Jake: I thought your power was eyebeams, 'Cyclops', not Kung Fu.Some heroes win the Superpower Lottery. Super Strength, Eye Beams and Energy Blasts make issuing a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown a relatively straightforward matter. So Once Again, the Day Is Saved. Hooray and stuff. Then there's the rest of them. They have bona-fide powers that set them apart from Puny Earthlings, but for one reason or another, they either can't or won't just rely on them alone. They've taken Boxing Lessons For All Those Other Poor Schmucks, and fight very similarly to a Badass Normal most of the time. This can be for any of several reasons:
Cyclops: That's not my power. That's my training. I was taught it.
Cyclops: That's not my power. That's my training. I was taught it.
- The powers don't directly apply to combat, such as Telepathy, Speaks Fluent Animal, and X-Ray Vision. However, they may have indirect uses for assisting. Or they do upgrade their natural fighting abilities, but only moderately beyond normal human limits, without anything fantastic such as flight. They have an advantage against the mooks, but only if they can stay on their toes and fight smart.
- The character has been Blessed with Suck. Their powers can easily wipe the floor with most mooks but are very difficult to use safely, such as having uncontrollable Splash Damage, being Cast from Hit Points, or attracting even more enemies. Or they're subject to Magic Misfires or governed by rules they haven't figured out yet. In either case, they'd rather use mundane methods than chance it.
- The character is Willfully Weak. Maybe they're a Blood Knight who has more fun with hand-to-hand, or a Smug Super that can beat you with their powers tied behind their back; both are more likely to pull out the big guns for a Worthy Opponent. Alternatively, simply detests their powers for some reason ("I don't want to rely on my superpowers too much" is a common one), and thus sticks to good ol' non-superpower methods like martial arts or mundane technology. One more possibility is that their powers are too strong. Being able to disintegrate people with a look (and having no "stun" option) is usually not acceptable to a hero with a Thou Shalt Not Kill moral code.
This trope fought its way into these works the old-fashioned way, because its Wiki Magic was just Too Awesome to Use:
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Anime And Manga
- Alucard from Hellsing is a vampire with supernatural powers. Despite that, he prefers to simply shoot his enemies with custom-made guns rather than use his inhuman abilities, mostly because he considers the majority of his opponents not worthy of using his superpowers against them. His guns, both of which qualify as Hand Cannons, require his vampiric strength and resilience anyway — a normal human trying to fire those guns like Alucard does would break both their wrists from the recoil.
- The titular character of Rune Soldier Louie is a mage, yet he prefers to fight with his hands, using his famous "LOUIE PUNCH!". He is called out on it multiple times.
- Li Ho from The Law of Ueki. His power is to turn hair into telescoping bats, but prefers to use taichi moves in combat.
- A Certain Magical Index
- Kamijou Touma has an Anti-Magic right hand which he can only use defensively, so he usually fights superpowered individuals with fisticuffs.
- Similarly, Tsuchimikado Motoharu can only use magic in limited amounts as it risks killing him (which his esper ability, Auto-Healing, only partly mitigates). Therefore, he relies on hand-to-hand combat, and is even better at it than the protagonist.
- Non-violent example, but Mikoto's friend Kazari Uiharu is a level 1 esper, who is also a genius computer hacker known in certain circles as "the Gatekeeper." For a long time, it was assumed that her power boosted her hacking abilities in some way. Eventually, we found out her power is temperature regulation—which, obviously, has absolutely nothing to do with computer hacking. She's just that good.
- Mii Konori fights using martial arts because her power is X-Ray Vision. Her ability is used to scan opponents for concealed weapons.
- Accelerator, after his Drama-Preserving Handicap limits use of his Story-Breaker Power to a few minutes at a time, starts carrying ordinary firearms so he can defend himself when his full powers aren't necessary or are unavailable.
- Zenkichi from Medaka Box only has passive powers Nullifying coincidence and Parasite Seeing, so he mostly still has to rely on his savate abilities in fights.
- Golden Lion King from Rising X Rydeen has not choice but to rely on his hand-to-hand combat skills as his superpower which is that he can glow when he roars is useless in most situations.
- One Piece: While Luffy can be very creative with his Rubber Man powers, he's still capable of fighting with fisticuffs, especially when facing Lucci.
- Mr. 2 can transform himself into others. Of course, this can increase (or decrease) his physical strength, but the fighting techniques themselves will have to be his normal ones, meaning that he's trained himself in non-superpower-related martial arts.
- Absalom can turn himself and anything he touches invisible. He mostly uses plain bazookas strapped to his arms in fight, but he uses his invisibility for the element of surprise's sake: When the bazookas are invisible, no one can see when they're fired, and to those that don't know of his power, it looks like he's firing a shock wave or beam, confusing the hell out of a lot of opponents.
- Discussed and Enforced in the New World. Previously, Logia users are really difficult to fight due to their Nigh-Invulnerability. Then comes Armament Haki and how common it is in the New World, and one character remarked that "Logia users who rely on their powers too much have short lifespan."
- Several Contractors in Darker Than Black have abilities not directly usable in combat and have to fight like any other Muggle if they throw down. One-note antagonist Itzhak is the most noticeable as his power is completely non-offensive, and fights using a rifle.
- Vice Granscenic of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. He's technically a mage, but he doesn't have enough magical power to cast combat spells on his own. However, he's also a Friendly Sniper with Improbable Aiming Skills, so hand him a Sniper Rifle or even an unsighted Boom Stick and watch as enemies that stronger mages have trouble with start dropping like flies without knowing what hit them.
- Homura Akemi of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the only Puella Magi who doesn't have some sort of magical weapon or directly offensive powers. Instead, she uses firearms stolen from the Yakuza and the JSDF as well as homemade explosives augmented by her time control abilities.
- Stain in My Hero Academia is a formidable hand-to-hand fighter and Knife Nut. However, his combat ability is unrelated to his Quirk, which involves ingesting an opponent's blood to paralyze them. Either one alone is potentially dangerous. Combined they make Stain a dangerous enough supervillain to merit the nickname "Hero Killer."
- Given what the series is known for, it is easy to forget that most of the heroes from Dragon Ball are trained martial artists who knows how to fight without using energy attacks. In the original series Goku, for example, rarely uses the Kamehameha or other advance techniques and prefers to fight with his fists. This was mostly because energy attacks cost a lot of stamina and was best used for finishers. Some of this can still be seen in Z where most of the older cast members prefer fighting on the ground and doesn't beam spam that often.
- The Immortal Iron Fist for the most part relies on his martial skill in combat. Sure, he has his chi abilities, but he earned those powers by winning a fist-fight with an immortal dragon, so he doesn't much need them. Plus, at first his Iron Fist ability served mostly as a finishing move: it was too damaging to use against mooks, and initially left him so tired he couldn't overuse it.
- Black Canary from the DCU may be the single best example. Her only superpower (sonic scream) is rarely used, and she's probably gone on 15-20 issue streaks of not using it at all, but she's a martial artist good enough to give Lady Shiva pause. Not surprising, as the character was strictly a martial artist for twenty years before she got her powers.
- Combat training is standard for the X-Men, since many of them have powers that are either not specifically combat-oriented or too dangerous to utilize except as a last resort. Most of them mainly rely on their mutant powers, but exceptions include Cable and Bishop, two time-displaced soldiers with vast but hard-to-control powers who normally just use guns.
- Hitman's Tommy Monaghan pretty much stopped using his powers entirely after the first twenty issues or so, getting by on charm, badass, and luck.
- Spawn has super powers, but prefers not to use them, since they're granted by hell and each use further damns his soul.
- Hellboy is a demon summoned from hell, but he certainly never uses his demonic powers against the monsters, faeries, demons and gods, and while he has a really good healing factor, he mostly uses his Good Old Fisticuffs, his Hand Cannon, and other weapons and other religious and magical artifacts.
- Daredevil has an element of this. He is technically a superhuman since he has Super Senses but those alone aren't enough to beat the baddies so he has elite martial arts skills in addition to his powers.
- Preacher: as the series goes on, Jesse relies less and less on his Compelling Voice and simply fights his enemies with fists and guns. Jesse explains that he doesn't want to exploit his voice too much for fear that karma will come back around on him. In one instance he even admits that he Forgot About His Powers. Writer Garth Ennis admitted that he'd written himself into a corner with Jesse's powers and began ignoring them to preserve the drama.
- Wolverine adversary Kenchiro Harada, aka Silver Samurai, possesses the mutant power to surround his sword with an energy field, effectively transforming it into a lightsabre. That's the extent of his powers, and in order to actually use it effectively, he's reliant on his martial arts training and mastery of swordsmanship.
- Deadpool's sole superhuman power (Healing Factor) has no offensive use, so he tends to fight relying only on his skills, katanas and guns. Granted, his power still allows him to use Leeroy Jenkins tactics that would get anyone else killed.
- One Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic is set in a continuity where Zuko is stripped of his rank and forced to serve in the army rather than exile. Since Ozai ultimately decides his assignments, Zuko is placed in command of a borderline-competent squad and assigned to the most dangerous and unpleasant battlefields in the war so he'll hopefully get killed. Since a lot of these battlefields are in areas where firebending is impractical or just plain impossible (too cold, too cramped, etc.), and since he doesn't take Iroh with him and therefore doesn't learn any firebending since leaving home, by the time Aang is freed from the iceberg Zuko suffers from severe PTSD and has gotten used to fighting with his bare hands and improvised weapons, and therefore doesn't really do a lot of firebending in fights . For instance, the first time he fights Katara; instead of taking her on bender-to-bender, he just steps in under her reach, grabs her by the throat and punches her very hard in the face with gauntleted fists until she stops moving.
- The Democratic Republic of Acturus from The TSAB – Acturus War mostly uses its magic as passive adjuncts to mundane weaponry and equipment, such as enhancing the power of nukes or teleportation to auto-load tank rounds. Only the Assault Troopers directly use offensive magic. This is in contrast to the TSAB, where even the Redshirt Army's standard rifles fire mana bolts.
- Variant Strain:
- Invoked in Peter's fight against the Rhino where his use of tools such as a gun rather than relying on his Hydra powers let him win.
- Also invoked in chapter 55 where he has to refrain from using Hydra so as to not break his cover in front of some Thunderbolts.
- Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings only used his magic a few times, often preferring to go after opponents with his sword and staff. This is more or less true of the original novels as well but it is emphasized more in the movies. According to Word of God, Peter Jackson was not a huge fan of seeing magic onscreen and preferred Gandalf to be more physical.
- Neo from The Matrix trilogy mostly used his kung-fu skills but had the ability to manipulate the Matrix, allowing him the ability to fly, telekinesis, and other powers that he only pulled out when he needed them.
- Pretty much everyone in the film versions of Night Watch and Day Watch, since the director Timur Bekmambetov is not a fan of magic (so, of course, he was the obvious choice to make a movie about modern-day wizards).
- In the Warrior Cats series, out of the three cats with superpowers, only Lionblaze's are useful in battle (he can't get hurt in a fight). Jayfeather's power is to enter other cats' dreams (though he doesn't fight anyway, since he's a medicine cat), and Dovewing's power - Super Senses - is actually a hindrance in battle because the amount of noise and scents confuses her.
- When she has to fight, Ida of Shaman of the Undead uses regular kicks, punches and knives, as her gifts are restricted to world of the dead only. She's not even Badass Normal - she's an Action Survivor who can see ghosts.
- Richard of the Sword of Truth series has phenomenal wizardly might, but relies almost exclusively on his sword for combat, primarily because he has no bloody clue how to get his magic to work at will. This is a borderline example, since that sword is itself magic.
- Fate/Zero: Kiritsugu definitely has the capacity to be a magus, but instead on relies a lot more on good ol' human technology like firearms and explosives, treating his magecraft abilities as simply yet another tool to be used, which he usually only uses to support his mundane abilities and devices in a largely indirect manner, unless they prove to be more efficient than mundane methods (e.g. giving himself Innate Night Vision) or capable of doing something useful to his purposes that mundane alternatives cannot (e.g. Bounded Fields). This serves him well, since almost all Magi despise the idea of depending on muggle-made technology, making it a blind spot to them whose true potential they consistently underestimate. A prime example is at the start of Volume 2 (Episode 6 in the Animated Adaptation), which sees Kayneth being way too prideful, thinking that nothing would be able to invade his multi-layered magic fortress. In response, Kiritsugu has his colleague Maiya rig the building itself with explosives, thus rendering all of Kayneth's careful preparations useless.
- In Young Jedi Knights, Tenel Ka doesn't use the Force if she can achieve her goal with athletic skill.
- Limelight in The Reckoners Trilogy won't use his superpowers unless he absolutely has to, since using them makes him into an evil psychopath.
- Arch-chancellor Ridcully tends to favor his staff over magic for fighting. His reasoning is that if something can stand up to a solid blow from his staff it's probably immune to magic as well.
- Granny Weatherwax is a frightfully powerful witch, but believes far more in "Headology" (trickery, understanding of human nature, and being Genre Savvy) than magic. When backed into a corner, she's more likely to draw a couple of hatpins than cast a spell. This largely goes for the other witches as well, with Nanny dispatching a villain via a cauldron upside the head, and Magrat carrying a bread knife and taking out a pair of Creepy Twins with martial arts.
- The Perpetuals from the Horus Heresy series all have Complete Immortality, able to regenerate from even the most thorough obliteration, but that's about it. To survive in the grim darkness of the far future, they've developed their skills. Ollanius Pius is a retired Imperial Army soldier, though his combat experience stretches as far back as the First World War and even into Antiquity; he was one of the original Argonauts. The only human Perpetual with other powers we know of is John Grammaticus, who is also an omniglot.
Live Action TV
- The Power Rangers regularly take out the Mooks without bothering to morph, as part of the series tradition of not escalating a battle beyond what's necessary. Keep in mind, though, that several teams have special abilities that they can and do use even while unmorphed, which disqualifies them for this trope.
- In Charmed, Phoebe learns martial arts because while Prue and Piper have powers with direct combat application (freezing people and telekinesis, respectively), Phoebe's power of precognition is more passive.
- Justified on Supernatural - Sam Winchester has the ability to kill Final Boss level demons with his mind, keeping the human host alive to boot, but the powers aren't worth the price of unlocking them.
- Many primary spellcasters in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e can hold their own quite well in a fight due to respectable hit point totals, equipment proficiencies and base attack bonuses. Among these are clerics, druids, warlocks, favored souls and spirit shamans.
- A few advanced classes from the d20 Modern settings:
- Urban Arcana: The thrasher (Having an impressive damage reduction coming from magic, i.e. Super Toughness), the Speed Demon (A pilot with supernatural enhancements to his/her piloting skills), the Acolyte thanks to Vancian Magic (he can break out powerful powers, but they have a very limited number of uses per day, so he either saves them or is forced to fight like a normal when he runs out).
- Agents of PSI: The Battle Mind, whom can mostly enhance his natural fighting prowess with psionics, along with a few more exotic powers.
- In Mage: The Ascension, it's possible to load up your character with combat stats and skills despite being able to use Magick. If the character doesn't have the Spheres or can't figure out a way to avoid Paradox, it's often advisable to use conventional weapons in a fight rather than Magick. Similarly in Mage: The Awakening. The risk of Paradox increases with each vulgar spell one casts in a scene, meaning that someone who relies on on throwing around fire and lightning in a fight will either be forced to take damage from mitigating the Paradox or have their spells go hilariously wrong. It's often better to use self-enhancement magics and/or enchanted weaponry.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Space Marine Librarians are extremely powerful psykers, but still wield boltguns and melee weapons. After all, even if you get past their psychic abilities, you're still facing a seven-plus-foot-tall post-human Super Soldier in Power Armor whose sidearm is a BFG with armor-piercing explosive rounds.
- Every Grey Knight is a psyker, but the vast majority fight the way regular Space Marines do (for basic troops, their psyker powers give them enhanced melee abilities and that's it).
- A flash game Fan Remake of Kung Fu Master has a special ability you unlock after beating each of the first three stages, all can lay waste to every mook on the screen. When you get to a boss fight, the main character refuses to use these specials, on the basis that he can kick their butts without them. Considering who he's fighting in stages 2 to 4, that's a hell of statement to make.
- Three the Hard Way has Anderson. Already a Lightning Bruiser in the gameplay, he's shown to be even much more powerful in the cutscenes, where he is able to lay waste on entire armies with a single strike. When other characters lampshade this, he responds that he is no longer the mass murdering madman he was in the past.
- Sigurd of Fire Emblem Jugdral has Major Holy Blood, which entitles him to an Infinity+1 Sword and some fancy stat bonuses... however, he doesn't get his hands on it until the last chapter he appears in. For the majority of his story, he fights with normal weapons, but he's still highly effective.
- Superhero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe actually encourages this. One of the teachers for the aikido classes is sensei Tolman, who is a Type 3: a black woman with superstrength and mental attack powers, who just prefers using aikido. And Aquerna is a Type 1: she has squirrel powers, so she is stronger and faster than a baseline human, which means she is considered a campus joke. She has been learning aikido, Le Parkour, and martial arts weapons.
- Delta, among others, in Stone Burners augment her techie powers with combat training.
- Many superheroes and supervillains in Worm learn how to fight this way, but Armsmaster, Grace, and Grue in particular tend to use their powers to augment their essentially-human martial art skills, and Victor uses his power to gain human martial art skills.
- Jaune Arc from RWBY. While everyone else zips around using superhuman martial arts, Jaune doesn't have any special techniques and has no idea how to use his Semblance, so he instead just relies purely on slashing with his sword and stopping attacks with his shield. Fortunately, he's strong enough to stop an Ursa Major's swipe with one arm and has a lot of Aura to protect against attacks he doesn't manage to block, making him something of a Stone Wall.
- Pyrrha subverts this. While most people casually rely on their Semblance in battle, Pyrrha seems to get by on pure skill so much that most people don't know what her Semblance is and think she's just that good. Then it's revealed that her Semblance is magnetism and that she's been subtly using it to deflect attacks and tilt battles in her favor.
- Unsounded's Duane outright refuses to utilize pyramy against non-wright foes despite his comparatively frail physical stature.
- Grace from El Goonish Shive becomes an example of the Willfully Weak variant when she takes martial arts lessons to give herself a nonlethal fighting option, between the extremes of "tear them to shreds" and "talk it over peacefully".
- Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender uses this to great effect while travelling incognito through the Earth Kingdom or doing rescue missions.
- Legend Of Korra:
- Amom fights primarily using chi blocking, which is a non-supernatural fighting style designed to counter bending. He also has the ability to remove someone's bending, courtesy of being an incredibly powerful Waterbender who can Bloodbend any time, no full moon needed, and can do so with a Death Glare alone, but that isn't the kind of thing that he can do while being attacked. His ability to avoid all bending attacks makes him one of the most intimidating characters in the franchise, but he's also using his psychic bloodbending to help him throw off his opponents' movements, giving him a nigh unbeatable edge. Technically, this means that he really isn't fighting like a normal.
- In Book 3, Harmonic Convergence-empowered Bumi plays with the trope: He does use his airbending in combat; however, he seems to only know how to do so defensively. As far as offense goes, he seems to favor grappling—for example, when fighting the Red Lotus earthbender Ghazan, he actually resorts to hair-pulling and biting.
- In the video game, Korra shows that, even with her bending blocked, she's dangerous. After all, bending is just empowered martial arts, and she's a master-level fighter.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Rarity - a fashionista whose main magical talent lies in beautification and beautiful things - can on several occasions be seen punching out her enemies in typical fisticuffs (hooficuffs?) fashion. Unlike her friend Twilight Sparkle, she lacks combat magic, but she won't let that stop her.
- Twilight herself was once seen getting into hoof-to-hoof combat with the Discorded Applejack and Pinkie Pie, who, being Earth Ponies, are much more physically stronger than her... And winning.
- Kanan from Star Wars Rebels uses a regular blaster on a lot of his ops, only breaking out the Force powers and lightsaber when he's in serious trouble. Justified as he's a Jedi on the run from The Empire, and revealing himself as such puts a huge bulls-eye on himself (which actually happens in the pilot).