Panzer Kunst (機甲術?, read as パンツァークンスト) (German for "armor art") is a fictional martial art for cyborgs from Yukito Kishiro's Battle Angel Alita and Battle Angel Alita: Last Order manga. It is the fighting style used by the titular heroine Alita and, later on by her replicas. The names of all Panzer Kunst moves and disciplines are in (improperly used) German. Practitioners are called Künstler, from the German word for artist.
Panzer Kunst seeks oneness between the senses and is commonly referred to as the strongest of the cyborg martial arts. It is especially effective at disabling and destroying larger opponents. It is revealed in Last Order that Panzer Kunst is the basis of many space martial arts.
Panzer Kunst was the first fighting style developed to anticipate cyborg combat, and emphasizes combat against both armed opponents, including ranged weapons, as well as zero gravity (and as an extension, fighting in mid-air free fall). Panzer Kunst seems to emphasize speed as well as the use of vibration-based attacks to cause damage to a foe's limbs or internal organs. The art is also quite effective against larger foes. The Panzer Kunst also provides a definite tactical advantage, since it gives its user the ability to analyze an opponent's fighting style and to retaliate accordingly. Therefore, a Künstler will rarely be defeated in a second combat with a given enemy. It appears that smaller schools existed within the overall Panzer Kunst framework. So far, the only style that appears to have survived are the Mauser School which use the Elbogen-Blatt, German for "elbow blade", which normally consists of a blade mounted on each of the user's forearms, and the Scheider School, which developed the Übergeheimnis, German for "oversecret" (but used in this context the word Über is used more like the Nietzsche term Übermensch, a word describing the superhuman), and the combination attack Hertzer Nadel. The only other school mentioned thus far, the Gossen School (German for "gutter", but probably referring to a person of that name), which developed the Geheimnis Einsatzrhythmen (German for "secret application rhythms" or "secret mission rhythms"), had already been extinct for 200 years.
A Künstler (German for "artist") is divided into one of nine ranks:
- Anfänger (Beginner)
- Tzereter (Enthusiast; This is not a German word)
- Lehrling (Apprentice)
- Gezere (more properly Geselle; Journeyman)
- Krieger (Warrior)
- Höherer Krieger (Higher Warrior)
- Meister (Master)
- Adept (Licensed Master; lit. Adept)
- Altmeister (Elder; lit. Old Master)
Other than these ranks, it is known that the Künstlers are often also divided into gruppen. One such group was the Kammer Gruppe, one of whose number was directly involved in the Cam Ranh Tragedy that led to the fall of Panzer Kunst. The Kammer Gruppe was ostensibly a branch of the Mauser School of Panzer Kunst that functioned as a training unit for armory guards. In reality, however, it was a secret covert ops unit that engaged in sabotage, terrorism, torture, and assassinations.
Training to be a Künstler seems to begin at a young age, as most begin as Anfänger when they are still young children. The actual recruitment process is unknown, although it is known that some Anfänger were war orphans rescued from the battlefield by Künstlers. Yoko and Erica's rescue by Gelda and subsequent induction into Grünthal is a case in point.
The details of the actual training regimen are lost to time, although it is known that training sessions in zero gravity were not uncommon. Künstlers also apparently received training from the leaders of the units in which they belonged to. For example, the ex-Mauser School Höherer Krieger Tzykrow der Rabe (transl. "the crow") claims credit for honing Gezere Kammer Frau Yoko von der Rasierklinge's (transl. "of the razor blade") skills during her time in the Kammer Gruppe. The techniques were engraved within the Künstler's psyche.
Most of the known techniques of Panzer Kunst are those that have been used by Alita at one point or another during her adventures.
- Hertza Haeon (also called Hertzer Hauen) – "Heart Hitting" (the German word for heart is 'Herz', but this word might also refer to the unit 'Hertz' used for frequencies). One of Alita's most commonly used moves, the Hertza Haeon is a strike that delivers a high-frequency vibration to the victim, concentrating kinetic energy that when used correctly can be used to destroy or at least disrupt function of the brain or heart. Figure Four can also use a modified form of this move thanks to his anti-cyber martial arts.
- Elbogen-Blatt – "Elbow Blade". As its name suggests, the Panzer Kunst art of wielding elbow-blades, Alita's preferred weapon; considered part of the Mauser School.
- Kurz Bombe Kunst – "Short Bomb Art". A Mauser School weapons technique used by some members of the Kammer Gruppe such as Tzykrow der Rabe, although not Yoko, that involves the use of small bomb caps that are placed on vital spots on an opponent and then detonated by a specific method, such as snapping one's fingers. They can be used to cripple an opponent by targeting their vital spots, as well as for assassination and torture.
- Geschoss Schlag (also written Geschoß Schlag) – "Missile Blow", lit. translation "Projectile Blow/Shock". A faster-than-sound punch that adds a sonic boom-effect to the impact, delivering more force to the strike.
- Ausser Stosse (also written Außer Stoße) – "Outer Thrust" (not proper German, so no literal translation possible), By twisting into an attack made by the opponent, the Künstler is able to redirect that energy against them, resulting in a kicking counterattack that is stronger than would normally be launched.
- Schatten Folgen - "Shadow Following." A simple training exercise where the user stays in the blind spot of the opponent, Frau X was able to perfect it to the point of using it in combat.
- Seinerweisen – "Personal Wisdom" or "Own Style", lit. translation is "proving oneself to be worthy". Individual techniques created by each Künstler that are unique based on their own body's construction, and thus unteachable. Tzykrow der Rabe's, for instance, was the ability to separate his head from his body and escape with it, due to minitaure retractable legs stored in its sides. While not considered part of Panzer Kunst, there was a tendency to consider Künstlers top-notch only once they had developed a Seinerweisen.
German for "secret" or "mystery", these moves are considered the "secret techniques" of Panzer Kunst.
- Einzug Rüstungen – "Armor Entry", lit. translation "Entry Armor" or "Acquisition of the others armor". By attuning their rhythm of movement to the opponent's, the Künstler then strikes when the opponent's guard is weakest.
- Hertzer Nadel – "Heart Needle", lit. "Needle of Hertz". A two-part "Übergeheimnis" combination attack from the Schneider School, also called Hertzer Fahren ("Heart Driving").
- Verschlag – a lit. translation could be "Missing Punch" or "Shed/Crate". The first part of the attack, an initial Herza Haeon-like strike is first applied in order to set loose a shockwave which bounces around inside the body, increasing in momentum and energy, before finally focusing on the extremities such as the limbs or joints. The opponent might notice this as a slight ringing in their ears. Note that while Herza Haeon is usually delivered through the heel of the palm, Verschlag is done via the knuckles of the Künstler's fist.
- Herzer Nadel – The second strike, driving a second Verschlag into the focal point of the shockwave, which causes the pent-up energy to explode from within.
- Einsatzrhythmen – "Application Rhythms" or "Mission Rhythms". A technique associated with the long-dead Gossen School of Panzer Kunst, existing only in books by the time of Grünthal's fall, 200 years prior. By attuning their own chi to that of their opponent's, the Künstler is able to fully nullify the opponent's chi, completely halting any attack they might have launched. Very few Künstlers have ever been able to master this move. Alita is capable of utilizing this.
According to the martial arts scholar Hegeor Hopper, Panzer Kunst was started by Tiger Sauer, AKA "der Tiger" around 300 years before the events of Last Order. It was the first fighting style to anticipate cyborg combat, with Sauer instructing his disciples to handle both armed opponents and zero gravity.
A training academy called Grünthal was established in the Noctis Labyrinthus in the western part of the Valles Marineris in Mars. It was here that Panzer Kunst was developed and taught by five of Sauer's best students in relative secrecy for over a hundred years before the Terraforming Wars.
Fall of Grünthal and the Revelation of Panzer Kunst to the World
Approximately 100 years after its founding, during the Terraforming Wars, a lone Künstler from the Kammer Gruppe was sent on Operation Maulwurf ("operation mole"), orchestrated by Jupiter with Grünthal to destroy the relationship between Erde (Earth) and Venus. That Künstler, Gezere-class Kammer Frau Yoko von der Rasierklinge, infiltrated the Melchizedek core at Ketheres (Jeru) and inserted a program known as "Program Guinevere" into Melchizedek that made it go out of control, causing the destruction of four out of the five Leviathan ships. The incident, later called the Cam Ranh Tragedy, resulted in the deaths of 450,000 people. Künstler Yoko was immediately caught by an independent agent working for Ketheres, later revealed to be Caerula Sanguis, and sentenced to death by being dropped into the Earth's atmosphere to burn up in reentry. Her capture also caused the Jovians to deny any links to the incident, resulting in the blame falling solely on Grünthal and Panzer Kunst. Grünthal was immediately shut down by LADDER, completely destroyed by carpet bombings, and the secrets of Panzer Kunst made public.
Survivors of the Fall
As of this time, there are only two known surviving original Künstlers. One is Tzykrow der Rabe, Alita's former Kammer Gruppe instructor, who is now serving as a High Order agent directly under the command of LADDER assistant chairman Aga Mbadi. The other is Yoko, who survived reentry and was rebuilt in the Scrapyard by Daisuke Ido, who renamed her Alita, after his pet cat.
While these two are the only known surviving Künstlers from Grünthal, there exists at least three other Künstlers. The three surviving Alita Replicas, Sechs ("six"), Elf ("eleven"), and Zwölf ("twelve"), also practice Panzer Kunst, although in Sechs' case, it formed the basis for a new art called Sechster Angriff. Also, it may be possible that there were other survivors from Grünthal. Der Rabe's reaction to Alita being a survivor from Grünthal as well as their subsequent conversation before they fight seems to indicate that he is not surprised that there is another surviving Künstler from Grünthal. Among the populace, there are those who believe that the revealed techniques were only a part of Panzer Kunst's secrets and that a true Panzer Kunst master still exists.
Use of eye black
Künstlers used a distinctive red eye black when in combat. An example of this is Gelda, who has it on when she rescued Erica and Yoko, but does not have it applied later in a non-combat setting. Tzykrow der Rabe, the only other known surviving Künstler still uses it. Alita subconsciously remembers its use when she fights Makaku in the sewers at the beginning of Battle Angel Alita without knowing why, when she applies it on her face for the first time in years by using sewer muck (dog's blood in the OVA). It is later a feature of her appearance in her TUNED body and her Imaginos body in Last Order. The TUNED AR Series, cyborg replicas of Alita manufactured by the Tiphares Ground Information Bureau (GIB), are also shown having eye black.
As a result of the secrets of Panzer Kunst being revealed, it helped the formation of later schools of cyborg martial arts including Space Karate as well as Ahat Mastade.
Panzer Kunst is the direct ancestor of Sechster Angriff (German "Sixth Attack"), Sech's personal martial arts style. Sechster Angriff is a very aggressive style of fighting that emphasizes forward motion. However, this means that a practitioner of Sechster Angriff is at a considerable disadvantage when forced to fight in close quarters.
Maschine Klatsch ("Machine Slap") is Jashugan's martial art. It is similar to the Panzer Kunst, but is considered weaker because its inherent machine-like movements and its heavy basis around rhythm make it extremely vulnerable to Einzug Rüstungen, although a Maschine Klatsch master can defeat a practitioner of Panzer Kunst with effort.