Well, the super Kung-Fu was in the books. Not guns you shoot by yelling at it.
And the Weirding Way was a Bene Gesserit fighting style that incorporated Bene Gesserit mind techniques to achieve what amounts to magical effects (they can move so fast they seem to teleport). Paul then adopts it for the Fremen.
Back in the 1980s, I don’t think many American directors or choreographers would have made the martial arts work in a way that didn’t look silly to audiences. I think a sci-fi weapon was easy for the audience to buy but super Karate would have been a bit more difficult.
Mine was different. The Sardaukar were so tough because of a unique combination of the harsh environment of their home planet and their warrior culture that provided them with disciplined training from childhood. While the Freman also lived in a harsh unforgiving environment, and they were certainly no slouches when it came to fighting, they lacked that same training. Paul and Jessica impressed Stilgar so much with their fighting prowess that he invited them to join his sietch in exchange for teaching them those fighting skills.
Paul, aged 15 with no combat experience, bested Jamis, a skilled fighter and raider, with such ease that Stilgar initially believed Paul was toying with Jamis. It wasn’t until Jessica explained that Paul had never killed before that Stilgar was relieved he hadn’t invited a scorpion to live among his people. It’s Paul and Jessica’s training that allow the Freman to defeat the Sardaukar and spread their Jihad throughout the known galaxy.
I also feel like the weirding modules from the Lynch film are weirdly supernatural. From the novels the abilities are basically secret kung fu, some hyper-skilled stuff that is supposed to be the result of advanced training, but presumably are just the result of human bio-mechanics and psychology.
The weirding modules use magic words to pulse out a gun beam (which in universe, doesn’t appear to be any more effective than a high caliber rifle.). Like are the worlds like runes, inherently magical, or are the just particular soundwaves that have their result based on physics? I dunno, it feels out of place.
That said, I just watched the scene, and, “my name is a killing word” gave me chills.
Oh, I’m not saying Paul and Jessica didn’t exponentially add to their fighting prowess (although it’s my understanding that the full Prana-Bindu training would have needed to be basically from infancy).
But the references to Fremen fighting pre-Atreides already indicate their prowess. At least, that’s my recall, but I don’t have the book here to check.
Paul actually had some combat experience by then - he had killed a Harkonnen, with his hands tied behind his back, after he and Jessica had been captured and put into a thopter. He had been trained practically since birth to be a fighter by Duncan & Gurney, his mother had added secret Bene Gesserit training, and he was the freaking Kwisatz Haderach. It’s no wonder he killed Jamis.
And the reason Stilgar thought he was toying with Jamis was that Paul had been trained in shield fighting, so all his attacks were very slow, because unconsciously he kept expecting Jamis to have a shield. So he kept letting Jamis escape from obvious kill strikes.
That’s exactly what happened - when the Harkonnens first invaded Arrakis with Sardaukar assistance - Thufir has allied with some Fremen and this exchange takes place:
“It was a good fight,” the Fremen said. “We lost only two men and spilled the water from more than a hundred of theirs.”
There were Sardaukar at every gun , Hawat thought. This desert madman speaks casually of losing only two men against Sardaukar!
“We would not have lost the two except for those others fighting beside the Harkonnens,” the Fremen said. “Some of those are good fighters.”
One of Hawat’s men limped forward, looked down at the squatting Fremen. “Are you talking about Sardaukar?”
“He’s talking about Sardaukar,” Hawat said.
“Sardaukar!” the Fremen said, and there appeared to be glee in his voice. “Ah-h-h, so that’s what they are! This was a good night indeed. Sardaukar. Which legion? Do you know?”
“We . . . don’t know,” Hawat said.
“Sardaukar,” the Fremen mused. “Yet they wear Harkonnen clothing. Is that not strange?”
“The Emperor does not wish it known he fights against a Great House,” Hawat said.
“But you know they are Sardaukar.”
“Who am I?” Hawat asked bitterly.
“You are Thufir Hawat,” the man said matter-of-factly. “Well, we would have learned it in time. We’ve sent three of them captive to be questioned by Liet’s men.”
Hawat’s aide spoke slowly, disbelief in every word: “You . . . captured Sardaukar?”
“Only three of them,” the Fremen said. “They fought well.”
If only we’d had the time to link up with these Fremen , Hawat thought. It was a sour lament in his mind. If only we could’ve trained them and armed them. Great Mother, what a fighting force we’d have had!
I just re-read the book a few months ago, in preparation for the new movie, and in my recollection their weren’t many references to any of the pre-Atreides Fremen’s attributes, other than their all-blue irirses and the fact that they secluded themselves in the deep desert., away from the city folk and the Harkonnens. They were, IIRC, figures of mystery, protected from Rabban’s patrols by the harshness of Arrakis’ environment.
Leto and Thufir had planned to recruit Fremen and use them as troops against the Sardaukar from the moment they arrived on Arrakis, because they thought the incredibly harsh environment would have already produced very good fighters. But they had no idea how good.
I was nine when I saw Dune, and had no idea about any book, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the weirding modules. I get why people dislike them, but I’ve always felt they matched the aesthetic of the Dune universe pretty well, which has a lot of stuff that’s a weird mix of science and mysticism, like folding space, and the whole Bene Gesserit prophecy/eugenics program.
That said, they are kind of stupid as infantry weapons. Sure, they can shatter a block of stone with a single blast, but you have to stand there going “bwaaaaaa…” for five seconds each time. That’s a great anti-armor weapon, but the blast is overkill against human targets, and that rate of fire is going to get you murdered before you can get off more than one or two shots.
I always appreciate it when I don’t have to go looking myself for foreign language excerpt translations. I think this is what you posted:
Of all these the Belgae are the most brave, for the reason that they are the farthest absent from culture and civilization of the province and merchants come to them least often and bring in those things which tend to weaken spirits. They are closest to the Germans, who lived across the Rhine River, with whom they waged war continuously. For which reason the Helvetii also exceed the rest of the Gauls in courage, because they battle with the Germans in battles almost every day. When they either keep them them out of their own territory or they themselves wage war in their territory.
Yes, sorry about that. Point is, organic badasses arise naturally in harsh places like the Emperor’s prison planet or places like the middle of the desert which are far from civilization and people have nothing better to do with their time than fight each other. Nor is that the end of the story: in the same way Caesar from the big city was able to annihilate all those tribes with his men of military culture, training, and discipline, we are not supposed to be surprised that Paul and Jessica, no strangers to machinations and warfare on a galactic scale, with their high-tech martial-arts training from birth, special breeding, etc. were more than a match for any Freman mano a mano [hand to hand], as well as able to organize a massive jihad bis-saif [“jihad” by the sword, ie armed warfare].