Heroes Fight Barehanded

And you call yourself the God of War?

Many times, heroes have to face their enemies in battle. They can have access to a vast variety of weapons, from swords to axes to staves to knives. However, sometimes the hero will take a third option and fight with his own hands.

Sometimes is because the character is a Bare-Fisted Monk who uses martial arts, or perhaps doesn't like weapons or killing. Sometimes it's because the character is so damn strong that he doesn't need weapons at all. Often it represents a very blunt, straightforward personality. If the main hero travels with his friends expect his lancer or Big Guy to use weapons instead, to make the contrast clear. This can also be played with the unarmed hero and the weapon-using villain.

Attacking them with weapons is usually a bad idea.

See also: Bare-Fisted Monk, Technical Pacifist and Doesn't Like Guns.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Inverted in Bleach, as Ichigo swings around his massive Big Fancy Sword while one of his friends, Chad, fights unarmed. Ok, with Power Fist for hands but still unarmed.
    • Played straight in the original pilot chapter, where Ichigo insults Rukia for using a sword to fight instead of her hands.
  • The Celestial Zone: Averted; a sure-fire sign that a character has reached a high level of spiritual cultivation in The Celestial Zone is when they are capable of manifesting their spiritual energy as a physical weapon, and their most powerful techniques are all executed with their spirit weapon in hand. Though the trope is played straight most of the time otherwise, as characters capable of generating spirit weapons but chose to fight bare-handed are generally holding back.
  • Natsu from Fairy Tail, contrasting Erza, Gajeel and Gray, who all use weaponry of some sort.
  • Kenshiro himself in Fist of the North Star as well as almost all the other characters, except Mamiya and Jagi, the former due to not being formally trained in one of the Fantastic Fighting Styles of the series, and the latter due to being a Dirty Coward willing to stoop to any tactics to win.
  • Subverted in Gamaran: the main character is a swordsman, and at one point he fights the Kyosen Ryuu warriors, whose martial arts revolves on bare-handed combat.
  • Sechs from Gunnm went from fighting with a combination of brutish Panzer Kunst, Sechster Angriff, and the Solenoid Quench Gun to mostly just punching, because he no longer has the Quench gun, and normally immediately loses his Titan Blade in fights.
  • Hero Tales: played straigth with the bare-handed hero Taito/Hagun who fights the sword-wielding villain Keirou/Tonrou with nothing but his bare hands.
  • Shichika, the protagonist of Katanagatari, is a swordsman who doesn't use swords. Don't think about it too hard. Technically he isn't a swordsman, he is a sword. He is the culmination of seven generations of training and mental conditioning to raise a warrior whose very body is a weapon.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple (which anyway gives more emphasis on weaponless fighting) there is an example with two groups of evil martial artists: it has been implied several times that the members of the weapon division of Yami are inferior both in fighting skills and fighting ethics to the weaponless Yami fighters. Many weaponless Yami masters tend to be more anti-villains, while the weaponed Yami masters are usually presented as ruthless hoodlums.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid: Main characters Vivio and Einhart both use bare-handed martial arts as their fighting style. In fact, they're some of the few characters in the setting whose Device isn't a weapon of some kind.
  • Negi Springfield of Mahou Sensei Negima! slowly phases out his weapons after he gets a ring to serve the same purpose as his staff.
  • In Naruto the titular hero heavely relies on Taijutsu, contrasting Sasuke who prefers to use a lightning-enchanted katana. On a similar note we have Tsunade versus Orochimaru (uses the Kusanagi sword) and the Raikage compared to his brother Kirabi.
  • In One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy is incapable of fighting with the use of weapons, but his barehanded fighting prowess is so much so that he has been labelled a fighting genius.
  • Ratman: Some heroes don't use weapons even if their budget could let them. On the other-hand, some have powers to supplement them.
  • Inverted in Rurouni Kenshin: The Hero Kenshin is a swordsman, though he uses a blunt blade, while The Lancer Sanosuke focuses on barehanded fighting after discarding his Zanmato.
  • Played with in 3×3 Eyes. Yakumo has to win a kickboxing match against an opponent with a highly superior fighting technique and he can't use magic because of all the muggles betting on the fight. So he purposely requests a barehanded kickboxing match without boxing gloves, so he and his opponent will get hurt more, so he can win in the long run due to his healing factor. Otherwise, this trope is inverted: Yakumo can fight barehanded but is not shy about using hidden blades, swords and whatever he can pick up for a fight. The Dragon Benares instead always fight barehanded (sometimes turning his fingers into claws, but still) or with his Summon Magic.
  • Saint Seiya: While some saints does have some sort of weaponry with them, most of them fights barehanded. Usually most of the Big Bad here have weapons of sort.
  • Seikesshou Albatross: Yuki, being trained in martial arts by his mother, fights this way against Monobiles. It also helps that he got power from a sacred stone, the Flame Isotope.
    • He later receives a sword from Albatross which he can channel the power through and fights with it; he becomes more of a Heroes Prefer Swords person.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear has Hibiki, the series' main protagonist and the only one who doesn't use an armed gear. She spends a fair amount of the first season lamenting the fact that she can't summon one (by all rights, her Gungnir relic should provide her with a spear). Then she realizes that her hands are her armed gear and starts to like the idea of being weaponless because it means she can hold people's hands. That said, she doesn't play this completely straight thanks to her gauntlets.
  • Ichise from Texhnolyze, mainly because he's a prize fighter. He does get a sword later on.
  • The titular characters of Tiger & Bunny. Given that the show is about american-style superheroes, this makes sense.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Zig-Zagged. The main protagonists fight bare-handed or with their Kagune, with their CCG foes armed with Quinques and/or guns equipped with anti-ghoul rounds. However, in addition to the moral ambiguity above, there are many less-than-heroic ghouls and investigators who also fight without/with weapons respectively, and later in the series we see ghouls using guns.
  • Toriko fights with his bare hands, although he can also manifest a knife and fork to attack stronger enemies with.
  • Elemental Hero Neos, from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. He may be the most popular, powerful, and heroic of Judai/Jaden's monsters.
  • In Yu Gi Oh Zexal, the Barian emperor Alito uses Boxer themed cards (Burning Knucklers or Battlin' Boxers), exhibits himself great boxing skills, and in his past life, was known to be one of the greatest gladiators of all time, fighting only with his fists. It helps that he becomes Yuma's Friendly Enemy and is seen as an all-around good person.

    Comic Books 
  • Most of the Marvel/DC Comics heroes.
    • Notable exceptions include Tim Drake and Dick Grayson of DC, both former Robins who now fight crime as Red Robin and Nightwing respectively. Tim uses a Bo staff and Dick a pair of Escrima sticks, presumably because their focus on agility over strength compared to other barefist DC fighters means the weapons give them the 'kick' they need.
    • Other notable Marvel/DC heroes who use weapons are Thor, who wields Mjolnir, Katana, who weilds a Katana, and Bucky Cap, who uses a pistol. Many of Thor's warriors buddies like Valkyrie and Lady Sif will frequently use weapon, and Wonder Woman breaking out her sword is a sign that things are about as real as they can get without occurring directly opposite you.
  • Marv from Sin City has a gun which he named Gladys but mostly just uses his "mitts". Considering his brutish strength, it makes sense.
  • Action Comics had... uh... fist air fight: Supermobile.
  • The Phantom often sees the nominal Non-Powered Costumed Hero non-lethally disarm his foes via Improbable Aiming Skills. However, he's more likely to leave his pistols in their holsters and fight bare-fisted because, in the words of the strip's creator Lee Falk "that's how heroes fight".

    Films — Animated 
  • Seen in Kung Fu Panda 2: Po and the Furious Five are all unarmed kung fu fighters (though Monkey sometimes use a staff), while the Big Bad Lord Shen carries around a flame-like partisan and tons of daggers, and all his henchmen are heavily armed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Rundown: The main character refuses to use guns, and to beat the shit out of everyone around him, even when it would easier to bust caps in asses... well, until the end. Lamp Shaded when he say "When I pick up guns, bad things happen."
  • Subverted with Raiders of the Lost Ark: After beating the asses of several opponents, Indy is sick of fighting. So when another opponent steps up with swords, Indy just pulls a revolver on him.
  • Inverted in The Raid: The hero has no qualms about using a knife and baton to stab and beat the shit out of mooks, while The Dragon deliberately puts down his gun before going hand-to-hand with Sergeant Rock.

  • In The Fifth Elephant Captain Carrot faces the Nazi-esque Wolfgang disarmed, giving him a chance to fight dirty. Furthermore Carrot, despite owning a Cool Ancient Absurdly Sharp Blade prefers to use his bare hands (capable of demolishing trolls) in many situations. Not mentioning his unearthly charisma.
    • Subverted by Carrot's boss, Vimes, who carries a sword and a crossbow but prefers to take his enemies alive, and is therefore more likely to attack with his fists — and a hidden set of brass knuckles, which very few of his opponents see coming.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu.
  • Eliot from Leverage prefers to fight bare-fisted or using an object as a club, even when faced with guns. He constantly says he Doesn't Like Guns, thinking they're too sloppy.
    • That doesn't mean he doesn't know how to use them.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • In Blue Dragon the only good guy with a sword is Zola but she's The Lancer.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII you can have a barehanded hero and armed party members, but in this way you miss the chance of using powerful and useful weapons. You can however learn how to cast Razor Wind.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series you can make a hero who fights barehanded. Though Skyrim makes it much harder, as there are very few and limited options to get better at it.
  • Can be played straight in Final Fantasy I with a Monk/Master as the main character. The fact that he's also unearthly powerful helps a lot.
  • In a similar way, in Final Fantasy II you can focus on the barehanded fight and obtain good results.
  • Tifa Lockhart of Final Fantasy VII, though some of her gloves include Wolverine Claws.
  • Zell Dincht of Final Fantasy VIII.
  • Snow in Final Fantasy XIII has no weapon and battles monsters using only his fists. And he talks about being "a hero" all the time... at least until his Character Development kicks in.
  • Inverted in The Legend of Dragoon: Dart has a sword, and The Lancer (sort of) Haschel fights without weapons.
  • Vhaidra from Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 can be this if you play as her. You can still give her halberds and staves but her unarmed fight skills are faster and stronger.
  • In Zeno Clash, most of the combat's done with fists, apart from the occasional shooting level.
  • In Sengoku Basara 3 Tokugawa Ieyasu can be considered the main protagonist and fights bare-handed (so he too can feel pain), contrasting with his rival Ishida Mitsunari, an Iaijutsu Practitioner.
  • In Disgaea 2, Adell finds weapons just not [his] style, and fights barehanded (though he can be given any weapon in gameplay, he's just not too good with them, suffering slow skill gain).
  • Mario is not exactly reliant on an specialized combat style, but some games, especially Super Smash Bros., show him to be a force to be reckoned with.
  • Mortal Kombat: Liu Kang, for the most part relies only on his martial arts skill to deal with opponents. In contrast, his best friend Kung Lao is very skilled with his razor-rimmed hat.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, despite owning at least two swords, Finn usually fights with his bare hands.