Every Martial Art Ethan Hunt Uses In Mission: Impossible Movies

What different martial arts disciplines does Ethan Hunt use in the Mission: Impossible franchise? The current iteration of Mission: Impossible is led by Tom Cruise, but it’s based on the ’60s spy TV series of the same name and jumped to the big screen in 1996, at which point Tom Cruise took the reins as its spy protagonist Ethan Hunt. The film would go on to spawn an ongoing franchise that stands as one of the longest-running of any action movie series ever produced, with the seventh installment, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part Onearriving in the summer of 2023.


The Mission: Impossible franchise has also been an instrumental vehicle in making Tom Cruise an action star, with Cruise’s famed drive for performing the most shudder-worthy stunts possible underpinning every movie to jaw-dropping effect. In addition to the series’ impressive stunt work, Cruise also engages in thrilling fight scenes during each Mission: Impossible movie. These combat sequences have consistently shown that Ethan Hunt is a very well-trained martial artist.

Related: Mission: Impossible 7’s Wild Stunts Are Already Beating Past M:I Movies

Throughout the hand-to-hand throwdowns in the Mission: Impossible movies, the Tom Cruise super-spy Ethan Hunt employs techniques from a range of martial arts disciplines. While Mission: Impossible 2, Mission: Impossible 3and Mission: Impossible – Fallout showed Ethan’s fighting skills to their fullest extent, he’s held his own during incredible fight scenes in every Mission: Impossible movie. Here are the different martial arts that Ethan Hunt knows in the Mission: Impossible movies.

Tae Kwon Do

Mission Impossible 2 fight scene kick

Ethan Hunt’s kicking skills are shown with the most visibility in the climactic beach fight between Ethan and Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) in Mission: Impossible 2. Here, Ethan breaks out his abilities in Korean Tae Kwon Do, a martial art famed for its kicks. The uneven, sandy terrain of beaches also lends itself to Tae Kwon Do training as a method of developing strength and coordination in kicks. With exalted action movie director John Woo applying his trademark bombast to the fight, Ethan’s kicks in Mission: Impossible 2‘s beach showdown are strong and swift, and he even traps his opponent’s arm to deliver a few roundhouse head kicks. While the fights in later Mission: Impossible Movies don’t emphasize Ethan’s kicking technique as much, he knows how to put Tae Kwon Do’s kicks to effective use in a fight.


Mission Impossible Fallout fight scene pic

In addition to his talents as a world-class kicker, Ethan Hunt also regularly shows his ability to throw a punch during the Mission: Impossible movies. Ethan boasts formidable boxing talents as part of his combat skill set, delivering hooks, uppercuts, and crosses in every fight scene he dominates. Bruce Lee famously recognized the value of the footwork and punching methodology of boxing, incorporating both with elements of many different Asian martial arts in his creation of Jeet Kune Do, an adaptable, “be like water” mindset that Bond-level spy Ethan Hunt clearly shares. Fast-forward decades and boxing has effortlessly merged with other martial arts for millions of fighters around the world, Ethan Hunt very much among them.


Mission Impossible 2 fight scene pic

Originating in Brazil and based upon traditional African dancing, Capoeira is a unique martial art that merges dance with combat techniques. Capoeira practitioners adopt a rhythmic movement known as a”Ginga,” using a variety of instruments in Capoeira training that add a literal musical element to Capoeiristras’ dance-like exchange of kicks, somersaults, and dodges. In Mission: Impossible 2‘s beach fight, Ethan implements a number of kicks that Capoeira exponents execute with ease. Ethan’s initial kick in the fight, in particular, resembles an inverted version of the Capoeira technique “Martelo do Chão,” a variation on a roundhouse kick in which the kicker executes the move from the ground with their arm providing support – but the death-cheating Ethan Hunt, maverick that he is, moves in the opposite direction to a typical Martelo do Chão kick. Like his skills in Tae Kwon Do, Mission: Impossible 2 is the only place in the franchise where Ethan’s Capoeira skills come into the spotlight, but they add greatly to the film’s excellent beach fight.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Mission Impossible 2 fight scene image

In addition to his skills with kicking and punching, Ethan Hunt is also adept at grappling, with his skills in this pillar of fighting primarily drawn from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Consistently seen in the MMA world, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on submitting opponents on the ground using a range of different techniques like chokes and joint manipulations. Ethan’s fight in Mission: Impossible 2 cast a light on the slippery nature of BJJ, taking both combatants to the ground as frequently as they’re on their feet. Ethan executes numerous chokes and takedowns, even implementing both at once to escape from a choke and use a “key lock” on Ambrose’s arm as a takedown. Ethan’s grappling skills from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expand and diversify his fighting arsenal greatly while adding fun elements to his fight scenes that’ll be instantly recognizable for martial arts enthusiasts.

Related: Will Mission Impossible 7 Give Tom Cruise Another Billion Dollar Movie?

Keysi Fighting Method

Mission Impossible 3 fight scene pic

One of the more modern martial arts forms Ethan Hunt employs in the Mission: Impossible franchise is seen in J.J. Abrams’ directorial debut Mission: Impossible 3, with Ethan using techniques from the Keysi Fighting Method in his tussle with Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). While Keysi has been featured in a number of action movies, it was most famously used as Batman’s primary fighting style in The Dark Knight trilogy. Originally created in Spain by Justo Dieguez in the early ’80s, Keysi practitioners fight from the “Pensador” position, facilitating Keysi’s defensive maneuvers as well as its unique approach to striking with the fists, elbows, and head. Ethan unleashes some hard-hitting Keysi-derived elbow strikes against Davian in their fight, while Cruise himself would go on to perform some Keysi-based fight scenes in Jack Reacherbusting out his transferable skills to deadly effect.

The Mission: Impossible franchise has become as much about Tom Cruise’s stunts and fighting skills as Ethan Hunt’s spy work, and the series’ fighting scenes have helped solidify its current status as a titan of action cinema. Ethan Hunt’s deployment of different martial arts has been central to the constantly growing success of the Mission: Impossible series. For every impossible mission, Ethan Hunt comes fully prepared for action, especially when it comes to throwing hands, legs, elbows, and everything in-between.

Next: Top Gun 2 Sets Tom Cruise A Massive Challenge For Mission: Impossible 7

  • Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (2023)Release date: Jul 14, 2023

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