If you’re a fan of action shows, The Punisher’s impeccably choreographed, brutal fight scenes might be your cup of tea. The Punisher, a creation of Marvel, is a popular show on Netflix. It follows Frank Castle, an ex-marine with a chronic case of bloodlust for those who mercilessly killed his innocent family. So, what martial arts does the Punisher use?

The Punisher uses a martial art based on MCMAP or Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. The US military developed MCMAP for Marine Corps training. It’s a fight discipline that emphasizes hand-to-hand and close-quarter combat (CQC) and mastery of a wide range of weapons systems.

There has been a clamor among fans to know the martial arts used in the show. Afterall, it has done an excellent job of convincing us one guy can single handedly beat up a bunch of others. If you’ve ever wondered what martial arts The Punisher uses, keep reading to find out. 

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP)

Simply put, MCMAP comprises mixed martial arts often thought of as a distinct discipline. However, it draws influence from a range of martial arts canonized into the MCMAP syllabus. This includes Brazilian jiu-jitsu, eskrima, judo, boxing, krav maga, and even wrestling. 

Only adapted in 2022, MCMAP has already established its place among the most revered martial arts. When put in the cage, an MCMAP fighter could hold his own, if not fare better, than an MMA fighter. 

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Influences in MCMAP

It’s evident that Castle has a preference for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. One of his favorite BJJ moves done throughout the series is the “double leg takedown,”. The move involves lunging for the opponent at their midsection with his shoulders. 

He quickly engages his arms behind the opponent’s knees, and pivots them off the ground with his shoulder. With the opponent’s feet suspended in midair, he brings them back down forcefully on their backs.

If your opponent didn’t anticipate the takedown, this would be a deadly move. The impact could cause severe injury, disability, if not instant death. Castle executes this beautifully in most of his fights.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu concentrates on ground fighting and submission holds. The idea is to gain the advantage over your opponent by knocking them off their center of gravity. Another technique is disabling them with a hold that will cause them to relent. 

Eskrima Principles in MCMAP

Eskrima is the national martial art of the Philippines, commonly referred to as Arnis in its native homeland. The fight form revolves around the use of knives, sticks, and bladed and impact weapons. Eskrima also teaches “open hand” techniques which enable fighters to be efficient even without a weapon. 

MCMAP and Eskrima share a common principle that anything in your hand can be a weapon. The combat world calls these “weapons of opportunity”. In a particular scene, Castle found himself pitted against a bodybuilder, a superior opponent in both size and strength.

To overcome the bodybuilder, Castle relied on weapons of opportunity. The fight took place in a gym where dumbbells and weights were lying around. Using his MCMAP skills, Castle used what he could get his hands on. Long story short, he walked away the victor of a fight that could have had a very different outcome. 

Judo Techniques in MCMAP

Judo is a system of unarmed combat originating from Japan. Its objectives are to throw, pin, or overcome the opponent by applying pressure to arms, joints, and neck. Besides frequent use of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s double leg takedown, many of Castle’s flawless takedowns are reminiscent of Judo’s tactics.  

Boxing Elements in MCMAP

When unarmed, Castle’s default fight form is boxing. If we trace the character back to his comic book origins, The Punisher premiered in the 1960s. BJJ and Eskrima had not yet come to the forefront of public awareness. True to the comic, one of Castle’s best skills is boxing, which lends a fair amount of influence to MCMAP. 

Krav Maga, Also Developed For Military Training

Developed for military combat training, Krav Maga is a self-defense and fighting system used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Krav Maga is an efficient, street-oriented fighting style. Self-defense training for civilians often uses Krav Maga because of its practical applications to real-life encounters.

Wrestling, Still Has Modern Applications in Combat

Wrestling is one of the oldest fight styles and considered as a basic template for many later fight forms. Although mostly seen today as a combat sport, the physics of wrestling still has very real applications in tactical situations. It still uses grappling techniques to overcome opponents in any fight scenario. 

Did Jon Benthral Do Any MCMAP Training For The Show?

Jon Benthral, the actor who perfectly portrays The Punisher’s Frank Castle, transformed for the role. The road to his transformation involved intense workouts, strict diets, and combat training. Benthral has mentioned in an interview that he has worked closely with military consultants on the set of the series. In the same interview, he also described separate training sessions for judo and boxing. 

Jon Benthral did some MCMAP training for the show, as his meetings with military consultants would suggest. And his flawless performance of the fight choreography convinces most of us that he did more than just memorize moves. He also does his own stunts whenever he can. 

Cinema vs. Real Life

The use of MCMAP as the fight form in The Punisher is a nuanced topic. Like many traditional martial arts, MCMAP places equal emphasis on ethics and developing moral character as it does combat techniques. These values might not align with the show’s tone centering around a character who uses his skills to ruthlessly kill. Even if he kills those he considers on the wrong side of justice. 

What Real Marines Think of The Punisher

Real life marines generally agree that the way MCMAP was woven into the fabric of the show is brilliant. However, some take issue with the idea of a vigilante ex-marine who kills people left right and center. Some see the brutality and remorselessness of the kills as a poor reflection of the Marine Corps’ values. 

Post Traumatic Stress Awareness Raised By The Show

Real life marines approve of the realistic portrayal of the struggles of living with PTS. However, most say they cannot condone the vigilante nature of the killings. No matter how justified the killings, many see the show as nothing more than a revenge fantasy. And these concerns are valid.

Still, one can suspend belief to appreciate the show for its storytelling and spectacular imagery without outrage over plot lines. Also, consider that the story unfolds in a universe where demigods and mutants constantly try to save humankind from extinction. 

Final Thoughts

The use of MCMAP as the basis for the martial arts we see in The Punisher makes perfect sense. The fight elements fit almost seamlessly into the plot and add more authenticity to the character and the story. 

It’s hard to imagine any other stand-alone fight style integrated into the show. The fight form is by itself impressive and stunning to watch. Then, factor in the dramatic visual and auditory effects, and you have a creation that does all the buzz justice. 

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