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File:Sokka fails at flail.jpg

Sokka, doing it wrong... or right.

"Jackie Chan's got everything on me. Don't move over, Bruce Lee"
Tripod, "Krap Karate"

Sometimes, when someone is trying to show off martial arts, they just look goofy. They flail around, fall over, smack into stuff, and a whole bunch of other things. Expect a Priceless Ming Vase to get broken, or even the would-be black belt's own bones.

One version of this is trying to show off karate chop, hitting something like a brick, with hilarious (if painful) results. Also, anyone trying to show off nunchucks who doesn't actually know what they're doing will Groin Attack themselves. Possibly repeatedly.

This is sometimes the result of I Know Kung Faux. May include Funny Bruce Lee Noises.

Expect this to stop once a character Takes A Level In Badass.

Compare Wimp Fight (when this is applied to a whole fight scene).

Contrast Martial Arts Do Not Work That Way, Martial Arts and Crafts.

Examples of What the Fu Are You Doing? include:

Anime and Manga

  • A mook in Fist of the North Star tries using Hokuto Shinken on Kenshiro and fails miserably.
  • In the third Naruto movie, Rock Lee manages to knock himself in the head with nunchucks, despite being an otherwise competent fighter.
    • In the last filler arc of Part 1, Matsuri has difficulty with weapons until Gaara helps her select one that she wouldn't injure herself with. Even then, it takes a few tries before she can get the hang of it, although she manages to save Gaara's life with it in the final battle of the arc.
  • Dino in Katekyo Hitman Reborn, while a fully capable fighter when his subordinates are present, has absolutely no fine motor skills or coordination when they are absent. None of his allies are safe from his whip when his subordinates aren't around.
  • An episode of the Slayers OVA featured Jeffrey, a prince of sickly stature but assured of his utter dominance in every subject by his highly intimidating mother. This includes his swordplay, which can be generously described as "flailing enthusiastically in the general direction of...someone." He has thus far survived any and all altercations by the intrusion of his mother, who reacts violently and in Paper-Thin Disguise if someone sneezes at Jeffrey the wrong way.
  • An episode of Heartcatch Precure had Tsubomi and Erika take lessons from a martial arts enthusiast after their Curb Stomp Battle first encounter with Cure Dark. Turns out the kid isn't that great at it and his confidence is shattered when two older students reveal the ruse. A fight with the Monster of the Week helps him regain his confidence and Tsubomi walks away with a very useful skill she uses from time to time.
  • Akane of Ranma Half trying to learn to use the Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics ribbon. You can guess how this ends.

Comic Books

  • Near the beginning of Flight 714, Prof. Calculus mentions that he practiced Savate in his youth and tries to demonstrate a high kick (lit. "face kick"), but only manages to fall on his back and empty all his pockets.


  • Who Is Harry Crumb? had the titular Harry trying to show off aikido, so he does a backflip over the couch (imagine doing that when you're the size of John Candy), and the landing causes the dinosaur egg to fall. His boss catches it, though.
  • Sing (Stephen Chow) in Kung Fu Hustle before he develops his powers.
  • The Big Bad in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies does this in front of the captured Chinese spy, making lots of karate chop moves and yelling Ha! all the while. He's supposed to be showing how "pathetic" her moves are, but it comes across as Narm. Which is kinda the point, since he's mocking her since his Mooks have, ya know, guns.
  • Seen briefly in Spaceballs, with Lone Star trying to apply a Vulcan nerve pinch and his victim pointing out to him what he's doing wrong. He gets it right on the second try.
  • The eponymous Beverly Hills Ninja, with a three-section staff.
    • Matter of fact, most of the film falls under this trope. Then someone hurts his clan brother. Cue Crowning Moment of Awesome, when he suddenly becomes a real ninja.
  • Undercover Brother, in which the titular hero (wearing arm-shields) has a fight at the end with the villain's trusted lieutenant (who has sword-like blades strapped to both arms). Undercover Brother whips out some nunckaku and starts whizzing them all about, showing off....and then smacks himself between the legs. As the baddie smirks and moves forward for the attack, it becomes clear this was to lull him into a false sense of security — UB delivers a quick left-right-spinkick combo that nearly knocks him unconscious, before he is left behind by his Evil Boss, to go up with the exploding base. Bonus points for doing it all to Michael Jackson's "Beat It".
  • In Jet Li's Fearless, he is armed with a three-section staff and takes on the Japanese contender who comes armed with a katana. Halfway through the match, they unintentionally end up swapping weapons and continue fighting pretty well... Until the Japanese man whaps himself in the back of the head with the three-section staff. Jet Li graciously offers to swap weapons back for the benefit of both.
  • In Return of the Jedi, during the Ewoks' miraculous comeback during the Battle of Endor, several of them are seen skillfully bringing down speeder bikes with well-thrown bolas. Then Wicket swings his own weapon and knocks himself out instead.
  • Enter the Dragon shows a Mook who has been given little training trying to use nunchucks while he thinks no one can see. His obvious mistakes give away his inexperience to Bruce Lee's character, who proceeds to demonstrate how it's done. This may depend on the edit/cut/version you're watching, though.
  • At the end of Stay Tuned, the main character applies one of his talents and opens a fencing school. When one of his students tries Flynning, he defeats her easily and calls her out on it.
  • In Get Over It the obnoxious antagonist Striker has pulled out a pair of nunchucks — prompting the comment 'Who keeps nunchucks in their pants?!?' — and is showing off with them when they fly out of his grip and hit a girl holding a rope in a place that's painful for girls too. Ouch. This means she naturally lets go of the rope she's holding and the guy in the harness that the rope is supporting crashes to the ground and lands on another guy. It's like Mouse Trap.
  • The Mask of Zorro features a swordfighting example. As the young thief begins his apprenticeship with the old Zorro, he shows off some flashy yet flailing maneuvers. The old Zorro then disarms him with one strike, and starts showing him how it's really done.
    • A TV show took it a step further: the host was digitally inserted in place of Antonio Banderas' character and proceeded to flail even more, while shouting "Come on, come on, come on! Right here, right here, right here!" before Diego casually disarms him as per the film.
  • In Bulletproof Monk, Kar does a pretty good job using a steel pipe as a staff until he twirls it a little too fast and drops it.
    • Given that his "training" was done by watching Wuxia films, this makes sense.
  • In Napoleon Dynamite when Kip goes up against Rex, his "cage fighting skills" aren't quite at the level he thinks they are, unsurprisingly.
  • Kick Ass — Hit Girl and Big Daddy know what they're doing. Kick Ass himself, not so much.
  • In Ernest Scared Stupid, Ernest declares himself to be a master of "hedgeclip-kido" right before smacking himself in the face with a pair of impromptu nunchaku.
  • In Sidekicks, Barry manages to nail himself in both the head and the groin during his nunchaku training montage.
  • The villagers in Robin Hood: Men in Tights do this when trying to shoot bow-and-arrow and when charging against dummies on horseback. Achoo suggests using the dummies instead.
  • Wild Wild West

 Mook (waves his arms around a lot) I learned that from a chinaman.

Jim West (Hits him with a shovel) I just made that up.

  • Race for the Yankee Zephyr. A guard catches the hero sneaking up, intent on braining him with a lump of wood. Instead of grabbing his rifle, the guard begins waving his arms about and howling in a highly exaggerated martial arts style. The hero gapes in astonishment then, as the guard turns to deliver a spinning kick, boots him down the mountainside.
  • In Donnie Brasco, Donnie's first "mission" with Lefty is to collect a debt from a guy whose response is to claim to know kung fu and to adopt a movie-style martial arts stance (it is the '70s, after all). Needless to say, Donnie has little trouble dealing with this and they leave with the man's car.
  • In The Adventures of Johnny Tao, Johnny grew up watching Wuxia films. He spends his free time training with the moves he saw, thinking they are real martial arts. While he can hold his own in a fight, whenever he tries an Awesome but Impractical move like a flying kick, he ends up looking like a spaz. Later, when he is given real martial arts training, he becomes much more impressive.
  • In Ip Man 2, Big Bad boxer Twister mocks the "dancing" of the martial arts demonstration.


  • In Sourcery, Nijel The Destroyer, a barbarian hero wanna-be gives quite a swordsmanship show when confronted with multiple guards... culminating in the sword getting stuck in the ceiling.
  • In Exile's Valour, two students try to show off using stage fighting. A thrown sword shatters a huge mirror.

Live Action TV

  • In an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith visited a dojo to learn martial arts. He finds a convenient block of wood on a stand and tries to hand chop through it. One hurt hand later he tries it with his foot and actually makes to break through it. Then he finds a samurai sword lying around while waiting for the sensei. He picked up the sword and proceeded to strike dramatic poses with it while talking with his mouth out of sync with his words. The sensei came in while he was going this and asks him if he's having fun and tells him that everybody tries that. On the other hand, he wonders who broke his coffee table. [1]
  • Bulk in multiple episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. In one episode called "A Star Is Born," there were auditions for a commercial about karate. Bulk entered the audition and showed of his "incredible karate skills" (read: making random movements while shouting). He passed the audition, but at the end of the episode we see the finished commercial; Bulk is the "before" and Tommy (who actually is a competent martial artist) is the "after".
    • And he continues it in Samurai, as early as the first episode. Poor Spike, being taught to be a samurai by "Uncle Bulk".
    • On the few occasions they actually fought, Bulk and Skull proved to be quite effective fighters despite retaining their distinct lack of skill.
  • The infamous "Hi-KEEBA!" pratfall from the Women of the Prehistoric Planet episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
    • Also seen in Master Ninja, where Timothy Van Patten's character tries showing off to his Ninja master, Lee Van Cleef's character.
  • Home Improvement
    • One episode had Tim attempting to break a board with his head. Take a wild guess what happens.
    • Al, on the other hand, has a rare Badass moment when he successfully pulls it off. (He achieved it first, which convinced Tim that he had to be able to do it...except that Al had studied the martial art in question.) Also a case of Al being the better handyman, as Tim tried to break it against the grain instead of along it.
  • Wesley from Angel managed to do this a few times in the first season. Hilariously, he once casually gestured with an axe to try to impress a girl, and embedded it in the wall. This was used in his sequence in the opening credits for years.
    • And again, much worse, in season four while amnesiac.
  • In a fifth season episode of Bones, Hodgins attempts to use nunchucks and almost knocks himself out. Luckily, Arastoo shows us how it's done.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Vampires of Venice", Rory faces down a vampire with a broom, which he attempts to use to intimidate the vampire... by flailing it around wildly as if he was a master swordsman. Unfortunately for him, the vampire he's facing is a master swordsman. Cue Oh Crap on Rory's part.
    • In his début episode the recently-regenerated-more-than-slightly-insane Fourth Doctor chops a brick in half with his bare hand — recall that his previous incarnation Knew Karate. A few minutes later he tries it again, and nearly breaks his fingers.
  • One episode of Friends involves Phoebe spending the day with her younger half brother, Frank Jr. At one point (after having gone to Times Square to get ninja stars), he's on the Friends' rooftop patio thing flailing around with nunchucks.
  • In the fifth season premiere of Psych, Shawn gets into a fight with a Triad enforcer in a martial arts studio. Shawn had taken his first martial arts class earlier that day, and with little kids at that, but was genuinely extremely confident that he was going to win. He is knocked through a wall immediately, then spends the rest of the fight trying to survive. Eventually Juliet comes in and saves him, but he's still convinced he won.
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Polymorph", when they go to face the creature, Lister Flynns with a baseball bat, and hits himself in the balls.
  • In the Blackadder episode "Born To Be King", Edmund challenges McAngus to a duel; he flails his sword around, trying to look like he knows what he's doing, then McAngus takes one swipe, cutting his blade in half.
  • Cheers. Cliff, a notorious braggart, claims to know martial arts. He busts a board in half and his friends are convinced. Quietly he asks Diane to take him to the hospital, for he has broken many fingers.
  • Anytime someone is shown with nunchakus on America's Funniest Home Videos, expect it to end like this (usually with one end headed "down south").
  • Invoked in Kamen Rider Fourze: In one episode the Monster of the Week attacks Ryusei, who defends himself with his considerable Jeet Kun Do skills. However, he realizes that Tomoko (a member of the Kamen Rider Club) is watching, and in order to maintain his cover as a Lovable Coward, he throws out a really clumsy kick that lands him on his butt, then runs screaming away from the monster.

Newspaper Comics

  • Rangi Jones from Footrot Flats learned all of his fighting moves from watching kung fu movies. Needless to say, this does not stand him in good stead in a fight against schoolyard bully Lex Murphy.

Professional Wrestling

  • One episode of TNA featured James Storm trying to use nunchucks on his opponent, only to hit himself in the head with them.

Video Games

  • Breath of Fire
    • Near the beginning of Breath of Fire III, Ryu (no, not that one) is just an amnesiac kid who's fallen in with bad company and been handed a shortsword. Resultingly, his basic Attack-animation consists of him turning his back to the enemy, covering his face with his arm, and flailing his sword wildly in the general direction of his foe. After he's gotten some experience and Character Development, it turns into a conservative-but-effective shoulder-slice, but strangely enough, this affects neither his hit-percentage nor his damage-output...
    • This also appears in Breath of Fire II, in almost the exact same context (this Ryu isn't amnesiac, but he's still just a kid at the time). It's not nearly as noticeable there though, since kid Ryu only fights a grand total of 2 plot-based battles and neither of them is winnable.
  • From the original Street Fighter game: Two bonus rounds involve Ryu/Ken trying to break brick pieces. It's possible to break all or some of those pieces... or fail altogether, the last part of which causes the character to look like this with booing sounds in the background to match.
  • The Talk-Radio track in Grand Theft Auto III features Lazlo, the host of the show, interviewing the owner of a martial arts dojo/vegan food store who embodies this trope. Complete with the attempted chop of the host's desk into "two half-desks," with the expected results.

Web Comics


 Massey: I shall defeat them with my legal-jitsu! [strikes "kung fu" pose]

Tagon: I thought you passed Shodan's unarmed combat class.


Web Original

  • Whateley Universe: Generator tries teaching herself using her roommate's nunchuks and clocks herself. Even after she uses her powers and 'possesses' the nunchuks, she still gets hit. By possessed nunchuks that are trying to tell her something.
  • The battle between Kung Tai Ted and Master Kempo Dojo feature this heavily due to deliberately bad acting, and both of them manage to inflict a Groin Attack on themselves with their nunchuks.

Western Animation

  • Sokka of Avatar: The Last Airbender, when he was trying to find a good weapon. He kept falling over or smacking himself until he found a sword.
  • Kung Fu Panda played off Po's clumsiness in the beginning of the film.
  • The recruits in Mulan are guilty of this initially.
  • The Simpsons episode "The Monkey Suit" had a one-off gag where the family went to a museum exhibit about the history of weapons. They see a film called Nunchuks: Cool But Useless, which shows a Chinese vase depicting the invention of the nunchuks: the inventor smacking himself in the face, getting laughed at, and smacking the laugher.
  • Darkwing Duck: Darkwing's means of proving his identity in the episode "Apes of Wrath".
  • Fry does this to himself in Futurama...with a literal giant nutcracker.
  • The sword-fighting abilities of "Da Samurai" (don't confuse with the main character) in Samurai Jack, could be interpreted like this. Despite this, his fighting style served him well enough to take down a couple of robots in a tavern.
  • Jackie Chan Adventures: Jade does this in the second episode; she is Jackie's niece after all. She ends up high kicking a waiter's tray in a resturant causing a chain of events to occur that allows for the Rooster Talisman to end up in the soup she ends up drinking.
  • Harold from Total Drama Island is occasionally guilty of this, such as knocking himself out with his own nunchucks. When it counts, though, he's surprisingly competent.
  • The Smurfs: The episode "Karate Clumsy" is built entirely around this tropes, as Clumsy Smurf has to learn karate in order to battle Ninja Rat.

Real Life

  • Diemon Dave, an Appalachian McNinja with his own line of training videos.
  • Anyone, anywhere, who watched a lot of kung fu flicks and thought they could fight by imitating what they saw (commonly referred to as a Kung Fool).
    • Of course, nowadays, replace "kung fu flicks" with "UFC pay-per-views" and you've got what's been called an "MMA-hole."
    • And there's also the mimicking of Professional Wrestling moves which plays this straight with the fancier moves (go ahead and try to do a "Canadian Destroyer" with an unwilling opponent or for that matter a 50 lb garbage can) and can invert it (sometimes tragically) with simpler maneuvers.
  • Funny videos all over the Internet, the most famous of which is probably the Star Wars Kid.