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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 they fight. This is when a character's fighting style reflects their personality or methodology. Similar to Weapon Specialization except here, it's not so much what you use as how you use it.

For a weapon-specific version, try Weapon-Based Characterization. When a person's specific identity can be deduced from their fighting style (not just general traits), that's Fighting Fingerprint. When powers are thrown into the mix, see Personality Powers. When it's how you play a game, than it's Character-Driven Strategy.


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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: The Series, battling serves as a way to evaluate a trainer as a person. Since Pokémon 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 Pokémon'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.
  • In Gamaran, the Ogame Ryu swordsmanship is divided in five different "Elements", each with its own specialty that fits the main characters:
    • Gama is a specialist of the Ikazuchi no Kata, the Lightning God Form, which focuses on speed and sudden attacks. While Gama is a bit of a Blood Knight who genuinely enjoys fighting powerful opponents, he always seems to try to take advantage of his light constitution and speed to end the fight as quickly as possible, going for deadly strikes as soon as he spots an opening.
    • Zenmaru mostly uses the offensive-focused Kagutsuchi no Kata (Blazing Flame Form), which makes use of powerful, overwhelming attacks and suits both his nodachi and his boisterous, emotive personality.
    • Shin has mastered the graceful Mizuchi no Kata (Water Dragon Form), using dazzling and unpredictable attacks. Shin is the most serious and skilled of the main trio, normally a very calm and graceful person who can still show sudden busts of emotion.
    • Iori, Mario and Jinsuke are the only three people who mastered all the five forms: each one of them is The Ace but also shows different characteristics. Iori is often praised for his incredible strength and power, mixing unarmed martial arts and sudden slashes with proper techniques for an unpredictable but efficient fighting style, suited for Iori's aloof and Wild Card personality, Jinsuke has an extremely simple and deadly fighting style devoid of named techniques to showcase how much of a master he has become. Mario meanwhile is a vicious Combat Pragmatist who's willing to use cheap strategies and survive at all costs, using his abilities to gain status, showing that his mastery of the forms stems from a desire to excell in everything.
  • The cast of Case Closed is full of people with different fighting styles, many of which say a lot about their user.
    • Conan/Shinichi himself uses soccer as a fighting style: when a fight breaks out, his first impulse is to run to the most soccer ball-sized object in the area (which, after Doc Agasa gives him the Anywhere Ball Dispening Belt, is usually an actual soccer ball) and kick it at the opponent's face. Shinichi takes Thou Shalt Not Kill so seriously that he won't even learn a real fighting style, but when action is needed he's blunt and direct... Unless the direct approach won't work, in which case he can pull off complicated trick shots at a moment's notice. And to top it all off, he's also a legitimate soccer fanatic.
    • Ran is an orthodox karate user. Like Conan, she's opposed to violence, but she's in much better shape and is trained in fighting and not detective work, so she gets the country's most traditional style.
    • Kogoro uses judo, a defensive style based around redirecting the opponent's movements and lacking in striking techniques, both physically appropriate for a middle aged man with many unhealthy habits and sensible for an ex-cop. One early case featuring his former college judo club gives more details: Kogoro was physically the strongest and most talented member of the club, but had terrible stage fright and always choked during tournaments. However, at the end of the case in the present, he countered the culprit's attempt to escape easily, causing the culprit to remark that he was as strong as ever. Kogoro responded that he hadn't gotten stronger, the murderer had just gotten weaker, "both your body... and your soul". This one moment pretty well sums up Kogoro's entire character: extremely talented, potentially moreso than Shinichi, but too held back by his personal issues to pull it out unless it's extremely important.
    • Kogoro's estranged wife Eri is one of the least combat capable women in the series, being a high powered lawyer and not a fighter, but there have been multiple occasions when she's used judo throws against culprits, showing that she's not as over Kogoro as she likes to pretend.
    • Heiji Hattori uses kendo. Like Shinichi, he's a thinker not a fighter, but he's also Hot-Blooded and combative, so his sport of choice is descended from a real source of violence.
    • Makoto Kyogoku also uses karate, but in his case it's enhanced by a liberal dosage of Charles Atlas Superpowers: Flash Stepping, Bullet Catching, and cutting down thick stone pillars with his bare hands to name a few. He's a Genre Refugee from superpowered battle manga whose only goal in life is to be the strongest.
    • Every time Miwako Sato has been shown fighting, she's used orthodox police takedowns. She's been devoted to becoming a cop like her father since she was a little girl, and doesn't seem to have much of a life outside of the police.
    • Shuichi Akai uses Jeet Kune Do, an all encompasing style based around flexibility, pragmatism, and quick defeats. Is there any wonder The Boss of the Black Organization is scared of him? He's also a Cold Sniper, showing that he's level-headed and has a bad habit of not talking to his allies.
    • Masumi Sera is also a Jeet Kune Do user. After all, everything she knows she learned from her beloved Shu-nii.
    • Conan himself reads into Mary Sera's fighting style after finding a culprit knocked out, realizing that he was hit with a lighting quick nerve strike that must have come from a secret service. He also immediately assumes the man is dead upon seeing the state he was left in, showing just how ruthless his attacker was.
    • Tohru Amuro is a boxer, strong enough to make a grown man vomit blood in one hit. However, boxing has very little for it except punching, showing how Amuro is losing himslf to his obsession with revenge.

    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?

    Fan Works 

  • Fate Revelation Online: When Shirou starts making weapons for people, he decides he needs to fight them first in order to determine what would be best for them. He fights them in the Safe Zone, meaning it's impossible for them to take damage... which is a good thing, because Shirou is a brutal fighter.
    Diabel smiled uncertainly as he raised his hand to click respond.
    His hand was still shaking.
    He paused, examining his hand rather than responding, watching the fingers twitch slightly, completely outside his control.
    It had been terrifying.
    Compared to the heavy presence of a [Floor Boss] that oppressed him, fighting the [Sixth Ranger] had been like getting buffeted by a hurricane gale. Blows continuously came from everywhere, and if you missed even one it would knock you down and continue to pound you remorselessly.

  • 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 (2002): 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.
  • The Karate Kid:
    • The Cobra Kai School of Karate — led by John Kreese — follows a Might Makes Right/Violence is the Only Option philosophy. Every moment he is on screen, Kreese encourages his students to treat every fight as a fight to the death, that mercy is a weakness that none of them should practice and that victory through force is the only meaningful way to live, a toxic mentality that turns all of his students into bullies and entitled delinquents. In practice, their style emphasizes aggression and physical strength over technique and balance, intimidating their opponents and even flat-out cheating when the mood suits them. While this has won their dojo many trophies over the years, flaws in the technique are presented when faced against Daniel and Miyagi, their style of karate geared towards deflecting and blocking such offensive moves and finding openings in their stances.
    • Miyagi-do on the other hand is a form of karate that has been perfected over many generations in Okinawa, and it emphasizes balance and focus over brute strength and intimidation. Much of the moves Miyagi teaches Daniel is taught to him using mundane chores to build up his muscles and teach him defensive moves via muscle-memory, this a reflection of the style's grassroots-origins. It would not be several weeks into his training until Miyagi teaches him how to go on the offensive, and even then most attacks used are either counterattacks or a form of Deadly Dodging (citing the Crane Kick and Drum-Technique), reflecting Miyagi's Martial Pacifist philosophy.
  • 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 boxingnote .), 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.
    • It comes 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). This 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.
  • In Serenity we get several confrontations between Mal and the Operative. Mal is a rough hewn brawler whose fighting style is a result of being Taught by Experience in everything from fistfights as a kid on a country ranch, to surviving in warfare, to dirty squabbling with other criminals post-war. His fighting style reflects this: strong and direct but somewhat sloppy, and it works as well as it does mostly because Mal is a large and strong man who will fight very dirty when given the chance. By contrast the Operative is a Consummate Professional who is impeccably trained, his moves and strikes are precise, targeting pressure points and vulnerable spots on the body so he can do the maximum amount of damage or most easily incapacitate an opponent while using the least amount of force needed. The Operative also does more to use angles, side stepping, and parrying blows, and has his Signature Move, The Paralyzer, as an ace up his sleeve. The result is that when they fight the Operative dominates whenever they're at range and he has a chance to respond to Mal in a manner befitting his training, and virtually the only time when Mal is effective is when they get into the nastier business of grappling up close, as that gives Mal a chance to use his greater strength, or when Mal manages to fight dirty by doing things like temporarily blinding the Operative and hitting him while he's blind. Their second and last fight concludes in a very thematically appropriate way; the Operative appears to have Mal temporarily paralyzed with his fancy technique, but it turns out that the move doesn't work on Mal because a war wound damaged that nerve. Mal pretends to be helpless so the Operative becomes overconfident and goes to finish him, and Mal catches him by surprise with an elbow to the throat. In other words, the textbook technique of the Operative is rendered ineffective because of Mal's life experience and countered by Mal's cunning.
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, being heavily wuxia-influenced, has the main characters' fighting styles reflect who they are:
    • Wenwu has a very aggressive style which is heavy on brute force, showing his ruthlessness. It's also a style associated with the Big Bad's huge henchman, subtly hinting that Wenwu is not the true Big Bad of the film.
    • By contrast, his wife Ying Li's fighting style is influenced by tai chi, reflecting her sense of peace and balance, which is shown to have been enough to even convince Wenwu to retire from his life of crime.
    • Shang-Chi himself uses a variant of Wenwu's fighting style (which makes sense, as the latter put him through Training from Hell for seven years), but trades some of the brute force for finesse, which reflects his compassionate nature in contrast to his father's brutality. Later in the film, he studies his mother's style and adopts elements from that for their final battle.
    • Xialing has a very modern style with a lot of grappling (rare in Chinese martial arts), showing her independence and lack of ties to the past.
    • Katy Chen is, for most of the film, an Action Survivor who occasionally makes use of Confusion Fu, which makes sense with her status as a previously-Unwitting Muggle Friend in way over her head. Just before the final battle, she is pushed to start training in archery - lacking Shang-Chi and his family's martial arts skills, she needs to put some distance between herself and her enemies to stand a chance.
  • 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. Ataru favors high acrobatics, and is excellent against single opponents in an open space; but poor in prolonged combat or in a confined space. Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn were known users of this style, the former pretty much needed to use it to compensate for his small size. It also is viewed as a contributing factor to Qui-Gon's death, the lengthy fight tired him out and concluded in a small room.
    • 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-Human Echani. 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.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Elendil asks Galadriel to provoke the young volunteers into fighting her to test their determination and military training against the orcs. Galadriel begins with instructing them that in order to take down for good an orc, they have to "stab, twist, gut". Elendil then invites the young apprentices to fight Galadriel with promising them a promotion to lieutenant. Valandil responds first than he is joined by Ontamo. Galadriel is shown being nimble and faster, while the boys prefer to use brute force. Her second lesson is that swordmanship is about balance than strength. Galadriel easily disarms Ontamo and Valandil then, but others join the fight to help them. She defeats them all anyway by being faster with the sword. Her last lesson is that the is a better choice to outmaneuver an orc than use brutal force on them. Valandil gets promoted to lieutenant by managing to land a hit on Galadriel at some point during the fight.
  • 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.
  • Titans (2018): During a sparring between Dick and Rose, they discuss about fighting, expressing different views on it that can be seen even in their weapons. Rose chooses the deadly, quick katana, reflecting her elegant fighting style, full with dancing movements, but ready to give deadly blows at every turn. Dick instead has just a wooden staff, and his style is less about the killing blow and more about defense and knowing when to spare a life. Rose breaks his wooden stuff at the end, but he still defeats her.
  • 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:
    • Johnny Lawrence's students in Cobra Kai use his fighting style in wildly different ways, which mesh with their personalities.
      • Miguel Diaz 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 Robinson 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.
      • Eli "Hawk" Moscowitz, 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.
    • Daniel LaRusso's students in Miyagi-Do have a fighting philosophy that's rooted primarily in defense.
      • His daughter Samantha's fighting style is entirely defense-oriented, meaning she's unlikely to get annoyed by multiple shots. Because her size means she doesn't have the power necessary to end fights with decisive blows, she generally dodges and parries her opponent's strikes, letting them wear themselves down trying to hit her.
      • Demetri is a bit of a weakling, so knows he needs to play a thinking man's game. When faced with a confrontation, his first response is to run for assistance, run and hide afterward, and engage only when he has no room left to run. Then he takes a page out of Samantha's book: turtling and soaking attacks until his opponent lapses, upon which he settles the matter with one or two shots.
      • Chris, peaceful and sensitive by nature, makes it clear that he's not going to throw the first punch. Once it does get thrown, he responds either with a block or a retaliation. Then he goes ahead with the fight.
    • Terry Silver makes a comeback and teaches his own brand of Cobra Kai: Violent hits targeted at weak points.
  • Ultraman Cosmos: Cosmos' fighting style is influenced by Tai Chi and involves a lot of circular, defensive motions, fitting his characterisation as a gentle Ultra who usually tries to pacify or purify his opponents where many other Ultras would've opted to destroy them instead.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Fading Suns allows the player character to specialise in martial arts. There are several kinds, 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 and its spin-offs (including GURPS Tactical Shooting and GURPS Gun-Fu, which extend the principles to firearms combat) detail a lot of fighting styles. Each style is described in terms of what combat skills, techniques and options it uses, and also what advantages and disadvantages a typical stylist might have — a military hand-to-hand style that encourages aggression to get the job done might suggest Bloodlust and Berserk for students who have taken this to heart a bit too much, a lot different to a style that encourages a certain Code of Honour or Sense of Duty, such as medieval knightly training. Likewise, the Sharpshooter style lists Loner and Callous as typical disadvantages while 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 with a wild imagination that has him envision himself as the hero of a grand RPG adventure (which to be fair, he is), with his "Hero" class focusing on swinging around a baseball bat like a rough equivalent to a sword as well as healing and buffing his party through encouragement and charisma.
  • 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 version 1.6, 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. In later versions, Iji has access to genuine nonlethal weaponry and the Resonance Reflector counts as a killing weapon, so a pacifistic Iji is one using nondeadly force.note 
  • 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.
    • As an airbender, Aang is naturally inclined toward dodging and avoiding conflict, which causes him difficulties with earthbending. Toph has to push him into a situation where he has to stand his ground against a rolling rock to defend a helpless Sokka before he can adjust his mindset to earthbend.
    • 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.
  • Seis Manos: The main trio's fighting styles reflect their personalities quite well.
    • Isabela uses Hung Ga, a fighting style with a good balance of offensive and defensive techniques. This shows how she is the most mature of the trio.
    • Jesus is The Alcoholic and uses Drunken Boxing.
    • Silencio uses Bak Mei and Northern Praying Mantis, two styles which focus on swift, aggressive strikes. Naturally, Silencio is the one with the biggest temper.
  • 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.