BAM! POW! ZAP! Holy MMA Batman! The Martial Arts of the Darkish Knight

Co-written with Thomas Nash.

In honor of the discharge of The Darkish Knight Rises, we now have been exploring the hand-to-hand preventing abilities of Batman, principally as revealed within the works of his creators and early storytellers, Bob Kane and Invoice Finger. To date we now have coated his two main disciplines – boxing partly 1 and jiu-jitsu partly 2 – and now we will likely be wanting on the different martial arts that have been utilized by the Caped Crusader in his Golden Age tales.


Whereas we now have proven that jiu-jitsu is Batman’s predominate grappling model, it is not the one one to be revealed as a part of his repertoire. In Batman #11, “Bandits in Toyland”, the Dynamic Duo is just not solely proven on the mat working by way of “wrestling drills”, however Batman himself is known as a “grasp coach”. Proof of this mastery seems a number of occasions throughout his adventures, together with the picture beneath that exhibits Batman rendering a large cat (do not ask) unconscious by way of the usage of a full nelson. One also can see that he’s conscious sufficient to place his “hooks in’ through means of a double grapevine on the feline’s legs, a well-liked tactic from catch-as-catch-can wrestling, and similar to the half-nelson and grapevine mixture demonstrated by Frank Gotch in his 1908 e-book, “Wrestling and How you can Practice”.

Batman reveals himself to be one thing of a “leg wrestler” (a wrestler who can use his legs as one other set of arms) when he makes use of one other grapevine to take down an armed felony whereas he stays standing. This feat is made all of the extra spectacular by the truth that he does so with out assistance from his arms, which have been certain.

Actually, Batman (and Robin) are expert sufficient to have the ability to not solely leap into the ring and face a pair {of professional} wrestlers in Detective Comics #73 (March, 1943) however to additionally rapidly defeat them. In fact, the 2 wrestlers might very properly simply be “employees” and never true “shooters”, however for Batman and Robin to simply deal with such massive males in an period when precise grappling abilities was not unusual, suggests a degree of talent properly past satisfactory.

It’s noteworthy that regardless of his apparent proficiency at it, Batman is not proven utilizing his wrestling abilities almost as a lot as his different fight abilities. The rationale for this most likely lies along with his overriding precedence to maintain the struggle standing. Actually, it appears possible that it’s due to his wonderful wrestling abilities that he can preserve the struggle off the bottom within the first place. As many MMA matches have proven us it’s the superior wrestler who dictates the place the struggle takes place – in Batman’s case, he prefers staying on his toes. On this regard, his philosophy to preventing resembles William Ewart Fairbarn, who wrote, when describing the dearth of groundfighting in his 1942 hand-to-hand fight handbook, that:

” . . . no holds or locks on the bottom are demonstrated. The rationale for this


(a) THIS IS WAR: your object is to kill or eliminate your opponent as

rapidly as potential …

(b) As soon as on the bottom, you’re extra susceptible to assault …

… It’s, therefor, apparent that you need to focus on remaining in your


Nevertheless, this doesn’t suggest Batman by no means takes the struggle to the bottom. In conditions the place he’s going through a single opponent and has no worry of one other combatant coming into the fray, Batman has proven a propensity to take his foe down the place he can management and dispatch them in brutal trend. When he needs to do that, he’ll often shoot on them, using a double leg takedown. In fact, he may need picked up this talent not in wrestling however in soccer, as many writers describe it as a “sort out”, however as wrestling coach Todd Vennis acknowledged, “A [wrestling] takedown is nothing greater than a soccer sort out.”

That Robin has additionally proven to be give up adept in these takedowns/tackles, would appear to recommend that it comes from their coaching in wrestling and never American soccer.


Surprisingly, one of many few martial arts outdoors of boxing, jiu-jitsu, and wrestling we really see Batman and Robin coaching in is fencing. Whereas it might sound ludicrous {that a} trendy (properly, trendy in 1940) crime-fighter would want to know the way to use the foil or sabre, it seems that in Gotham Metropolis it’s a slightly helpful expertise. The Golden Age Batman appears to search out himself in a duel each couple of months towards modern-day pirates, gents thieves, or villains just like the Cavalier of Crime or the Penguin. Whereas Batman won’t be a grasp swordsman, he’s competent sufficient to carry his personal towards most foes in a conflict of blades.

However even when he wasn’t going through so many sword-wielding criminals, would fencing supply any advantages to an city vigilante? Bruce Wayne himself thinks so, telling Robin that “…fencing teaches you quickness and motion…”

Our personal TP Grant, a fencer himself, additional informs us how it could support Batman in going through off towards armed opponents:

“…weapon fight may be very completely different from unarmed fight, so getting a really feel for thatdistance is necessary. Exact footwork and manipulation of mentioned distance can also be a basic factor of that sport. A fencer develops a way of timing for when to shut or open distance, and an explosive burst with which to do it. Good praise to any hanging coaching because it helps develop good, straight punches. And for any weapon protection coaching it teaches the power to maneuver rapidly away from wild slashes with a knife or swings of a membership after which leap in to seize in between swings.”

That somebody like Batman, who would wish to make it a precedence to by no means to be struck due to the potential deadly penalties however to additionally all the time exploit a gap to ship his personal coup de grace, would research a sport that stresses such necessary rules ought to come as no shock. When going through off towards criminals armed with knives or cudgels, not to mention swords, Batman would discover that the abilities developed in fencing to be very helpful in his line of labor.

Batman wasn’t alone on this considering, for one more Bruce, this one with the final title Lee, additionally noticed some great benefits of sure fencing methods, having realized about them by way of his fencing brother, Peter. Bruce Lee seems to have integrated many ideas from the game into personal martial artwork philosophy/model of Jeet Kune Do, together with the stance and the precept of the “Cease-Thrust”, which Lee calls “Cease-Kick.” Fencing additionally harassed effectivity in addition to management over distance, timing and rhythm, all issues that each Bruces would discover helpful in a struggle.

It must be famous that foil, epee and sabre weren’t the one weapons that Bruce Wayne and his ward studied. A passing remark to Dick Grayson, additionally in Batman #4, is that “in our enterprise, it helps to know the usage of all weapons.” This hints that Batman and Robin have familiarized themselves with many different hand-held and even thrown weapons, and whereas we will solely guess which of them I feel it could be secure to imagine that knife, stick, cane, quarterstaff, baton, cudgel would all be on the checklist (together with, after all, thrown weapons such because the boomerang).


Whereas Batman principally makes use of his fist, from time to time he has kicked, kneed and used different unorthodox strikes. The writers by no means credit score any preventing model for these assaults, however lots of them naked a really hanging similarity with methods from boxe franciase and savate de rue. Contemplating the period that tales have been initially written, it is not arduous to think about Bob Kane, Invoice Finger, or one other author or artist engaged on the sequence being acquainted to savate in identical means, having both been uncovered to it in individual, by way of movie, or examine it in a e-book or article.

It might additionally make sense for somebody like Batman to have educated in it. Not solely is it a self-discipline that may be comparatively straightforward for him to check (simply journey to Paris) in comparison with different much less well-known (on the time) kicking martial arts, but additionally as a result of so many self-defense consultants, equivalent to Edward William Barton-Wright, Emile Andre, Jean Joseph Renaud, William E. Fairbarn, and Eric A. Sykes, have all drawn closely from the French martial artwork for their very own methods. Methods that share lots of the identical street-fighting options as Batman’s.

But it surely is not simply martial artist from the previous who noticed some great benefits of understanding savate. BE’s kickboxing knowledgeable Fraser Coffeen supplied his personal perception in how savate, a martial artwork rooted in avenue preventing, might show helpful to a vigilante like Batman:

Savate is a wonderful alternative for Batman for a lot of causes. To begin, savate is without doubt one of the few kicking-based martial arts that’s contested primarily whereas carrying footwear. In savate, you strike with the shoe, not with the shin as in different arts. Clearly, Batman must preserve his boots on throughout a struggle, so utilizing savate is an effective alternative. This additionally permits him to pad his boots, making his kicks more practical. The savate chasse lateral excessive kick was most likely Batman’s most used kick. As an entire, it’s additionally a really defensive-based model, utilizing a variety of motion to keep away from pictures whereas coming again with your personal kicks. As Batman tended to face a lot of foes without delay, this type of protection was necessary – even small blows will accumulate when landed with an excessive amount of frequency, so a mode like Muay Thai that typically takes extra blows than savate could be detrimental to Batman in a big scale melee.

As Mr. Coffeen defined, savate suits completely into Batman’s philosophy of “hitting however not being hit” preventing model. It additionally permits for Batman to make the most of his footwear, as we see right here on this instance, the place he throws a kick that bares a really sturdy resemblance to a “excessive physique” coup de pied from boxe franciase, touchdown along with his booted heel.

One other kick that bares a hanging resemblance to at least one utilized in savate is demonstrated by Robin, who makes use of the tip of his shoe to ship a “belt kick” – whereas concurrently throwing a foe.

Now examine Robin’s kick with this illustration taken from this 1896 article “Preventing with 4 Fists”, introducing savate to the American readers of McClure’s Journal.

In fact, the previous street-fighting, self-defense side of savate du rue did not focus solely on the shoe or boot. It additionally taught one to make use of of the knees and elbows, and right here we now have Batman’s sidekick Robin throwing a knee that appears suspiciously like a kind of proven in a savate self-defense manuals.



By now Batman’s preventing model ought to begin sounding and searching very acquainted to the common readers of Bloody Elbow. Cross-training in a number of martial arts; the power to grapple or strike (be it with a punch, kick or knees); a data of the completely different ranges and phases of fight, together with standup, floor, and clinch; and the power to seamlessly transition from one section to a different. From these descriptions Batman sounds just like the prototypical trendy MMA fighter, although he debuted over 5 many years earlier than the UFC first appeared (and one yr earlier than Bruce Lee, the “Father of MMA” was even born).

Much more uncanny is that Batman makes use of many ways and maneuvers which might be so recognized with the trendy sport of MMA. One such tactic is floor and pound, which he demonstrated years earlier than Mark Coleman or Mark Kerr first launched it to UFC and Delight. As we talked about above, sometimes Batman will take a foe to the bottom (ideally with a double leg takedown), and when he does he’ll typically get a excessive mount, then posture up earlier than continuing to rain down blows. Batman’s causes for utilizing floor and pound in a struggle is most certainly do to him following Fairbarn’s recommendation from above. Not like submission holds and locks, floor hanging makes it simpler for Batman disengage from his opponent and rise up off the bottom if extra attackers seem, in order to not depart himself susceptible. An attention-grabbing notice about Batman’s floor and pound is how he really makes use of a leg to pin one among his opponents arms, leaving them unable to correctly defend themselves from his onslaught.

Within the uncommon occasions when Batman and Robin finds themselves on their again, they each will use one other very acquainted transfer from MMA to defend himself – the upkick.

Not solely was Batman forward of MMA fighters in methods, however he was additionally forward of them in coaching and conditioning. Because the starting, Batman has been an advocate of gymnastics, actually coaching Dick Grayson in acrobatics and gymnastics even earlier than he confirmed him boxing or jiu-jitsu (though he admitted the previous circus performer might most likely present him a trick or two). Trendy MMA fighters like Georges St-Pierre are solely now beginning to prepare in gymnastics.

Right here is Georges describing gymnast: “The gymnasts are the most effective athletes on the planet, so if you do gymnastics, it makes you extra athletic. And also you’re capable of repeat each motion of each sport.”

Now examine that to this description of gymnast Batman (from Detective Comics #27) who “trains his physique to bodily perfection till he is ready to carry out superb athletic feats.” Maybe Georges and his trainers would have identified about the advantages earlier if they’d learn previous Batman comics?

However what about Karate? Kung Fu? Ninjitsu? Would not Batman must be a grasp of those?

Not essentially. First off, from a sensible standpoint, we now have to ask ourselves would the creators of Batman concentrate on these Japanese martial arts? For many of them I’d say no (possibly Kane and Fingers heard about “Chinese language Boxing” however that’s about it), however even when they’d I doubt that may have had Batman prepare in them for the straightforward indisputable fact that not solely have been they not properly know however the self-discipline they did give him had confirmed themselves efficient to a New Yorker circa 1939.

We even have to think about, from a narrative telling standpoint, if the Batman within the comedian books would even have time to extensively prepare in these different types if he’s already devoting a lot time and power to mastering those we now have beforehand listed. It appears extremely inefficient for him to try to accomplish that.

Does that imply Batman would know nothing in regards to the “Oriental” martial arts apart from jiu-jitsu? No, simply that he would not be a grasp of them and possibly by no means comprehensively studied them both. Nevertheless, like Bruce Lee or many trendy MMA fighters, Batman might simply have added a selected maneuver or approach to his arsenal since he already has a powerful basis in hanging and grappling, in addition to being an excellent athlete. Simply as Anderson Silva added an elbow from Muay Boran, Jon Jones the chasse Italien from savate, Chris Weidman mixing an elbow presumably developed by karate into his boxing, and even wrestler Chael Sonnen attempting the spinning backfist (the final one might be a nasty instance), it could be very straightforward to see Batman including strikes or locks from karate, kung fu, aikido and different martial arts to his bag of tips as properly.

Which brings us to essentially the most attention-grabbing level in regards to the unique model of the character that Bob Kane and Invoice Finger made all these years in the past – that in lots of ways in which was essentially the most practical model of Batman (properly, for a man preventing crime dressed as a bat with a cape). Sure, his adventures in the course of the Golden Age interval appear quaint and typically foolish in comparison with his extra mature trendy adventures, however the preventing he demonstrated in these early pages, in mild of what we now have realized from the previous twenty years of blended martial arts, is far nearer to what we now know to be efficient hand-to-hand fight than what has been proven in later interpretations. On this regard, not solely has Batman the character survived the take a look at of time, however the martial arts utilized by him in these Golden Age tales have confirmed much more efficient since then.

Batman created by Bob Kane (and an uncredited Invoice Finger). Robin created by Bob Kane, Invoice Finger and an uncredited Jerry Robinson.

Particular because of Ben Thapa, TP Grant, and Fraser Coffeen for his or her useful enter.


All artwork by Bob Kane until in any other case famous.

Detective Comics No. 44, “The Land Behind the Gentle.”

Detective Comics No. 36, Untitled.

Detective Comics No. 38, “Robin the Boy Surprise”

Batman Vol. 1 No. 4, “Blackbeard’s crew and the Yacht Society”

Detective Comics No. 37, “The Screaming Home.”

Batman Vol. 1 No. 2, Untitled.

Batman Vol 1 No. 1, Untitled.

Detective Comics No. 36, Untitled.

Batman Vol. 1 No. 2, Untitled.

Batman Vol. 1 No. 2, “The Case of the Lacking Hyperlink.”

Batman Vol. 1 No. 260, “This One’ll Kill You, Batman” Penciller Irv Novac, inker Dick Giordano.