I Know Karate
aka: I Know Kung Fu
A scene in which a martial artist warns an antagonist that he knows martial arts before kicking the guy's ass. Bonus points for the martial artist assuming an outlandish Ass Kicking Pose
beforehand. The antagonist will always laugh off the warnings and be defeated in humiliating fashion
. If the martial artist's skills turn out not
to be effective, it's probably an example of I Know Kung-Faux
. These scenes were popular when martial arts films
started getting attention in the west. The martial artist will almost always study an Asian style, but the trope can still hold true with any named system of self-defence.
This trope is the inversion of Good Old Fisticuffs
, in which an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy
gets defeated by plain, no-nonsense asskicking (for bonus points, this happens before he's finished boasting
It's pretty much a Dead Horse Trope
now that Asian martial arts films and choreography have reached a saturation point in western culture. Ironically, the trope might have come full circle due to the rising popularity of Mixed Martial Arts
over most classic Asian martial arts styles.
You might be looking for Suddenly Always Knew That
, which used to be called
"I Know Kung Fu".
Anime and Manga
- Subverted in Gate Keepers anime: Kageyama Reiji did this complete with throwing his jacket to the air for a good montage, even without the lines. When the jacket drops back on his hand, the thugs seemed to be hurt, until he himself collapsed. Though, he's actually the Big Bad, but a Dangerously Genre Savvy one trying to achieve a Villain with Good Publicity status.
- In Pre Crisis Superman comics, it was established that Krypton had martial arts. Faora of the Phantom Zone knew Horo-Kanu, with which she was able to knock Superman around pretty effectively. And Lois studied the art of Klurkor in the bottle city of Kandor, and got to use it from time to time.
- Jose Carioca once tried to scare a bunch of criminals by claiming to be a good capoeira fighter, only to learn one of the criminals was a master of that art. He then claimed to know karate and was told another crimimal of the bunch was a black belt.
- A Kim Possible fan fiction inverted this, playing out an alternative to one episode where the large football player was warned that the ninja knew martial arts. The martial artist naturally won. In the fan fiction though, it was turned around with the football player being a boxer, and succeeding.
- Subverted in The Return of Sherlock Holmes: Holmes warns the bruiser, "I know judo." The bruiser knew karate - and knew it better than Holmes did judo.
- Subverted in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka when the group's martial arts expert is surrounded by cops he says something along the lines of "You dare to challenge me?" "A master of karate, kung fu, jujitsu and all this other shit you've never heard of?" "Ha ha ha!" The cops respond by opening fire on him.
- And again later, when one of the heroes and bad guys square off against one another minus their guns, one of them hesitates and says, "I don't know any kung fu!" "Neither do I," says the other. "Want to fake it?" They then do just that.
- Parodied and subverted in Romeo Must Die when big black gangster Maurice corners small Chinese man Han. Maurice does the crane stance because "Now, you know you ain't the only one that knows some shit," and Han (or as we call him, Jet Li, the last person in the world who'd be impressed by the crane stance) immediately kicks out Maurice's supporting knee.
- That guy with the glasses in The Devil's Brigade, which he apparently wears only so he can have The Glasses Come Off.
- In The Film of the Series of Wild Wild West, a Mook attempts to intimidate Will Smith with a series of moves he "learnt from a Chinaman". Smith then whacks him with a shovel; "I just made that up".
- This memorable exchange in Foxy Brown:
Bobbie: Listen skinny, before you start talking tough, I'd better warn you I've got a black belt in karate. So why don't you get out of here quietly, while you still got some teeth left in that ugly face?
[Foxy knocks her down with a barstool]
Foxy Brown: And I've got my black belt in barstools!
- In the film adaptation of Rising Sun, a bouncer warns Sean Connery that he's a black belt. Connery takes him out with a throat strike.
- Roger Moore (As Himself) attempts to threaten a thug like this in The Cannonball Run, saying: "I must warn you, I am Roger Moore" before trying an obviously fake martial arts move much like the ones he was using in his Bond movies. It fails to work.
- In Dutch, an adolescent warns Dutch that he's a "high brown belt," then proceeds to kick his ass. Later, Dutch tries to pit his self-described "all-American streetfighting" against the kid's martial arts and loses again. He does, however, teach the kid how to throw a wicked haymaker.
- Parodied in One Crazy Summer.
Cassandra:First, you have to get through me.
Kent:What do you know? Karate?
Cassandra:I know Dow.
Kent:Dow? What's Dow?
Cassandra:Dow is the chemical company that makes mace.
She pulls out a can of mace and sprays them.
- In The Matrix, Neo proclaims "I know kung-fu" after he has martial arts abilities uploaded into his brain. This is more a boast than a threat though.
- In Torrente: El brazo tonto de la ley, Malaguita claims to be a film-level martial artist and does some random Capoeira stunts to prove it, in reference to Only the Strong.
- In the 1996 remake of The Nutty Professor, Reggie Warrington, the Insult Comic, attempt this on Buddy Love who heckled him one too many times, but Buddy anticipates his pathetic attempts to whip out his "streets skills" and Curb Stomps him.
- Armageddon Trilogy book by Robert Rankin. This exact line is said repeatedly by Elvis (yes, that Elvis). In the books Elvis constantly makes reference to his character from the movie Roustabout, in which he knew Karate (it goes with the 'sickle)
- Also, subverted by the phrase "I must warn you that I am an exponent of Dimac, the world's most lethal martial art, and can maim or disfigure you with the mere pressure of a fingertip", because this phrase always causes the opponent to back down. Inevitably.
- It's worth noting that in real life, Elvis was an 8th degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.
- Subverted at one point with Spenser. He is questioning a female gay rights activist, and the activist bristles when Spenser inevitably goes into Sarcasm Mode. Her (also female) bodyguard decides the interrogation has gone on long enough and tells Spenser to back off or she'll use her karate to "kick his nuts into his ass". He tells her to come on, then she kicks him in the balls. She is about to attempt using martial arts on him, but Spenser is able to fight through the pain and proceeds to drop her with one punch. After she regains consciousness he instructs her on how a kick to the balls are all well and good, but if the big guy you're fighting has enough of a weight-and-strength advantage over you (and Spenser towered over her), and knows how to fight himself (Spenser really, really does), all the kicks and martial arts in the world will not help you.
- There's another moment in Stardust when a guy he's interviewing gets pissed, and has his bodyguard put on a wondrous display of karate skill by beating the hell out of a heavy bag, in order to intimidate Spenser into backing down. Spenser pulls out a revolver and shoots the bag.
- Sir Rodney from The Wizard of Id once tried to use this trope by telling a larger attacker that he had a black belt. Turned out the guy had the black suspenders.
- In one of Tyler Perry's Madea plays, one character tells Madea that she knows Tae-Bo. Unimpressed, Madea responds "And I know 'whup-your-ass!'"
- Parodied in Space Quest 5: The Next Mutation, where Roger Wilco warns the Big Bad "I know Kung Fu, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and several other Chinese words!"
- Kim Possible knows sixteen styles apparently... Mantis not so much.
- An episode of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? has Shaggy and Scooby trying to bluff a Chinese ghost with the line "I know judo, chop suey, and Chinese checkers!" This being Shaggy and Scooby we're talking about, they later escape from the ghost's henchmen by serving them chocolate chop suey (with liver a la mode).
- Subverted in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, where Cindy is captured and subsequently manipulated by Eustace Strych despite having yelled "I Know Karate"!
- In an episode of The Flintstones, Fred tries this line, only for his opponent to go, "Who is that?" before beating him up.
- Jade in Jackie Chan Adventures threatened a bully with the 'ancient art of butt whoop'. Considering she's the niece of Jackie Chan, you can guess how this ends up.
- She gets into trouble for thoroughly beating up the bully, who later comes back asking her to teach him. Instead, she teaches him self-control (something she herself lacks), and he is later shown breaking up a fight.
- In an episode of Garfield and Friends, Garfield unwittingly angered a bunch of dogs and tried to discourage them from harming him by telling several lies. One of them was that cats knew karate. It didn't work.
- In a Garfield strip, a mailman says this to Garfield. Garfield beats him up and notes: "And I know fast and furious."
- Garfield's Feline Fantasies featured Garfield fantasizing he was in an adventure movie, including a scene where he and the villain threaten each other:
: I would like you to meet my associate
, Rameet. He doesn't smoke, drink, eat or sleep. He's been trained in the martial arts, you know. Judo, karate, tae kwan do, jujitsu, and machete-eating
Lance Sterling (Garfield)
: Big deal. This is my
associate, Slobberjob (Odie)
. He doesn't think. He's been trained in macrame, bansai, origami
, and he's nearly housebroken.
- Punkin Puss And Mushmouse: Mushmouse once practiced Judo with a dummy and then tried to fight Punkin Puss and warned him about knowing judo. However, as Punkin Puss explained after defeating Mushmouse, he wasn't a dummy.
- In the Donkey Kong Jr. segments of Saturday Supercade, when Junior's human partner Bones is cornered by the bad guys he will often claim to know karate in order to try and fight them off, the villains never fall for and Junior usually saves him before he can do anything.
- In one episode of Johnny Bravo, Johnny went out with The President's Daughter, who later got tired of Johnny's ignorance of American heritage and called for two bodyguards to get rid of him. Johnny reacts by stating he's a black belt, but the two guys know at least a dozen forms of martial arts, beat him up, and stuff him in a box under the Pentagon.
- Subverted in Avatar The Last Airbender when Wan Shi Tong, chasing down Katara and Aang, tells her that Resistance Is Futile, because he is a master of Southern Water Tribe style, Northern Water Tribe style, and even Foggy Swamp style water bending. And then Sokka falls from above whalloping him in the head with a heavy book.