January 7, 2017

Watch: Female Action Heroes and the 'Between-My-Legs-Takedown'

"Is that even a realistic strategy?"

It's a sign of social progress that more and more action movies star women. From The Hunger Games to Kill Bill to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to Hanna, ass-kicking women have become a mainstay in the action genre. But have we really come as far as it seems?

Fandor took a closer look at how women fight in action movies, and it turns out that most of their moves are highly sexualized. The most prominent of them is the "between-my-legs takedown," in which the action heroine tackles her opponent by straddling him or her, making for a great opportunity for a crotch shot.

It would be one thing if this was an extremely sophisticated maneuver that helped the action heroine save the day, but as Fandor notes in the video below, it doesn't seem to serve any purpose whatsoever—except to sexualize the hero.

Your Comment

40 Comments

The "between the legs" is practically what happens in every jiu jitsu takedown in real life.

January 7, 2017 at 6:36PM, Edited January 7, 6:36PM

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Gareth Ng
Cinematographer
608

The between the legs move is unreal and has never happened in the history of mma or jiu jitsu. You are confusing that for a triangle choke, but that is not a takedown.

January 7, 2017 at 8:06PM

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Enrique
81

January 8, 2017 at 5:30AM

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Vincent Gortho
none
610

The guy is collaborating. Its pretty obvious. How can you buy this?

January 8, 2017 at 3:40PM

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Enrique
81

The head-scissors takedown is actually pretty prominent in Jiu Jitsu and Lucha Libre. It's not done to be sexualized, it's allows you to take down people twice your size by using your momentum against them. Since women action heroes are typically fighting people who are larger than them it actually makes perfect sense for them to use the maneuver.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdvS5yD-7Wc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QPGODIckcE

January 7, 2017 at 7:24PM

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Phil Spruner
Video Editor and Filmmaker
41

Those moves are completely unrealistic. They are fake wrestling moves that do not work. Those guys in the video are collaborating to get taken down. its stupid.

January 7, 2017 at 8:08PM

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Enrique
81

Yeah Wrestling's fake. It's not real the Avengers........

January 7, 2017 at 11:45PM

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Phil Spruner
Video Editor and Filmmaker
41

So is the movie. Whats your point?

January 8, 2017 at 5:31AM, Edited January 8, 5:31AM

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Vincent Gortho
none
610

When I watch a movie they have to create the illusion that what i am seeing is real, even though its not. When i see something that I know is not real, that ilusion goes away. Thats the point.

January 8, 2017 at 3:42PM

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Enrique
81

>Those moves are completely unrealistic.

Whereas the rest of the settings in a Hollywood action movie are realistic...

January 8, 2017 at 8:27AM

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When I watch a movie they have to create the illusion that what i am seeing is real, even though its not. When i see something that I know is not real, that ilusion goes away. Thats the point. FIction does not mean it has to be unrealistic. When an actor is not being real, the ilussion goes away, he becomes a bad actor, thats the point.

January 8, 2017 at 3:43PM

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Enrique
81

Men are, on average, larger, heavier, and stronger than women.

It makes sense that fighting strategies would be different.

Maybe these video makers (or commenters here) should speak with some BJJ practitioners about various takedowns to confirm if this difference in movie fight moves really is sexism, or if the on-set choreographers and martial arts experts are having them use these moves for a reason.

The moves certainly look really cool on screen.

January 7, 2017 at 8:16PM

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kyleclements
Artist / Photographer
924

"It's a sign of social progress that more and more action movies star women."

Really? Because in the real world, it's still mostly men kicking actual, literal ass. So isn't this a sign that our art reflects what we WISH the world looked like, rather than what it does?

That's a surefire sign of artistic cowardice. But, y'know, just my opinion.

January 7, 2017 at 8:19PM

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It's not about who kicks ass in real life, we're mostly talking about superheroes and neither men nor women in real life are superheroes, and I don't think that anyone wishes that women start to be more violent, too, so they could "kick ass"....
So the point where we're talking about social progress is that movies allow women to be the main character and have a depth as a character and not only be limited to minor stereotypical characters being sexy.
And that's why it's just to point the fact, that even if women are depicted in action sequences, formerly mostly reserved to men, they still are restricted to moves insinuating sex.

January 8, 2017 at 4:19AM, Edited January 8, 4:19AM

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So many actual BJJ moves here, obviously some are more stylized like so much of action/fight choreography. There is even Ronda Rousey in this video pulling off regular bjj/mma moves.
It's obvious to see fight choreographers have taken a more grappling angle for the female characters in movies, but this generalization that these moves were done just for sexualization and are portrayed solely in an unrealistic manner is not significant.
Grappling is a great tactic and makes sense if the choreographers/directors want to focus on a fighting style that requires more flexibility and technique rather than strength.

TLDR:
Can you see some sort of sexualisation in these moves? yes. Wrestling/Grappling does lean itself towards that.
Is it unrealistic in terms of action/movie standards? no.

January 7, 2017 at 9:34PM, Edited January 7, 9:34PM

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You have no idea what BJJ means if you think there are any. These moves presented in the movie are not BJJ, they do not work in real life, its more WWE than anything.

January 7, 2017 at 10:32PM

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Enrique
81

As a BJJ practitioner I believe I do haha, From arm bars, to full mount, to pulling guard positions, Fundamental Bjj Moves/positions.
Stylizing concepts based on a martial art is what alot of action choreography is.
I'd gladly work many of these moves in real life, please, visit Australia sometime if you insist so much and I'd demonstrate.

January 7, 2017 at 11:53PM, Edited January 7, 11:53PM

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You said the moves presented in the video were actual BJJ. They are not. a leg between your head take down is NOT a BJJ even my 10 yrl sister knows this. What kind of BJJ are you? lol

January 8, 2017 at 3:46PM

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Enrique
81

Yeah, that isn't, didn't say every single move in this is BJJ, lol, funny how you can't seem to put that together.
Don't think I need to explain which points in the video are and name their positions for you haha
You seem to not be able to piece simple things together. lol.
Not worth the time in keyboard, gladly would demonstrate since you think they wouldn't work there is nothing to fear.

January 9, 2017 at 5:52AM

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Stop with the badass attitude. We will never meet and you know it. Why do you keep bringing that up, tough guy? You seem insecure.

Also if its a waste of your time to discuss with me, why you keep responding? Lol.

What a sad life.

January 15, 2017 at 8:35PM

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Enrique
81

Of course its sexualized, their lady parts are touching other parts of people! Totally sexual, lol!

January 8, 2017 at 8:41AM

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Nicholas Ortiz
Director/Writer/Stuntman
270

Clip fails on the fact that it features the moves performed by not just one but 2 UFC fighters, one of whom is/was an olympic level judoka.

January 7, 2017 at 9:41PM

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Nicholas Ortiz
Director/Writer/Stuntman
270

I don't necessarily disagree with this video, but I do want to point out the times I've seen male characters pulling some jiu-jitsu.

1. Mel Gibson's character hits a triangle choke at the end of Lethal Weapon.
2. Donnie uses closed guard and spider guard in Flashpoint.
3. John Wick jumps guard, fires a bullet, and then rolls into mount.

These are just off the top of my head, I'm sure there are more. And yes, I am a total martial arts nerd/BJJ purple belt.

January 8, 2017 at 1:46AM, Edited January 8, 1:46AM

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January 8, 2017 at 5:29AM, Edited January 8, 5:29AM

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Vincent Gortho
none
610

When people watch movies and forget to take off their ideological lenses.
Or maybe women have more strength in their legs than arms?

January 8, 2017 at 5:38AM

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Vincent Gortho
none
610

Maybe no one watches anything except through ideological lenses -- just like how everyone's got an accent, though usually we're not conscious of it.

January 8, 2017 at 11:52PM

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Adrian Tan
Videographer
974

This video really just shows a bunch of "between my legs takedowns" and never really answers it's own question, if it really is a real strategy.

It is a fact that women in general are physically weaker than men (or men physically stronger depending on your viewpoint), but the difference in physical strength is less in the legs than in arms. Combined with the fact that leg muscles are larger and consequently stronger than arm muscles it makes sense to use create a fight choreography favouring legs and momentum rather than brute force for female fights.

That said it would be interesting to see if it really does have something going for it. This video clip doesn't come close to answer that question.

January 8, 2017 at 5:40AM

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Good Lord! Men have testicles between their legs! They hang down, are vulnerable and smacking them against the head of the guy you are fighting may cause you to pass out in pain! I don't see women hitting their foes with their breasts for similar reasons.

January 8, 2017 at 8:23AM

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Men fight like this in action / martial arts movies ALL the time. But when it came to that in the video, they showed ...a boxing match.

January 8, 2017 at 8:25AM

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Something to note from someone who done fight choreography for film and been practicing Martial Arts for years.... None of the moves in fighting films are real. All of them, punches, kicks, blocks and takedowns are designed to look good on camera and to be safe for the on camera talent to perform several times over. Its the illusion of pain. Having said that, they are all rooted in actual real world maneuvers that do work, the main difference being when you do to an opponent in real life, its meant to take them out for good. So yes in principle, the between the leg takedown is an actual and if executed properly, completely effective technique. It just doesn't look as clean as presented in the movies.

January 8, 2017 at 8:37AM, Edited January 8, 8:38AM

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Nicholas Ortiz
Director/Writer/Stuntman
270

Many have already pointed out that these techniques figure prominently in BJJ. We also "borrow" them in Ninjutsu. Here are are some To Shin Do blackbelt demonstrations that showing two male instructors performing variations on that theme. The last move (starting at 4:00) is also a great leg sweep.

https://youtu.be/nGOFjWOYZWM?t=25s

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is sexualization, I suppose. But I think it's wrong to believe that whenever a female character wins a physical victory it is only to sexualize her for a male audience. Some of us appreciate good martial arts technique as an achievement unto itself.

January 8, 2017 at 11:03AM

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As an MMA fan: the head and body scissors, armbars, takedowns and triangle chokes seen in the video are super common on any female or male fight.
As a Pro-wrestling fan: the hurricanrana variations seen in the video are a staple of sub 200-pound cruiserweight wrestling, either female or male. In fact, you'd have a hard time finding a male lucha-style mexican fight without at least one variation of a rana being employed. Same thing goes for the takedowns, armbars and triangle chokes in regards to strong-style japanese wrestling, which is male-dominated.
So yeah: "as Fandor notes in the video below, it doesn't seem to serve any purpose whatsoever—except to sexualize the hero." Just not true.

January 8, 2017 at 1:31PM, Edited January 8, 2:06PM

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José Pedro Pinto
Wannabe
774

You are not an MMA fan. Show me a body scissors take down in mma or BJJ? Triangle chokes, armbars etc are very different to what we are seeing. Come on,

January 9, 2017 at 2:20AM

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Enrique
81

There's a comma between body scissors and takedowns. I was just too lazy to write "single/double leg takedown"

January 9, 2017 at 9:19AM, Edited January 9, 9:30AM

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José Pedro Pinto
Wannabe
774

As someone who taught martial arts for several years, I can tell you that (1) yes, that's an effective move for someone who is small and light going against someone larger and (2) a lot of moves in martial arts, especially in wrestling, can appear sexual when taken out of context. I've seen smaller women fight and most times they do make use of their hips and legs for grappling because those are the strongest parts of their body (albeit, much less elegantly than in these examples). Men are typically heavier and have stronger muscles above the waste so you'll see them do more punching and grappling with their arms. But I've seen smaller men make use of this move as well.

That being said, some of the examples in the video were spot on, like the example from Goldmember where the woman suffocates a man by squeezing him to death between her legs while laughing maniacally. Or the example from Mission Impossible where she uses much more energy than necessary to disarm a single guard. Both are just silly to watch. A lot of the examples here were just highly stylized versions of actual fighting moves but it's fair to say sometimes those moves are used in a way that's obviously playing up the character's sexuality.

I think it's probably less helpful to draw lines in the sand, since that only serves to stifle creativity, and more helpful to talk about when it might be appropriate to use a character's fighting style to play up their sexuality vs when it isn't. Personally, I can only think of a very few instances where we'd want to sexualize a character through combat. If we're doing that, then it should be to say something specific about the relationship between the character and the person they're fighting ("Mr and Mrs Smith" comes to mind) - not just as a way of making them seem more interesting. Female characters should have more dimension to them than just how sexual they are.

January 8, 2017 at 1:55PM, Edited January 8, 2:25PM

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Dale Raphael Goldberg
Director/Editor
268

I hate movies where the fighting is fake. It's bad enough with the guys but the women too? It's just Directors trying to be cool for the 14 year old viewer. It also doesn't help women learn self defense when faced with danger. When a movie stages one of these fight scenes it takes the story line and throws it into the 'Make Believe" land for me. I'd rather see something like - the use of pepper spray followed by a knee to the balls, then a nail file into the neck jugular. That's something women can practice at home and doesn't take the viewer into the land of misbelief. Yeah, she could first pull out a gun but why not have it misfire... then she uses her other skills- is much more exciting in my view.

January 9, 2017 at 3:26PM

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William Scherer
Writer/Director/Producer/Fine Art Aerial Photography
299

Excluding the unrealistic WWE moves featured in the video, it's sexist that the realistic "between the legs" Jiu Jitsu moves are mainly used by women instead of both by both men and women in cinema. The sexist assumption is that men don't do moves involving between their legs and that only women can get away with that.

January 9, 2017 at 4:55PM

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Matthew Devapiriam Emmanuel
Camera Operator
368

First of all, it's Hollywood. *EVERY* fight scene is stylized. Most real fights are not much to look at, as they're brutal and over very quickly.
Second, as one who has studied martial arts for over 30 years, I offer this: The legs are the strongest limbs on our bodies (regardless of gender). Groundfighting uses the legs a LOT for controlling the opponent. I've had to tap out when sparring women half my size once they got me in a solid leg hold.
Does the 'between the legs' play to the viewer? Certainly. Is it a viable technique when used by a practiced fighter? Certainly.
The OP video (and associated article) is merely, IMHO, looking to incite ire by claiming 'sexism,' and whaddaya know, here we are talking about it.

January 12, 2017 at 6:30PM

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Robert Bryant
Writer, Editor, Sound Designer
153

here's yet another takedown... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvlJMzB9M8o

January 13, 2017 at 11:57AM

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Efrain Gonzalez
Owner/ SOUNDWAVE RIDERS LLC
74

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIC2RgBjcwk
"Flying Triangle" executed during match.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9gQyev03EI
"Flying Armbar" executed during match.

Dress these up with a little wirework. Boom.

But you guys keep arguing over fake fights in movies.

L

January 13, 2017 at 5:54PM

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Lawrence Enos
filmmaker/photographer/musician
8

this is true and unfortunate. what of the steven soderbergh movie 'haywire,' when she used real moves to squeeze her opponent. I believe that was a real move & didn't seem sexualized to me.

January 14, 2017 at 12:15PM

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