rival martial arts schools, and all of the maneuvers the player can perform are named after animals.
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse: Mr. Fixer's "Alternating Tiger Claw", "Driving Mantis", and "Grease Monkey Paw" style cards all depict him in a stance mimicking the animals these styles are named for, as well as stylized images of the animals.

    Video Games 
  • Bloody Roar: The games revolve around fighters who can transform into werebeasts. Naturally, every character's fighting style takes some influence from their respective animal.
  • Brutal: Paws of Fury: The game has a cast of anthropomorphic animals who integrate some of their bestial features into their martial arts.
  • Chrono Trigger: Ayla attacks by running on all fours and clawing her enemies like a cat.
  • Dead or Alive: Christie uses Snake Kung Fu.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VI: Gau learned to fight by copying the attack patterns and special attacks of the monsters and animals that migrated to Veldt.
    • Final Fantasy XIV: Pugilists and Monks fight with various techniques relying on rotating through three combat "forms" — raptor, coeurl, and opo-opo.
  • Jade Empire: The martial arts styles depicted in the game include Leaping Tiger (which makes the fighter's hands sprout Wolverine Claws when used), Viper (which makes the fighter's strikes inflict Damage Over Time), and Monkey Paw.
  • Judgment combines this with a Stance System.
    • The Crane style features wide sweeping kicks meant to manage large crowds of people, and it's notably acrobatic.
    • The Tiger style is a heavy one-on-one style focusing on devastating attacks and doing high damage.
    • Introduced in Lost Judgment is the Snake style, which is softer and more defensive with an edge in dealing with armed opponents.
  • The King of Fighters:
    • Sie Kensou is trained in Dragon Kung Fu.
    • Wild Leona has a fighting style based on feline moves instead of ninjutsunote , running like a cat and using her nails to scratch her opponent instead of forming energy blades like she normally does.
  • Marvel vs. Capcom: The second game introduces Spider-Man whose movements are based on a spider.
  • Mortal Kombat:
    • Deadly Alliance, Deception and Armageddon featured a Stance System which allowed characters to alternate between fighting styles. A number of martial arts based on animals were featured, such as Dragon (Sub-Zero, Jarek), Crane (Shang Tsung), Crab (Reptile), Mantis (Kung Lao, Shujinko) and Monkey (Noob Saibot).
    • Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks: Liu Kang uses Dragon and Monkey Kung Fu as his fighting styles.
  • Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl: Nigel Thornberry attacks with movements that mimic animals. These include a straight punch while in a hunched-over ape pose, a woodpecker-like bite, and contorting his legs to kick forward while laying down like a scorpion stabbing with its tail.
  • One Finger Death Punch: The game features Praying Mantis, Eagle Claw, Flying Crane, and Shaolin Tiger styles.
  • Power Instinct: As Poochy, Kinta's moves are based on dog mannerisms and movements such as digging at the ground and jumping onto the enemy.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Adon is trained in the Jaguar style of Muay Thai while his master Sagat is trained in the Tiger style. Their signature moves are named after their respective theme animals, i.e. Sagat's Tiger Uppercut and Adon's Jaguar Tooth.
    • T. Hawk is trained in the Thunderfoot martial arts style which mimics movements of various animals. His battle stance even resembles a hawk hunting its prey.
    • Gen is trained in Mantis and Crane Kung Fu.
    • Blanka's fighting style consists of wild, animalistic attacks he learned from surviving in the jungle and mimicking animals, including somehow learning how to copy an electric eel's ability to generate electricity.
  • Tekken:
  • Virtua Fighter: Lion is a master of Mantis-style Kung Fu and Eileen uses Monkey-style Kung Fu.

  • Grrl Power: Supernatural Martial Artist Jazza Ng/"Jabberwokky" has the superpower to copy any animal-based kung fu style, including some made up on the spot. These styles don't even have to follow physics, and it's theorized her power taps into the Background Magic Field. For example, her Cheetah style lets her bounce around the room, and her Rhino style lets her tank the attacks of much larger opponents.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Earthbending, firebending, and airbending were developed by observing the "original benders" — badger-moles, dragons, and flying bison, respectively.
    • When Zuko and Aang sought out the original firebending masters near the end of the Hundred Year War, they were brought to the last two surviving dragons, who taught them an ancient firebending form called "The Dancing Dragon".
    • Toph Beifong learned her unique earthbending style after encountering badger-moles as a small girl. In a meta-example, the real-world martial art on which her style is based is inspired by the postures taken by the praying mantis.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Every move in Hak-Foo's repertoire is patterned after some animal movement. Even when leaping into the air he yells "Angry Crow Takes Flight." This gets taken to ludicrous extremes when he finds himself fighting the J-Team in space and his normally lightning fast punches and kicks are slowed down by zero gravity. Undaunted, Hak-Foo breaks out his "Turtle Fist" and "Sloth Kick".
  • Kim Possible: Lord Montgomery Fiske, a.k.a. Monkey Fist, is obsessed with all things monkey related. Naturally, this extends to him mastering Monkey Kung Fu and gaining Mystical Monkey Power. Ron also has Mystical Monkey Power but cannot take full advantage of it due to lack of control over it.
  • King of the Hill: When Bug Gribble tries to apologize to his son Dale for an indiscretion years earlier, Dale responds by attacking him with "monkey style" martial arts, complete with screeching and hooting.
  • Ninjago: Dareth claims to be a master of animal fighting styles which are really just animal impressions that have no effect on his opponents. However, this becomes useful in one episode where he talks to sharks using this technique and saves a group of students.

    Real Life 
  • China:
    • The aforementioned Five Animals, and Southern and Northern Praying Mantis styles.
    • Xing Yi Quan is based on ten primary animal shapes (bear, eagle, snake, tiger, dragon, chicken, horse, swallow, goshawk and monkey). Other animals that may be present in a particular lineage are crane, crocodile, tai and turtle.
    • Hung Ga has roots in the Five Animals. One of its disciplines is the Tiger Crane Style.
    • Eagle Claw is a martial art which focuses on joint locks, takedowns and pressure points. The stance often involves shaping the hand like an eagle's talon.
    • Fu Jow Pai ("Tiger Claw System") is based on Tiger Kung Fu.
    • Drunken Monkey is a variation of Monkey Kung Fu which imitates an intoxicated monkey.
  • India:
    • Kalaripayattu has eight postures based on animals - boar, elephant, cat, lion, snake, cock, peacock and horse.
    • The unarmed component of Silambam draws inspiration from animals.
  • Japan: Sasaki Kojiro was a famous swordsman during the Azuchi–Momoyama and early Edo periods. His Signature Move was the Tsubame Gaeshi ("Turning Swallow Cut"), named for how it mimicked the motion of a swallow's tail during flight.
  • Myanmar: Offensive forms of Bando are based on animal movements, likely taking influence from animal styles from India and China. The highest form is panther.
  • Germany: The Ochs (Ox) guard position of the Lichtenauer longsword tradition, where the sword is raised to the side of the head and pointed towards the opponent, in the manner of an Ox’s horn; like an Ox, the fencer is able to constantly threaten their opponent while their head remains passively protected, making the position ideal for delivering thrusts as well as receiving blows to deliver a counter strike.