BJB Breakdown: The Fighting Styles, Techniques, and Strategies Connected to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

By Schwan Humes

On March 19, 2021, we saw the continuation of the Captain America trilogy, as two of Cap’s most popular supporting characters were put into the spotlight as the stars of the Disney Plus series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It’s a story that is built around the legacy of Steve Rogers, and how that is carried out by the hero who was affected the most by his creation — Bucky Barnes — and the one most affected by his rebirth — Sam Wilson. Both characters were introduced to MCU fans in 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a movie that was considered to be one of the best MCU films released, and as it pertains to this article, it was looked at as having some of the very best hand to hand combat scenes in the context of live action comic book films.

This article isn’t so much focused on the two stars, as much as it’s a tip of the hat to the many heroes who have been associated with Cap in some form or fashion. This piece highlights the fighting styles, techniques, and strategies associated with these characters — characters who have assisted in the bar being raised with regard to combat choreography in this genre of film. So today we are going to focus on some of the characters who will be appearing in or referenced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — to give you an idea of the skills they have, as well as how and why they apply them in the manner they do — so you have a better idea of what to expect in regards to the level of choreography and attention to detail when telling these characters’ stories through the medium of physical combat.

Spy Girls vs. Super Soldier: Two versus One

In countless live action comic movies and/or shows, one of the most common tropes is the two (sometimes more) vs one fight, where you have a highly skilled and/or powerful hero (or villain) being engaged by multiple opponents who individually have no hope of overcoming their opponent in a prolonged one on one battle. In the Marvel Netflix series we had Misty Knight and Luke Cage vs. Bushmaster, as well as Misty Knight and Colleen Wing vs. Mary Walker; in the MCU films, the same movie, Captain America: Civil War, gave us both Winter Soldier and Falcon vs. Spiderman and Captain America and Winter Soldier vs. Iron Man. But it was another fight from that third Captain America film that provided us with a “spy girls” team-up featuring Red Room alumna, former elite-level Russian spy/assassin, and then-Avenger Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff; the other half of this dynamic duo was Sharon “Agent 13” Carter, longtime highly trained and well-regarded SHIELD operative. And in the opposite corner we had the former Hydra assassin and enhanced human Bucky Barnes, aka the Winter Soldier.

1) Carter is the first to engage, understanding she is facing an enhanced human who is on par with Captain America in regards to strength, durability, explosiveness, and punching power. She begins the engagement throwing a full power body kick. The Winter Soldier attempts to slide his arm up to block the kick, but Carter makes a slight adjustment, sneaking her kick underneath his elbow and landing with her instep, more of a karate/ tae kwon do kick than a muay thai one.

2) Carter follows up with a full powered kick to the head, and once again The Winter Soldier slides his arm up. This time he blocks the kick, then fires a left hook with the same hand, as he noticed that Agent 13 was a little slow in bringing her leg back in position to reestablish her base.

3) Carter had her eyes up and on The Winter Soldier and was able to change levels and roll under his left, stepping out on an angle. This had Barnes out of position due to him loading up on that left hook, and by stepping out on an angle, Carter opened a line of attack for Black Widow to come in with a full power jumping knee to the chest and torso.

Using a variety of techniques, and attacking multiple levels to overload The Winter Soldier’s defenses, the two were able to catch him out of position and maximize their skills and tools while minimizing his. However, their advantage did not last.

1) Agent 13 attempts a spinning heel kick to follow up on a previously landed roundhouse kick, Carter was trying to press her advantage, but made the mistake of not changing levels in her attack. This made it easier for Barnes to make the read and react, catching her kick and flipping her through a table.

2) Black Widow runs in to keep Barnes from following up on Carter, transitioning to an attempted flying triangle. However, Barnes, being an enhanced human, holds her in the air, preventing her from locking it in.

3) Realizing that she can’t complete the triangle while being held up in mid air, Romanoff resorts to elbow strikes to the head, hoping to disorient him long enough to get to the ground safely and finish the hold.

4) However, Barnes slams Romanoff on a table, causing her to break the hold. He then begins to choke her with his bionic arm, applying enough pressure to prevent her from breaking his posture and fishing for the submission again.

The main reason multiple opponents attack one is that they can’t do the same amount of damage, or absorb the same amount of damage. They have very little room for error and rely heavily on timing, positioning, and teamwork. But if either of them makes a mistake or falls out of rhythm with the other, they become vulnerable and often lose, as we saw in this case with Barnes overwhelming Carter and Romanoff.

Peak Human versus Enhanced Human: One on One

In the previous matchup we saw a highly trained enhanced human who was attacked by two highly trained agents, both of whom used strength in numbers as well as multi-level attacks. These techniques were able to neutralize the physical advantages their opponent had over them, giving them more hope of procuring victory — but only for a time. In this matchup, however, it was noted terrorist and ruthless combatant Georges Batroc (played by MMA legend Georges St-Pierre) who took on an enhanced human — none other than Captain America himself.

1) Batroc rushes Cap, hoping to catch him early, while his shield is down, so that he can eliminate the shield as a factor. Cap is giving ground as he is apt to do to extend range and allow him to block, parry, slip, and duck his opponent’s offense.

2) Batroc fakes low with a straight left to keep the shield low, and transitions into a superman punch to the head, not only to land, but to close the distance on the retreating Rogers, who sees it coming and raises his shield to stop it.

3) Batroc fakes with the left hand again before throwing a throwaway front kick. Cap uses a low outside block as he continues to back pedal. Batroc transfers his weight to his back leg, transitioning to a superman punch off the deflected kick, which Cap parries.

4) Batroc throws a hard, but probing, front kick, coming from under Rogers’ line of sight, which is jammed by the shield. He quickly brings his leg back up, changing levels with a full blast roundhouse kick. Rogers stands his ground, and shifts his weight backwards, leaning away from the kick from behind his shield to protect him from any follow up attacks. Then, as Batroc turns his back trying to transition into a spinning back kick, Rogers uses his shield to send him flying.

5) Batroc regains his footing and steps in, throwing a jumping front kick which was deflected by another low outside block. He resets and quickly fires back with a leg body kick, which is blocked by Cap’s shield. Seeing that he had overcommitted to that kick, Batroc quickly fires another body kick, which Cap drops an elbow and leans into to take the power off of.

6) Batroc fakes the left hand again, then follows up with a right front kick which is jammed by Rogers leaning his shield into it. Seeing Rogers has left his head exposed, Batroc switches stances, bringing the kicking leg to the rear instead of shifting through, and throws an angled roundhouse, which Rogers once again defends by shifting his weight and leaning away from the strike.

7) Batroc follows up with another body kick, which is once again blocked by Cap. Hoping to catch Cap as he readjusts his stance to regain his balance/stance, Batroc throws another head kick, which is deflected by the shield. Trying to keep Cap on his heels, Batroc uses the momentum from the missed kick to load his hips and shift his weight so that he can fire off a hook kick, which Cap ducks under.

8) Once his foot touches the ground resetting his stance, Batroc follows up with a body kick from the opposite side, which Rogers once again uses a downward outside block to jam. Batroc follows up with a right hook, which Rogers blocks and traps. With his arm eliminated and Batroc in an open stance, Rogers steps in with knees to the body and attempts to throw Batroc to the ground head first. Batroc somersaults and then transitions into a cartwheel/backflip combination to extend the distance and reset.

Much like the Carter-Romanoff-Barnes fight, Batroc tried to overwhelm his opponent, who had advantages in size, strength, power, speed, explosiveness, and durability. He used multi-pronged attacks and level changes to break Cap’s rhythm, and to possibly overwhelm him. This took advantage of Cap’s habit of being defensive early before finding openings for counters. Without the shield this might have worked, as the previous fight showed that even an enhanced human can get caught. But between the enhanced reflexes, speed, and timing, plus the shield, Batroc was unable to land any clean shots, though he was still able to build momentum and keep Cap on the defensive. He kept stringing techniques together, changing levels and attacking from both sides, which didn’t allow Cap many opportunities to effectively counter, as he wasn’t able to find clear openings. That is, not until he stood his ground and convinced Batroc to throw the right hook, which ultimately turned the fight and put Batroc on the defensive for the first time in the fight.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series should be another step forward for the MCU, building off the legacy of Captain America as a character, and for the purpose of this article, building off the legacy of technical, intelligent, well-crafted, and detailed fight choreography. Hopefully this show helps build the reputations and depth of not just the lead characters; but the supporting characters who helped establish the reputation of the trilogy and the characters involved in it.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier debuted on Disney Plus on March 19, 2021.

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