Black Panther is perhaps a unique character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a variety of reasons. However, one reason people may overlook is his fighting style. Black Panther, or T’challa, is one of the most skilled martial artists in the MCU. He defeated dangerous fighters such as the Winter Soldier, M’Baku, and Killmonger by using martial arts techniques from wildly different styles, some of which you may have never heard of before.
Black Panther is such a unique fighter that his combat skills and its time we analyze them. However, this breakdown will only focus on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) version of Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman. Therefore, different versions of the character will not count for this breakdown.
Tiger Style Kung Fu
One of the most notable attributes of Black Panther’s fighting style is how he strikes when he’s wearing his vibranium armour. This particular type of striking is reminiscent of Tiger Style kung fu.
Tiger Style is a type of Kung fu in which a practitioner often curls their fist into a claw and strikes their opponent’s skin. Practitioners make their fingers hard enough to do so by hitting them against complex objects, which causes microfractures in the bones that heal and become harder than before. This method of body hardening is also used in other fighting styles around the world, like Muay Thai.
T’challa also understands other ways of striking, like making a fist and hurling it at someone. In his match with M’Baku, you can see him using some classic boxing techniques.
In an interview, Chadwick Boseman confirmed that this style of boxing is called Dambe. Dambe is a West African boxing style, most commonly associated with an ethnic group called the Hausa.
Dambe boxers have one hand wrapped up, which acts as a spear, and another hand acts as a shield. Boxers will then attempt to strike each other with their wrapped hand and block their opponent’s punch with their unwrapped hand.
Elbows and knees are an active part of any combatant’s fighting skills. T’challa is no exception. In his case, he employs the strikes from Muay Thai.
Muay Thai is often referred to as the art of eight limbs. This is because Muay Thai fighters use their hands, elbows, knees, and legs. In T’challa’s case, you can see him use knee strikes multiple times in the MCU.
Also, he uses a downward Muay Thai elbow against M’Baku too.
T’challa is very good at using his legs as well. He often employs kicks from the Korean martial art Taekwondo.
For instance, here, he hits the Winter Soldier with a front kick and then a sidekick.
Here, he throws two front kicks then flows up with a roundhouse kick.
Finally, T’challa uses a spin hook kick, throwing himself into the move to add extra power. (Panther was lowkey beating down Bucky throughout Civil War.)
T’challa’s kicking prowess does not stop at Taekwondo. He is also familiar with the Brazilian martial art Capoeira that focuses on a unique kicking style.
Capoeira is believed to have originated in Africa and was brought to Brazil by African slaves. Since slave masters forbade slaves from practicing any combat style, slaves modified the form to resemble a dance to train still. As a result, Capoeira features many rhythmic movements that use the entire body to drive power behind their kicks. For example, in his fight with M’Baku, you can see T’challa using an Aú Aberto, a Capoeira technique, during his fight with M’Baku.
Sometimes, T’challa decides to kick while he is on the ground. This kicking style resembles Capoeira, but Boseman confirmed they are actually silat kucing, which are often called cat kicks.
Silat refers to styles of martial arts found throughout southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia. While all Silat is different, many of the moves across the styles are very quick and violent, with the intent to maim or kill your attacker.
Sometimes Black Panther’s kicks get pretty wild and aerial.
Tricking is not technically a martial art. Instead, it is a set of acrobatic theatrical movements often used in movies to make the hero look cool. For example, black Panther has used different flips and flying movements throughout his time in the MCU to take down his enemies. These moves are not practical at all, but they do make him look cool. So, he will be getting tricking as a fighting style.
In a “blink and you miss it” movement during his final fight with Killmonger. T’challa blocks Killmonger’s knife strike by slamming his forearm into Killmonger’s forearm.
This type of block is called knife tapping—something you often find in Kali. Kali is an umbrella term for Filipino martial arts. These schools typically focus on using and defending against weapons. Boseman practiced knife tapping with Marrese Crump, a distinguished martial artist who has quite a bit of experience in Kali.
Zulu Stick Fighting
We can see another weapon style in Black Panther’s arsenal when he engages M’Baku and Killmonger. That style is Zulu Stick Fighting.
Zulu Stick Fighting is a South African weapon style. In this style, practitioners use two sticks or a stick and a shield, which T’challa uses multiple times in the movie.
T’challa’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills shine in his fight against M’Baku. You can see him win the fight by submission with a triangle choke. Before he trained with Marrese Crump, Boseman also studied BJJ with grandmaster Bill McCloud.
The range of styles in this analysis shows the breadth of Black Panther’s martial arts training, which distinguishes him from the many other combatants of the MCU. Compare this to Iron Man, who has to rely on his AI to keep up with Captain America, or the brute force, meat-and-potatoes punches Thor likes to throw around. However, T’Challa isn’t just a rich boy in a fancy suit. He puts the work into master many different types of techniques and fighting styles, making him an extremely dangerous and adaptable opponent.
Is there a martial artist character of colour you’d like us to analyze? Let us know in the comments!