Watching Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” back in February, a scene that stood out for me was the fight between protagonist T’Challa (the titular Black Panther) and tribal rival M’Baku.
The premise was fairly straight forward: M’Baku challenged for the throne of Wakanda – the fictional African nation that backdrops this film – because for years his tribe felt neglected in society.
Despite Wakanda being the most advanced nation on the planet (Wikipedia link), tradition plays a strong role in the culture there. This includes resolution by combat.
The bout is mostly contested with mace, spear and shield. The choreography appears to pull from the traditional combat of the Maasai. However when our nimble and skilled hero becomes overwhelmed by his much bigger and more powerful foe, a new course of attack is forged. Kicking low to knock his larger opponent down, T’Challa rolls forward and entangles the brute’s head and arm with his legs. Eventually this forces M’Baku to concede defeat.
T’Challa taps out M’Baku
So what exactly happened? Narratively T’Challa catches M’Baku in a Rear Triangle Choke or Head & Arm Scissors. Firstly, this technique uses a leg to constricts a carotid artery on one side of the neck. Secondly the opponent’s own shoulder blocks the artery on the other side. The trapped arm may also be hyper extending at the elbow and / or hyper rotating at the shoulder. This is similar in effect to an armbar or shoulder wrench.
M’Baku’s options here are to either pass out or possibly experience a broken limb.
Realistically the film’s two actors are in little danger. The angle of Chadwick Boseman’s legs allows space for the blood to continue to flow to and from Winston Duke’s brain. At most Duke might feel a little stretch in his arm, but there is little risk of harm.
In a Catch Wrestling rule set this head and arm scissors can serve as both a submission and a pin.By elevating the opponent’s head you are keeping their scapulae on the mat.
Similarly in classical Judo Newaza the move is known as Ura Sankaku. Triangling the legs can form part of a hold-down or can lead to eventual unconsciousness.
Here Rob Biernacki and Stephan Kesting of GrappleArts.com show the finer points of finishing the triangle.