You know us as the WWAC Warriors: everyday athletes who love to run, swim, lift weights, walk, train, and fight. We like to talk about fight choreography, realistic vs. impossible poses, and what disciplines our favorite characters embrace. Usually, that discussion is behind the scenes, but today, we wanted to share our thoughts on a recent Ms. Marvel cover with you! We asked three of our martial artists (each practiced in a different discipline) to critique Ms. Marvel’s pose from a fighter’s perspective.
Hey! Introduce yourselves to the readers. Who are you, what martial art do you study, how long have you been studying?
Ray Sonne: I’m Ray and, although I’m on break now, I have studied Krav Maga for about a year and a half and passed my first practitioner level test back in February. Krav Maga is Israeli self-defense, used by the military. It is a practical form of martial arts that trains against many different forms of attack, but aims to teach users to disarm and gain power over opponents as soon as possible. That means a lot of strikes that aim for the head and groin!
Alenka Figa: Hello! I’m Alenka, and I studied Tae Kwon Do (TKD) for about ten years. Now I practice Hapkido—although lately I haven’t had a lot of time!—which is TKD’s sister martial art; it’s pure self-defense and focuses largely on joint attacks, whereas TKD has art form (forms) and is mostly kicking.
Laura Harcourt: I’m Laura, and I’ve studied/practiced Muay Thai for the last two and a half years. I have had one refereed fight and multiple sparring sessions. Muay Thai is a combat sport from Thailand, traceable back to the mid-16th century. It utilizes stand-up striking and clinching techniques, and is widely used across the globe, both as a stand-alone system and as a striking foundation for other techniques. It’s known as “the art of eight limbs” due to the use of eight body points for strikes: knees and elbows as well as punches and kicks. It’s efficient, powerful, and is commonly combined with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu by MMA fighters.
Here’s the cover in question:
Please dissect this pose, from whatever standpoint you feel is most appropriate: technique, fight style, etc.
From your perspective as a woman fighter, does this cover satisfy? Does it need fixing? How would you fix it?
RS: In so many ways…
Okay, Kamala. First, you have no balance with your legs that far apart and someone is going to be able to easily knock you over. Return to a normal (or as we call it, passive) standing position, then put one leg forward and lean the rest of your body in. That is how you engage in a fight.
Secondly, open your hands so that they’re like blades. Because you are not wearing gloves, you can very likely injure yourself when you throw punches. Hairline fractures on knuckles are not cool and I can only imagine the number of heroes you know who have broken hands and therefore have to go out of commission when it comes to heroisms. Use the heel of your palm to ram force into your opponent’s face instead.
Last, move your chin off your shoulder. Why did you even put it on your shoulder? It’s not like your hands are full and you’re pinning something to your chest so you can open a door. I can’t imagine why you thought that was intimidating. Whatever. Now, let’s see you throw a punch!
AF: Her feet (which I realize we can’t see) are really what bother me. Her stance is more of a pump-up, get-motivated power pose, but it is NOT a fighting stance. Maybe she needed to stretch her left calf a little? The purpose of a fighting stance is that your weight is balanced, so you are mobile and ready to move, block, attack, or do whatever the fight calls for. Any punch Kamala throws with her feet spaced like that will pull her off balance, and if her attacker catches her hand she is in serious trouble!
Factoring in her embiggen powers is tricky. If she expands her fist when she punches, won’t the sudden weight difference throw her off balance? Of course, this is comics, so if we let that be, there’s two big issues: her thumbs, and placement of her hands. First, kids at home: DON’T STICK YOUR THUMBS OUT WHEN YOU PUNCH. That’s so dangerous! Curl them under your fingers, but do NOT put them inside your fist, OK? If your thumbs are in the wrong place, you will break them! Also, her hands are too low, and far from her body. She’s got a lot of vital organs and a face to protect.
Regarding hands open versus hands closed, Ray, I found your comment interesting, do you do that from the get-go in Krav Maga? In TKD we always had hands closed in fighting stances, and in Hapkido supposedly only higher belts are allowed to do hands open. We also punched heavy bags bare-fisted all the time, sooooo uh. Yeah.
RS: That’s so interesting because yes, we always do open-hand fighting if we’re without gloves in order to prevent injury. Even if we do have gloves, though, we get into fighting stance with our hands open. Our gym owner grabs newbies’ wrists frequently and shakes them until they uncurl their fists. I find that palm strikes are less effective than punches, but I like to vary between them when we’re doing 1-minute drills where we have to strike pads as many times as possible (until the instructor yells, “RAY! YOU HAVE GLOVES!” that is).
LH: I have never considered open versus closed hands, but MT is wholly striking and clinch without the disarming or joint attack aspect Krav utilizes. To me, this stance looks less like she’s prepping to throw a punch, and more like she just got punched, and was pushed back. The wide-stance and the way she’s leaning back look like someone who just took too-large a step back and hasn’t had a chance to re-settle herself. This is also my rationalization for how open she’s left herself: with a stance like that, all I can think of is “TEEPS ALLLLLLLLLLL DAY.”
Her torso is totally vulnerable. She wouldn’t be able to block a kick there, and her face is unprotected. She’s planted, unbalanced, her stance is too wide, and there’s nothing she can throw from there what will have any kind of power. There’s zero ability to get the kind of hip rotation needed for a strong punch or a hard kick.
We know Kamala is not a trained fighter, so it’s reasonable to me that she would make these mistakes, but she for sure looks like she’s gotten pushed into a corner here.
AF: Ray, I would assume TKD fighting stances use closed fists because most of our techniques—with the exception of palm strikes—use closed fists. I hadn’t thought about this thoroughly until last night, but it makes sense that Hapkido would favor open hands because you do a lot more catching/grabbing, since the techniques are all about getting control of a wrist, elbow, etc, and incapacitating your opponent so you can get away. Kamala does a lot of punching, so I think fists are fine, she just needs to protect her thumbs!
What are your overall impressions of the pose and cover?
RS: That the artist was going for “feminine power” except there’s no power in not knowing the basics of your job, which in this case is physical altercations.
AF: It’s one of those hyper-patriotic, this-hero-fights-for-America covers, which is pretty rad! Putting a Pakistani Muslim superhero in front of an American flag during a time when one of our presidential nominees is blatantly prejudiced against Muslims is fantastic, and I get wanting to put Kamala in a hardcore power pose to emphasize that. Also, a typical Tae Kwon Do fighting stance probably doesn’t look very exciting on a cover (if you want to see one, watch Buffy. Her hands are always too low ‘cause they’ve gotta make sure you see Sarah Michelle Gellar’s beautiful face, but she uses a lot of casual, comfortable fighting stances that are useful rather than flashy.) However, the martial arts nerd in me gets SO EXCITED when I see proper form and technique.
The more I look at this cover, the more I wonder about the angle. Why an upshot? If this was a Captain America cover, wouldn’t be looking dead-on, watching him pose with his beefy leg on a rock or something? I’d love to know why the artist chose this particular angle, because it feels atypical for this type of cover.
LH: Alenka, I think it’s an upshot because it makes her look taller and more imposing. It’s clearly not an “upskirt” shot, but rather a “look at her loom” shot. I agree that it’s awesome to get her in a patriotic power pose! Even if I think the pose itself is poor from a technical perspective, I think it conveys Kamala’s scrappiness…and a fannish idea of what a power pose ‘should’ look like. I can easily see Kamala emulating poses in her mirror off of fanart of her faves for the moment she gets her big hero shot, and this feels like a natural extension of that: a new hero, posing in what she believes is a powerful way, owning her ground and the space she’s taking up, and being willing to fight for it.
AF: Laura, I like that interpretation! It’s very Kamala. Those foot-up-on-a-rock poses are still powerful without being fighting stances, and I can enjoy this cover without it being a mid-action shot. I love the idea of dorky Kamala making faces at herself in the mirror to get pumped up, but using that moment to remember that she’s an American hero.
What do you think?