Kirby: Where'd you learn to fight like that?
Ryan Varrett: From fighting.Ah, the Fight Scene: Noble sport and elegant artform that elevates two fictional combatants through ritualized combat, proving their prowess by savagely beating each other upside the head with 2x4's or whatever else they can get their grubby little paws on. Cue the entrance of Kung Fu, Savate, and other more choreograph-able fighting styles. What? So now, only monks and French dudes can kick ass? (don't even mention Gun Kata). What's a fighter who trained on the mean streets of the City with No Name to do? Punch 'em with Good Old Fisticuffs, of course! 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. If any explanation is given for why this disparity always goes in the hero's favor, it's because the hero has "heart" while his opponent is more obsessed with good form, or is all flash and no substance. While it may seem at first sight to be only about fighting with your fists, this trope is about learning to fight in the "hard way", by pure, brutal and constant brawling for your life in dirty streets. It is emphasized that the person had to go through a life that served as Training from Hell. Do not confuse with Bare-Fisted Monk or Boxing Battler, which are character types that only use melee but do not have the styleless "street brawling" connotation. See Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty and Combat Pragmatist. If the hero (or the villain) is a threat not because of technique but innate Gifts like unnatural damage-soaking abilities, he is probably Unskilled, but Strong.
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Anime and Manga
- From the prologue of All Rounder Meguru: "The truth is, experienced fighting will beat out half assed karate any time, especially when the other guys are older." Even after the timeskip, Takashi gets his ass kicked by an ex-boxer bodyguard.
- While Touma Kamijou from A Certain Magical Index is a skilled fighter in his own right, he gets his ass handed to him a few times from martial artists and multiple enemies. Fortunately, he's Taught by Experience, and later grows out of it (unlike other examples, he doesn't fight with his fists much, he mostly uses tactics and weapons).
- Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop is able to regularly defeat armed, multiple or better trained opponents by utilizing his own brutal brand of pugilism. In one instance he is able to overcome a ruthless and feared Syndicate assassin with a well timed head-butt to the face.
- There's also Andy, who was able to stand up to Spike without any apparent martial arts training.
- Digimon Savers' fifth season plays with this. It turns out the most effective fighters are the ones with the greatest understanding of their abilities. Whether they figured it out for themselves the hard way or needed to go through rigorous training to understand are just means to an end. 3/4ths of the main casts are forced into training.
- This trope shows up in, of all places, Fist of the North Star. In an anime all about glorifying ages-old (fictional) martial arts schools with legendary histories, Juza uses a completely made-up-himself style that allows him to fight Raoh on a nearly equal basis. Sure, he also has Charles Atlas Superpowers, but almost everyone and their dog has that in the Fist of the North Star-verse.
- In Gamaran this is a plot point during the battle between Gama and the Silver Ogre Ryuuho Kibe: the latter was never good at fighting, but was able to bring out the full potential of the deadly Jugan drug which increases his fighting power, and during the battle against Gama he uses a very simple style swinging his giant iron club and eventually going barehanded, boasting about how much his sheer physical prowess leaves Gama's own martial art useless. Proved wrong when Gama defeats him by using a clever variation of his normal signature attack to slice his fingers. An examples with kenjutsu rather than fisticuffs can be found in both Iori Sengoku and Jinsuke Kurogane: they're recognized as incredibly strong swordsmen and yet their style is really simple but effective, to the point that Jinsuke himself, despite having mastered all the fifteen techniques of the Ogame School, is never seen using one.
- Played with in Holyland. Most fighters have some martial arts training as a base, even if they adapt it to the needs of the street, and effectiveness varies. The closest ones to styleless brawling uncramped by martial arts training are Yuu and Katou, although neither sticks to just hands; Yuu eventually uses kicks, elbows and wrestling, while Katou uses knees (to the groin), headbutts and takedowns.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Berserker is noted to have never taken any formal training: his raw talent is so good that he can routinely beat even highly skilled martial artists with his street fighting skills. He is eventually defeated by Tanimoto, who claims that Hard Work Hardly Works is a big, fat lie upon winning.
- Many delinquents of Kyou Kara Ore wa!! have been shown defeating trained martial artists with nothing more than street brawling punches. Also, partially Subverted: martial arts do work... It's just that Mitsuhashi and co. are way stronger and faster than most martial artists who show up.
- In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha and its sequels, Arf, Zafira and Reinforce uses unarmed combat in melee, unlike most characters who rely on weapons. This carries over to The Battle of Aces, though not for Arf until Gears of Destiny. It should be noted, though, that the first two do use kicks as well. By ViVid the existence of Strike Arts and Kaiser Arts speaks of formalised martial arts coming into play.
- Something should be emphasized here. Reinforce punches through Nanoha's magical shield with her bare hands, only using the Elemental Punch afterwards.
- Sure, Monkey D. Luffy from One Piece trained all right, but so far his official training was only shown to be survival training and endurance—Garp was never shown teaching him any hand-to-hand combat. Luffy apparently got strong from brawls with his two older brothers and his Rubber Man powers he obtained in early childhood gave him durability. But, it's implied by Oda that the only technique he worked on as a child was the Gum Gum Pistol, (although a recent anime filler showed him practicing his Fuusen technique, too) and confirmed by Word of God that he doesn't train, but comes up with attacks on the spot; his most commonly used ones involving the ol' fists.
- He also plays the trope pretty straight, beating highly trained Martial artists who have been taught several different and deadly techniques since a young age (the very first Gum Gum Jet Bazooka and Gum Gum Jet Gatling, anyone?). And in Rob Lucci's defeat with the Jet Gatling, it was even because Luffy had more heart and determination than him. Also, as a child, he lived with bandits and played in a Trash Mountain, and eating or getting money meant beating/killing animals and thugs or being beaten/killed.
- Saitama from One-Punch Man. He has no formal combat training, but he is so strong that simple attacks (in this case, a simple punch) are totally sufficient to smash his opponents.
- One of the reasons Pretty Cure has a larger adult male Periphery Demographic than most other Magical Girl series. Transforming not only gives the Cures Frills of Justice and automatically-memorized In the Name of the Moon speeches, but also Super Strength and the ability to jump ridiculously high, so they usually spend the majority of a fight scene beating the snot out of the Monster of the Week with their bare fists and pull out the magical attacks as a Finishing Move only.
- Subverted in Rurouni Kenshin, where Sanosuke, a brawler who gets by with Charles Atlas Superpower and Made of Iron challenges Saito to a fist fight. Saito creams him with far better boxing technique.
- And played straight many, many times as well such as when he goes against opponent using strikes to the vital points. In so many words Sanosuke tells him to stop messing about and just give him a good hard slug already. When the opponent fails to comply, Sano obligingly demonstrates how it is done.
- In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, this appears to be Lordgenome's preferred method of fighting, with or without his Humongous Mecha. When using Lazengann, he likes to beat the snot out of his opponents with black-belt level moves, and with no weapons whatsoever (save for drill tendrils). It's probably why he can fistfight against Simon and Lagann once Lazengann gets thrashed.
- Tawara Bunshichi from Tenjho Tenge definitely qualifies. He is the only character in the series who doesn't have any special powers or utilizes some style of martial arts, preferring to simply punch the living hell out of his opponents on the rare occasions when he actually fights. And he fights so rarely because most everyone else is usually scared shitless of him.
- Joey/Jonouchi used to be quite the street punk near the beginning of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and he got into fistfights a lot. Sometimes these fight happened for no reason, other times it was to defend Yugi... but he proves himself to be a badass who can break jaws and noses with a swift punch to the face. Some of the earlier "games" even involved him beating the crap out of people for the sake of friendship/revenge. As Duel Monsters became more important to the plot, he stopped getting into fights altogether, which he even lampshades in Yu-Gi-Oh! R.
- Ted in Zatch Bell! learned how to brawl thanks to living on the streets. His spell book is centered around gradually making him stronger and faster, but he never changes his fighting style.
- In Codename: Sailor V (of which Sailor Moon is a spin-off), Minako/Sailor Venus often just beats the youma into a pulp before going for the magical attack to finish him off, and while her kicks resemble Savate there's no hint of her having any formal training beyond scattered hints that she spent part of her childhood abroad and may have had it there.
- Deconstructed in Ashita no Joe: Joe is quickly established as a powerful fighter capable of taking on multiple opponents through nothing but his brawling experience, but the moment Danpei, an old and out of shape former boxer, decided to give him a lesson, Joe went down fast and hard. Joe still kept his mindset until he decided to actually try out Danpei's lesson on the jab and noticed his punch had become much faster and powerful.
- This is The Spirit's entire good ol' fighting method, as he's just an everyman with no training on any martial arts. He relies too on his wits and his agility to beat the crooks, but at the end of the day, he learned to fight by, well, fighting.
- Gotham Central features this as a frequent necessity since, though a comic book set in the world of Batman, none of the characters are superheroes in any way, shape or form. As such, they are often forced to face off against "freaks" (supervillains) with only regular guns or, sometimes, just their bare hands. When Dr. Alchemy, a The Flash villain, is brought to Gotham City and tries to escape, Renee Montoya is forced to beat him down with her bare hands after he turns all guns and metals in the room into poisonous and noxious elements (His name is Dr. Alchemy, he can do stuff like that). Once she manages to drop him to the floor she keeps going (Some say Police Brutality, others say... well, others also say Police Brutality, but he really deserved it), and did it all despite the fact that he was armed with some bizarre alchemical superweapon.
- A storyline in the Robin comic book had him fighting Cassandra Cain, formerly the second Batgirl, who had just revealed that she'd made a Face–Heel Turn. Robin manages to defeat Cassandra, who had received Training from Hell to learn how to predict opponents' moves by looking at them, by deliberately attacking her wildly with no style or forethought. Since Cassandra's "powers" should have been able to handle something like that easily, this is one of the many reasons this storyline became Canon Discontinuity almost immediately.
- He learned from the best, apparently, as in a JLA comic just a few months later, Batman does this same thing to Karate Kid, a super martial artist from the 31st century whose fighting skills are so advanced he can fight Kryptonians despite being "only human." To the writer's credit, Batman doesn't win (merely stalemates his opponent until a superpowered ally can take him down), but he still lasts a lot longer than he had any business lasting.
- The comic Preacher inverts this: While protagonist Jesse Custer does not know fancy martial arts, he knows how to fistfight (and how to fight dirty). This allows him to stand up to people much larger and stronger than he is because he has that foundation and they don't. We never get to see how he fares against a trained martial artist however.
- Sin City, Marv VS Kevin.
- Although Marv didn't just rely on his fists. He handcuffed Kevin to himself, which cramped Kevin's medium-range fighting style.
- In a 1970's issue of The Flash, a robot Abraham Lincoln from the future beats an Evil Overlord (also from the future) via the use of good old-fashioned 19th Century wrestling.
- Which is similar to this quote from Tales from the Bully Pulpit:
- The comic Hard Graft features a main character whose main purpose in life appears to be using Good Old Fisticuffs to beat people down.
- Despite not having any martial training and being rather small in size, Tintin often beats people in physical confrontations. One of the best examples is from "The Black Island":
Puschov:*sweeps Tintin onto the ground* That's a little jujitsu, my friend! (or Savate in the original)!Tintin: And this is a kick to the jaw!
- Actually, in the original French version, Tintin's answer while kicking him in the face is "Et ça, c'est de la savate!" ("And that's savate!"). Which also makes for an untranslatable pun: in French, savate also means a type of shoe.
- Shoe-fu should be a trope.
- Wildcat of the Justice Society of America was a heavyweight boxing champion in cat costume. His main tools in crimefighting were his abilities to throw, and take, a punch.
- Early stories Batman: as detailed in this article, the Batman of early stories mainly fought as a boxer, and a vicious and skilled one at that (good enough to take on the number one contender for the heavyweight championship and win in a single round (note that here Batman was handicapped by the rules). note As the author of the article put it: "Now also imagine how your average street thug would fair against someone like Batman, who possessed the power of an Ernie Shavers and the striking accuracy of an Archie Moore?"
- GLGreenLanternCorps Kyle Rayner once fought Yellow Lantern Sinestro without any of them being allowed to use their power rings. Sinestro bragged about his unique fighting technique "Hammerfist" taught to him by Korugarian Grandmaster Tivas Kark. When asking Kyle who taught him to fight the answer is delivered together with instant prove: Batman! see here
- Whenever forced to fight hand-to-hand, inspector Ginko from Diabolik uses this kind of style, and is good enough that even Diabolik, who is noted to have exceptional physical abilities and knows sophisticated martial arts, ends punched out most of the times-including that time Ginko was escaping from a gang's lair punching out any Mook he met and knocked out Diabolik (who was there for a heist) before noticing he wasn't a mook.
- Used briefly near the conclusion of I Did Not Want To Die as the protagonist is desperately struggling to stay alive.
- Celestia mentions to being a fan of this in Diaries of a Madman, but has trouble finding sparring partners. Nav and Sombra also engage in a fist fight later on.
- Seen in Mega Man Reawakened, as Robert sometimes fights this way as opposed to weapons or battle chips.
- Wily threatens to fight Megaman this way in Arc 3, but uses the alien hologram instead.
- In the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project Minako subjects the other Sailor Senshi to training into hand-to-hand combat with this trope in mind, the idea being that knowing to fight in this way will give them an advantage over the monsters they usually fight. Note that more normal martial arts aren't underestimated, it's just that fighting using only the fists keeps the legs free to continue moving and dodging in case of numerical inferiority (Minako herself is noted to favour Savate kicks in one-on-one combat, but to resort to this when facing multiple opponents).
- In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Brick wants to do this (as he does in Borderlands), but against Flood this is a very bad idea. Plus, Jack isn't too keen on the idea, so Brick sticks to a shoulder-mounted cannon instead.
Films — Animated
- In a classic tribute to this trope, in Rio, a marmoset strikes several kung fu poses, only for Raphael to reach over and give him a smart rap on the head with his beak.
Films — Live-Action
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: The climax is a good old fistfight between Kirk and Kruge. Parodied and lampshaded by the MAD spoof, where Kruge notes the irony of a retro fight in the middle of a FX-laden sci-fi film.
- Blood on the Sun with James Cagney vs. a judoka.
- It even turned up in that bodyswitch comedy, 18 Again, with George Burns. (Frat Jerk Jock sees hero with girlfriend. Hero asks "sorry, did you want to dance?" Frat Jerk says 'no', and does a spinkick/badass pose. Hero: "I thought you said you didn't want to dance!", then fights him old-school fisticuffs style.)
- In Lethal Weapon 4, Jet Li uses his polished wushu style to badly brutalize both Riggs and Murtaugh until they ultimately defeat him with their less flashy fighting styles and ultimately a Kalashnikov automatic rifle. Riggs was portrayed as an elite martial artist in the first film's more realistic fight scenes, but by the fourth movie he too was "getting too old for this shit."
- Turns up in, of all places, the Bruce Lee film Way of the Dragon, in which the Chinese restaurant staff all train in karate before getting the crap knocked out of them by the local thugs. Given that Bruce then uses kung fu to annihilate the thugs, this was probably intended as a Take That! aimed at Japan (as Fist of Fury more blatantly was).
- The final fight scene in Ridley Scott's Black Rain. Michael Douglas' smartass cop squares off with karate-using villain (who thankfully is too smart to pull off any fancy stuff and is quite happy to use simple but effective strikes) and mostly gets beaten around... until he digs a finger into villain's fresh wound, crippling him with pain and then administering a beating.
- Shanghai Noon: "I don't know karate but I know kah-razy!" (with apologies to James Brown). Roy manages to throw trained martial artist Chon Wang to the ground, which surprises both of them. Then Chon gets up and throws Roy out the window.
- The Speed Racer film adaption has a partial example: while everyone else was Kung Fu fighting, Pops was able to beat the crap out of a ninja with (professional) wrestling moves.
- Fight Club shows us how the solution to the stresses of modern day society is a good round of pit-style fisticuffs.
- Subverted in Dutch, in which Dutch (Ed O'Neil), using his self-described "good old, all-American street fighting" is beaten up by an adolescent who holds a "high brown belt." However, Dutch also teaches the boy to throw a proper punch, which he uses to good effect.
- In Never Back Down, a streetwise MMA brawler faces a practitioner of capoeira, the Brazilian art of dance-fighting. Before the fight, the capoeirista grandstands with some flashy acrobatics and then gets knocked out with a single punch.
- In the Bridget Jones movies, Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver get to do it twice. The former's a lawyer, the latter a TV reporter, so this leads to a Wimp Fight.
- Ninja Assassin usually completely averts this trope; most normal people die when they are in a ninjas arm length, without even having the chance to fight back. Except for a big London Gangster, who is the protagonists first target. The protagonist, a ninja himself, stabs him in the neck, which just pisses the gangster off. The man then beats the shit out of the protagonist and smashes him through some dividing walls, and even keeps fighting after he gets stabbed some more. In the end, he is defeated nevertheless when the protagonist smashes his weakened opponents head repeatedly against a toilet bowl. It should be noted that the protagonist was not only one of the best ninjas, he also had the element of surprise and a weapon, yet was nearly defeated.
- Freddie tries to bring Michael Myers down with his fists in Halloween: Resurrection. He actually survives this encounter.
- Played for Laughs in the sequel to Johnny English. English is going after a Hong Kong triad who is parkouring his way through the rooftops. English simply opens doors, crams through tight spots, and rides the elevator after him. When he has the villain corner, he watches as martial artist displays acrobatic kicks and flips before taking him out with a quick Groin Attack and a few other hilariously pragmatic moves.
- Displayed in Wild Wild West: One of the minions pulls out a fancy move, and says "I learned that from a chinaman." Jim West proceeds to hit him with a shovel, then declares, "I just made that up."
- In Danny the Dog, Danny has taught himself to fight using pure, feral aggression. He beats a number of fighters who use easily identifiable styles. The toughest local fighter at the pit fighting bar is also an example. His style is simply grabbing anything within arm's reach and smashing it over Danny's head.
- Compared to Batman's martial arts, The Dark Knight Rises Bane fights with heavy punches and pragmatic beatdowns which makes sense, he was born and raised in a prison. His trademark pose in which he grasps his own lapels even makes him look like a pugilist.
- In Live Free or Die Hard John McClane fights a talented female martial artist and uses this (as well as a car) to defeat her. Of course, it helps he had a significant weight advantage over his Waif-Fu opponent.
- Flip-flopped in Ip Man. Wong Leung and his friends' skills with street fighting prove no match for Ip Man's martial arts, and they're soundly beaten. Then again, Twister's Western boxing proves brutally effective against Chinese martial arts, enough to actually cause Master Hung's death and give Master Ip the fight of his life.
- In the third movie we have Frank (Mike Tyson) another boxer who unlike Twister knows how to use the Ol'Fisticuffs to counter kicks and is the second person to fight Ip Man to a drawnote and only because of a time limit imposed by himself.
- Averted in An Officer and a Gentleman. Zack Mayo is a street rat who learned how to fight in back alleys. While he is by no means a bad fighter, when he squares off against a trained martial artist he goes down fast and hard.
- This is Jackson's fighting style in Bloodsport.
- Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou? tries to beat up his wife's new man, thinking the little nerdy-looking Vernon will be easy to defeat. However, Vernon adopts the classic pugilistic pose, easily dodges Everett's clumsy swings, then punches his lights out with swift, unanswered jabs.
- In the 1978 version of Game of Death: Steiner uses this against Billy Lo after all the other henchmen have died. This surprisingly even works even though Steiner is completely unskilled and handicapped and Billy Lo (supposedly Bruce Lee) is supposed to be the greatest fighting machine in the world.
- In the otherwise forgettable Tango & Cash, a criminal leads up to a fight with one of the protagonists with some fancy martial arts katas and shouts. The protagonist, unimpressed, punches him dead in the face and knocks him out with one shot. His comment is a gruffly mumbled, "I hate you karate guys."
- A forced example in The Substitute. The main character is a mercenary/former special ops soldier pretending to be a substitute teacher. When he's forced by another mercenary (who knows exactly who the main character is) to fight with one of the villains, the second mercenary says, "Fight fair: none of that ninja s**t."
- In Discworld:
- The contrast between the Silver Horde and the various stereotypical "ninja" bodyguards/assassins they dispatch in the book Interesting Times. The Silver Horde are just barbarian brawlers, but they've had a lot of time to become quite good at it
- In The Fifth Elephant, Carrot tries to use the Marquis of Fantailler combat style against a werewolf, who nearly kills him.
- This entire trope is lampshaded in Discworld: Marquis of Fantailler (A thinly hidden parody of the Marquis of Queensberry) wrote "a list of rules on the manly art of pugilism, mostly concerning places you were not allowed to hit him." Obeying these rules is an accepted form of suicide. This is opposed to the actual street combat mentioned in the series. It's said that the last words of many a fistfighter have been "Stuff the bloody Marquis of Fantailler".
- Otto von Chriek then subverts it in The Truth, when he proves that good old fisticuffs can be quite deadly if powered by supernatural strength.
- On Discworld, members of the Guild of Assassins are taught to be deadly, silent, killers who are capable of killing stylishly with fifty different weapons. But they are constrained by rules. And, because it is not thought of as being gentlemanly, the one form of fighting they are not taught and discouraged from learning is unarmed combat of any sort. A gentleman does not brawl in the gutter. This suits their unkillable target Sam Vimes, who has never claimed to be a gentleman and has spent thirty years brawling in the gutter. (It is only in Fan Fic that an Asassin has come anywhere near him).
- Towards the end of Thud!, a Dwarvish philosopher/loremaster defeats an axe-swinging traditionalist, using nothing more tha his unclosed fist and willpower. He reflects afterwards he has discovered the strength inherent in the Empty Hand. (Japanese: ka-ra-te)
- In Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, Mason is menaced in his nightmares by a Knife Nut. After being councelled in the matter by a Malay medicine man, he defeats his dream-foe through the Gloucestershire tradition of kicking him in the shins.
- Double subverted in the Eoin Colfer novel Airman. The protagonist is trained in several forms of martial arts and fencing, and early in the novel is wrongly convicted and sent to a prison/diamond mine. On his first day he's ambushed by the leader of the resident prison gang and gets beaten into unconsciousness. The next day however, he's prepared and handily beats the thug with some simple but effective strikes.
- Played straight in the Tales of Dunk and Egg (prequels to the main story of A Song of Ice and Fire). Dunk is only a fair swordsman, but he is also quite tall, strong, and an experienced streetfighter. When a more skilled swordsman gets the better of him, he tends to grab hold of him and start tossing him around like a ragdoll.
- Subverted by Sherlock Holmes, who is a trained boxer and martial artist, and in one story uses gentlemanly fisticuffs to beat the everloving crap out of a thug who thought he could discourage that skinny little twit with a swift (and unsporting) backhand. Holmes is a bit scuffed up but jovial after that brawl, while the other guy gets carried away in a cart.
- In Starfighters of Adumar, Cheriss ke Hanadi is a professional blastsword duelist, earning her money through tournaments and endorsements. Her style is described as rough, dirty, something half picked up in gutter duels, but since she wins most of the time she's still fairly popular. Blastsword duels often end in death, but there's still a degree of artistry. When she falls for Wedge Antilles and then realizes that he loves someone else, she tries to commit suicide by dueling until executed, but Wedge's wingman Wes steps in and challenges the duelist who's about to kill her. Wes completely sidesteps the dueling aspect and just beats the guy half to death with his fists. Mildly subverted there in that he knows his opponent would have beat him if they were dueling, so he gambled on being able to disarm the man.
"Forgot to mention. On some worlds people fight with their feet, too. Feet, hands, rocks, pure cussed willpower - they're warriors. You, you're just a dilettante."
- Stephen R. Donaldson has it both ways in his thriller The Man Who Fought Alone. On the one hand, the protagonist's street brawling skills trump anything used by a martial artist under black belt rank, both because he fights dirty, and because according to Donaldson most martial arts emphasize intimidation over actual combat prowess so as to try and avoid a fight entirely (similarly to the distinction between Jaffa and human combat styles in Stargate.) On the other hand, the characters who've reached black belt actually know some pretty good moves, and combine them with a level of discipline he can't readily match. (It should be noted that Donaldson himself is a martial artist, and seems to know what he's talking about.)
- Subverted near the beginning of Royal Flash , Flashman witnesses an impromptu match between Otto von Bismarck and retired bareknuckle boxer John Gully. Gully dodges all of von Bismarck's punches until he is finally provoked into knocking the German down, demonstrating that there's more to boxing than wild swinging.
- In The California Voodoo Game, the Awesome by Analysis villain winds up in a one-on-one fight with Dream Park's head of security. Although the villain's sophisticated martial arts training has always served him well in the game, Griffin is so furious at the man for murdering one of his trusted employees that he throws caution to the wind and tackles his opponent, pounding him so viciously without regard for his own injuries that his foe has no chance to utilize his fancy moves. "Two cats in a sack" is how the narrative describes it, and the villain proves the weaker cat.
- Subverted in The Stormlight Archive. Adolin wins a duel by abandoning dueling conventions and charging forward aggressively to knock his opponent down, then dismissing his blade entirely and just savagely kicking him into submission. Navani points out that this would not have worked against a more talented duelist, but was a good tactic to disguise his true skills. Adolin reflects that it would have been far smarter if that had been why he did it.
- In Anathem, Lio, a student of "vlor," the science of martial arts, gets into a fight with a couple of toughs from Saecular society. His martial arts are rendered useless when they simply pull his robe over his head and pummel him. He later learns to fix his wardrobe so it cannot be used against him.
- In the Gotrek & Felix novels when Felix first meets Princess Ulrika she challenges him to a duel with lightweight fencing swords that Felix is not as familiar with as his regular sword. As the fight begins, he quickly realizes he is going to lose but only because he is adhering to the rules of the duel and is trying to copy Ulrika's fancy sword moves. When Ulrika moves in for another attack, Felix blocks her blade, punches her in the face, and sweeps her legs out from under her, winning the fight. It turns out that this wins a great amount of respect for Felix from Ulrika because Felix didn't let the fact that she was nobility (or a woman), get in the way of their duel and that he took her completely seriously as a fighter. This results in Ulrika being naked in Felix's bed when he retires for the night.
- The show Knight Rider, in its last season, featured a troop of ninjas as foes that, despite carrying the trademark weapons of their profession, were easily taken down by straightforward punches. Main Protagonist Michael, in a twist of irony, claimed to be an expert in martial arts during the pilot episode.
- Conan O'Brien jokes that he fights like this on his show.
- In the episode "Bounty Hunter" of My Name Is Earl, a bounty hunter trained in various martial arts attacks Joy, who fights informally with fisticuffs. It quickly turns into a Curb-Stomp Battle. Given the trope page, you can guess for which side.
Joy: I watch a lot of Springer.
- In Outlaws, a private detective is menaced by a martial artist. The detective knocks him out with one punch. It's understandable that the detective doesn't try martial arts himself, given that he's a former cowboy brought forward in time.
- Subverted in the Cold Open of an episode of Magnum, P.I.. A triad member is meeting with a local to buy information. He makes a move that the local takes as a threat, and said local starts listing off all the martial arts styles he's beaten with Good Old Fisticuffs, then demands the triad guy's necklace. He hands it over, gets the information, then jabs him in the throat and kills him.
- Sam and Dean get into plenty of fist fights in Supernatural. These are particularly frequent in the Prison Episode "Folsom Prison Blues" (S02, Ep19).
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. While being his usual annoying omnipotent self, Q vanishes Ops so he can talk to Sisko uninterrupted.
Sisko: Bring them back, Q, now!Q: Or what? You'll thrash me? Shall we settle this mano a mano?(Suddenly Q and Sisko are dressed as 1900s bare-knuckle fighters, with everyone else as a cheering crowd)Q: Marquis of Queensberry Rules? Fisticuffs, pugilism, the manly art of self-defence. (Q hits Sisko) Come on. Isn't this all wonderfully barbaric? Go on, take a poke at me. I know that's really what you want to do. Come on. Fight back. This is supposed to be brutal.(Q punches Sisko three times in the face, then Sisko blocks his arm and pile-drives into his solar plexus. Q falls)Q: You hit me! Picard never hit me!Sisko: I'm not Picard.
- Star Trek: The Original Series featured at least one good fight scene in most episodes (usually resulting in Kirk's torn shirt).
- In Married... with Children, one episode featured the Bundy family relegated to a tiny corner of the park, because a family of rich Jerk Ass yuppies had a birthday party going on. When Al finally has enough of the extra abuse the family needlessly piled on, this memorable exchange occurred.
Yuppy Dad: That's it! I'll have you know I have a black belt in karate! *kicks at Al*Al: *catches it under his arm* Woops. Looks like I have your leg.Al punches the man straight across the chin. Cue entire Bundy family going to town on them.
- Lucien Blake from The Doctor Blake Mysteries displays some serious pugilistic talent. When he squares off against a local thug in "An Invincible Summer", he drops into a stance that shows he has had proper boxing training and takes his opponent, who is much bigger and heavier.
- Doctor Who: The Fourth Doctor favours a messy, almost playful, brawling fighting style, contrasting him with his more dignified previous incarnation who Knew Venusian Aikido, as well as with the First Doctor who had more of a public school Victorian boxer vibe. (And with the Second, who mostly just bluffed people.)
Doctor: Duggan! I think that was possibly the most important punch in history!
- In the serial "City of Death" this was Duggan's preferred method of dealing with trouble. While it gets him yelled at by the Doctor a lot, it also saved humanity from extinction (or rather, never existing in the first place) when he punched Scaroth before he could warn his past self that the spaceship was about to explode.
- In Frontier Circus, both Ben and Tony are shown to be masters of bare knuckle brawling. This trope comes into play in "The Inheritance" where Ben is able to beat a judo master with nothing but his natural pugilistic talent.
- A comedic sketch featuring the character Dennis Pennis from The Sunday Show has a British martial arts instructor presiding over a class of elegant Asian martial arts students. He demonstrates how to fight by crudely pummeling one of his students while screaming obscenities and football chants. He then explains that he doesn't want to see any "Jackie Chan bollocks," advising instead for students to windmill their arms and put their keys in their fists.
- Agent Carter: The titular Peggy Carter solves most of her problems using a combination of Good Old Fisticuffs and Improvised Weapons, in keeping with her very practical, resourceful personality. This is in contrast to Dottie, a first generation Black Widow, who is proficient in Waif-Fu, as well as to Captain America's use of Le Parkour and his trademark shield.
- In Life on Mars, when a particularly vicious argument between Gene Hunt and Sam Tyler escalates to a physical fight, Tyler gets into a karate stance, while Hung just rushes him. The fight takes place offscreen, but it's implied to have been pretty even, as afterwards they're both sat on the floor bruised and exhausted.
- The whole idea of Rock em Sock em Robots. (Robot boxers, simple, right?)
- A traditional gag in professional wrestling is to take in a known pugilist and stretch him out, to prove this trope's fallacy. Sometimes even famously trained boxers such as Muhammad Ali would be effectively grounded for the whole match, just barely avoiding pin fall till the time limit, so as not to totally destroy their credibility. As kayfabe was not only broken but all but the most intricate components of the business exposed for anyone who cares to look, use of this particular counter trope has faded somewhat, even in promotions who basically built themselves on beating anyone who decried their dojos, such as New Japan Pro-Wrestling.
- This was something Jon Moxley would often boast about to save face when he came across more fancy, flippy or simply more dexterous wrestlers with much more fineness. Even after being laughed off by NEPW of Bone Krusher Academy fame he kept running his mouth in Dragon Gate and Chikara, especially to Mike Quackenbush.
- In "The Mission" by rapper Special Ed, Ed is a secret agent who, when guns and knives prove ineffective against a "5-foot-10 Black Belt Karate master", he defeats him by fighting in "Flatbush Style".
- Professor Elemental steps into the ring in boxing gloves and his "fighting trousers" in the video for his song, "Fighting Trousers." Still wearing his trademark pith helmet and Sherlock Holmes pipe.
- James Brown's "The Payback." "I don't know karate / But I know ka-razy"
- First Edition uses the Brawl Ability to cover untrained hand-to-hand combat, while the Martial Arts Ability covers refined unarmed combat along with just about everything else. Second Edition merged them into one Ability to make room for War, leading to an odd situation where anything that could punch or kick knew Martial Arts. This includes horses.
- Second Edition has Solar Hero Style, essentially Good Old Fisticuffs the Supernatural Martial Art, eschewing the subtle metaphorical effects of other Supernatural Martial Arts in favor of just hitting things really hard.
- And this being Exalted, it takes Good Old Fisticuffs Serial Escalation. There's one Charm that allows you to punch people through walls, and one to punch them into Hell. This, unsurprisingly, hurts a great deal.
- Mildly subverted in the original DC Heroes RPG by Maifair Games and the system's reincarnation as Blood Of Heroes by Pulsar Games. The martial Arts skill could be taken as-is, or could simply be used to represent Him Fight Good - whether it's Iron Fist's intense training, or the otherwise physically slow Juggernaut's ability to hit all but the most agile of opponents with his hamfists, to use Marvel Comics examples (is that a Take That! ?).
- The Brawling skill in GURPS is for "unscientific unarmed combat". It costs less to train to a high level than skills like Karate or Boxing, but gives a smaller damage bonus. It also gives access to a different range of techniques, e.g. Brawling includes biting and eye gouging, while Karate allows jump kicks and backwards kicks, and both cover elbow and knee strikes.
- The Brawler class of Pathfinder give variety to a system where barehanded combat is often relegated to the Bare-Fisted Monk. Brawlers can utilize their unarmed strikes as well as a monk can - including the ability to use knees, elbows, headbutts, or other strikes beyond their fists - with the added bonus of being able to switch their feats and styles on the fly, making them extremely versatile.
- In Pokémon Live!, when Giovanni defeats Ash's Pikachu, Ash tries to fight Giovanni himself, with his fists. The Rocket leader responds in kind.
- This is Joker's fighting style in Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, complete with the traditional pose.
- It's his fighting style in Arkham City too. He even does a little dance. Against Batman, however, he gets floored in a few punches and then resorts to calling out 15 Mooks, a Brute with one arm who wields a sledgehammer, and of course, a Titan.
- And then STILL loses. The only reason why he isn't actually defeated is due a Diabolus ex Machina helicopter strike that buries Batman. The Joker decides to go with a knife from then on.
- Although... it's actually Clayface, not Joker, and thus, basically threw the fight, because he's nearly impossible to damage conventionally in his final boss fight without Freeze Grenades.
- Most of the combat in Zeno Clash. While some enemies use elaborate spin kicks and martial arts, Gant's unarmed fighting style essentially boils down to bashing his foes with his fists until they get dizzy, then smashing their skulls against his kneecaps.
- In The Godfather: The Game, you as Aldo Trapani don't have any fancy evasive rolls in the style of Devil May Cry-esque "Stylish Action Games", Vacuum Hurricane Kicks, wrasslin' moves or Waif-Fu-like flips a 90-pound girl might use, only simple punches, a lunging grab and maybe the occasional kick. Unfortunately, this means that you have trouble dealing with three or more enemies at once.
- Balrog is like this in the Street Fighter games, using American boxing. (Without gloves.) Unfortunately, he's handicapped as a fighter, because he can't use any kick-based moves at all. (Trying to do so in games where he's a playable character just results in a low punch; suffice to say, he's not the best fighter among the bosses.)
- Terry Bogard, protagonist of Fatal Fury is stated to use self-taught moves from years of wandering the streets of Southtown, getting in fights, and learning what worked and what didn't. That doesn't really explain how he figured out how to throw energy waves or flaming, explosive punches, though.
- In Guilty Gear, Slayer, immortal and powerful vampire, uses only his bare hands. His Insta-Kill is simply punching his opponent into another galaxy.
- Tekken has a few examples. In the first four games, the various Jacks typically have "Brute Force" listed as their only style, and since they're all gigantic robots, it only makes sense. But this trope started getting taken into overdrive with the newest games in the series; the Updated Re-release Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection introduced Lili, who is a wealthy ballerina with "street fighting" as her official style, while her actual movelist incorporates ballet and gymnastics. Miguel is later introduced in Tekken 6 as was specifically designed to be nothing but a brawler, with no combat pose to speak of and punches and kicks which seem very casually thrown with no training behind them. Finally, with Tekken 6: Bloodline Rebellion, Alisa Bosconovitch introduced into the series, who fights by detaching her own head, shooting her arms as projectiles, flying on retractable thrusters and has friggin chainsaws on each arm!
- At a meta level, you can consider fighting game players who train in arcades, repeatedly pitting themselves against targets that fight back, thus favouring Boring, but Practical jabs and bread-and-butter combos. This contrasts with fighting game players who can use the home releases' training modes to perfect their knowledge of the moves against compliant dummies. Of course, who comes up tops when they square off is not set in stone. A home player may, having explored the depths of Awesome, but Impractical, come to stand by the simple combos, while an arcade player can very well show his dominance by going flashy-like.
- In Team Fortress 2 the Heavy's default melee weapons are simply his fists. Taunting with it kills any foes in front of him instantly.
- City of Heroes has the Street Justice powerset, which is all about this kind of fighting, as opposed to Martial Arts. Both sets have their strengths over the other. In addition, City of Heroes represents this through some of the Enhancements that Natural-Origin heroes can acquire to boost their powers. In addition to the Dragon-Style martial art techniques and the Military Trainin techniques, Natural heroes could also gain Back Alley techniques, such as the Back Alley Nerve Strike's ability to increase the duration of sleep-causing powers (even if the powers themselves didn't involve physically touching an enemy.)
- Asura's Wrath: Asura's main fighting style is all about this. In contrast to Yasha's precise chops and slices, Asura mostly fights by flailing his arms wildly and punching as fast and hard as he can.
- Psychosomnium: Mitch, the only combat character in the game, has a pair of beefy fists he uses to get rid of certain nasty obstacles.
- Liquid Snake from Metal Gear Solid shows off his pugilist skills during a bout against Solid Snake. And he's not afraid to fight dirty.
- Also, the Cyborg Ninja: if Snake holsters his weapons and attacks hand-to-hand, the Ninja will pay the same respect.
- The Tales Series has many a Bare-Fisted Monk in its playable casts, but Eizen from Tales of Berseria stands out among the fist fighters with his rough style that emphasizes brute force augmented by his innate elemental powers. His first Mystic Arte, for instance, simply has him go to town on the victim with a Dempsey Roll before finishing with an uppercut, while the third has just has him slug them into the stratosphere. Being not only a Really 700 Years Old Malak with Super Strength but with a powerful curse on him that forces him to slug his way through various foes, it's not surprising he's capable of kicking all sorts of ass.
- Despite the variety of weapons in Dark Souls II , one of the most enjoyable ways to play is the embodiment of this trope and the Boxing Battler trope. The use of the Caestus in tandem with a well made character, will result in an interesting abuse of the weapon scaling system. When upgraded to +10(Normal), dual-wielded, and with a 40/40 str/dex the damage is comparable to most mega-sized weapons but with speed that rivals even the fastest weapons in the game. The hilarity and satisfaction at forgoing shields and defensive strategies in exchange for testosterone driven, head-on assaults with devastating combos in the face of the games various eldritch abominations is unparalleled. Be warned, however; playing a pugilist build will ruin the game for you forever. Once you've very literally beaten the final boss with merely your fists, little else will sate your wanton lust for punching. For bonus cool, fight bosses only to energetic 80's montage music.
- Some of the units in Totally Accurate Battle Simulator use their own fists, which they flail around in an effort to punch them much like they would with a weapon.
- The Elder Scrolls
- The series in general has this with the "Hand-to-Hand" skill. In a series with all sorts of legendarily powerful weapons floating around, getting really good at beating people up with your bare hands has its advantages.
- The skill doesn't exist in Skyrim, instead there is a perk under the Heavy Armor skill called "Fists of Steel" that improves punching while wearing heavy gauntlets, by an amount based on the gauntlets' defensive power. There is also a unique set of gloves with an enchantment that boosts punching, and they can be disenchanted so that you can put the enchantment on other things (appropriately, you can only put it on gloves, gauntlets, or rings). You can also make potions to boost your punches. And all of these bonuses stack together, so you can still deliver the pain with your fists, it just takes a bit more effort here.
- In Morrowind, Spymaster of the Blades in Morrowind and primary Quest Giver for the first act of the main quest, Caius Cosades, specializes in this. He's Playing Drunk and Obfuscating Insanity with his cover identity as a Skooma addict, which leads to him being perpetually shirtless and unarmed. However, he is quite skilled in Hand-to-Hand combat and the Unarmored fighting style, which he can train the player in.
- Doomfist of Overwatch is based around throwing really strong punches despite being in a First-Person Shooter. His only ranged attack is the Short-Range Shotgun implanted in the knuckles of his artificial left arm but to compensate he has a lot of mobility and his moves recharge much faster while letting him pull in other players "Seismic Slam" or get to places higher up and strike at airborne players ""Rising Uppercut". His Ultimate "Meteor Strike" is a just a (much) stronger version of Seismic Slam.
- The Stranger in God of War (PS4) fights exclusively with his fists and needs absolutely nothing else. He manages to give a hard time to Kratos who is armed with an magical axe, but its justified since he is a Physical God blessed (or rather cursed) with near-invulnerability and superhuman strength, giving no need to use any other weapons.
- Kratos' own unarmed fighting style typically revolves around punching as hard as he can with as little flash as possible (though he typically augments it with a weapon of some sort such as a pair of Power Fists or a shield). Like the above, he has superhuman strength and can shatter stone with his punches.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel has Angelica whose normal attacks are punches on enemies though she does have a few kicks of her own, including her S-Craft. Rean, who normally is a swordsman, can and does fight barehanded if he has no weapon available to him, shown when he has to fight someone in a Humongous Mecha with his own newly acquired Super Robot at the climax of the game.
- In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, while being an extreme Nice Guy is usually Bob's greatest strength, allowing him to attract allies and talk monsters to death, the downside seems to be that he's really pretty worthless in a fistfight.
- Jake English of Homestuck enjoys his fill of fisticuffs and old-fashioned wrestling.
- Hero Oh Hero has the main character, Burk and his Foil The Aristocrat, who both prefer fighting with their hands.
- In one episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Jake gaining a "Mustache" inexplicably gives him 1337 skills with nunchucks, but Adam counters this by challenging to a round of fisticuffs. Subverted in that neither of them actually knows what comes next.
- Hilariously happens in American Dragon: Jake Long when Fu fights a magical hairless cat for an ancient jewel. The cat starts an acrobatic martial art move she declares to have learned in the Shaolin temple. Fu slugs her with a simple punch he learned at a bar in Bronx.
- Terry McGinnis in Batman Beyond uses these over a formal karate fighting style his predecessor used having first learned to fight on the street. It later proves very useful against the Joker.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rarity - usually a prim and proper socialite and fashionista who dreads the idea of getting dirty and unladylike - has no problem putting up her dukes when the chips are down, even challenging a posse of dragons and pummeling her way through an army of changelings with her front hooves alone. Bonus points for being a unicorn, a pony race normally expected to resort to magic for this sort of thing.
- Grunkle Stan in Gravity Falls has a background as an amateur boxer and petty criminal, and tends to solve any problem he can't talk his way out of with his fists. Over the course of the series he has punched out zombies, a dinosaur and Bill Cipher.
- Wildcat in Batman: The Brave and the Bold as typified by this quote:
Everybody's got the superpowers these days. I remember when a tough jaw and a solid uppercut were all you needed to fight crime.
- The Simpsons: In the episode "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson", which features a Mob War between The Mafia and Yakuza, Fat Tony takes down a bunch of Japanese martial artists.
- The Legend of Korra: Most of the classic benders used styles based on various real world martial arts. Bolin and Mako use very stripped down arena styles that are more like a mix of professional boxing and street fighting, and beat pretty much all of them they face. Maybe not the first time they face them, though.
- Most "self defense" styles are basically Good Old Fisticuffs, avoiding flashier moves in favor of simple, "dirty" techniques designed to finish a fight quickly in realistic circumstances. Combatives taught to soldiers and police officers are also of this variety, though police officers tend to have a focus on restraining techniques. A notable example is Krav Maga, which was developed by the Israel Defense Forces. Its aim is to incapacitate whoever you're fighting as quickly as possible. That may or may not extend to killing them; stereotypically (and not entirely without merit), this most often means "kick/knee/punch them in the crotch."
- In the early days of Mixed Martial Arts, many traditional martial artists were defeated by "brawling" styles from big punchers like "Tank" Abbot, who billed himself as a "pitfighter" and had learned most of what he knew about fighting by getting into bar brawls. For a while, it wasn't uncommon to find a number of UFC fighters who admitted to starting their fighting careers on the streets rather than with a technical martial arts background. Kimbo Slice is perhaps the most famous street fighter to make it big, for a moment at least, in MMA. In modern times, however, most high-level MMA fighters have a long history of formal training in wrestling, striking and grappling arts before they reach the big leagues.
- The Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970's were known around the NHL as the "Broad Street Bullies" for their preferred method of playing hockey by way of fists and not sticks.note Although many were critical of their behavior (especially those who preferred the style and elegance of hockey and hated seeing goonish play ruin it), it did get them back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in '74 and '75.
- Chinese Martial Arts, believe it or not. Yeah, they may look all frou-frou and fancy, but when it comes to application, it's really about anything goes. Tiger Claw? Fancy name for "drive your palm into their nose/chin, and then your fingers into his eyes". Snake fist? Means poke'em in the eye. Attacks to the groin, throat and eyes are heavily emphasized, particularly in Southern Styles. Kung Fu was always a self defense thing.
- William Fairbairn was an incredibly badass Britishman and former Shanghai police office, who was called in during WWII to teach the allies how to fight during a war. While Fairbairn was a highly trained martial artist who had studied Boxing, Savate, Wrestling, Jiu-jitsu and styles of Kung Fu (one of his kung fu teachers was the close combat instructor for the Chinese Imperial Family's bodyguard), what he taught his students in the Shanghai police and Allied armies basically amounted to fighting dirty, attacking the eyes, throat and groin and stomping on felled enemies. He called it Gutterfighting, nowadays it goes by the name of Defendu.
- In general, militaries try to teach their recruits any type of hand to hand combat techniques that will end the fight as soon as possible, with their own soldiers surviving the fight.
- During an interview, Bruce Lee pointed out that 'real' fights are very brutal, finished in a couple of seconds, and the 'winner' is the person that gets the first good hit. When you realize that most martial arts are essentially about 'staying upright longer than the other guy', his words hold wisdom.
- To a certain degree, this is how karate came to be. In the 1400s', when the Japanese colonized Okinawa, the ruling sword wielding samurai confiscated from the locals any metal tool that could be used as a weapon. To keep themselves safe, the Okinawans developed a martial art they called "empty hand," since the purpose was to fight unarmed against a possibly armed enemy, which eventually evolved into karate.