ByMatt Juul, writer at
MMA and Entertainment Writer
Matt Juul

The world of Camelot gets a modern spin in Guy Ritchie’s medieval action flick King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

As a lifelong martial artist and bona fide fight fan, it’s no surprise that the British filmmaker added some realistic flair to the big screen brawls with his latest outing. Although the Sherlock Holmes and RocknRolla director is known for his breathtaking action sequences, he definitely took things up a notch in his interpretation of the ancient myth.

Check out our breakdown of the real martial arts behind King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

Hand-to-Hand Combat

Photo by Warner Bros.
Photo by Warner Bros.

Knights in shining armor aren’t really known for their hand-to-hand combat skills, but Charlie Hunnam’s Arthur definitely knows how to throw down.

The actor went through vigorous training to get into fighting shape, as he worked on his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, boxing, and Muay Thai when he wasn’t banging out 2,000 push-ups every day. Although his martial arts moves aren’t native to the British Isles, the film does provide some logic for his Far East skill set.

In this version of King Arthur, the heir to the throne trains at a stable of fighters under the watchful eye of an Asian character named Kung Fu George, played by Hong Kong martial arts whiz Tom Wu. Problematic stereotypes aside, Kung Fu George is presumably the man who teaches Hunnam’s Arthur everything he knows about beating people up, which is why there’s clearly an eastern martial arts influence on their moves, ranging from open hand strikes to knees in the clinch.

Ritchie’s background shines through at certain, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments during the various fight scenes. The guard and what seems to be an omoplata/arm lock technique appear to be implemented.

Arthur mostly, though, keeps things standing, preferring to use his hands rather than fancy ground or foot moves. His boxing isn’t that crisp, but hey, the sport didn’t even really exist back in this time period.

The King's Arsenal

Photo by Warner Bros.
Photo by Warner Bros.

Since this is a movie about medieval mages and knights on horseback, the real focus of the fighting stays on the use of old-school weapons.

While the clash of swords is still a bit too stylized when compared to the gritty nature of real sword fighting, Arthur and his team usually fight a bit messy (for movies anyway) on the battlefield, using whatever works to get the job done. However, things take on a fantastical nature when Hunnam’s king channels the power of Excalibur, giving him the ability to wipe out legions of opponents without breaking a sweat.

When he’s not going all Harry Potter with the magic sword, King Arthur pretty much fights like your typical knight, just with a bad temper. There’s lots of slashing and stabbing as he uses a two handed technique.

According to Ritchie’s recent chat with Joe Rogan, the actual blade used to make Excalibur for the movie was crafted out of Damascus steel, a type of metal that’s known for its sharp edge, durability, and water-like pattern.

Aside from blades, the film also has plenty of other medieval style tools of war, from intricate suits of armor to the deadly longbow. The later was actually a trademark of British soldiers, who could decimate opponents by raining down arrows.

Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen gets to show off his archery skills in the flick as he plays the cunning Goosefat Bill. We’re guessing he didn’t need much practice in ancient warfare after all these years as Petyr Baelish.

Overall, the fighting in King Arthur is pretty much what you’d expect from a 2017 film about the Knights of the Roundtable, just with a dash of modern martial arts sprinkled on top.


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