"Why did she have to be a cheerleader? If she was on the debate team I would've vaporized her by now!"
—Dr. Drakken, Kim Possible
The tendency of fight scenes involving an Extraordinarily Empowered Girl or Action Girl to also feature her doing impractical backflips, gratuitous somersaults, and gymnastic cartwheels to approach or evade her opponent.
Other than that, it's pretty much a direct result of the strong reluctance, still active amongst modern-day writers, to feature an attractive young woman taking a full-on punch to the face. Unless, of course, it's from a person of the same gender. May overlap with the Dance Battler.
See also Waif Fu.
Do not confuse with the character Shifu from Kung Fu Panda, whose name is (mis)pronounced the same way but spelled differently, and means "master" in Chinese (but only if you pronounce it correctly).
Anime and Manga
- Anita King, the youngest of the Paper Sisters in R.O.D. the TV Series has a combat style that was designed by the animators via "observing monkeys, as well as the Royal Chinese Acrobats."
- Major Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell exhibits She Fu thanks to her cybernetic body, to the point where her first response in a reasonably close-combat situation is usually to roundhouse kick the guy to the face.
- The Angels in Angelic Layer; possibly justified by the fact that they are thought-controlled robots and most operators appear to be adolescent girls that may or may not have seen too much She Fu on TV.
- Lenalee Lee of D.Gray-man is guilty of this, as she's a Dance Battler whose primary weapon is a pair of superpowered boots that radiate holy power.
- Kodachi Kunō of Ranma ½. Justified in that she is a gymnast, and the pirouettes and acrobatics are an essential part of Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics, her chosen discipline. Ranma Saotome also uses this sort of fighting style, even though he's male, and fought this way before becoming a Gender Bender. The anime tends to save it more for when he's in female form, but in both canons, even as a guy he's prone to using a lot of flips, jumps, handstands, rolls and tumbles, all to either evade attack or beat on his opponent. There's also an occasional usage of Murderous Thighs, but possibly only in female form (and/or only in the manga).
- Justified in that Ranma's school specializes in adapting various other styles, many of which (at least in the world it exists within) appear to specialize in mid-air combat, thus, Ranma's ability to do this even in male form before the curse makes sense.
- Noel in Claymore. Her rival, Sophia, favors a more brute-force approach.
- Even Anzu/Téa of Yu-Gi-Oh!! gets in on the action during the mummy fight in The Movie. The Abridged Movie drives this point home by adding the following line: "Spinning Bird Kick!"
- Maki of Airmaster uses a high-flying variant of She Fu. It's revealed that in her past she was a world-class gymnast. Unlike most instances of this trope, however, at least once it definitely loses a fight for her—after an astonishing spinning, flipping thing which basically whips her martial artist father, she sticks the landing by reflex. He takes advantage of that moment to get her in a lock and take the victory.
- Air Master also tends to subvert the trope just in general; while all the martial artists of the series do at least some outlandishly impossible stuff, the damage that gets thrown around never shies away from leaving everybody in the fight a bloody mess—assuming it wasn't just a beatdown to highlight how awesome the winner is. Nearly all the female combatants in the show break teeth and get bloodied noses from being punched, kicked, or having their faces smashed into the street at least once.
- Subverted in Teppu: all fighting girls there practice MMA.
- Casca from Berserk centers most of her offensive and defensive maneuvers around flipping about the enemy, being the Fragile Speedster of the Hawks.
- Gunslinger Girl. Cyborg girl Rico backflips toward terrorist leader Dante while he shoots at her with an assault rifle during the Turin Nuclear Plant siege.
- One of the most prominent comic book examples would have to be, ironic as it might seem, Spider-Man. As a consequence of his powers, he fights reflexively. However he is extraordinarily limber and agile, so by reflex he jumps, twirls, twists, and contorts all over the place to dodge blows and missiles. As a result, everyone gets a good look at Peter Parker's toned gymnast body from all angles.
- It should be noted, however, that this doesn't really stop Spider-Man from taking severe blows. Indeed, almost every videogame starring him features a costume selection that is torn up and ravaged from all the damage he takes during the game. Because of his Spider Sense, he's never really blind-sided, but his enemies just tend to be that fast and powerful.
- Another Gender-Inverted Trope of this trope is Nightwing. He is also quite flexible and agile because of his circus background, and he is often subject to Female Gaze.
- In the Marvel New Universe series DP 7, housewife Stephanie Harrington feels silly doing moves that she admits were from her days as a high school cheerleader, but her power gives her a degree of protection, so it actually works well enough in a fight.
- Jet Dream and her Stunt-Girl Counterspies were, as the name implies, Hollywood stuntwomen, and their fights tended to involve a lot of colorful acrobatic maneuvers.
- In all of the Sin City stories, Miho only gets struck once when she is caught up in a grenade's explosion (although there is a mention of her being at the mercy of Triads at one point). This is mostly to show how dangerous she is, rather than trying to avert the "no hitting girls" rules. Sin City doesn't exactly shy away from violence.
- Futari wa Pretty Cure Dragon has this, and it shows in at least several episodes, as both Cure Dragon and Cure Fortune employ this against the villains (with the latter making some good use of pirouettes in her fighting style). It's implied that both have had at least some gymnastics training.
- Final Stand of Death has Fusion Gundam showing off their moves, such Spur taking over a Mini-Mecha twice her size, controlled by Blink-182. Redd also show her signature kick when Frankenstein's Monster got to close, after a Full-Frontal Assault. Since they were once human, who happened to know some martial arts, they still let them have it.
- In Drunkard's Walk II, Lisa Vanette is established as a former gymnast, possibly good enough at one time to compete in the Olympics. In Dead Bang, the official sequel to DW2 by Ian McLeod, Lisa combines her gymnastic skills with her recently-acquired telekinesis and "danger sense" to turn herself into a spinning, flipping fury on the battlefield that just can't be hit.
Films -- Live Action
- Live Free or Die Hard (AKA Die Hard 4.0) features an enemy agent girl whose super-agile backflips and kicks almost manage to defeat John McClane, a super-muscular man Made of Iron; in fact, she only dies after being thrown from an elevator shaft (and exploded). McClane even comments on this:
John: I'm tired of this kung-fu bullshit!
- He also comments that she was hot.
- Though not technically combat, Agent 99 uses nimble backflips and other gymnastics moves to thread her way through a laser web in the 2008 Get Smart movie.
- A similar bit appears in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
- The Charlie's Angels films features copious over-the-top She Fu.
- In Batman Returns, some of the circus acrobats uses both She Fu and He Fu.
- In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, the Dee-Dee twins often She-Fu'ed.
- In Blade Runner, the replicant Pris beats up Deckard by using She Fu. The contrast between super-powered replicant's weird style and the pragmatic survival skills of Deckard is the central drama of their fight.
- In Iron Man 2, Black Widow uses over-the-top She Fu (and a dash of Lucha Libre) to clear the way to the Big Bad's computer system. The slow motion seems to highlight the unnecessary nature, but she looked good doing it!
- Bambi and Thumper from Diamonds Are Forever, making this Older Than You Think.
- In Total Recall, Sharon Stone's character uses relatively sedate martial arts moves against Arnold's character, but thanks to some good fight choreography and Paul Verhoven's superb direction, they actually look like they could punch a hole through Arnold!
- Wendy Wu, Homecoming Warrior on Disney Channel.
- Averted in the 1982 Conan the Barbarian film with Valeria. Sandahl Bergman, an accomplished dancer, did all of her own stunts, but her sword-fighting is as free of extraneous motions (with the exception of a Wall Jump thrust during the rescue of the princess) as the male heroes.
- Averted in most of Cynthia Rothrock's films. Her moves weren't any showier than male martial arts actors of the time, and she would regularly get brutally beaten by guys twice her size until the Heroic Second Wind kicked in. Or third wind, or fourth...
- Averted hard by the Kill Bill movies. The Bride gave as good as she took. This led a few reviewers to claim the movies were hateful toward women since it essentially meant the character was being put through everything any male action character would be put through. Apparently, the critics wanted She Fu instead.
Live Action TV
- Aversion: Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer was fairly free of this, no matter which Slayer we're talking about, whether it be Tae Kwon Do-kicking Buffy, down-and-dirty Faith or even some of the other Slayers like Kendra or Nikki Wood. Similarly, River Tam of Whedon's more recent Firefly, despite displaying considerable Waif Fu in the movie sequel, also avoided such extraneous movements even when she was kicking the butts of burly men.
- It can be noticed, though, if you watch e.g. Buffy closely: it's not jarringly over-abundant throughout the show, but it is there occasionally nontheless. Might depend on the director of the episode in question. Probably the most bizarre case of weird flip-stunts occurs in the season 3 episode "Earshot", when Buffy uses a combination of flips that defy the laws of physics to get up to her high school's clock tower as fast as possible. Likewise, if you watch River Tam's bar fight scene, it's there once or twice (after all, Summer Glau is a ballet dancer herself.)
- Not surprisingly, Whedon himself lampshaded this in the commentary for the episode "The Harvest", where he states that he dislikes the use of it since it's more time-consuming to deal with the stunts and choreography.
- After becoming an instant twelfth-degree black belt followed by gaining levitation abilities, Phoebe of Charmed began to express the trope. As for the other two, the demons rarely ever even got close enough.
- Birds of Prey
- Xena: Warrior Princess is the queen of She Fu, and yet she still takes plenty of punches.
- Callisto in the same series is also a skilled practitioner. Over the course of the series Gabrielle also (slowly) learned the art, though generally she failed humorously when she tried.
- It is an established part of Xena canon, based on Word of God, that cartwheeling/backflipping across an area is faster than running the same distance, so this is largely justified in series.
- Callisto in the same series is also a skilled practitioner. Over the course of the series Gabrielle also (slowly) learned the art, though generally she failed humorously when she tried.
- Cleopatra 2525, by the same production company, also featured vast amounts of She Fu, usually performed by Sarge or Hel.
- Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (the live-action version of Sailor Moon) is rife with this kind of "fighting", even though the original anime never had it. It's considerably more stylized (and substantially sillier), though; some observers have called it "ballet-fu".
- There is a notable difference in the style of fighting after the first 10 or so episodes. The first ten or so featured the so-called "ballet-fu" and it was hard to watch. The rest of the episodes feature the more straightforward She-Fu.
- Make It or Break It has two main characters launch into textbook She Fu because they were being flirted with in an unwanted way at a gas station.
- One of Chuck's adversaries was a former gymnast who used He Fu to escape from the protagonists. His mistake: he stuck the landing, whereupon Sarah shot his kneecap out.
- Purdey of The New Avengers fought with moves learnt from her ballet career.
- Doctor Who's Jenny can backflip her way though a corridor of deadly laser beams.
- The Queen in Queen of Swords mixed a large amount of acrobatics into her fight scenes.
- Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in Batman, was a trained ballerina. Batgirl's fighting style was heavily dance-influenced, with lots of spins and high kicks. Unlike Batman and Robin, she never threw or took a punch (though she would fairly often throw or wield an Improvised Weapon).
- There's one interesting exception to the above rule about punching. Batgirl takes several punches in "The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra"—all from henchmen who are invisible.
- Amy Jo Johnson used to be a pro gymnast, so her character Kimberly from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers naturally used She Fu in her fight scenes.
- Tons of WWE Divas.
- The girls' throws in the Soul Calibur series tend to be like this, often putting their opponent between their legs.
- Tomb Raider: Legend; if the "duck" button is used while running, Lara Croft jumps, dodges and does backflips, traversing the same amount of ground in the same amount of time she does when running normally. Now and then, the two men who comprise her Mission Control randomly cheer her on when she does this. Other times they'll complain about her doing it, presumably because watching through the camera attached to the Mic she's wearing is making them ill.
- Devil May Cry 4 introduces a new character named Gloria, whose debut scene involves extensive She Fu complete with numerous upskirt and cleavage shots. This scene is a particularly blatant example considering that she is actually Trish in disguise and you never fight her or play as her in the game.
- Samus Aran, especially in Super Smash Bros..
- Chun Li. Say it with me, Street Fighter fans: "Spinning Bird Kick!!"
- Also played straight with Cammy.
- Mai Shiranui of Fatal Fury and King of Fighters
- Gender inverted in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Not only does it give its men Spy Catsuits, but also she-fu cartwheel kicks.
- Also gender inverted in Resident Evil 4. Player Character Leon S. Kennedy performs multiple (usually pointless) evasive backflips and wall-jumps. Then again, despite the hot Asian chick, Leon seems to be the pretty girl of that game.
- Morrigan Aensland of Darkstalkers, combining Shotoclone goodness with sexy moves. Including hitting people with her hair. Felicia also falls in this with her movements, showing just how flexible her cat body is, including using her own tail as a stand or weapon.
- Swordmasters of both sexes in most Fire Emblem games.
- Tiffany Lords from Rival Schools, who mixes up cheerleading acrobatics with a little bit of boxing, including comically oversized boxing gloves.
- How can we forget Echidna, from Squaresoft's The Bouncer? Though she was definitely practicing Capoeira.
- Jade from Beyond Good and Evil has a fairly impressive talent for backflips (and front-flips) in battle. Then again, she does practice yoga, so perhaps she's just really flexible.
- Until the second game the only practitioners in Bloody Roar (Long and crossdresser Fox) were MALE. Then Long takes the now-defused Tykebomb Uriko under his wing. Alice's kicks and flips are moderately more functional, being short, quick, and not too flashy, at least until she breaks out her beast form. Justified in that her beast form is a rabbit, though.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- Aqua in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Her male friend Terra gets a long-distance forward dash, and her 'little brother' Ven gets the series-standard "Dodge Roll" somersault. Not Aqua. She cartwheels away from enemies.
- Larxene as well. Her game play and battle style are full of this, especially in Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2. Flips, cartwheels, mid-air spins and mid-air drilling, somersaults, etc.
- Kingdom Hearts II Big Bad Xemnas fights this way flipping and spinning like crazy in his boss battles.
- Lili from Tekken fits this trope to a T. Has stylish balletic moves, with liberal use of flips. And a move where she does an aerial somersault; if she lands on the opponent's head, she does a double snap kick in the air. Take that, Reality!
- Mortal Kombat: Sonya Blade says hi. Her signature move is doing a backflip, grabbing the opponent between her legs, and throwing them. She also uses this move to break Kano's neck in one of the movie versions, and in Mortal Kombat 4 she has a fatality where she does a handstand and tears the opponent in half with her legs.
- This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning Bayonetta. Acrobatic backflips are her standard dodge, so expect to be doing this a lot since it triggers Witch Time. She can even do this in mid-air!
- Ms. Marvel's fighting style in Marvel Ultimate Alliance involves lots of high kicks and flips, perhaps justified as she's a Flying Brick.
- Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. Partially justified in that she has a gravity manipulator and, once that breaks, magical l'Cie powers. Seriously, her fourth ATB attack is backflipping and firing a gun simultaneously.
- Alora, a Dark Jedi and The Dragon in Jedi Academy, moves very acrobatically the second time she's fought, even compared to the other Force users in the game, who can all or almost all do flips easily. Her no-nonsense outfit eliminates the element of showing off anything thereby, though.
- Oasis from Sluggy Freelance uses this in spades, what with being a gymnast assassin and all.
- Jones from Gunnerkrigg Court. In her one fight (or rather, a practice spar) she used a her agility and a variation on the Barehanded Blade Block to disarm her opponent and point his own sword at his neck. While wearing a thin, knee-length skirt. It's implied that she's more than human.
Eglamore: I won't fight Jones.
- Chaka of the Whateley Universe specializes in this style of fighting, even though her first big superhero fight caught her in nothing but a short nightie, with an appreciative audience of other students.
- Kim Possible lives by it. Got her on the cheerleading team, too.
- The former circus acrobat Ty Lee in Avatar: The Last Airbender makes use of cartwheels, leaps, reverse backflips, etc., to enable her to execute her close-range, effective chi-blocking (Kyusho-jitsu) techniques. Due to the show's strong sense of realism, her She Fu feats as well as her uncanny resemblance to the show's title character cause many in the fandom to rabidly speculate on the "possibility" that somehow, she is part Air Nomad.
- The heroine of Cybersix.
- Aeon Flux, to the point that you start wondering whether she has any extra vertebrae. (which, given the Biopunk world she inhabits, is a plausible possibility.) At one point, another character gets similiar agility with a cybernetic removable vertebrae.
- Stripperella is prone to using sexy martial arts and "killer stripper moves" derived from her pole-dancing routine.
- Turanga Leela from Futurama frequently parodies this trope by showing the audience her martial-arts moves at the drop of a hat (doing a handstand to sneak over a subway turnstile, for instance).
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- Robin actually had a fighting style like this. He was a trapeze artist in a circus before becoming Robin.
- In a straighter example, Batgirl was a skilled gymnast, and a girl in a skin-tight outfit, so she had this kind of fighting style.
- Harley Quinn did so on rare occasions, although she normally prefers the ranged novelty-weapon attack. Part of her backstory is that she was a champion gymnast in school too.
- Yumi from Code Lyoko frequently uses such moves when fighting in the virtual world, thanks to her increased agility and the low gravity of Lyoko. Less so in the real world, though, where she sticks to more basic martial arts.
- The girls of Totally Spies!!
- Blackarachnia in Beast Wars did this to a small extent, but when she got a new, sexier body in Beast Machines, she was suddenly all about twisting and stretching.
- Dragons Fire and Ice has Kyra using loads of flips and kicks during her duel with Dev, who just uses archaic and brutish forms of "swing the sword in that general direction until something dies".
- DC Showcase: Catwoman