20 March 2016

FWS Topics: Science Fiction Martial Arts

Since early times, people have gathered around fires and listened to tales of great warriors, skilled hunters, and gods of war engage in combat. They wielded great powers and often magically abilities. Today, those heroes, villains,and warfighters and their fearsome abilities have been explained with the worldwide phenomenon of Martial Arts. Martial Arts have become commonplace in modern society and fiction, with people from all walks of life undertaking training in countless arts and making YouTube videos about it as well. This has not been lost on science fiction. Since the earliest days of that genre, our heroes and villains have engaged in hand-to-hand combat using Martial Arts developed by the mind of their creator(s). In this blogpost, FWS will be exploring and explaining the fictional Martial Arts developed for science fiction works. Also, we will be looking why you want to develop your own sci-fi Martial Art and some tips/advice on that process.

What is the Difference between Hand-to-Hand Combat Systems and Martial Arts?
There is some confusion over the difference between an hand-to-hand combat system and Martial Art and even an self-defense course. Martial Arts are a complex melee system that can incorporate philosophy, weapons, religion that has been developed over a length of time that can span centuries. Martial Arts also have levels for their students and masters that can take students years, if not decades, to master. At times, Martial Arts are very much rooted in the culture that created them with moves and ideas being in the native language like Japanese or Korean. Within this complex system of kicks, punches, counters, and throws are hundreds or even thousands of combinations. This is not true of hand-to-hand combat systems nor self-defense systems. Most hand-to-hand combat systems like the US Marines MCMAP, are taught to military or law enforcement units are more concentrated and condensed to account for time, the types of encounters, and the audience. Self-Defense systems are often taught in a few weeks or even a few hours to allow for a few effective techniques to be taught and retaught, allowing the students to defend themselves if the need arises organically.

Why would you create an Sci-Fi Martial Art Anyways?
I can think of five major reasons why a creator would design an fictionalized Martial Art for their fictional universe. The first reason is the easiest to explain because it is the most common: to create an element of alien culture or future culture for your fictional universe. Terran Martial Arts are hallmarks of the cultures and time periods that created them, and they are also a window to the culture itself; Martial Arts as much as a language, religion, or cuisine adds layers to a culture that deepens them. When a creator develops an fictional Martial Art, it tells the audience something about the fictional culture or time period. We see this with the Klingon Martial Art of Mok'bara. The creation of this Tai-Chi-like alien Martial Art added layers to the wider Klingon culture, especially to the character of Lt. Worf. This also allows new avenues for storylines and character development.
Another common reason is to demonstrate how badass your proud warriors/space ninjas are. You, as the creator, could create a fictional Martial Art to add to the overall deadly quality and skill level for your proud alien warrior species or your Special Force operators or your space ninjas. As we in modern society, thanks to the Samurai and Master Bruce Lee, equate Martial Arts with a quality of strength and ability; you can link this fictional Martial Art to the aura of badassness to your character(s). Due to mass media presentation of Martial Arts as a way  to transform into Bruce Lee or Jason Bourne, there is a healthly percentage of the global population that take a Martial Art (or at least study YouTube videos and claim to know Kung-Fu), and that can effect the reason why an creator would not have their characters utilize an established Terran Martial Art; especially if the creator is not skilled in the form they are presenting in their work.
I have the majority of my characters use Jeet Kune Do, because it is the art that I am trained in and that I've actually used in fights. I also mix in a little Aikido since I took that as well. I am fairly confident that I can present these hand-to-hand combat scenes without the legions of internet critics gang-raping me. However, one safe way to avoid this is to invent a fictionalized Martial Art that only you are a master of. Some create fictional Martial Arts to incorporate their own ideas of hand-to-hand combat or design them specially for the setting, like a zero-gee hand-to-hand combat system for space marine boarding teams or a Martial Art on a low-gravity world.
I so did this way back in my old RPG days. One of my fighter characters, Xenon, from D&D was skilled in a made-up Martial Art called "Senjo" and there were three levels of this fantasy fighting art. One was for civilians, one for the military, and another that was devoted to weapon combat. Lame I know. This brings me to my last point about why fictional Martial Arts get developed: because it is fun and you know you want to do it. Over the many years of creating as I've done, I have developed more than a few fictional Martial Arts, and I mainly did this because I was super into the Martial Arts in high school, and that interest bleed into my fictional worlds. Never underestimate the importance of creating something for your fictional universe just because it is fun or you are into it.

"Trek-Fu" and "The Space Karate Chop"

When Star Trek: The Original Series premiered in 1966, the United States general public was starting to become more aware of Martial Arts, and it made sense that the show would incorporate Martial Arts for hand-to-hand engagements to take advantage of this emerging trend. While not taken from any one art, the techniques used did seems to be composed of sloppy copied moves, real tactics, and the corny trope of the "Space Karate Chops" seen in early interpretations of Martial Arts by western films/tv shows. Somehow, westerns really latched onto the Knife-Hand Strike (shuto-uchi) or Karate Chop as a symbol of all Martial Arts. Many spy films and action films showed the chop, and sci-fi picked up on it with Lost in Space being the first to show the "Space Karate Chop" in use in 1965. Despite how corny it was, Star Trek was still one of the first sci-fi shows to show Martial Arts on the small screen.
By the time TNG arrived, the stunt personnel wanted to abandon the goofiness of the original series and soon developed the familiar "Trek-Fu" that was used until ST: Voyager, and abandoned by the time of Star Trek: Enterprise. At its heart, Trek-Fu seems to be an linear, defensive, more hand-focused hand-to-hand combat system that is taught to all Starfleet personnel....some are better at it than others. The focus is one countering the enemy's first strike, and leading that up with hard-hitting blows until the target is down. There is a limited use of kicks, throws, weapons, and boxing. Two of the hallmarks of Trek-Fu is the clasped-hand strike (axe handle strike or the double-fist hammer strike) and the open-palm strike. Throughout the many Star Trek shows, many characters demonstrate using an unusual method of striking with both hands clasping and using that to strike either the face or stomach of the target. It can also be used to block then switched to a strike as seen in Deep Space Nine.  This is odd and not utilized any real-world Martial Art I've seen. Some sources say that this is taught to women in Self-Defense classes to maximize strikes against larger male opponents...but if not done correctly, the result can be broken or damaged fingers, and there is no real world reason to do this....save for a WWF match. The open-palm strike is one of my favorites, and it is deadly if used correctly...so, no issues there with it's use in Trek-Fu. Martial Arts in Star Trek was mocked by Martial Arts magazines and fans for years, but it is important to know that Star Trek at large was important for the incorporation of Martial Arts into sci-fi.

Tips and Advice about Creating a Sci-Fi Martial Art
  • Act it out. When you write or design hand-to-hand combat sequences in your work, act them out. See if they are stupid, lame, or even effective. I did this for most of the hand-to-hand combat scenes in my books, and while it is embarrassing at times, you generally work through any issues and maybe how to design the encounter better than before. 
  • Don't overthink the plumbing and KISS. Often flashier Martial Arts moves get more traction in the public and creator imaginations than practical, effective techniques. Remember, if your story is about warfighters or experienced melee brawlers, don't have them jumping across the room!  Keep It Simple Stupid and Keep It REAL. Experienced brawlers and fighters will know what works and what gets your ass kicked. Novices is where you can have your fun.  
  • Don't be Afraid of a Hit. Often our heroes and villains that are Martial Arts masters are depicted as uber-badass with such godlike powers of fisticuffs that they are always victorious over their enemies in engagements. They also block every blow and now how to hit their opponent in just such a way as to knock them out in one blow or kick. Bullshit. Even me has a novice Jeet Kune Do student in 1995, got a few licks in on my instructors, and they were lightyears beyond me. Even Jason Bourne, Neo, and Bruce Lee got hit, but they knew how to take one and keep moving on. When film Serenity, director Joss Whedon wanted to see River Tam get hit from time-to-time in her fights.
  • Be Creative! As Master Bruce Lee said: "Absorb what it useful. Discard what is not. Add what is unique your own." In creating an science fiction Martial Art, one must be mindful of the KISS rule, and rejecting what does not work, and creating something that is honest to who you are. I took Jeet Kune Do, and being that the art is always evolving, I added elements of other Martial Arts I had taken like Aikido, Karate, and pieces of other arts to create something of my own. Don't be rigid and only use one art as a basis for your sci-fi Martial Art. 
  • Non-Human Martial Arts. One thing I would love to see in science fiction is an alien Martial Art constructed around an completely non-humanoid physiology. How would a sentinel octopus-based species fight? Inquiring minds want to know... 
  • Stop using vaguely Asian sounding names for your Martial Art, especially, ones that are alien in origin! When I read the names of the Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat, I eye-rolled several times over how Asian the names of the forms sounded even in a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.    
Science Fiction and Martial Arts
The term "Martial Arts" is a loaded one that nearly everyone on the planet Earth understands, including the power in mastering the techniques of the art. This has led to Martial Arts of one kind or another being fitted into the world of science fiction since the earliest days of the genre. During the pulp era with swashbuckling heroes like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and a little later, Dan Dare; used more boxing, simple kicks, and sword play which were more related to European fighting skills than Asian Martial Arts. It would not be until after the Second World War that Asian Martial Arts would start to filter into Western society. By the time of the 1960's, basic Martial Arts techniques and ideas were being incorporated into the skillset of the hero or villain of a story, like Captain Kirk and James Bond. Then Master Bruce Lee exploded onto the world stage, and altered the world of Martial Arts forever. He and the wave of Martial Arts films that came after would wash over the world, making Martial Arts commonplace, even in the final frontier.
This started the "Kung-Fu Crazy" of the 1970's that lasted in one form or another until today. During that time period, we saw our space heroes, like Buck Rogers played by Gil Gerard, using Martial Arts whenever a fight broke out and comic book superheroes began to use Martial Arts along with introducing characters whose superpower was Martial Arts. Characters like Marvel's Howard the Duck becoming Master of Quack Fu, DC's Richard Dragon and Lady Sliva, and Marvel's Bruce Lee rip-off Shang-Chi. This wave of Martial Art's fever also had the benefit of sci-fi television shows often called upon Martial Arts to jazz up the show, especially with female characters playing badass Martial Artists in tight costumes as seen with Xena, Colonel Wilma Deering and the ladies of Cleopatra 2525. With more Martial Arts being in common culture, the novelty of the basic idea was worn out and creators turned to developing their own Martial Arts to breath some new life into the practice or to add an element of culture to their fictional society, as seen in the various fighting arts of DUNE, Coup de Vitesse from the Honorverse, and Mok'bara form Star Trek. This trend of our space heroes and villains using made up or real-world Martial Arts is not going anywhere, but it becoming more realistic and less flashy.    

Some Examples of Badass Fighters in Sci-Fi

Leeloo from The Fifth Element
One of the best sci-fi films of the 1990’s was The Fifth Element, we got to see the supreme being, Leeloo, kick serious alien ass while channeling Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. There is not much to say about the Martial Arts here, but the performance of Milla Jovovich was magical and is one of the best of her career. Leeloo is often mentioned in the ranks of being one of the best fighters in sci-fi due to physical abilities as well as her ability to learn at a rapid pace.

Neo from the Matrix Universe
It would not be right to not include Neo from the Matrix universe, given his level of hand-to-hand combat skill and how often he uses Martial Arts in the films. Not only was Neo gifted with being the one, he was uploaded with every major form of Martial Arts...not that you see them in his moves. The One rejects guns, and relies on his hand-to-hand combat skills to deal with Agents and other enemies. He easily destroys them with over-the-top moves and some moves that are impossible outside of the Matrix. For the films, legend Yuen Woo-Ping was hired to train the three main actors for four months to pull of the real-world moves presented in the film. The majority of the moves seen were taken from Chinese Kung-Fu, Wing-Chu, Choy Li Fut, Hung Gar, T'ei T'ong, Wu Shu, Hop Gar, Dog Boxing, and as some have called it, Wire-Fu. While flawed, the three Matrix films were some of the best fusion of sci-fi and Martial Arts.

Jugger Grimrod from the Alien Legion Universe
During the 1980's, Epic Comics, a spin-off of Marvel, printed a military sci-fi comic called Alien Legion and it was glorious. One of the best characters in the comic was an green-skinned alien that spoken in a oddball Cockney British accent and was from the planet Thrax in the Tel Prime system in the Auron Galaxy. He was Jugger Grimrod and he was the best character in the entire series. Grimrod was an master of violence, cruelty, hand-to-hand, weapons (legal and illegal), and finding booze and loose women on all worlds through the three galaxies. Jugger's father was a mercenary who beat his wife and kids. At one point, he left his family, beating his wife to near death. Before he was teenager, Grimrod and his sister were on the streets. There he learned the art of violence and how to win in most every situation. Throughout the first and season series of Alien Legion, Grimrod proved himself as a deadly member of the Legion penal unit Force Nomad. In issue number 5 of the second series, Grimrod was left behind on an alien world, and he fought his way through the enemy to secure the planet for the Legion. That issue alone secures his status as one of the badass fighters of science fiction.

Kenshiro From Fist of the North Star
What do you get when you combine Master Bruce Lee with Mad Max, MFP cop? Kenshiro from the manga and anime Fist of the North Star. According to the series, this wander of the wasteland was the master of an deadly and secret ancient Chinese Martial Art known as "Hokuto Shin Ken". Throughout the years that Fist of the North Star has existed, Kenshiro has been one of the most iconic badass of popular Japanese media and ranked number three on the list of strongest manga characters. There are few that can stand toe-to-toe with Kenshiro in fisticuffs. His iconic scream has also iconic as well.

Spike Spiegel from Cowboy BeBop
This is an easy one. Throughout the iconic anime Cowboy BeBop, Spike Spiegel as been established as a man fast with his Jericho 941 as well as his hands/feet. Spike is a fan and follower of the teachings of Bruce Lee and took his Martial Art, Jeet Kune Do. Not only was Spike skilled in the art of Jeet Kune Do, but also had extensive hands-on experience during his time as a gang member. To their credit, the animation team seems to have study the art form to get the moves more or less right in the series and film.

Max Guevara from Dark Angel
Back in 2000, James Cameron and Fox partnered up to develop a unique science fiction series. That series was Dark Angel and it's star was Jessica Alba. In the show, the US government is developing super-soldiers called the "X5s", but these children were little more than slaves to the government. In 2009, 12 X5 children escape their training complex. A few months later, terrorists set off an EMP, wiping America back to 3rd World status. That is the world that Max, X5-452 finds herself. With her genetic enhancements, Max was a very skilled and creative Martial Artist with greater strength, grace, and skill than the normal human. This could be due to the inclusion of feline DNA into her own. For two seasons, we watched Max kick ass and take names as the show slowly got worse and worse. It is a pity that such an interesting show was destroyed, taking Max with it.

Tyr Anasazi from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda
When it comes to some sci-fi shows that were not A-listed like Star Trek, the use of tight costumes, sexy stars, and tons of fisticuffs helps attract the viewers, and Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda was no different. In the series, Tyr Anasazi was the primary badass of the lost warship Andromeda Ascendent. Tyr was a member of the genetically created race known as Nietzschean, who were created as the next step in human evolution. Part of that was to be superior warrior, and the Nietzscheans were equipped with all of the advantages, including those uncool forearm mounted bone blades. In the series, Tyr proved himself over and over in over-the-top moves and attacks, but it was the actor, Keith Hamilton Cobb, that really sold the fierceness of Tyr and his abilities.

Malcolm Reynolds from the Firefly Universe
When many people think of Firefly they think of smugglers, the Alliance, and the Reavers. When they think of Malcolm Reynolds, they think of the funny, wounded captain of the Serenity and of course, his sci-fi revolver handgun. What they don't often think of is his hand-to-hand combat ability. Throughout the series and the film, Malcolm Reynolds proves himself as an able fighter in hand-to-hand engagements. I've always been impressed the moves presented and spunk of the character to overcome more talented and schooled fighters. I have often wondered where Malcolm's fisticuffs skills come from. It highly unlikely that he learned during his time with the Browncoats...military organizations rarely teach that level of proficiency with melee combat. I always believed that through Malcolm Reynolds' travels and adventures, that he picked up moves through fights and learned through wins and loses, he developed  as a brawler.

Duncan Macleod of the Clan Macleod from Highlander: The Series

The poor mangled and forgotten Highlander universe was nearly saved by the spin-off television series of the 1990's and Adrian Paul's ponytail. I loved this show in the 1990's because it took the fan favorite elements of the original film and extended it out with a much better Macleod than Conner. In the series, Duncan Macleod of the Clan Macleod was an immortal that crossed the globe training and learning. Along the way, Duncan picked up Chinese Martial Arts from his lover May-Ling  and his time in Feudal Japan with Samurai Hideo Koto. During the 1990's, Duncan would move to Vancouver and buy a failing dojo living above it in a loft and training with dojo manager Charlie DeSalvo. According to what I've seen in the series, read in magazines and online, Adrian Paul used a combination of Kung-Fu and Wing-Chun, along with Chinese arts that the actor took: Choy li fut and Hung Gar. All of this adds up to Duncan Macleod being a badass mother fucker with the series using his skills to maximum effect! It is a real pity that the stupid movies that followed the popular series did not utilize the character and condemned the entire franchise.

Riddick from the Riddick Universe
There is little doubt that Riddick is one of the most scary brawler characters in sci-fi, and not a guy I would shower and drop the soap with either. Riddick was from a planet of warriors, who was separated from his home culture. This separation and his natural abilities caused Riddick to be a psychopath with violent as a friend and weapon as his woman. While his talents are clear in the films, it is the original Xbox video game, Escape from Butcher's Bay, that really showcased Riddick's dark talents. It is not just that Riddick can fight, it is the way he does it and how it more akin to murder than just melee combat.

Elektra from the Marvel Universe
On a recent Top 10 list on the most badass characters in the Marvel Universe, our girl here Elektra was number three, and that made me sit up and notice her again. Elektra was a character in the more mature Epic comic line created by Frank Millar, and she is a badass assassin-for-hire trained in Martial Arts for much of her life despite being Greek. The death of her father drove her deeper into the shadowy world of underground Martial Arts groups, and for years, Elektra was one of the deadest women in the world. She was skilled in several Asian Martial Arts and a master of the sai as well as many other traditional Martial Arts weapons. While very-cute and talented Jennifer Garner portrayed her in two films after her roles as an female assassin in ABC's Alias, these were met with mixed reviews and unloved by fans. In the new Daredevil Netflix's series, Elektra will be played by French actress Elodie Yung.

Ronon Dex from the Stargate Universe
There is little doubt that Jason Momoa plays badass characters, and when he entered the world of Stargate: Atlantis in season two, episode three, he became the badass character that was meant to inject some new blood to the series and take the role left empty by Ford's leaving. Ronon's homeworld was invaded by the Wraith, and Ronon was not just warehoused for food, but given the "honor" of being a runner. Wraith would make sport of hunting Ronon from gate-to-gate, as attempted to stay one step ahead. In the series, Ronon is considered one of the most capable fighters with his blaster or his hands, and is a key member of Shepard's recon team. While I grew to like Ronon character...he was always a little "too cool for school" and seemed to be "cool for the sake of cool" with his name too similar to the Samurai Ronin and his mannerism being closer to a Viking raider. Still, he was a badass fighter.    

River Tam from the Firefly Universe
River Tam is a bit of a late bloomer. Throughout much of the TV series, she was a wounded little girl horribly tested on by the Alliance. Her deep psychological scarring and trauma caused River to be...unstable and commit random acts of stabbing. There were hints of River Tam being a secret badass, but the show was cancelled before we could see it. Then in the 2005 film, River flowers into a full-on badass fighter of the first order. She attacked an entire bar and took on a group of Reavers. The Alliance was experimenting on River and other talented children to forge assassins to take out the enemies of the Alliance, shaping those children into living weapons.
Some have disagreed with the badassness of the character given her size and being more lean than bulky, but I think this only reinforces how enhanced River Tam was enhanced by the Alliance medical experiments, along with her original purpose of being a infiltration agent/assassin. Given Summer Glau's dancing experience and training, the stunt coordinators used her natural grace and talent to her advantage. She trained to pull of the moves, some of them impossible for those less flexible, and she created a fluid combat style that allowed her to take on several attackers.

Examples of Fictional Martial Arts:

Anbo-Jyutsu from Star Trek: TNG "The Icarus Factor"
One of the most famous and brief appearances of an sci-fi Martial Arts in Star Trek is "Anbo-Jyutsu". In the second season episode "The Icarus Factor", William Riker's father, Kyle Riker engaged in a heated match of Anbo-Jyutsu onboard the Enterprise-D to settle long-held issues rising from the death of William's mother. Kyle taught his son Anbo-Jyutsu has a way to bond with his suffering son. It has been called the "ultimate Martial Art" by some, and two fighters face off with their vision blocked while wielding staffs with proximity sensors mounted to allow the fighters to find on another and then they engage in moves to force their opponent out of the ring (like Sumo) or to surrender. Despite the impressive title of this sci-fi Martial Art, it is never seen again in an Star Trek series...it is mentioned a few times in Deep Space Nine, but it is mostly seen in Star Trek literature. This Martial Art was developed by the Japanese culture loving production of TNG and the creative fighting suits were created by Durinda Rice Wood. The name means nearly nothing in Japanese; "Anbo" is a port in Japan and "Jyutsu" means art.

Gun Kata from Equilibrium and Ultraviolet
One of the most famous of the sci-fi cinema Martial Arts was Gun Kata developed by director/writer Kurt Wimmer for two of his Hong Kong styled sci-fi action films: Equilibrium and Ultraviolet He wanted a science fiction Martial Art that incorporated hand-to-hand combat, gun skills, and mathematics to form a Martial Art developed for the pistol as Kendo was developed for the sword. In both films, the heroes used their skill with Gun Kata to overcome fearsome odds with fluid, artful moves, all while blazing away with twin pistols or machine pistols. 
While this pretty and looks great on film, it is firmly stupid. The moves are in no way realistic for CQW pistol skills, the enemy is treated as stupid and wielding and firing two pistols akimbo is simply not that easy. I guess in the world of Equilibrium and Ultraviolet recoil doesn’t exist? The other element I couldn’t stand while watching this was the stances and posing. I hate to say this, but for years I had heard of how badass the Gun Kata scenes were in both of these films and they simply did not live up to the hype. The moves presented in the films could not and would not happen that way. I found the scenes in John Wick to be more realistic for a "gun-fu" type gun Martial Art than what was presented in Equilibrium and Ultraviolet.

Mastaba and Lok'nel Jaffa Martial Arts from the Stargate Universe
The Jaffa were originally humans that have been altered for the purposes of their gods: the Goa'uld. Most Jaffa were used by the Goa'uld to be an army for spreading their power via conquest. That being said, the Jaffa developed two Martial Arts: Mastaba and Lok'nel. By far, Mastaba is the most common system used by the Jaffa. It seems that Mastaba was developed around the Terran art of Capoeira, given the similar types of moments and aerobatics. Since the Jaffa primary armament is a staff with an laser DE blaster, Mastaba has staff combat training in the art. The other Jaffa art is called Lok'nel and it is more rare than Mastaba. So rare in fact, that it is only seen in a single episode of Stargate SG1. 

The Seven Forms of Lightsaber Combat from the Star Wars Universe
Throughout the long evolution of the Force-using warrior known as the Sith and the Jedi over thousands of years, seven forms of Lightsaber combat have been developed. Some of these forms were developed for blocking/intercepting incoming DEW bolts and beams, others are devoted to fighting other Lightsaber wielders. Other forms of Lightsaber combat utilize more aerobatics to throw off attackers and maximize energy and the Force. The final and most complex Form of Lightsaber Combat is Juyo, which Master Mace Windu used...not that it did him much good. Juyo was rumored to be developed by the Dark Side of the Force users to corrupt Jedi warriors onto the path of the Dark Side by attempting to master this aggressive form of Lightsaber combat. This form could only be undertaken with approval from the Jedi Council. Only a few Jedi Knights were allowed to purse Juyo. These forms of Lightsaber Combat have been retrofitted into the films, by saying this form was used by famous Jedi character X and this form was used by famous Jedi character Y. Whatever. The true origin of Jedi "Martial Arts" was Kendo and a few other weapon Martial Arts taught to the actors for their on-screen work. Either way, the sci-fi Martial Arts behind Lightsaber combat might be one of the most famous and known by the general public.

Panzer Kunst from Battle Angel Alita
The word "Panzer Kunst" means "armored art" in German and is a unique Martial Art developed for the zero gee environment and was invented on Mars by Tiger Sauer. In the Battle Angel Alita universe, Panzer Kunst was very rarely used and was on the verge of being a forgotten art all together. This hand-to-hand combat system was used by cyborgs along with space karate (really?). There are five schools of Panzer Kunst and most of the moves in common feature attacks by cyborgs using quick vibration attacks to overcome cyborg armor. To fully train in Panzer Kunst, the students must be in an zero-gee environment like an orbital station and the students must be cyborgs. 

Venusian Aikido or Karate from the Classic Doctor Who Universe
Oh. Dear. God. During the funky 1970's, when the world was in a Kung-Fu grip of Martial Art fever, Dr. Who got into the act with, and I am not making this up, "Venusian Aikido". Most of the "art" was a funny take on the corny Space Karate Chop trope along with some real Martial Arts thrown in. Being an Venusian art from Venus, it was really meant to be used by a being with five arms and five legs. The idea of the Doctor being involved in a Martial Art did not sit well with members of the production staff, and Terrance Dicks suggested the more defensive Aikido instead of Karate or Judo.

Fremen Kempo from the DUNE Universe
There is little on this Martial Art used by the wandering tribal people of the deep deserts of the planet Arrakis. It is called Fremen Kempo...but I am unsure if this really exists in the context of the book universe laid down by the author. We know that the Fremen were fearsome fighters that were trained in desert warfare, knife fighting and hand-to-hand combat...but was it called Fremen Kempo? I doubt it. It could have come from fan culture that emerged from DUNE centered RPGs. Oddly enough, the hand-to-hand combat of the novel was eliminated by director David Lynch in favor of the sonic Weirding Modules weapon due to his dislike of seeing Kung-Fu battles on the sand dunes.

Omnite from Logan's Run
In the film and the book by William F. Nolen and George Clayton Johnson it was based on, the Sandmen enforcers are trained in the hand-and-hand combat system known as Omnite. Little is known or explained about it, but it mentioned a few in the novel and it seems to use hard-strikes and concentration to maximize those strikes. The term "omnite" was meant by the authors to be read as "omni-tray" combined Japanese and Latin words to create an early explain of an sci-fi Martial Art that seems to be taken from Karate.

The Weirding Way from the DUNE Universe
In the iconic 1965 book and the 1984 misguided film as well as the miniseries, much is made of Paul Atreides training in hand-to-hand combat, and the DUNE itself is rich with various melee combat styles and schools. Much of this was due to the world of DUNE being based around Feudal societies and the use of shields where an lasgun strike would be bad...very bad...like crossing the streams bad. The Bene Gesserit Weirding Way was a form of movement that came from Prana-Bindu, and was taught to members of the Sisterhood for use in control of nerves and muscles. It can be used for hand-to-hand combat, as seen with Paul. The Weirding Way was taught to the Fremen during their Jihad. Mastery at the Weirding Way could be seen as near teleportation and superhuman speed.Paul's mother, Jessica taught her son many secrets of the Sisterhood, including their form of combat and control.  It is likely that the Weirding Way comes from Yoga. 

Teras-Kasi  from the Star Wars Universe
About 3600 years before the Battle of Yavin, a unique Martial Art was developed to counter the Jedi: Teras-Kasi or “steel hands”. This art was founded on the world of Bunduki by refugees from the planet Palawa, and it was developed to counter the speed of a Jedi, given the involvement of the Jedi in making the Palawans refugees. Despite these roots, the art has been adopted by many Forces users over the years, including Plo Koon and Darth Maul, have incorporated Teras-Kasi into their combat techniques. Most people know the term "Teras-Kasi" due to the painful 1997 Playstation One Star Wars fighting game called Masters of Teras-Kasi. This was during the fighting game crazy, and LucasArts wanted in.

Bantos Fighting from the Stargate Universe
In the 2004 spinoff series to Stargate SG-1, badass warrior chick Teyla (played by Rachel Luttrell) uses a stick-based combat art called Bantos. For much of the series, the fighting art that she used was unnamed until season 3. Stunt coordinator James Bamford wanted Teyla to use an mostly unseen Martial Art on-screen. He turned to Filippo Kali and Escrima for the stick combat and then added other elements to compose Bantos. Some of the moves shown on screen are similar to what I learned in Jeet Kune Do. Throughout the series, the Athosians use Bantos to defend themselves for the Wraith and beat up the Atlantis Expedition personnel for fun. Teyla attempted to train John Shepard in the ways of the Bantos Rod, and she and Ronon even engaged in a match or two. During an interview, Rachel Luttrell said that a female fan of the show took inspiration from Teyla and became a black belt.

Tsunkatse Mixed Martial Arts from Star Trek: Voyager Episode "Tsunkatse"
During the dismal run of Star Trek: Voyager, in the sixth season, the episode "Tsunkatse" was aired and featured an broadcasted MMA fighting style bloodsport. Fighters are being abducted and forced to fight in the ring, and Seven of Nine is captured and forced to fight. During her time on the ship, the former Borg befriends an aging Hirogen man, who showed her how to fight. The former Trek-Fu was not present in the episode while WWF wrestling moves were along with some real Martial Arts moves. This episode was a crossover between WWF Smackdown! and Voyager to boost ratings and interest in the failing UPN network and with Voyager. Oddly, an opinion piece in Black Belt magazine praised the episode and the Martial Arts seen in the arena, along with a judgement free piece about the emerging MMA sport. 

The Klingon Martial Art of Mok'bara from the Star Trek Universe
One of the most famous and developed fictional Martial Arts was the Klingon hand-to-hand combat system of Mok'bara. This system fused meditation, exercise, and hand-to-hand combat skills to forge the perfect warrior. Not only does Mok'bara utilize the body and mind for combat, but also traditional Klingon bladed weapons like the Bat'leth. According to Klingon myth, Mok'bara was developed by Kahlessin the 9th century. Much of Mok'bara was designed by Dan Curry, the VFX supervisor of TNG, and he drew upon his mastery of Tai Chi to develop the Klingon system that is one of the often criticism of this sci-fi Martial Arts...that is it too soft for the proud warrior race of the Klingons. But, I have two different theory on the relationship between Mok'bara and wider Klingon culture.
My first theory is that for many years, Klingon were projected in Trek to be more like a race of savage-warriors, like Vikings. This led to early Klingons using more wrestling and brute strength than typical Martial Art's attacks used by Starfleet personnel. That was until Lt. Worf came along. The character of Worf was an attempt to build a bridge between the worlds of Starfleet and the Klingons, and one way that that forged the wider "noble warrior identity" of the new Klingons via Worf  in the TNG days was Mok'bara. Like many fictional Martial Arts, Mok'bara is founded on a Terran Martial Art, this case Tai Chi, and that helps form the basis for this more gentle appearing Martial Art than something more obviously violent like Sambo or Krav Maga.
Worf is shown using the metaphysics of the art to channel his chi into being more centered and more in control. This art, first seen in the 4th season of TNG in "Clues" allowed Worf to export some of his Klingon culture to the D crew via Martial Arts lessons, softening the old Viking-warrior Klingon image of old (which was resurrected for Enterprise). My other personal theory on Mok'bara is that since Worf was not raised by Klingons, he picked up Mok'bara to forge his own identity as a noble warrior and not the violent raiders of years past. He was trying to be the perfect stoic Klingon warrior-monk, and much like the Samurai or the Shaolin monks Worf embraced the more spiritual Mok'bara to enhance his self, body, and chi, as well as learning how to fight with body, mind, and the traditional Klingon weapons.
This allowed Worf to be in control of his Klingon inner self while serving in the more peaceful Starfleet. But no means is Mok'bara the only Klingon Martial Art...it is just the only one we've been allowed to see to fit the new POV on the Klingons. Any culture that devoted to death, war, and being a true warrior is not just going to develop an single Martial Art. After all, feudal Japanese society developed many schools of warfare that trained Samurai in weapons and hand-to-hand combat, as seen in the excellent magna Lone Wolf and Cub. Mok'bara is like the Tai Chi or Aikido of the Klingon Martial Arts world, and there are other more violent Klingon Martial Arts not seen in the Trek Universe.

Hokuto Shin Ken and Nanto Seiken From Fist of the North Star
Now for the manliest anime of all time: Fist of the North Star. In this Mad Max meets Bruce Lee post-nuclear war world scenario, the hero of the story is Kenshiro, a master of the deadly 1800 year old "Hokuto Shin Ken" (Big Dipper God) Martial Art. This art allows the user to attack the human body's 708 channeling points against the target. Hit the right point and you are already dead with a head exploding seven seconds later. This assassination art is so deadly, only one student can be taught Hokuto Shin Ken. The art similar to Hokuto Shin Ken is Nanto Seiken. Hokuto kills via contact with the hundreds of pressure points, while Nanto Seiken uses overwhelming external force via slashing and stabbing strikes. These two fictional Martial Arts are some of the most famous of Oh, and say with me: "Atatatatatatatatat!! Ho wata!!

Next Time on FWS...
It has been awhile since FWS reviewed a military sci-fi comic, and I decided to dig around my dusty longbox and pull out Drafted for a review blogpost. While the review blogposts are not the most attractive for traffic and shares, we have to do them from time-to-time. Next time, we get into Drafted!


  1. Thumbs up for including Spike. I've always felt that the fight scenes in Cowboy Bebop are some of the best in any visual media; stylised but without becoming unbelievable. They also treat firearms pretty responsibly for visual SF, with only a few cases of dual wielding.

    One thing that always annoys me in SF is when someone is fighting hand to hand either with someone in armour or a robot. I'm sorry, but it is near impossible to knock someone unconscious if they are wearing a high tech helmet. And a robot with a hard exterior would break your bones easier than a human could.

    Currently we don't train soldier to fight hand to hand because of the lethality of weapons and the fact that most combat will cure at ranges of a of least a few meters. That could be different on a future spaceship or space station, or even in a high tech local on a planet. If you don't want to run the risk of puncturing the ship's hull low powered weapons might be the norm, mostly unable to penetrate the armour they will presumably have in the future. Hand to hand might then be the only option, especially since knives are so good at getting past armour plates. Of course, there could also be the futuristic equivalent of the Vietnam War's 'Tunnel Rats'.

  2. I really love Cowboy BeBop and he was the first entry in the badass fighters of sci-fi. That is an interesting justification for the teaching of hand-to-hand with regards to shipboarding. Like it.
    I've never liked when our Kung-Fu space heroes fight Cylons in hand-to-hand combat. Remember when Kyle tried in Terminator? They also did it in Space:Above and Beyond as well. The only way to combat an APS wearing human or an Terminator is getting them off balance and having them fall.
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I'm really not into the martial arts, thanks for your post, it's really informative :D
    I remember Watching Xena, it was quite funny when I had TV in 16:9 and the Xena was in 4:3, everybody looked kinda fat... :))
    I'm trying to find Firefly somewhere in the Web, because in my stupid country there is no good channel on TV... I really love this universe, I watched only Serenity, but I heard it is worse than series, but I liked it, so the original must be great :D is the TV series really that better?
    Also, what are your blogpost plans on more msf posts In next, let's say 2 months?
    Sorry for my English, it's terrible sometimes ;)

  4. Awesome post, kicking ass and taking names always makes a character even more fun.

  5. For what it is worth, in James P. Hogan's THE TWO FACES OF TOMORROW he invents Uncomme, the Unified Combat Method. It is described as a technique that combined aspects of karate, the atemi waza branch of judo and a number of other martial arts including military unarmed combat into a fearsomely effective technique well suited to the Western physique and cultural conditioning.

  6. This was such a hard blogpost to research, I either got lucky with a search or I already knew it. Wish I had known about James P. Hogan The Two Faces of Tomorrow. Thanks for the heads up!

  7. Time Trax (TV Series 1993–1994) the Mosh-T an occidental improvement of martial arts

  8. I wanted to include this, I read about it on some lists, but since I never watched an single episode of the show and I could not dig much information about the specifics of the art. The name is odd too...Mosh T sounds like an brand of Asian bottled teas.

  9. "Riddick is one of the most scary brawler characters in sci-fi, and not a guy I would shower and drop the soap with either."

    So... you're afraid Riddick might try to rape you in the shower? Am I understanding you correctly here?

  10. While I mostly agree with you on the differences between Hand-to-Hand Combat Systems and Martial Arts, there is some crossover. You gave the example of MCMAP as a Hand-to-Hand Combat Style, and while it is, it also fits your definition of a martial art. MCMAP teaches the "warrior mindset" and also has qualification belts and levels. In fact, if I am remembering correctly, in order to be promoted to certain ranks, one of the requirements is achieving a certain MCMAP qualification above the bare minimum for you MOS. While infantry Marines are required at a higher lever MCMAP qualification, they would still fall under the promotion requirement.

    I enjoy your blog posts, and am not trying to be a pain, just as thorough as possible.

  11. For some fun try reading Steve Perry's Matador series of books. Some have strange parts and others funny. Imagine one man starting a revolution and taking on a Stellar Empire SOLO? That's the main idea in the book The Man Who Never Missed. It also tells about a weapon that take a great deal of practice to master but is rather shot range. Though it can take quite a few different type of rounds. However class one battle armor is not something you want to try shoot at with it! Not unless you want to die that is! This thing DOES NOT fire anything powerful enough to do more then go DING when hitting the armor. I've read the whole series and it's quite good. I'd make a great movie simply because there's no real super high tech that needs CGI.