TEKKEN: THE REAL MARTIAL ARTS OF BANDAI NAMCO’S FIGHTING GAME.For this first appointment of EyeCulture we dedicate ourselves to analyzing the movesets of the Tekken 8 fighters, which owe a lot to real martial arts.

Saying that fighting fighting games and real-world combat arts are related seems almost obvious . In creating their games, all the developers had to take inspiration in a more or less imaginative way from the world of martial arts, which fortunately is full of different ideas and styles , coming from all over the world. Obviously, not all titles can represent the martial art of reference in a realistic way, for design reasons but also due to limitations due to the very nature of the product . In short, it is predictable that two-dimensional games like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat (here is the review of Mortal Kombat 1 ) place little emphasis on realism and instead accentuate cartoonish and deliberately exaggerated aspects of the battles , be it energy waves, extendable limbs or the search for most creative and bloody way to cause the demise of your rival .

The natural habitat for a more accurate and credible re-enactment of the countless fighting styles existing in the real world is therefore the three-dimensional fighting game. Titles like Tekken and Virtua Fighter have set a precedent in this sense and, although Bandai Namco’s fighting game has made more than one concession to the “fantastic” in its latest iterations, these are still the games that manage to provide the closest approximation to reality within the fighting game landscape. Tekken 8 in particular , with its gigantic roster, its representation of fighters from all over the globe and its kilometric movelists, manages to provide more than a starting point for making comparisons between the real world and the virtual one, as regards the combat sports (air combos aside).

We therefore trace an itinerary of the most iconic and representative styles that animate some of the protagonists of the fighting game by Harada and associates (here is the review of Tekken 8 ), comparing them to real martial arts and looking for points of contact both in terms of moves used in combat , as well as fighting strategies that can be used by the player . Since we will limit our analysis to the eighth chapter, don’t expect an examination of characters like Lei Wulong , even if deep down we all hope he returns to the roster.


Steve Fox (Boxing)

Steve is one of the most beloved fighters on the Tekken 8 roster . The fact that he is fast but incredibly difficult to master has earned him an almost mystical aura, and anyone who decides to begin the difficult journey of learning this fighter is worthy of the community’s unconditional respect. The similarities between the noble art and the style of the British boxer are many and pay homage to several great boxers of the past .

One of the reasons why Steve is considered a difficult character to master are his “stance” transitions, during which the fighter’s body assumes different positions to attack the opponent’s weak points. Each stance is a tribute to a boxing legend and must be used by the player in a very similar way to a real boxing match.

Let’s talk for example about the flicker , a lethal stance and fundamental component of “out boxing”: it is an evasive position that tends to exhaust the challenger with quick “jabs” and is fully exploited by boxers of the caliber of Thomas “The Hitman” Hearn . Flicker jabs are an essential component of Steve’s game and serve to keep his rival at a distance , forcing him to reveal himself.

The “peakaboo” style , however, needs no introduction: it is one of “Iron” Mike Tyson ‘s main techniques which goes perfectly with his physicality. It consists of slightly lowering the center of gravity and moving forward covering one’s face with one’s hands , to avoid lethal blows to the face (hence the name “peakaboo” or game of cuckoo or Bubù-Settete). A highly offensive stance, it also allows you to put pressure on the enemy in Tekken and gradually try to dismantle their defense . Although obviously in real boxing punches below the belt are not allowed which the virtual boxer uses to open the guard of his opponents, the use of the stance within Tekken is very similar to its real counterpart . We end our overview with a welcome addition of the eighth chapter made in Bandai: the “Lionheart” stance . This technique is a beautiful homage to the most important boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali , and borrows the footwork of his legendary “Ali shuffle” to escape the challenger’s offensive with a quick backward shoulder movement.

Through the “Lionheart” stance it will be possible to miss the opponent’s blows and punish him with a rapid forward attack. “Fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, precisely. Steve Fox is one of the best made boxers in the fighting game world, not only for his excellent animation but also for his gameplay.


The constant and precise search for the opponent’s breakthroughs and the emphasis on counter-time shots through his trademark move b1 (back square) are not so dissimilar from the priorities that a real boxer must necessarily take into account during a match, and they are one of the reasons why the character is one of the least orthodox and most complex in the franchise .

Eddy Gordo (Capoeira)

We then move on to the Brazilian Eddy Gordo, best friend of lovers of Tekken 3 and the subtle art of randomly alternating the X and Circle keys (by the way, the special on the history of Tekken is just one click away ). Capoeira is one of the most spectacular, acrobatic and flashy fighting styles ever created by man, and it is absolutely no surprise that it is also one of the most represented martial arts in fighting fighting games since the early 1990s.

This fighting style has a very remote but unspecified origin, probably dating back to the colonial era. It is said that she was exploited by slaves to train in secret , disguising their subversive attempts with a sort of tribal dance, in order to deceive their captors. The harmony, musicality and unpredictability of this style are fully reflected in the animations and gameplay of Eddy Gordo , who for this very reason is simultaneously one of the most loved and hated characters in the Tekken series.

The capoeira style, as in real life, is based almost exclusively on confusing the opponent with ambiguous and hypnotic movements , in order to attack him in the most unpredictable way possible and mainly using kicks. Interestingly, this style does not always allow contact with one’s opponent, and is also practicable in a fully playful context, in which the impact of the blows is only simulated and the winner is decided only on the basis of technical superiority.

It is in fact one of the styles with the highest athletic requirement and can only be practiced by extremely flexible fighters. In the Tekken battlefields, defending yourself from a capoeirista is one of the most difficult things: many “stances” are extremely evasive and difficult to hit, while the plethora of movements and sudden attacks will make a constant and effective defense almost impossible.

Law (Jeet Kune Do)

As in the case of Steve Fox, the inspiration for the Law family fighters transcends martial art and flows into pop culture. The name of Bruce Lee has in fact marked his era not only for his fighting style , but also for his approach to life, his spirit of self-denial and total dedication to his work, to the point of becoming a true role model. following and inspiring numerous fields of human knowledge, from cinema to philosophy. In the 90s it was practically impossible to come across a fighting game that didn’t contain a Bruce Lee emulator: Fei Long in Street Fighter, Liu Kang in Mortal Kombat, Dragon in World Heroes, and so on and so forth.



Tekken 8’s Marshall Law is certainly one of the most accurate representations of Jeet Kune Do, despite the obvious concessions to the fantastic. “The art through which the body can express itself” is a spectacular fighting style, but one that focuses on the point, made up of parries and counterattacks but also of blows delivered with frightening violence .

Within the Bandai Namco title, the fighter inspired by Bruce Lee can show off some parries, some stance transitions (although in smaller quantities compared to the two previous fighters) but also violent power crush moves capable of absorbing and overwhelming the opponent’s offensive by virtue of physical prowess alone. Furthermore, in the eighth chapter of the Iron Fist Tournament great emphasis is placed on the use of nunchucks during gameplay.

However, the most interesting aspect of this incarnation of Law are precisely the homages to the cinematic Bruce Lee: the pre-fight pose is entirely taken from ” The Way of the Dragon ” (1972) while the rage art, or rather the more choreographic and harmful to the entire moves sector, it is one of the most iconic poses of the Asian actor in ” Enter the Dragon ” (1973).

King (Pro Wrestling)

All martial arts fans have stumbled upon, at least once, the main controversy regarding professional wrestling. Although it is basically “fiction” , with the blows being exaggerated and, to use a technical term, ” sold ” by the opponent who accentuates the performance, it is still an extremely choreographic and spectacular fighting style . Furthermore, within a fighting game you don’t have to worry about causing permanent damage or head trauma to your challenger, which makes wrestling one of the most suitable disciplines for a videogame transposition.

King’s concept itself is an homage to traditional wrestling . In fact, the fighter wears a jaguar mask. Tiger Mask is a “gimmick” (with this name we indicate the character “played” by a wrestler within wrestling) handed down from fighter to fighter over the years, within the Japanese professional circuits. The anime that many will know as “The Tiger Man”

was also dedicated to this legendary mask and, among other things, also contained references to real wrestling, such as the presence of the wrestler Antonio Inoki , who actually existed. The King of Tekken 8 is enormously “Westernized” compared to his old school counterparts, including some of the most iconic moves of current wrestling , certainly more “caciarous” and less technical than the Japanese one.

We therefore see King using holds and projections worthy of the best WWE wrestlers of the recent past: one of his ” Heat Engager ” (the most important characteristic moves on Tekken 8) is none other than the Pedigree , historic finisher of the wrestler Triple H in the real world , while another closely resembles Randy Orton’s RKO , another of the protagonists of the Stamford federation. The entire moveset, however, is full of historical maneuvers used by wrestlers of every era, from leg drops to powerbombs and piledrivers , and the strong fighter’s gameplay revolves around them: creating the opportunity for a hold is fundamental in King’s gameplay and knowing as many combinations as possible will distinguish the mid-level player from the expert.

Reina (Taido)

We conclude our roundup with a new entry in the franchise. Reina has already climbed the usage charts within the Tekken roster and is among the most popular “newcomers” in the history of fighting games. This is largely due to the very successful combination of an iconic fighting style loved by longtime fans of the franchise, namely Mishima-style karate (a deliberately exaggerated and “fantasy” variant of traditional karate) and Taido , a new martial art in the Tekken series.

This discipline was created by Seiken Shukumine in 1965, and therefore appears to be a very recent acquisition compared to the other fighting styles that we have analyzed so far. The founder of Taido considered traditional karate too rigid and therefore limited . Consequently, he introduced into this martial art a whole series of leg movements, rotating kicks and strikes that involve a notable twist of the torso, with the aim of making the original discipline more flexible and spectacular .

Although Taido borrows heavily from karate, it now has its own dignity. Bandai Namco took the representation of this new discipline very seriously, and decided to make use of the technical opinion of Tetsuji Nakano , four-time Taido world champion, for the development of fighting moves and transitions. Reina is therefore a melting pot of many different martial experiences, some fantastic and others strongly rooted in the real world.

The electric punches typical of the Mishima style are accompanied by the frenetic rotations of Taido and some elements of Kyokushinkai karate , a tough variant of traditional karate which involves the use of headbutts and violent blows to incapacitate the opponent and which connects it on a lore level to Heihachi Mishima , certainly the most violent and “physical” of the family. The newcomer to the Mishima family is therefore both spectacular, well integrated into the plot and represents a new way of understanding a female character within the fighting game genre. Generally the damsels in fighting games use elegant styles based on evading blows (just look at Lili or Jun), while Reina is entirely based on physicality , physical might and complete domination of one’s opponent. At the same time, this character manages to show the most spectacular aspects of a martial art unknown to most, which is represented within the game in a rather realistic way .

The styles we would like

Although Tekken is one of the longest-running sagas in the fighting game sector, some fighting styles have not yet been associated with any character , while others are guiltily absent from the eighth chapter. On the occasion of Gamescom 2023 we had the opportunity to interview the Tekken 8 development team , who revealed to us that they are constantly looking for new disciplines to represent in the title, but that they necessarily have to make compromises.

Some fighting styles heavily based on ground play, such as Brazilian Jujitsu , could constitute a challenge for developers, who would have problems in spectacularizing and making attractive to the public a martial art that is actually rather static and not based on quick exchanges between contenders . There are therefore disciplines that are clearly more videogame-based than others, and we have some ideas about what we would like to see in the future.

First of all, there is no real exponent of heavyweight boxing , despite the hints that are made in Steve’s moveset. Having a massive and violent boxer, to contrast with the speed of the British boxer, could provide excellent ideas for lore and show players another way of interpreting the noble art in the video game field. Krav Maga , based mainly on counterattacks, could also be a great addition to the Tekken series.

Among the “illustrious absentees” Muay Thai undoubtedly stands out , which has always been present in the series through Bruce and Fakhumram but which has not yet been exploited in Tekken 8. The possibilities are endless, and we can’t wait to discover which surprises and which new Harada’s team will want to introduce fighting styles in the next season passes of the latest addition to Bandai Namco .