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How Oscar Isaac Got Ripped For Moon Knight

On March 30, 2022, the Marvel Cinematic Universe will finally be introduced to its most unpredictable, multi-faceted, ever-evolving hero yet: Moon Knight. The character is a tough one to pin down, combining the shadowy vigilantism of Batman, the erratic psychosis of Deadpool, and the deep mysticism of the Iron Fist –- all subject to change from iteration to iteration. But one aspect of the Moon Knight has been kept constant: he is a tough, badass, butt-kicking superhero whose primary means of justice comes from his virtuosic combat prowess. 

To portray the Moon Knight in all his martial glory, any actor would have to put themselves through the wringer when it comes to diet, exercise, and stunt training. "Moon Knight" star Oscar Isaac did just that. When preparing for his role as Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight, Isaac pushed his body to the limits, building muscle, training with weapons, and practicing an impressive variety of different martial arts. In his quest to give Moon Knight fans everything they could ever want, Isaac got ripped, and here is how he did it.

He's an old pro

Like other big-name actors who decided to don the tights of a Marvel hero, Isaac has experience conditioning his body for a role. As film veterans/career beefcakes like Tom Hardy and Chris Hemsworth have attested, transforming your body into that of a super-powered god is never easy, but it does get a bit better each time. In Isaac's case, he had already bulked up for films such as the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy and "Dune," so he came into his "Moon Knight" training with a solid physical foundation and the knowledge to get big fast.

For his role in the 2014 sci-fi drama "Ex Machina," Isaac learned the value of physical preparation, as well as how to build an imposing physique. He told Men's Journal about his desire to make his character, the movie's primary antagonist, look like an "unstoppable force." This meant a lot of weight lifting and punching bag work in order to build a thick, aggressive-looking physique. And though his "Star Wars" character Poe Dameron was the exact opposite of a bulky, aggressive, unstoppable force, he was a career military man, and Isaac wanted him in shape, as well. He worked with the same trainer he used for "Ex Machina," Joshua Holland, building himself into a believable space soldier.

Learning a range of styles

To build hype for "Moon Knight," Isaac hasn't relied on Marvel's official trailers alone. Through the Instagram account of his production company, Mad Gene Media, Isaac has released two videos that demonstrate how rigorous and varied his training for "Moon Knight" has been. The first clip shows Isaac practicing some primal street-brawling techniques, a few spinning kicks reminiscent of Brazilian Capoeira, and Olympic wrestling-style holds, among other fighting forms. The second clip shows Isaac digging deep into weapons training, including some elaborate disarmaments and finishers, classic boxing, and even gymnastic takedowns.

It's clear from watching the two videos that Isaac isn't approaching his turn as Moon Knight from any one angle. Instead, the actor is honoring the character's varied, multi-talented nature by learning a whole range of martial arts and combat styles. In his pursuit of justice, Moon Knight studied at the Batman School of Crime-Fighting, mastering every major combat style on the planet in order to maintain a perpetual upper hand. Isaac, staying true to the character and his source material, learned an array of combat styles and blended them into one, all-encompassing routine –- a routine as eclectic, variable, and aggressive as the Moon Knight himself.

Borrowing from Black Widow

In watching the two training videos, avid fans of the MCU may also notice Isaac apparently learning moves from another source besides real-world martial arts –- the MCU's Black Widow. Multiple times throughout his staged combat sessions, Isaac works in a move known commonly as the leg scissors/flying scissors (or, if you're a fan of professional wrestling, the hurricanrana). As fans have noted before, the leg scissors is a signature move for the Black Widow, one that the heroine uses in almost every one of her appearances.

Variations of the move appear in most major martial arts, perhaps most famously as the Kani Basami in Judo (and subsequently MMA), but to Marvel fans, its one true source is the Avenger's own femme fatale, Black Widow. Early in her very first appearance in "Iron Man 2," Widow uses the leg scissors to take down Happy Hogan in Tony Stark's sparring gym. She goes on to use the move against Hydra goons, the Chitauri, Russian mobsters, a mind-controlled Winter Soldier, and even her best friend and fellow Avenger, Hawkeye. By incorporating the move into Moon Knight's repertoire, Isaac is ensuring that the Widow's legacy will live on past her untimely and unfortunate death.

Focusing on knife-work

One of the biggest questions surrounding the "Moon Knight" series is just how much of the character's trademark violence and darkness parent company Disney will allow. While some evidence has pointed toward a darker tone, like the general feel of the series' trailers and the assurances of MCU architect Kevin Feige. But the recent confirmation from the show's Disney+ page that it will be rated TV-14 seems to at least partially contradict those assurances. Luckily, Isaac's training videos also suggest a truly gritty Moon Knight, as they show Isaac brandishing knives against his foes and holding nothing back.

From the first moments of the second training video, Isaac wields a knife against his opponents — not just defensively, but with the express purpose of delivering lethal stabs and slashes to their torsos and even their throats. The 0:12 mark of the video even sees Isaac revel in licking the (theoretical) blood from his knife. Though the moment is likely just a bit of comic relief during an arduous training session, it may nonetheless hint at the mindset Isaac sought to embody in his role as the Moon Knight. Given just how many times Isaac mock-stabs a partner during training, it's clear that "Moon Knight" could feature some serious bloodshed.

Doing his own stunts

Perhaps the most important detail gleaned from Isaac's training is that the vast majority of its makeup is stunt work. Rarely does he box a bag, instead punching his fellow stuntmen. That heavily implies that Isaac performs some or all of his stunts in "Moon Knight," and even further demonstrates that Isaac's fitness is practical, not just aesthetic.

In a way, Isaac's choice to train for "Moon Knight" through varied styles and theatrical battles means that he opted to become the Moon Knight as much as possible, rather than simply representing him. For Isaac, achieving a Moon Knight-level physique was secondary to achieving a Moon Knight-level prowess. When fans tune in to "Moon Knight" and see the character flipping, stabbing, and pummeling his way through his insanity and towards his goal of vengeance, they'll likely be seeing Isaac himself do the flipping, stabbing, and pummeling. Isaac got ripped for "Moon Knight" by caring enough about the character to -– in his own, small way -– become him.