Improv Fu

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Dodge, duck, limbo dodge, jump, throw the trash can, drop the vase, spill the oil slick, slip and make a hit, and win without even throwing a punch. All in a day's work for Improv Fu.

A character's fighting style isn't so much as fighting as it is making up new and ridiculous ways to combat their opponent. Perhaps they don't like violence, or perhaps they never learned Kung Fu, or perhaps they just can't catch up. Either way, they find a way to be useful.

Improv Fu tends to involve quick tricks, trips, traps, a lot of dodging, and heavy implementation of objects or the environment available at any given moment. Sometimes the character essentially blunders combat. Most of the time Improv Fu is played for comedy.

Related to I Know Mortal Kombat, compare to Confusion Fu, a combination of Indy Ploy and Combat Pragmatist with a lot of Improvised Weapons. This is like an Indy ploy specifically for fighting and while this is similar to Combat Pragmatist, the Combat Pragmitist usually uses "dirty tactics" to gain the upper hand rather than fighting indirectly to ameliorate their disadvantage. It's essentially in-universe Improv for combat.

Examples of Improv Fu include:

Anime and Manga

  • Ranma ½ has this trope reconstructed, featuring an as-serious-as-it-can-get Anything Goes Martial Arts dojo. While the fighting style has some of its own unique characteristics, Ranma's most distinctive ability is being able to adapt with remarkable skill, something that comes in handy when forced to engage in all sorts of rule-restricted Martial Arts and Crafts.
  • Fist of the North Star: Jyuza gave Raoh one hell of a Humiliation Conga with a fighting style he invented on the spot. The fight ends with him stealing Raoh's horse, Kokuoh.

Film - Live-Action

  • Ace Ventura invokes this when in a tight situation.
  • Jason Bourne can beat the shit out of you with a rolled up newspaper and blow up a condo with it when he's done killing you.
    • It should be noted that this example isn't theoretical or exaggerated; it's something Bourne actually does in The Bourne Supremacy.

Live-Action TV

  • Power Rangers has many examples of Improv fu but the most egregious one is that a lot of fight scenes throughout the series featres the rangers fighting grunts in a playground and use the equipment to augment their fighting.
    • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Billy the Blue Ranger of the team kind of sucks at fighting, but he manages by using this trope, though by the time he leaves the rangers he's gotten much better at hand-to-hand
    • Power Rangers Zeo: Occurred with Bulk and Skull when they were accidentally sent to a coliseum in another world and they get saved by another warrior, they have to face down a few guards and ultimately, they were able to take them down with the power of bumbling around.
    • Power Rangers RPM: Ziggy The Plucky Comic Relief became a Power Ranger out of an accident and out of desperation so he had no qualifications or skills to actually be a good fighter. Instead he mostly runs around a fight scene dodging enemies or using nearby props as weapons and ways to protect himself. He gets better at hand to hand throughout the series though.
  • Martial Law has Sammo Law present this art in its finest form.
  • This was comically sent up in the Almost Live sketch "Mind Your Manners with Billy Quan." Billy and his antagonist would always fight using items around them as stand-ins for martial arts weapons. (In a computer room, floppy disks became shirukens; in a meat market, links of sausages became nunchaku, etc.)

Western Animation

  • Sokka of Avatar: The Last Airbender a Badass Normal warrior in a group where all the other member have Elemental Powers he is the one who frequently comes up with strategies and plans, including examples like create bombs to try to simulate fire control, spreading perfume to confuse a creature with super smelling senses, offensive use of stink bombs, discovering a moment where the fire nation would lose their powers and plant an invasion on that day, and taking over a fire nation blimp and use it as a projectile to destroy other blimps... just to name a few.His ability to improvise plans was part of the reason the master Piandao accepted him as his student.

Real Life

  • Jackie Chan's characters are all about this. This is because the Chan man loves action but dislikes violence so he uses his own style involving a lot of dodging and using the environment to combat his opponents.
  • Krav Maga is a martial art that teaches improvised combat techniques.