There is a new screen fighting art that is taking Hollywood by storm and it isn’t from China or the world of mixed martial arts. Big-budget actioners MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 and BATMAN BEGINS both employ this punishing close-quarter technique in their screen fighting sequences and audiences are going to see it again in the forthcoming Batman sequel THE DARK KNIGHT.
The Keysi Fighting Method or KFM is a relatively new combat system that originates from Spain with its founder Justo Dieguez Serrano, a descendant of Spanish gypsies. He narrowly survived a rough childhood and after service in the military he met co-founder Andy Norman, a street fighter from Yorkshire, England, while investigating various martial arts methods. Together, they applied their real-world survival experience to develop a new system they claim is not a martial art in a traditional sense but rather, like Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do, is a way, a philosophical expression of ever-changing knowledge, research and experimentation.
In its current form, KFM employs brutally effective close-range attacks that appear directed primarily to the head, while protecting one’s own head. As an experimental fighting system, KFM also makes varied use of projectile and handheld weapons, kicks, trapping, grappling, takedowns, and ground fighting.
Like other modern fighting arts such as Krav Maga, KFM is designed around its real-world effectiveness to exploit weak points in the human body to subdue, maim or kill an opponent quickly and efficiently. What sets it apart visually is a compact and fluid use of ducking and spinning elbow jabs with the arms protectively covering the head from counterattacks.
In my review of BATMAN BEGINS, I criticized the poor representation of Batman’s fighting prowess but the fault didn’t lie in the KFM representation. It was the lack of clarity in Chris Nolen’s action direction that intentionally hid too much of the hand-to-hand combat from the viewer. Nolan appears to have addressed this issue with THE DARK KNIGHT. Lead actor Christian Bale suggests that Batman’s fighting skill will feature more prominently.
“We’ve gone a bit further with Keysi,” said Bale. “I’m actually learning how to do it more realistically than ever before, though it’s such an extreme way of fighting; there are literally moves where you tear someone’s cheek away from their face, or rip their nose off – every part of you becomes a weapon. It’s formidable. Batman doesn’t kill, so we can’t have him doing that; we modify it.”
“We’ve had to tone it down a bit,” confirmed Paul Jennings, a stunt coordinator for BATMAN BEGINS. Yet the principle of KFM were not lost. In recalling the final fight scene in the train, Jennings was able to focus more closely on the aggressiveness nature of the Keysi style. “We just wanted it to be as hard as possible, we wanted to show two men who are very highly trained and very highly skilled – very motivated.”
Bale’s stunt double Buster Reeves played an instrumental role in introducing KFM to BATMAN BEGINS fight coordinator David Foreman and thereby made Keysi the signature fighting style for this new big screen incarnation of Batman.
“KFM is real, efficient and effective,” said Reeves. “Every move goes straight to the point with no waste of time.”
Reeves is another Yorkshire native with a background in Wado Ryu karate, gymnastics and diving who went on to become a three-time world ju-jitsu title holder before becoming a top stuntman in many of Hollywood’s biggest action films in recent years including BLADE 2, TROY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM.
For THE DARK KNIGHT, Reeves has returned to double Bale when the athletic star isn’t performing his own stunts. In place of Foreman is swordmaster Richard Ryan as fight coordinator. His recent credits include fight consultant for the FABLE 2 video game and fight arranger for THE GOLDEN COMPASS which is now in theaters.
It may be that a gruesomely realistic representation of KFM’s full potential may never be seen onscreen unless a gutsy filmmaker wants to fight it out with film censors. In the meantime, we can look forward to another stylized representation of Justo Dieguez Serrano and Andy Norman’s Keysi Fighting Method in THE DARK KNIGHT when it hits theaters July 18th, 2008.
As a side note, it is my opinion that the standard Batman costume continues to move in the wrong direction. It’s taking on the exoskeleton approach that military developers are moving towards with real battlefield armor. This should only be an optional suit that Bruce Wayne dons for situations where he anticipates entering an urban battlefield scenario. Otherwise, he should be wearing a lighter, more flexible suit with greater freedom of movement that allows for a fast and full range of movement in hand-to-hand combat and stealthy missions. As example, take a look at a wicked conceptual design from Alessandro Baldasseroni.
Adapting KFM for the BATMAN films
Tom Cruise uses KFM in a scene from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3
THE DARK KNIGHT
Keysi Fighting Method
Batman • keysi • superhero • upcoming