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Tell Me How You Fight

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Eliot: The tall one, the way he used the knife—ex-Marine, probably force recon.
Hardison: You I.D.'d a guy off his knife-fighting style?
Eliot: It's a very distinctive style.
Leverage, "The Homecoming Job"

...and I will tell you what you are.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he fights. This is when a character's fighting style reflects his personality or methodology. Similar to Weapon of Choice except here, it's not so much what you use as how you use it.


For a weapon-specific version, try Weapon of Choice. When a person's specific identity can be deduced from their fighting style (not just general traits), that's Fighting Fingerprint.


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     Anime & Manga  
  • Naruto: The title character fits the unnecessary movement part to a T. This shows especially well in his fight against Neji.
  • In Dragon Ball, especially (ironically) the early parts, this shows in most characters. Goku himself has "the mind of a child" and so uses an extremely simplistic style, jumping straight at his enemies and just punching them. When he uses special attacks, they're usually either just normal attacks with Kiai, really weird physical stunts or Kamehameha.
    • Goku eventually gets training and starts to use a more stylized form of Turtle School martial arts. He continues to use it throughout the series and it might be what gives him his edge against the later absurdly powerful Dragon Ball Z enemies like Vegeta, Freeza or Buu who more or less just throw their incredible power around and blast stuff.
    • Goku, and some of the others like to use the Can't Touch This variety against inferior opponents, especially when it helps them show that, well, their kung fu has gotten stronger.
    • Kid Buu uses Confusion Fu, which empathizes his wild and erratic nature.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, this is played relatively straight with the Eight Fists, since they all have incredibly specific styles which are very suited to their personalities. The two foremost examples are Hermit, who uses a combination of Flynning and elegant, quick strikes, and Berserker, who, well, goes berserk on his opponents with dangerous techniques and little style.
  • Though it's never commented on, after a couple of episodes of Cowboy Bebop the way people fight tends to reflect their personality. Spike fights by using an opponent's strength against them, exerting as little effort as he possibly can. Tongpu is utterly relentless, impossible to hit and always hitting where he intends. Andy is flashy, stupid, relies on fisticuffs, and most importantly utterly schools Spike. Applegheli wins fights simply by taking punches like a brick wall.
  • In Fate/Zero, Saber deduces that Berserker is someone who knows her true identity (King Arthur), through the fact that he can actually dodge her strikes despite her sword being completely invisible, indicating that he's quite familiar with the dimensions of her sword (thus rendering the invisibility moot). When Berserker's sword (Arondight) is revealed, the truth begins to dawn on her, but isn't until the mask vanishes that she realizes just who he is.
    Saber: Sir... Lancelot...
  • In Toriko, the main character's fighting style is aggressive and highly kinetic, until the Shokurin Temple arc, where he has to learn to reduce excess movements. Post that arc, his fighting style is much more refined, except while using Ultimate Routine.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam averts this with its two Ace Pilot leads. Amuro Ray is a Hot-Blooded angry young teenager, but he quickly develops a bushwhacking style and a particular talent for decoys and traps. Meanwhile, Char is a cunning Manipulative Bastard outside of the suit, but inside it relies on skill, speed, and occasionally the MS equivalent of bare-knuckle brawling to bring his opponents down. When they're inside their suits, they almost swap character archetypes.
  • In Pokémon, battling serves as a way to evaluate a trainer as a person. Since Pokemon take on characteristics of their trainers, their fighting styles often match the personality of their trainers as well. Ash, for example, is a Hot-Blooded hero, uses a fast, up-tempo battling style and likes to improvise on the fly. His Pokemon, especially Pikachu, usually become Boisterous Bruisers after being with him for a while. Earlier (back in the Kanto era), he was described by one opponent as relying excessively on his Pokemon's abilities (as opposed to having a tactical style of his own), which in this case was a sign of his inexperience.
  • Kill la Kill has a lot of examples, overt and subtle. Note that Hot Bloodedness doesn't say anything about a character; this is a World of Ham.
    • Ryuko is a highly aggressive and strong fighter who does what comes naturally, but switches to Confusion Fu when that doesn't work, and works with her Kamui flawlessly under most circumstances. She's a fairly laid-back individual when she's off the clock, and a Determinator when on. She's also a lot smarter than she often seems.
    • Satsuki, meanwhile, normally uses the quick and elegant method, being a princess and all. That's not her specialty; her specialty is sneak attacks, trickery, and when that fails, improvisation. She's The Unfettered, and will do whatever it takes to win if the stakes are high enough. She also overrides her Kamui rather than working with it. This is a symbol of Heroic Willpower. Her "wedding dress" is an Evil Weapon, and Satsuki is strong enough to control it, but will never pretend that it is anything other than her servant.
    • Mako is useless in a fight without a Goku Uniform, yet she becomes an immensely strong brute-force fighter when wearing one. She's The Fool and a Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass.
    • Gamagoori is a Combat Sadomasochist, but completely subverts the stereotypes associated with that. However, reading his sadomasochistic tendencies as a defensive and Counter-Attack-heavy style, one could conclude that he's actually a Martial Pacifist and protector of the weak, which is in fact the truth.
    • Inumuta specializes in Awesomeness by Analysis and a Cloaking Device. He's The Evil Genius and more of an observer than a fighter.
    • Sanageyama goes for elegant kendo strikes, and after some development, becomes a Blind Weaponmaster relying on Super Senses, with a massively oversized suit of Power Armor that's Compensating for Something but is actually a Fragile Speedster. He's an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy and is in fact compensating for an undersized penis.
    • Jakuzure is a Musical Assassin who uses a flying tank, favoring long-range brute-force bombardment as her preferred tactic. She's an Alpha Bitch with a huge ego, and her use of brute force is a sign of arrogance.
  • Sailor Moon provides a few examples, besides the obvious one:
  • Holyland: Yuu's fighting style goes through multiple evolutions throughout the series and reflects his Character Development. He begins out with a very simple goal in his mind and knowing only a single technique, the one-two punch (which is Boring, but Practical in that he practices it so much he can put a lot of force into it) and begins expanding his repertoire as he fights — and empathises with — an increasingly skilled series of rivals. By the end, Yuu has become a Master of All who fully understands the underground fighting scene, and integrates a large variety of strikes, kicks, wrestles and holds into his arsenal and resembles a Mixed Martial Arts practitioner more than anything else. Several of his opponents also have fighting styles that fit their personalities, from Masaki's focus on precision strikes and Awesomeness by Analysis to Shougo's pride in using only karate-derived forms.
  • Fist of the North Star is full of this trope. From Kenshiro's deadly (and explosive) pressure-point style, to Jagi's 'anything goes' style, to Raoh's keen analysis mixed with overwhelming force and Souther's stance-less style that cripples opponents for life, practically every major named character has a unique fighting style with a centuries-old history that reflects their personality. Even the mooks count, in that their haphazard 'in your face' style reflects how they're all hapless Cannon Fodder.

     Comic Books  
  • From the comics Cassandra Cain, as Batgirl II, initially had trouble adjusting to being a crime fighter due to the fact her original style was focused specifically around assassination and most of her moves finished with a death blow. Damian Wayne also struggles with this problem when he becomes Robin. All of his training under the League of Assassins focused on killing his opponents, so he is less effective as a Thou Shalt Not Kill crimefighter.
  • Green Lantern applies this idea to their use of the Imagination-Based Superpower of their rings. For instance, John Stewart is an architect by trade and all his constructs are structurally sound, while Kyle Rayner is an artist and favors fantastic creations like Humongous Mecha. In comparison to both of them, there's Boisterous Bruiser Guy Gardner, who makes little more than blunt objects with his ring. After a body switch scramble that left mechanical genius, Steel, in GL's body, he had a lot of trouble controlling the ring untill GL suggested thinking of blueprints.
  • In the Batman novel Batman: Year One, Bruce Wayne is able to surmise that Selina Kyle has had Karate training by fighting her.
  • Sin City has a wide variety of combatants:
    • Marv was a Combat Sadomasochist combined with a Combat Pragmatist flair. He often went in with strong punches and kicks, sometimes using whatever he can get his mits on.
    • Miho used crippling and lethal techniques. She goes in with the quick kills with plenty of Gorn mixed in. If some idiot decides to throw some racial slurs her way, one can expect a slow and painful death.
    • Wallace is about as skilled as Miho but is closer to the "Quick, elegant strikes" end since he's much nicer and doesn't always go for the kill.
    • If he fights without guns, Dwight often uses high kicks, going for the Dance Battler method simply because he hates skinning his knuckles with punches.
  • Taskmaster, who can perfectly mimic any physical movement he sees, absolutely refuses to even look at Moon Knight, citing the latter's absolute refusal to dodge as literally physically painful to observe. Moon Knight, it turns out, falls into the Suicidal Tactics as described above, mostly because a.) he may or may not be a god/extradimensional something simply inhabiting a meatsuit he doesn't particularly care about, b.) even if it is his body, he's died often enough that non-fatal damage just isn't that big a deal anymore, and/or c.) his god is literally in his corner and just won't let him stay dead, so what's the point of delaying the inevitable by trying to avoid damage that he knows won't kill him anyway?

  • In the final scene of House of Flying Daggers, Jin and Leo exhibit mutually suicidal tactics. It may say more about their emotional states at the time than them as people, though.
  • Hero: Flying Snow is fast and elegant to Fading Moon's suicidal aggression. Long Sky handicaps himself by leaving the head of his spear covered for his entire battle with the Elite Guards.
  • In Fearless (2006), Huo Yuanjia is portrayed in his fight with Qin Lei as a flashy and acrobatic fighter compared to the other's direct, powerful moves, which seems to comment on his gloryhounding personality. His ruthless use of improvised weapons in the latter half of their fight also seems to imply a great deal about him.
  • Though it's never commented on in-universe, the fighting styles of characters in The Matrix add another layer to the philosophy of the movie. Explained here.
    • In short, humans tend to have more fluid, flashy or distinctive styles based on the character (contrast Morpheus' kung fu to Ballard's boxing), while the Agents all use a generic karate-based style. Humans also use martial arts throws and wristlocks (Morpheus vs. Neo), wheras agents simply grab-and-heave, which works due to their incredible strength.
    • Actually, it does come up in universe in the second movie. Seraph (the Oracle's bodyguard) tells Neo he attacked him because fighting someone is the best way to get to know them.
  • Knees and elbows from Muay Thai, first made popular by Tony Jaa in Ong-Bak, represent a sort of nuclear option in a hand to hand fight. The Protector took this further. Between the movies, there tends to be a progression as our somewhat pacifistic hero meets bigger and badder enemies: push kicks and palm strikes, to punches and kicks, and finally to knees and elbow. Of course, to use knees and elbows you have to get closer to your opponent, and in some cases jump on their head, but with some acrobatics one can land a flying double knees to the face, or double elbows to the top of the skull. But hey, that's what a guy like Tony Jaa (5'6" 136 lbs) has to do to beat Nathan Jones (6'11" 350 lbs).

    The principle is carried over from Real Life Muay Thai as well: Strike with brutality and precision and take out your opponent before he takes you out. Elbows are actually more efficient and less harmful to yourself than striking with a fist while at the same time providing ample knockout power, while using your knees instead of your feet prevents potential harm to your ankles.
  • In the Jet Li film The One, the homicidal Yulaw can be seen practising violent, straight strikes ("The fastest way between two points will always be a straight line") emphasizing brute force, simple attacks, and a straightforward approach to getting what he wants. Contrasting this, his good alternate self Gabe Law practices a more flowing style, based around weaving, dodging, and flowing strikes. It's very useful against styles that forego finesse, and simply batter away at their opponents without much technique. It's almost ironic that Gabe is a police officer, and Yulaw is the villain, really.
    • The styles are Xing Yi Quan (Form Intent Fist) and Ba Gua Quan (Eight Trigrams Fist), respectively. The former is recognized as a simple and direct style that's easy to learn, but hard to master. The latter's famous for its circular stepping movements, usually used to strafe the opponent. Practitioners are usually encouraged to train in both styles to cover each other's strengths and weaknesses.
      • Nicely contrasted in the final fight. Gabe begins the fight with a more direct style, similar to Yulaw's, and possibly Xing Yi Quan itself. But there is a recognizeable point in the battle where he switches to Ba Gua Quan, which the overly direct, driven Yulaw cannot compensate for.
      • It also ties in with their surroundings; the fight starts on a narrow catwalk, where Yulaw is able to dominate. However, when the fight spills out into the open floor, allowing Gabe to maneuver, he gains the upper hand.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Jack figures that it's Angelica posing as him when he performs a fighting technique no one else knows.
  • Star Wars: While he spends most of his time calm and composed, Palpatine's fight scenes reveal his wild and cruel side. In his fight with the Jedi Masters sent to arrest him in Revenge of the Sith, he executes a brutal attack from surprise that kills half of them before they even know what's happening. In his fight with Yoda, he uses the environment to his advantage, cackling with glee as he throws Senate seats and lightning at Yoda. In The Clone Wars, he uses two lightsabers in his fight against Maul and Oppress. His style is completely uncontrolled, mixing insane lightsaber maneuvers with overpowering Force attacks. He even scratches up the floor with his sabers a few times.
    • Characters that don't have the benefit of formal training (basically starting with Luke and going forward from there) all show elements of their personalities in their lightsaber combat. Luke's style is less about acrobatics and fancy moves as it is about constant body movement and heavy-handed attacks: he tends to dodge when he can, block when he must and go for the killing blow if he can. Finn, for the brief time that he holds a lightsaber, is aggressive and tries to overpower his opponent, avoiding defense in favor of overwhelming offense. Rey fights as though she's still holding a staff, compensating for the longer haft even thought it's not there, and uses wide, sweeping attacks and thrusts. Kylo Ren focuses on leveraging his power and the unique crossguard of his lightsaber to use powerful strikes, and tends to dodge a lot, just like his master, Luke Skywalker.
  • In the mixed martial arts film Warrior, Tommy, the aggressive, bitter brother, is as much a wild brawler and striker as he is a highly skilled and powerful wrestler. Brendan, the more even-tempered and calmer of the two, is a submission specialist that tends to win via technical groundwork.

  • The Demon Princes: Kirth Gersen deals out No Holds Barred Beatdowns as an example of his Determinator nature.
  • Comes up in the Star Wars Legends.
    • Lightsaber combat has many different styles that emphasize different things. Makashi is the style of precision and pragmatism, and is also used extensively by Count Dooku, who is Wicked Cultured, and sees the "hops and wheels" of Combat Parkour to be "for the rabble." Soresu emphasizes constant motion, always keeping the lightsaber moving so it's on its way to deflecting the next incoming attack even if it's not incoming yet. As one would expect, Obi-Wan, who doesn't put effort into hurting people, is the acknowledged master of this style in the Revenge of the Sith novelization. "Not a master. The master." When the man who invented his own school of lightsaber combat, and is Samuel L. Jackson, says "the master", you listen. Anakin, Obi-wan's much more Hot-Blooded and aggressive apprentice, uses Djem So, a power-based and more aggressive derivative of Soresu that emphasized heavy power blows.
    • Speaking of Jackson's character, Mace Windu, the "own school" he created is Vapaad, a variant of a style called Juyo in which the user feels and channels all the emotions and passions of battle, in near-defiance of the Jedi Order's stoicism and potentially skirting close to the Dark Side—which is all rather telling about Windu, isn't it? Shatterpoint explains his use of the style—Windu is a Blood Knight who truly enjoys fighting, and channels his inner rage through the iron will of his style so that it does not take control of him. Juyo is itself a style that's always been disfavored by Jedi, being better known as a Sith style. (For example, it's Darth Maul's primary style.) The fact that Windu even considered it as a base for Vapaad shows both what an unorthodox Jedi he is and how much is character revolves around controlling his darker impulses.
    • Comes up in Yoda: Dark Rendezvous. Weak, but Skilled young Jedi Scout studies her peers and how they fight closely, knows all their preferred moves and tactics, and is aware of how these reflect their personalities.
    • This is part of the cultural hat of the near-HumanEchani. They use combat as a form of communication, and say you do not know someone unless you have fought them. Part of that stems from a genetic oddity where same-sex siblings look almost identical to an outsider. An Echani would be able to tell the siblings apart by how they move, and especially by how they fight.
  • In the Witcher saga, Bonhart figures out Ciri's identity after watching her fight with a sword. Since a witcher's training is aimed against creatures that can't be expected to conform to any forms or styles, it is essentially improvisational.

     Live Action TV  
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Faith's fighting style is described as being psychotic and out of control. As the third season progresses, it becomes quite obvious how well these words describe her as well.
  • As noted on Good Old Fisticuffs, the fighting styles of the various incarnations of The Doctor from Doctor Who tend to vary along with their personalities- The Fourth Doctor favours a messy, almost playful, brawling fighting style, contrasting him with his more dignified previous incarnation who knew Venusian Aikido, as well as with the First Doctor who had more of a public school Victorian boxer vibe. (And with the Second, who mostly just bluffed people). The revival series Doctors are even more prone to avoid physical combat than their predecessors, but the notably swashbuckling 10th Doctor still showed a preference for swordplay when physical self-defence was the only option.
  • Luke Cage (2016): Luke has an extremely defensive fighting style, relying on his invulnerability to just let people break themselves upon him. Even when fighting in Rackham's underground boxing ring before he got his powers, he preferred quick and efficient counterattacks rather than making attacks himself. Shades ultimately recognizes Luke is Carl Lucas when he witnesses Luke using his old fighting methods on some of Cottonmouth's men firsthand.
    • Subverted with Bushmaster, who practices Capoeira but is somber of personality and straight-forward in his methods.
  • Daredevil (2015): As the show's stunt team tells in some interviews, Matt Murdock is a highly skilled martial artist (one of the very best in the comics, actually). His fighting style has elements of Kung Fu styles, Muay Thai, Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, Taekwondo, etc, besides his use of the humble sticks as fighting weapons (as they are non-lethal weapons). However, Matt is also the son of a humble Irish-American boxer from Hell's Kitchen, and he also has some truly frightening anger issues. When angered, Matt reverts to some good ol' face punching, often stopping just shy of killing his opponents, which is telling of his inner conflict, his beliefs and despite all his violence, his appreciation of human life.
  • Leverage: As shown by the quote at the top of the page, this trope was used as a frequent Running Gag, where Hitter Elliot Spencer would identify opponents or ranks using minor details.
  • Cobra Kai: The main characters all train Cobra Kai-style karate under Johnny Lawrence, but use the style in wildly different ways, which mesh with their personalities.
    • Miguel is Johnny's first and star pupil, and he has internalized Cobra Kai's Combat Pragmatist values the most. He disdains big, showy attacks for a Simple, yet Awesome series of basic kicks and punches, but delivered with pinpoint precision and overwhelming power. He is also the best at skirting the edge of what is acceptable in any given fight without ever actually going outside.
    • Aisha takes her attitude to the verbal bullying she endured in school into the dojo, preferring to simply play defense and use her size and bulk to soak hits until her opponent makes a mistake, which she then pounces on and exploits. She rarely hits anyone more than once, but never really has to.
    • Hawk, on the other hand, is a complete berserker, who will take the path that hurts his opponent the most, no matter what. Interestingly, Hawk is still the same insecure dork he always was, but took to the "power without restraint" part of the Cobra Kai ethos like a duck to water and is now inflicting the pain he suffered at his bullies' hands on the world. And enjoying it.

     Tabletop Games  
  • Fading Suns allows the player character to specialise in martial arts. There are several kinds of 'em, and all of them are quite Troperrific: "quick, elegant strikes" (nobility favourite), two Combat Pragmatist styles (one for gritty mercenaries and the other for dark elf-like aliens), a fancy-schmancy flamboyant style (popular among most mystic and philosophical of noble houses), and so on. In fact, there's at least one for each of the patterns described above.
  • GURPS Martial Arts details a lot of fighting styles (and Tactical Shooting, in turns, discusses gun fighting styles). Each style gets described in terms of what combat skills, techniques and options it uses, and also what advantages and disadvantages a typical stylist would have - a style that encourages Bloodlust and Berserk is a lot different than one that encourages a certain Code of Honour or Sense of Duty. Meanwhile, the gun fighting styles are the same - the Sharpshooter style lists Loner and Callous as typical disadvantages and the Shotgunner style lists Bully, Overconfidence and Hard of Hearing.

     Video Games  
  • In the Yakuza series, each of the playable characters has their own style of fighting:
    • The flashy, flamboyant Akiyama fights mainly with kicks, and also has two additional ways to taunt an enemy, as well as being easily able to manipulate the battlefield to pull off his more acrobatic moves.
    • The Big Guy Saejima fights with brute strength, and his moves are based on setting up the opponent for a powerful hit.
    • The cop, Tanimura, uses a (storied up) version of the real life unarmed style used by the Japanese police; it focuses on taking the target down and out as quickly (and non-lethally, but certainly painfully) as possible.
    • As a former professional baseball player, Shinada is the most proficient in using melee weapons and his regular moves includes either hammer-swings similar to swinging a bat or sliding dives. Ironically, he will not use bats as weapons.
    • The Jack-of-All-Stats, Kiryu, has a mix of the other characters' attacks, plus his own Komaki and Secret Sword moves. In 0, his fighting styles are very straightforward and no-nonsense, relying more on brute strength and Good Old Fisticuffs.
    • Majima's fighting style is far more wild and fanciful, making use of break-dancing moves, swinging a metal bat like a nunchuck and even darting around the battlefield with his knife.
    • Being a scrappy underdog with a love for the Dragon Quest series, Ichiban Kasuga is comparatively weaker and more reliant on allies than other protagonists but is also better at working in a team.
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney: Zak Gramarye engages his potential defense attorneys in a game of poker for this reason. Kristoph Gavin misinterpreted this as Strength Equals Worthiness, as Phoenix had actually won his poker game against Zak; Zak, however, was not paying attention to the outcome so much as the play style of his opponent...and in his game against Gavin, he saw a ruthless streak that he deemed dangerous. Correctly so, as many years later Kristoph would murder him over this slight.
  • In BlazBlue several characters fight using thematic styles:
    • Hazama fights using complex moves and feints, he's Trolling people as his fighting style.
    • Terumi fights with multihit weak attacks to cause Death of a Thousand Cuts, mostly because he enjoys causing others pain.
    • Izanami fights with a lot of style, fitting for someone so sophisticated.
    • Susano'o fights like a wild animal, all too fitting for his savage yet extremely powerful nature.
  • The katana Kaga-To from Neverwinter Nights references this idea with the inscription "Tell me how you fight, and I will tell you what you are".
  • In Iji, using the Resonance Reflector doesn't raise your kill count, and so it becomes the trademark of a pacifist Iji. Whether this is a Martial Pacifist making a principled decision to never attack her enemies, or a Technical Pacifist using mooks' attacks against them to keep her own hands clean, is up to interpretation.
  • Rean and Laura in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel often do this to other people, identifying their styles and even their mannerisms. Laura's even the first one to point out that Rean hesitates a lot when he's using the sword and points out what his sword style is long before Rean himself reveals this. Cold Steel III adds Kurt Vander to this as well.
  • Discussed in Azur Lane's Ink-stained Steel Sakura event. Similar to the Neverwinter Nights example, Mikasa tells Nagato that one battle reveals character better than a thousand words.
  • Used in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords through the Echani sisters who serve Atris, particularly the youngest who stows away on your ship. As Echani view combat as a language, they spot things in both the Exile's fighting styles and Atton's that reveal much about them, including the first big hint that Atton is far more volatile and dangerous the Han Solo Expy he appears to be. Part of the Handmaiden's motivation for coming along is that, with the Jedi being all but wiped out, she hopes to at least learn and remember their fighting techniques, akin to a linguist trying to find the last handful of native speakers.

     Visual Novels  

     Western Animation  
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, as part of the Shown Their Work, everyone is this, as each of the four bending arts is based on a martial arts style with a specific philosophy. Airbenders are pacifists, flowing with opponents' moves and with an emphasis on dodging, and lacking any killing blows.note  Waterbenders also have a lot of flowing movements and turn their opponents' strength against them. Firebending is extremely aggressive, and Earthbending requires solid footing and as much forcefulness as the rock it commands. You can also see noticeable variations of the same style in different users:
    • A good example is Zuko, who begins Last Airbender using an extremely fierce but stiff and unrefined style, reflecting his anger and frustration, but grows softer and more controlled as he matures and starts to deal with his problems in a more constructive manner.
      • In fact; Zuko, Azula and Iroh all use the same style, but even someone without actual training can tell that they're extremely different. Zuko is very stiff and aggressive, Azula is ridiculously cool and precise, and Iroh is relaxed yet terrifyingly powerful.
      • It carries over to the philosophy of three different types of Shaolin Martial Arts masters: Zuko represents a master driven by anger and aggression in his attacks. He's formidable but his emotional style of fighting compromises himself against the malicious and calculating Azula, who represents a master with a precise and malicious intent to kill. She's stronger than the emotional Zuko because of her increased control and mastery of emotion. Iroh, however, represents a true master of his art, in control of his emotions but still using them to fuel his fighting because of his reaching of Enlightenment.
    • Korra navigates an airbending training obstacle course with lots of energetic spinning. In comparison, Jinora's approach to the course is fairly clinical: she turns on a dime but keeps her upper body rigid. Furthermore, Korra's fighting style is aggressive and straightforward, revelling in her skills and raw bending power, and not averse to close quarters. On a good day, she plays with her opponents using her superior technique; on a bad one, she spams attacks until one hits.
    • Desna and Eska are usually very quiet and expressionless, which is reflected into their waterbending, as their attacks never go above small but powerful stream of waters that they use with great precision. But they also subvert this trope by being dance battlers.
    • Kuvira stoically avoids attacks with minimal movement, then uses her earth- and metalbending techniques to incapacitate opponents with an almost-surgical precision.
    • Emphasized to some degree with Toph, who is the only earthbender in the series to use Chu Gar Southern Praying Mantis Kung Fu, which was invented by a blind monk.
    • Occurs in-universe with Tarrlok discovering Amon's identity when they finally fight each other because he recognizes his brother's bloodbending.
    • Mako, Bolin, and Tahno all use very restrained, basic movesets because they primarily use their bending in pro sports that have rules regualting how they can bend. This hobbles them when facing a real fight, though Mako and Bolin grow out of it as the series progresses and they move away from pro-bending. Mako is still fairly restrained for a firebender, though, especially compared to the original series.
    • Zaheer's airbending is clearly different from the norm as he only became able to bend very recently. Most of it is based in martial arts similar to firebending, a much more direct and aggressive style. While this grants him a lot of wins it's mostly because people aren't used to fighting airbenders, once airbending Master Tenzin steps up Zaheer needs to be bailed out.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Return of the Shredder", Leonardo is able to tell that the "Crooked Ninja Turtle gang" are connected to Shredder by the way one of them fights.

     Real Life  
  • In real life can be hit or miss. Sparring against a person can often tell you quite a lot about their general personality, such things as self-confidence, affability, anger issues, overconfidence, brutality and a number of other points will all be visible in their fighting style. On the other hand, anyone who has done wrestling or sparring with friends knows there is always that person who is a kind and gentle person in real life but a beast on the mat.


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