The Winter Soldier is clearly one of the most formidable hand-to-hand combatants in the MCU – and here we break down his main fighting style.
The Winter Soldier is a master martial artist in the MCU – but he’s struggling to adapt his fighting style now. The story of Bucky Barnes is one of the MCU’s most tragic; he started out as a hero, essentially Captain America’s sidekick, but after an accident he was captured by Hydra. He was transformed into the Winter Soldier, one of the world’s most dangerous assassins; Hydra kept him in cryogenic suspension, only defrosting him when they had a use for him.
The Winter Soldier finally emerged from the shadows in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where Bucky proved to be almost a match for the combined skills of Captain America, Falcon, and Black Widow. He may not be participating in Shang-Chi’s fighting tournament, but it’s clear Bucky should be considered one of the greatest mixed martial artists in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. But what fighting style does he predominantly use?
The Winter Soldier’s main fighting style is derived from Systema, a Russian martial art created by the Cossacks more than a thousand years ago and developed by the Spetsnaz over the 20th century – which makes sense, given he was trained in the Soviet Union. It’s an aggressive fighting style, focused on disarming an opponent and swiftly defeating them, and Bucky displays it quite prominently in Captain America: The Winter Soldier – note that his first instinct whenever he’s fighting Steve Rogers is to catch Captain America’s shield to make him easier to beat. Systema is particularly useful in combat because it borrows from a lot of other techniques, meaning Bucky is familiar with a wide range of grapples, throws, punches, and kicks – often using elements from boxing (such as protecting his face with his non-punching hand) and taekwondo throws.
The Winter Soldier’s martial arts have been modified to take advantage of his superhuman abilities and his cyborg arm; the latter is particularly useful, with Bucky using the arm to block bullets, perform remarkable throws, and even slow his momentum from falls and leaps. Meanwhile, his weapon of choice in close combat is a deadly Gerber Mark II knife from the Second World War; knife-fighting is a major part of Systema, so again it fits with his general profile. Not all of Bucky’s moves make sense, of course, because in superhero films stunts are often added purely for the ‘wow’ factor. The Winter Soldier’s trademark knife flip is actually rather odd, because such a flip is typically used to extend reach and take an opponent by surprise, whereas in Captain America: The Winter Soldier Bucky’s seems simply to be showing off.
In addition to Systema, Godzillarex suggests there is evidence Bucky is also proficient in Muay Thai. Sometimes referred to as “Thai boxing,” this has simpler blocks than Systema, and it’s particularly visible in the ways the Winter Soldier defends himself from Captain America’s shield attacks – again, taking advantage of his own cyborg arm. It’s worth note that these blocks would have been performed instinctively, because no doubt Bucky never trained for having a star-spangled shield slammed towards his head, so they’re a mark of his familiarity with the techniques.
Ironically, the Winter Soldier’s dependence on more aggressive martial arts proves something of a handicap in The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, because – freed from Hydra brainwashing – he’s attempting to redefine himself. Bucky no longer wants to be the brutal, violent Winter Soldier, and his Systema-based fighting seems to have lost its edge a little as a result. There’s a sense in which his mind is in conflict with his instincts in the Disney+ TV series, explaining why the Winter Soldier seems to struggle a lot more, and he’ll probably need to adapt his style going forward.
More: Falcon & Winter Soldier Season 2? Everything We Know
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- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Sep 03, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
- The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
- Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
- Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023
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