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Male Might, Female Finesse

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"Might and Finesse have been passed down the Armstrong family line for generations!"

In fiction, male-female fighting pairs tend to have the guys dealing damage from close range while the girls stay out of the front lines and dish out damage from long range either as an archer or a mage (or both) or heal up the guy doing all the fighting.

Male Might, Female Finesse is basically Force and Finesse combined with stereotypical gender roles. It describes a foil where an Unskilled, but Strong male character is paired with a Weak, but Skilled Action Girl as an Action Duo.

This portrayal and dynamic exists because of the Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast; stereotypical men are strong and durable while stereotypical women are agile and flexible, and it's rare for them to mix both attributes. This sometimes extends to their temperaments; men would be either boisterous or stiff while women would be more cheerful, open-minded or sultry (though as they're Action Girl they're definitely never "fragile girls"). Of course, expect inversions every once in a while. For their fighting style, expect the man to be brawling with brute force while the female to be agile and graceful, with the woman tending to exercise She-Fu and/or Waif-Fu.


Sub-Trope to Men Are Tough and Women Are Delicate. May be part of a Battle Couple, but not always. Can be justified if Huge Guy, Tiny Girl is in play.

Compare Guys Smash, Girls Shoot for another way the gender roles play in fighting.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½:
    • Ranma has a curse which turns him into a girl. While his male half is still pretty fast, his female form allows him even greater speed and agility, but at the cost of being smaller and weaker than his male form.
    • During his battle with Herb of the Musk Dynasty, Herb, who is initially locked into a female form, uses a form of Ki Attack that has Ranma baffled, until Herb manages to turn back to male and uses the same attack, at which point Ranma can see what's happening. Herb's female form had done it so blinding fast Ranma couldn't make heads or tails of it.
  • Yoshimori and Tokine from Kekkaishi. Yoshimori possesses a much greater raw power to build large kekkais, but it lacks precision and form. Tokine lacks Yoshimori's sheer force, but has more skill and accuracy in forming the barriers.
  • In Attack on Titan, Annie spars with Eren, beating him quite soundly using sweeps and throws. She explains that because he's stronger than she is, she can't hope to win in a straight-up brawl, so instead she turns his own strength against him. He remembers this lesson later when he's up against the Armored Titan.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Alex Louis and Olivier Mira Armstrong are usually depicted fighting with his fists and her sword respectively. Olivier is a Badass Normal who can wipe the floor with those using superhuman powers and alchemy with nothing but raw martial prowess, while Alex supplements his skill with alchemy and his sculpted physique.

    Comic Books 
  • Marvel Comics' duo Cloak & Dagger are composed of Cloak, a Mighty Glacier type hero paired with Dagger, a Fragile Speedster type with She-Fu. Cloak enfolds villains and mooks in the darkness of his cloak, wherein they come face-to-face with their own wickedness. Baddies emerge quivering, terrified wrecks. Dagger is an angelic young woman who has had ballet and dance lessons, and can fling "light-knives" that can cause villainous BSOD, or "cure" substance addiction.
  • DC Comics: The 90's version of the team Hawk and Dove featured a male Hawk whose strategy usually consisted of wading in and punching his opponent as hard as possible, and a female Dove who was weaker but more agile and much more subtle in her strategy.
  • Inverted when Marvel Comics ran some story arcs around X-Men members Gambit and Rogue as a romantic pair. Gambit tends to be quick and elusive in combat, flinging kinetic energy at adversaries, while Rogue is a melee scrapper, able to absorb the traits and powers of those she contacts.
  • Marvel Comics' cosmic colossus Galactus is a world-devouring Mighty Glacier, largely impervious to mundane weapons. However, populated worlds can be problematic, so Galactus for a time had a herald called Nova, a superheroine given the powers of blistering flames and limitless flight. Nova arrives first, informs the populace that "time's up," burns off their puny resistance, then Galactus comes and finishes off their whole planet.
  • X-Men: Colossus the Husky Russkie with metallic skin is often paired with Kitty Pride, an Intangible Woman who has trained in ninja skills.
    • Cyclops and Jean Grey also qualify. The former has considerable martial arts skills and possesses uncontrollable but devastating Eye Beams while the latter is a telepath and telekinetic.
  • The Duo of Stargirl (AKA Courtney Whitmore) and S.T.R.I.P.E. (Pat Dugan) from DC comics have this dynamic. The relies on a combination of speed and agility (along with her Cosmic staff to shoot) while the later fights using Powered Armor that gives him greater strength to make for its slower speed.
  • Big Barda and Mr Miracle of New Gods are a rare inversion. Mr Miracle is quick, sneaky, acrobatic and rarely even fights. Barda is a superstrong, trained warrior with little use for subtlety.
  • A one-shot story by Jim Starlin saw Daredevil and Black Widow go up against a serial killer named Rose and her brutish sidekick named Charlie. Rose was a telepath who could mind control people and used knives for torture and killing while Charlie was large brute who attacked Matt with an axe and had solid muscle beneath his portly-looking physique. Matt and Natasha could also be argued to have this dynamic as well with Matt being a martial artist who incorporates boxing into his fighting style while Natasha is a Russian spy and Femme Fatale whose signature weapon is her "Widow's Bite" and is trained in ballet.
  • Spider-Man and Black Cat. Spidey is a Lightning Bruiser (albeit not on the same level as Superman or Thor) with little formal training while Black Cat Depending on the Writer is a Badass Normal thief who relies on her martial arts, acrobatics, stealth and sex appeal or has the ability to affect probability.
  • Superman and Wonder Woman when they team up. Both are very powerful flying bricks. However, Superman is a mostly self-taught fighter with little to no formal training and is often shown to have an edge in strength over Wonder Woman. Meanwhile, Wonder Woman is a Lady of War who has been taught armed and unarmed combat since she was a child and fights either with her iconic magical Lasso of Truth or atom-shaving sword.
  • The Battle Couple of Malcolm Duncan (Herald/Vox/Herald) and Karen Beecher (Bumblebee) from Teen Titans. Mal is a martial artist with sonic powers while Karen has the ability to shrink.
  • Quasar: Inverted with Wendell Vaughn and his female successor Phyla-Vell. Both possessed the Quantum Bands which were basically the Marvel Universe's answer to the Green Lantern power ring but their approach to using these weapons was very different. While Wendell was versatile and creative with his constructs, Phyla's use was mostly limited to energy blasts and forming swords. This was a reflection of their backgrounds and personalities - Wendell was a S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy graduate who was deemed unfit for field work due to his refusal to use lethal force and he followed a standard operating procedure of "contain, drain and attack". Phyla by contrast was a trained Kree soldier who had no problems with lethal force but lacked Wendell's versatility and imagination.
  • Bucky Barnes and the aforementioned Black Widow also had this dynamic as a Battle Couple. Bucky had a cybernetic arm and used guns and his shield whereas Natasha was an acrobatic fighter with a Super Wrist-Gadget.
  • Fantastic Four: Originally all the male members of the team had powers that were geared towards direct combat - elasticity, pyrokinesis and Super Strength. By contrast, Sue originally only had the power to turn invisible. She later acquired the power to create a form of matter that she could shape any way she desired and her invisibility powers were expanded into turning other people and objects invisible as well. She easily has the most versatile power set of the FF while the men are largely geared towards brute force in comparison.

    Fan Works 
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Izuku has this relationship with both Pyrrha and Weiss. Izuku is a pugilist who initially makes up for his lack of experience with the incredible power of his Semblance. His Semblance provides nothing but brute force and speed and can't be directly used to bolster others. On the other hand, Pyrrha's and Weiss' Semblances can each manipulate the battlefield to their advantage and have a wide array of applications. Pyrrha is a Multi-Melee Master who uses her Semblance to give herself the illusion of inhuman grace and precision. while Weiss is a Dance Battler who wields a Royal Rapier who has a variety of supportive and attacking abilities with her use of Dust and her Glyphs. While both of them are better fighters than him at the start of the story, they lack the firepower to bring down a Giant Nevermore, which Izuku ends up doing in one punch.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Incredibles: The super-strong Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is married to the super-stretchy Helen Parr (Elastigirl). Most notably seen when each is trying to infiltrate Nomanisan Island, Bob tends to power his way through obstacles and foes, while Helen relies on her elasticity to avoid detection and fit into places normal people could never get into. This is further elaborated upon in Incredibles 2, where Winston Deavor decides that Elastigirl's finesse is a better fit than Mr. Incredible's bluntness for his plan to improve the public perception of supers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Super Soldier Captain America is paired with the acrobatic spy Black Widow.
  • Inverted in Godzilla with the MUTOs: the male is an agile Giant Flyer, while the female is larger, land-based and relatively slower-moving (which is also Truth in Television for many insect species that inspired these creatures).
  • In Pacific Rim Hong Kong is attacked by a pair of Kaiju; Leatherback, a massive, hulking brawler, and Otachi, a more slender creature with faster attacks, and the ability to fly. Otachi is shown to be female when it turns out she's pregnant.
  • Played straight in Watchmen when Nite Owl and Silk Spectre team up. The former is a heavy-hitting melee bruiser, while the latter employs Waif-Fu.
  • The DC Extended Universe has two examples, one on each side of the morality spectrum. Superman and General Zod are super-strong heavy hitters, while their female allies Wonder Woman and Faora use speed and precision to get the job done. Somewhat downplayed as Wonder Woman and Faora themselves also demonstrate immense strength; the gender difference is more oriented towards speed versus agility.
    • Suicide Squad (2016) offers a more traditional example with the villainous Brother–Sister Team of Enchantress and Incubus. Enchantress is a highly adept magic-user whose fighting style when she is forced to engage in melee combat consists primarily of teleporting around the room and keeping her enemies off-balance with quick strikes. While Incubus does possess some magical ability, he's a giant monster more than twice the size of a normal human who relies mostly on brute strength to act as the muscle backing up Enchantress.

  • Inverted in the Urban Fantasy Pax Arcana series by Elliott James. Werewolf protagonist John is relatively weak by supernatural standards but blindingly fast, while his Valkyrie partner and love interest Sig Norresdottir is significantly stronger but also slower and fights with more brute force.
  • The Star Wars Legends novel Darth Bane: Rule of Two has the Sith Lord Bane instruct his apprentice Darth Zannah in a different form of lightsaber combat than himself, explaining that her smaller size, weaker musculature, and lack of nigh-indestructible orbalisk armor means she can't effectively use his Attack! Attack! Attack! variant of Form V: Djem So. He instead teaches her to use a double-bladed saber and Form III: Soresu, which she initially dislikes because the defensive style is more typically associated with the Jedi.
    • Inverted in the Novelization of Rogue One regarding Jyn Erso and Chirrut Imwe during one of Jyn's interior monologues. While watching Chirrut fight about a dozen Stormtroopers, she reflects on how she puts all her weight into her attacks, while he fights with all the grace of a Jedi.
  • Black Man (aka Thirteen). Variant 13's are genetically-engineered Alpha Males created as Super Soldiers, but they suffer from excessive Testosterone Poisoning. The protagonist encounters a female Variant 13, intended to avert the harmful aspects.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One episode of The Six Million Dollar Man is "The Secret of Bigfoot", which has The Hero Steve Austin encounter a band of aliens living in a secluded woodland. They have a huge android called Sasquatch, whose strength keeps Colonel Austin in check. Sasquatch's chief controller is Shalon, an alien humanoid female with a device on her Utility Belt that allows her to warp time around herself, an effect that mimics teleportation. Only Steve's bionic eye can track Shalon in this accelerated mode.
  • Black Lightning: Inverted with Jefferson and his daughter Anissa aka Thunder. Jefferson fights with Shock and Awe while Anissa has super strength and toughness.

    Video Games 
  • In Rise of the Kasai, male playable character Rau uses sheer might in battle while the female playable character Tati uses quick reflexes and flipping around.
  • Batman: Arkham City. Batman tends to use heavy punches and kicks while Catwoman flips around and cartwheels.
  • Zaalbar (a Mighty Glacier wookie) and Mission (a stealthy rogue girl) in Knights of the Old Republic.
  • Any party of a Marauder or a Templar (Strength-based male characters) and a Ranger (pure Dexterity-based female character) in Path of Exile.
  • Half-Life 2's Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance. The audio commentary for the first expansion/episode says that the reason Alyx can jump and climb better than the player is that she's more athletic while Gordon's more heavily built (and wearing Powered Armour, of course).
  • Mortal Kombat
    • The Lin Kuei assassins Sub-Zero and Frost
    • The Shokan warriors Goro, Kintaro, and Sheeva
    • Super Soldiers Jax Briggs and Sonya Blade, though Jax can become a Lightning Bruiser in Mortal Kombat 3 due to that game's Run feature.
    • Inverted with the four person team in the next generation of fighters introduced in Mortal Kombat X. The team's two female members, Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs (the daughters of the aforementioned Sonya and Jax respectively), are the more physical brawlers while their two male teammates, Takeda (a ninja personally trained by Scorpion) and Kung Jin (the successor of Liu Kang and Kung Lao as a Shaolin martial artist), rely more on speed and skill.
    • The latest entry has Ferra/Torr, two characters that fight as one. Ferra is small and fast, and Torr is huge and powerful.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Garrus tells the story of a female colleague, with whom he once resolved his differences in a sparring: the fight went undecided because he "had reach, she had flexibility". Afterwards, they had a "rematch"... in bed, and it must have been good, since he reiterates that "he had reach, she had flexibility".
  • Street Fighter:
    • Ryu and his pupil Sakura Kasugano.
    • Street Fighter plays with this a lot, actually. While there is plenty of variety among male fighters, nearly everyone who fits the Mighty Glacier archetype is a big, burly dude. Zangief, Hugo, T. Hawk and Alex are all huge grapplers who can tank lots of damage and hit hard, but have slow foot speed. Mika, the first female grappler of the series, is notably much weaker and quicker than her male wrestling peers.
    • Also, around half of the female cast is defined by either speed or acrobatic ability. Chun Li, Cammy and Elena are all Fragile Speedster acrobats of one stripe or another, though Cammy occasionally fills more of a melee-focused Lightning Bruiser role. Makoto is a peculiar example in that while her walking speed is awful and she hits hard, she attacks fast and lacks defense, straddling the line between Speedster and Glass Cannon.
  • Tekken
    • Kazuya Mishima and his son Jin Kazama are unstoppable Lightning Bruisers who can transform into One Winged Angels, while their respective Love Interests Jun Kazama and Ling Xiaoyu rely on Waif-Fu to deliver the beatdown.
    • In Tekken 7, Kazumi Mishima in her base form is the Finesse to her husband Heihachi's Force, but once she turns One-Winged Angel, she now becomes the Force to Heihachi's Finesse.
    • This is the main difference between the main two practitioners of Good Old Fisticuffs, Lili and Miguel. Lili's "Street Fighting" incorporates a lot of acrobatics and ballet, whereas Miguel's "Untrained Brawling" is the kind of straightforward "pummel the enemy into mush with no finesse" you expect from a more traditional Street Brawler.
  • In Trine, we have Pontius the Mighty Glacier guy and Zoya the agile, sneaky thief woman.
  • Devil May Cry: The second game featured co-protagonists Dante and Lucia. The former's moves are based on strong attacks while the latter was less powerful but made to be more agile and quicker. Trish, by virtue of being based on Dante's move set from the first game, however, is a subversion - by being both strong and female.
  • Awesomenauts plays with this: the male characters run the gamut in terms of capabilities, but the four females currently on the roster are all balanced toward speed.
  • Eddie and Ophelia in Brütal Legend: he sports a ridiculous Heroic Build and fights with a giant double axe, while she is a petite girl who dual-wields daggers and relies on evasive moves. Also an example of Huge Guy, Tiny Girl.
  • Inverted in Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Ryu Hayabusa's primary weapon is a katana and his fighting style emphasizes speed and precision. Rachel by contrast uses a large hammer and has a much slower fighting style based on brute strength.
  • Fei and Elly from Xenogears. The former fights with his fists and wields raw power while the latter fights with a rod, can use kicks, and is capable of using Ether spells.
    • Inverted in Xenosaga. Though they're both martial artists, Shion uses a M.W.S. and her fighting style involves hand-to-hand combat. Her older brother, Jin, uses a katana and his fighting style involves speed and precision.
  • This is Chie and Kanji's dynamic as the party's two physical attackers in Persona 4. Kanji is a traditional Mighty Glacier with high HP, Strength and Endurance and average-to-low stats elsewhere. Chie's Strength is comparatively low (it's just below Yosuke's, who's not a physical specialist) but she has higher Agility, learns more multi-target and multi-hitting moves and has skills that raise her critical hit rate. Interestingly, Chie is a Tomboy while Kanji has stereotypically feminise interests.
  • Arthur and Artoria Pendragon from Fate/Grand Order. Arthur's attack animations consist of an array of powerful strikes while Artoria's consist of relatively more graceful swordplay. This also extends to their Noble Phantasms both in-lorenote  and in-gamenote 

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The People Are Awesome YouTube video features lots of clips where men do amazing sports activities or potentially dangerous stunts, while the few clips with women all focus on their flexibility.
  • Mocked in Zero Punctuation's review of Assassin's Creed: Syndicate.
    "We play as twins, Jacob and Evie Frye, one of them is brash and reckless and direct-combat-oriented; the other is smart and measured and more suited to stealth. I'll leave you to guess which one's the boy and which one's the girl, but here's a hint: try to think like the laziest writer in the fucking universe."

    Western Animation 
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Hulk's fighting style relies primarily on punches, grapples and throws. She-Hulk is more acrobatic and uses her legs more than her cousin.


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