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This is discussion archived from a time before the current discussion method was installed.

Working Title: My Kung Fu is stronger than your...Boxing?: From YKTTW
"Some films insist that their Average Joe, didn't-train-in-Tibet or live in a French-Ghetto hero can upstage and beat any fighting style because his rough and tumble streetwise fisticuffs is either more resourceful, more tenacious or less "frilly" than the competition. Never mind that their opponents weren't exactly studying ballet, and usually have years of training over the hero."

You know, most informed people would agree that actual fighting experience DOES beat "martial arts training" in real life. Especially the type that you would do in Tibet.
Sci Vo: Pulled this:
  • An exception occurs in the classic Bruce Lee movie Fist of Fury, where Lee's character beats both a Russian boxing champ and a Japanese karate master using Kung Fu, thus proving it to be the best fighting style on Earth.
...because it would only be worth noting if a Kung Fu movie actually did use this trope.

Etrangere: Is it worth noting the trope could have a side of Mighty Whitey to it, in that the brawler is almost always a good ol' American and the Fancy Martial Artist is almost always a foreigner?

Sci Vo: Absolutely. I was thinking the exact same thing during the YKTTW, and just got distracted and forgot to post that.

BT The P: Bruce Lee actually believed in this one, to an extent. He studied western boxing, amongst other things, as part of his training, because of its emphasis on speed. Jeet Kune Do was his attempt to free the martial arts of class divisions and style conflicts, and distill it back down to "fight the other guy, not his techniques".

Subverted by Indiana Jones in Raiders Of The Lost Ark: a menacing, veiled Arab swings a scimitar around in a fancy pattern; Indy simply sighs and shoots him (producing laughs from the audience every time). See Badass.

Earnest: I don't get how the Indiana Jones example fits, it seems more a subversion for Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him? and Implausible Fencing Powers, since it has no actual fist fighting in it.

Eric DVH: I agree, he doesn't even use good 'ol fisticuffs to dispatch the guy. Still, Indy DOES exemplify this trope pretty often, understadable considering that Indy's drawn straight from the adventure pulps that this trope originates in.

Ken in Duluth: The Film "Marlowe" starring James Garner also had a scene fitting this trope. Bruce Lee is sent to Garner's office in an attempt to beat the snot out of him. Lee jump kicks a ceiling light to demonstrate his prowess. Garner makes a couple snarky remarks and runs out of the room and heads up to the roof with Lee following him. Garner is caught near the edge of the roof when he tells Lee something along the lines of how good a dancer he is. Lee gets angry, does a flying kick which Garner ducks out of the way, and ends up flying off the roof to presumably his death on the street below. In later interviews, Garner made the claim he was the only person to beat Bruce Lee in a filmed fight.

Earnest: Ok, I'm cutting the bile out of the Die Hard 4 example, here's the original.

In the former case, spouting the sickeningly racist "enough of this Kung Fu shit" before beating Mai in a manner no unlike the wife bashers that he has probably arrested over the years. Gee, judging from how well you do it, we can see WHY Holly Mclane left you, you Asian hating piece of wife beating white trash!!

Earnest: Ok, cutting this flamebait out again. Ronin Aquila, I don't know if this movie is a particular Berserker Button for you, but please keep a cool head and natter in the discussion page. Remember the MST3K Mantra.

  • Huh? "Racist"? Ket alone "Sickeningly" so? (not that racism gomes in a non-sickening kind) How is Kung Fu a race?
    • Kung Fu is not a race, but the Pride of Chinese Warrior Culture. The fact that he dared to insult it equates to insulting the Entire Chinese Race, making John McClane a dumb racist who deserves to die.

Ronin Aquila: It's not just this movie: I have NO patience for ANY insult to Chinese Warrior Culture by a self-proclaimed Mighty Whitey in film, NO MATTER HOW SEEMINGLY MINOR. As a Chinese Martial Artist, ANY tolerance for such insults is tantamount to saying "thank you for invading China and destroying our heritage" to white guys who STILL think their ancestors did the right thing, and hence I will show NONE for them.

Rogue 7: Odd, considering your name's Japanese. And go ahead and insult Americans all you like. God knows we deserve it. The Chinese ain't exactly covering themselves in humanitarian glory these days. Break out the shotgun, ma. We got us here a troll.
Kind of bugs me... when did Le Parkour actually turn into a martial art?

Rann: Probably when movies started treating it that way. While the kicks and punches thrown may not be anything special, when they're thrown after running along a wall or kicking off the ceiling, it comes off as a fighting style.
Rann: Y'know, I've been thinking, this isn't all that much of a Mighty Whitey related trope, because isn't every time a non-Western martial arts movie has some character who learned his fighting style "on the mean streets" just an example of Good Old Fisticuffs with an Asian spin? Hell, to a certain extent, that's the entire point of Jet Li's Fearless, that Chinese Good Old Fisticuffs > Western Trained Fighters.

Wascally Wabbit: I haven't seen the examples in question, but I agree.


Killer Rabbit: OK, is this when a "rough and tumble" fighter beats a more "sophisticated" fighter, when a kung-fu fighter is beaten by a boxer, or just the appearance of good ol' western fist fighting? What counts as an example and what is a subversion?

Rann: Basically, it's when some fighter of any origin says "my basics beat your extended specialties". Basically, think of it as if a basketball team (amateur, minor, or pro, doesn't matter) wins a basketball game just by their style of running, passing, and layups being ridiculously better than the other team's entire varied repertoire. If an English team said "We play rugby! So we're the tops at taking hits and running with a ball!" and proceeded to trounce an American team at American Football, that'd probably be a better sports example of Good Old Fisticuffs.

Elihu: I don't know that it really qualifies.
  • Jet Li's Fearless is also essentially a really long love letter to this trope. Though Jet Li's character was, historically, a very good martial artist, in the movie he's implied to be largely self-trained, mostly just from sneaking peeks of his father's training. Despite this, he's able to rather easily defeat any white guy he chooses, even if they're the best in their field, and do it all one after the other while he should be exhausted and they're fresh and well-rested. The only other martial artist that actually gives him a really thorough challenge is... another Asian guy, a samurai-esque Japanese man.
I know this is up for debate, but Jet Li pretty much operates like a pro in the movie. Despite the fact that he learns from "sneaking peeks at his father's training," he still has perfect form and, who are we kidding, it's Jet Li. It doesn't look like straightforward enough-with-this-crap-let's-get-the-job-done type of fighting. I may be wrong, but I'd just like to reconsider this.
Is Blood on the Sun scene really an example? I'm no expert but it appears that James Cagney's character uses a fair number of judo techniques as well.

Rann: In Speed Racer, was Pops a professional wrestler or an actual wrestler? I thought the ring said something about national heavyweight champion or something as opposed to some "federation" or whatnot, leaving aside that pro wrestling usually hands out big shiny belts instead of rings. Even if the moves themselves were more like pro wrestling, well, I kinda doubt the ninjas were using strictly standard martial arts either.
  • His ring states that he's a Greco-Roman wrestler, which means he was a legit wrestler. It was probably supposed to be some sort of class ring.


Took this out:

  • Though it involved a gun and sword rather than fists, in Indiana Jones, Raiders Of The Lost Ark: a menacing, veiled Arab swings a scimitar around in a fancy pattern; Indy simply sighs and shoots him (producing laughs from the audience every time). See Badass.
    • This troper has heard that a lengthy battle involving Jones's whip against the man was actually planned. However, Ford was feeling a bit sick on the day and didn't really feel like carrying out the drawn out fighting sequence and instead just improvised the script by just shooting.
    • May or may not have inspired a parody in Full Metal Panic!: Fumoffu, where in one episode Sosuke defeats a knife-wielding bodyguard / chef by shooting him with a (non-lethal) round from a grenade launcher.

There's no fisticuffs, and it sounds like Combat Pragmatist to me.


jackattack: Cops, agents, and soldiers are not "average joes"; they spend the training phases of their careers learning combat basics, then continue training for much of their professional lives (in addition to practical application in real-world situations).

For that matter, someone without formal training can be self-taught, especially if they are in an environment/situation which promotes frequent combat and a steep learning curve — someone who grew up on the mean streets, who has to fight daily just to get by, will become the master of his own style or spend his short, miserable life as a punching bag. Every martial art started somewhere, and it is likely that many started when the guy who didn't constantly get his head handed to him agreed to show someone else how to win a fight. But note that learning any technique requires practice, so the person learning a technique spends more time learning and refining their skills than someone who only fights when it is necessary — thus, the amount of training and practice may be as important (if not more so) than the merits of the style itself.

It is also very easy for training to betray a practitioner who has only trained against a particular style, since they begin to expect their opponents to behave a particular way and use particular moves. Thus, the Kung Fu expert who has only ever faced other Kung Fu practitioners is going to be at least a little lost when facing a Karate expert, until he adapts to the new style — but note that the Karate expert will have the same exact problem! A lack of style can cause the same problem, since the expert expects the opponent to be rational, and may be taken completely by surprise when the unschooled opponent does something that no rational martial arts practitioner would ever do. Someone who has sought out teachers and/or opponents from different schools and styles will be a better all-around fighter, more adapatable and possibly even familiar with the "exotic" style he is facing.

And why do we assume that the bad guy is spending the bulk of his day training with martial arts masters? I find it hard to believe that a professional bad guy is spending any more time at the gym than a professional good guy — he probably puts in an hour or two of training, then goes out and does bad things to earn (or steal) money. There are yuppies that spend at roughly six hours a week at a boxing gym or a martial arts studio, who are probably just as skilled as anyone else who trains on the same schedule. Maybe a villain leads a more active lifestyle, but that's not necessarily true.

I think we need to be a little more careful with some of these examples. Just because the training hasn't been shown explicitly doesn't mean the hero doesn't have it — after all, we frequently don't see the villain's training, either.