Our Kickstarter campaign has received $74,000 from over 2,000 backers! TV Tropes 2.0 is coming. There is no stopping it now. We have 4 days left. At $75K we can also develop an API and at $100K the tropes web series will be produced. View the project here and discuss here.
Ranma ½ is likely the Trope Maker, certainly the Trope Codifier, and the list of just how many different styles that the anime alone named is ridiculous. Most, but not all, are based specifically on one of the many strange competitions they have. But yes, it does include Martial Arts Calligraphy in a filler episode. In general, you have "serious" ones (that is, ones where the contestants actually aim to hurt each other), and "contest" ones (martial arts that tend to be goofy even by this series' standards).
On the serious side, we have these gems...
Martial Arts Cookery: though never explictly named, there are implied to be quite a few of these in the world of Ranma ½. UkyōKuonji, one of the main characters, practices a variant revolving around okonomiyaki, and in the late manga we are introduced to a childhood rival who practices a variant involving takoyaki. An anime episode has Ukyō fight a practioner of Martial Arts Crepe Cookery, and the episode ends with the implication of Martial Arts Sushi/Sashimi Cookery.
Good Old Days Martial Arts: an anime-only martial art that involves using old-time toys (trading cards, tops, marbles, hackey-sacks, thread, etc.) as deadly weapons.
Martial Arts Calligraphy: while the combatants do aim simply to be the first one to draw a certain kanji/hiragana symbol, they are also allowed to beat the snot out of each other with letter openers, paper weights, ink, paper and calligraphy brushes the size of quarterstaves. An apparently lost variant allows the practitioner to draw special designs on a person's body that can manipulate their internal ki — the only example we're shown, the Mark of the Gods, is a goofy smiley face on the belly that amplifies the subject's skill something like tenfold.
Martial Arts Figure Skating: teams of two in extravagant costumes zipping around on an ice-skating rink and beating the living tar out of each other. This one is actually very dangerous, and the story arc involving it features arguably the most violent fights of the series. After all, you are fighting with the equivalent of daggers strapped to their feet, and over a hard, rough, icy surface.
Martial Arts Tea Ceremony: uses items from tea ceremony, including stirring sticks, spoons and tea whisks as weapons. Combatants must fight from the formal kneeling position — the trained practitioner can zip around in this pose as though they were standing, thanks to their strengthened toes, and even climb, hang upside down from the ceiling, and jump.
Martial Arts Rhythmic Gymnastics: implicitly a girls-only style (explicitly stated to be so in an anime filler episode involving an attempt to create a men's version), combatants use gymnastic props to beat on each other. Oddly enough, Ryōga knows this art well enough to teach it to Akane.
Martial Arts Cheerleading: another "girls only" style, Martial Arts Cheerleaders attempt to bolster their team through a mixture of cheering on their own teammates and beating up the opposing team, usually with very flashy moves.
Martial Arts Takeout Delivery: combatants race to be the first to deliver their takeout to the delivery place, beating up anyone who tries to oppose them. The only rule is that their own delivery item survive unscathed. (Anime-only; the manga version of the storyline features Shampoo in the role of Kaori and makes no reference to a Martial Arts School centering around the delivery.)
Bathhouse Fu: an anime style (though hinted at by Happōsai in an early story common to both canons), this fighting style is amphibious in base (combatants attack both from under water and on the surface) and uses items from around the bathhouse, like towels and pails, as weapons.
Martial Arts Shogi: the most ridiculous of the serious styles, combatants dress up in shogi piece costumes and adhere strictly to the actual rules of the shogi piece they are ranked. What keeps this from being a hokey style is the fact that they do legitimately try to pulverize the other team.
There're actually more serious Martial Arts and Crafts in Ranma ½ than there are joke ones… which is kind of worrying.
Martial Arts Dining: this style gives a whole new meaning to "food fight". The objective is to be the first one to clear all of the many plates of food you're given — and, for an extra twist, you must be incredibly neat about it. As in, you can't be seen to actually eat the food — if you're spotted, you get an extra plate as a penalty. As a result of centuries of adherence to these insane rules, practitioners have faces that they can warp and stretch like silly putty, as well as super-speed hand-strikes. Swallowing watermelons whole, picking a sweet from the top of one's own head with one's tongue and then swallowing it, all of these are possible. Ranma, unable to actually develop sufficient speed to compete, instead attempts to master an ancient and dangerous strategy known as the "Parlay du Fois Gras", where one's food is stuffed into the opponent's mouth (much like geese are force-fed to make fois gras) in an attempt to cause a jam and thus, a forfeit. The "dangerous" part comes from the fact that devoted users tend to starve to death.
Martial Arts Watermelon/Carry The Snowman Race: two different versions of a contest, one for beaches, one for mountains, and both essentially based on the Smashing Watermelons game. With a watermelon/miniature snowman in one hand and a bokken in the other, race for the finish line while smashing the items carried by the other racers and avoid getting your own smashed.
Martial Arts Pingpong/Badminton: just like the ordinary game... only the balls that the fighters bat back and forth can contain all sorts of booby traps, like exploding in a shower of glue.
There was also a Martial Arts Marriage Contest,\ in the second movie.
It also seems that every mundane task in The Verse gets not only a martial art, but specific fighting moves in Anything Goes. Crouch of the Wild Tiger, anyone?
It must be noted that, although the Finishing Attacks of each school do indeed fit the theme indicated by the name, most of the actual fighting in the series, no matter the formal school used, boils down to confusing the enemy to the point where they can't defend themselves against that finishing attack. Bo-bobo at one point laments that, aside from a basic hand chop and the "confuse them" strategy, he really only has a single special attack.
Every school club in Futaba-kun Change! seems to have a martial art based upon whatever the club's focus is. Including martial arts calligraphy.
The chainsaw-fu that protagonist Fumio in Saitama Chainsaw Shoujo uses on her classmates was originally meant to aid her when she inherited her grandfather's lumber company.
The Naruto filler brings us Ninja Chefs and Ninja Postmen. Self-explanatory, really.
In canon, they have Ninja Medics (though for the most part these are simply combat medics in a ninja organization, they also have ninja-based healing techniques and some also have ways to using their medical techniques to fight), Ninja Puppeteers, and at least one Ninja Painter.
As a variation, in Lone Wolf and Cub, one story deals with a samurai postman messenger.
Love Hina has an episode where Makoto and Kaolla are, in one scene, using Makoto's sword skills to make statues out of logs so people will pay for the "show". Makoto lampshades this by noting how the sacred art that was passed to her by her family has been reduced to cheap entertainment.
One Piece features plenty weird martial arts, some of them derived from mundane activities.
Sanji has to fight a batshit insane "noodle martial artist", who uses noodles as weapons — including firing noodle darts through his nose or creating giant noodle tentacles. Sanji uses his own Chef of Iron training to beat him.
Kill la Kill practically runs on this. If it can be a school club then expect super powered martial arts. Tennis, band, gardening, sewing... someone has found a way to kick your ass with it.
MAD had a reportage from the noble martial art of "House-Fu", where you use household items in combat. And the combat is assumed to take place in the kitchen.
Raphael using Chinese Butterfly Knives to trim a Christmas tree. This scene made it into the 2000s TMNT cartoon.
A long-running cartoon in British newsmagazine Private Eye was The Cloggies, an Oop North morris-dancing team who elevated traditional northern English clog-dance to the status of a lethal martial art, frequently winning dances by three groinings and a right uppercut. Eventually collected in comic-book form detailing the lives and times of northern folk. Homaged by Terry Pratchett as the Lancre morrismen (see below).
"The prostitutes in Ninja Village are also ninjas! That's why we call them Ninja Prostitutes"
Films — Animation
Parodied, of course, by Kung Fu Panda's "Martial Arts Picking Up a Dumpling with Chopsticks" training scene.
And in the holiday special, the Furious Five and Po use their mastery of kung fu to...cook and serve a fancy dinner?
Films — Live-Action
In The Long Kiss Goodnight, the protagonist become really good in the kitchen shortly after a car-crash. She thinks her memories are starting to return after six years of amnesia, and that her great skill with knives mean she used to be a chef. She's right about the first part.
Shaolin Soccer is centered on this trope. Stephen Chow's character believes that martial arts can be used for every day tasks. To promote the usefulness of kung fu, his ragtag group of former shaolin monks use their kung fu superpowers to play soccer. We also see kung fu used to trim trees, park cars, and fetch objects from high shelves. Tai Chi is also used to cook.
Stephen Chow's earlier film God of Cookery featured Shaolin-style cooking, complete with an over-the-top martial arts contest.
In Hero, one's skill in swordsmanship directly crosses over into skill at calligraphy. Nameless studies Broken Sword's calligraphy to get a better impression of his warrior skills. This is actually a reference to some Samurai beliefs — the way you hold a brush and the way you hold a sword have a symbolic relationship.
In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon one of the protagonists comments on the princess' calligraphy skills, comparing it to swordplay. She tries to act dumb, but her secret is clearly out. Tiny anvils begin to rain as she goes on to comment on how her name looks like "sword".
Almost anywhere you find a training scene in an old kung fu movie there's likely to be something like this — the 'student learns some kind of Everyday Skill Fu and eventually gets bored of it, protests to the master and is finally shown what the meaning is' routine. Some examples are Jackie Chan learning Martial Arts Walnut Cracking in the original Drunken Master, Chin Kar Lok being taught Noodle Cooking Fu by Lau Kar Leung in Operation Scorpio, and Austin Wei in Shaw Bros' classic Five Superfighters unknowingly being taught Kung Fu Labouring.
The Karate Kid has the infamous "Wax On, Wax Off", not to mention "paint the fence", "paint the house" and "sand the deck". Nothing for Crane Kick, except getting free pizza from the delivery guy. Another example of kung fu healing.
Everything is kung fu.
The Next Karate Kid included the 'Kata Waltz'.
Gymkata featured the deadly combination of ninjitsu and... gymnastics. It also completely fails at both. To be fair, pommel-horse fu is scary... if you're within two and a half feet of a pommel horse.
Dreadnaught, a 1981 Hong Kong film directed by Yuen Woo Ping, may prove to be the Trope Codifier. This martial arts comedy (with dashes of horror) contains all of the following kung-fu applications: Medical treatment, Lion Dancing, being fitted for a custom-made suit, and a kung-fu serial killer using Chinese Opera motifs. But the biggest example from this movie is Yuen Biao's character, whose family's unorthodox laundry methods turns out to be the fabled Eagle Claw. He didn't even know it was Kung Fu until Master Wong Fei Hung saw him using it, and he ended up using it to defend himself against the aforementioned serial killer. Chris O'Donnell's laundry scene in Batman Forever is a shot-for-shot homage of Yuen Biao doing his laundry work in this movie.
Bloodsport — From Muy Thai and Sumo to Karate and Jungle Style fighting
In Thief of Time, Lu-Tze dismissively describes tung-pi as "bad-tempered flower arranging".
Making Money has a brief demonstration of sloshi, Martial Arts Clowning, in which ballistic pie throwing, "battle-planking" and lethal balloon animals all feature.
A throwaway one-liner in some supplementary material indicates that in the Discworld's equivalent of Wales, "choral singing has been elevated to the level of a martial art".
Lords and Ladies has a group of Morris Dancers who manage to fight off attacking Elves with their dance routine. Wintersmith reveals that this is in fact what Morris dancing (and its secret midwinter Shadow Archetype, the Dark Morris) was originally designed for.
Deconstructed in the Age of Discovery trilogy by Michael Stackpole and done entirely seriously. A true Martial Artist may achieve true magic and potential immortality by completely mastering his style. But then again, so can a basket-weaver once he completely masters basket-weaving.
Ambient magic in Circle of Magic books is this trope. Ambient magic is when people have magic that reacts to certain activities — such as gardening, metalworking, dancing, making clothes, you name it. Anything to do with that activity, that ambient mage draws power from it. Most of the time, ambient mages just work away at their own crafts, but when you get in a fight... well, just watch out, okay?
In Catching Fire, book two of The Hunger Games, Katniss theorizes that the reason why District 12 tributes do so poorly in the Hunger Games is that the people living there don't learn their district's trade of mining until they become an adult and are finally safe from being picked as tributes. Meanwhile, children from other districts learn their districts' trades while as children, and are able to apply what they learn to combat settings. This trope applies to to Katniss herself, as her archery skills work equally well for both killing animals for food and killing human opponents.
A variation appears in an episode of Sliders on a world where they have "seers" for every imaginable field — medical work, law enforcement, even politics. (But presumably not gambling.)
The Goodies episode "Kung Fu Kapers" featured the Lancashire martial art of Ecky-Thump, which consisted of hitting people with black puddings.
John Belushi's famous series of Samurai sketches on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s, in which he portrayed a samurai running various mundane businesses (Delicatessen, Tailor, Hotel, Bakery, etc.) and speaking only (fake) Japanese.
The hired goons of the various gangs in Kaiketsu Zubat always specialized in a particular skill which they also used as a fighting style. They always considered themselves the best, but Ken Hayakawa would prove that they were only #2 in Japan.
A major feature of Risus. Players are encouraged to invent ways to use inappropriate skills in combat (but only if it's funny). Using an inappropriate skill successfully deals three times as much damage as normal. The text example is a ninja evening the odds against a hungry monster by presenting it with a poisonous souffle.
Among the many martial arts presented by this Tabletop RPG, there's "Dreaming Pearl Courtesan Style" for fighting while being refined and social, "Citrine Poxes of Contagion Style" for fighting with medicine and poisons, and "Prismatic Arrangement of Creation Style" for combining sorcery and martial arts. "Laughing Wounds Style" includes fetish gear as a form armour, and uses whips and chains as a form weapon. Popular among lesbian stripper ninjas, as is Pearl Courtesan. Let's not even mention some of the fanmade Martial Arts.
And of course Second Edition canonised Martial Arts Sailors (Seafaring Hero Style), Martial Arts Orgies (Orgiastic Fugitive Style) and even Martial Arts Psychiatrists (Border of Kaleidoscopic Logic Style, one of the most powerful in the game).
The Quicksilver Hand of Dreams Style, which involves the manipulation of dreams and imagination and the imposition of same upon concrete reality, and the Obsidian Shards of Infinity Style, which can best be summed up as Martial Arts Parallel Universes.
Parodied in Ninja Burger, where characters use their ninja skills for fast food delivery, losing honor if they're seen or late. Their slogan? "Guaranteed delivery in 30 minutes or less, or we commit seppuku!"
In D&D versions 2 and up you can really get creative if you felt like it. This troper remembers making an elf fighter who carried a big ass sword... and never used it for anything other then intimidation. Instead, he specialized in the simple throwing dart as his weapon of choice and had the non-weapon proficiency "wild fighting". Imagine a pointy-eared Conan dropping his sword and throwing darts at people. When your 7 or so darts per attack deal 1d3+2 damage (and HP in the second edition was not as padded as in its future incarnations), landing even 2-3 of those darts could seriously mess someone up.
In the 3rd and 4th editions there were a handful of feats: weapon proficiency, exotic weapon proficiency, etc. that allowed you to specialize in virtually any "weapon" of your choosing that your GM would allow. My buddy told me how a GM let his kid brother quite literally specialize in using armor as a weapon, as he smacked enemies around using a suit of enchanted armor stuck on a training dummy. Picking the right feats and mixing and matching your class/prestige classes in 3rd edition, or the right powers & parargon paths in 4th edition, can lead to unique styles. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Yomi, a card game, is based around a Olympic-style martial arts tournament. While some of the characters the players can use make sense to be in a martial arts tournament, four other characters make less sense — Jefferson DeGrey, Ghostly Diplomat; Max Geiger, Precise Watchmaker (actually something of a Time Master); Valerie Rose, Manic Painter; and Lum Bam-Foo, Gambling Panda. For some precision, DeGrey seems to be spicing up his martial arts with some debating, Geiger with time control, Valerie Rose has the most common Martial Arts Painting, and Lum Bam Foo spices things up with Martial Arts GAMBLING. (Complete with coin throwing.)
Fruit Ninja, well, the title says it all, really. The game is about using your cool katana to chop up fruit.
In Dwarf Fortress, civilian miners can be drafted into the military in an emergency, and are actually quite useful. The game uses their (quickly trained) mining skill instead of a weapon skill, their attributes are often much higher than your slower-working carpenters and masons, and pickaxes are fearsome organ-lacerating weapons.
The same goes for your woodcutters; they use battle axes to chop down trees. Tree trunks, legs... not a huge difference, right?
In No More Heroes, the story revolves around climbing the ranks to become the Number 1 Assassin. The problem is there are many characters, and none of them are an Assassin in any sense of the word. They clash giant, loud lightsabers, pilot giant robots, launch very illegal fireworks, and act like loud lunatics with random weapons.
Implied in the bio of highly skilled Swordfighter Lon'Qu in Fire Emblem Awakening where the random fact listed at the end is that he's the "deftest potato peeler".
Parodied also in Web ComicSam and Fuzzy, which has the Ninja Mafia (black suits, ties, ninja masks), who were exactly what they sound like: organized crime, complete with protection rackets, run by ninjas (sort of). The Ninja Mafia broke up into a variety of mercenary and other groups when their emperor and ruling council were slain, including one bunch who formed their own Ninja Burger franchise, though that was more like a ninja-themed McDonald's. They are, by the way, far and away not the most absurd element of this comic. That honor probably has to go to the competing gerbil-run organized crime syndicate.
No, that honor has to go to the obsessed vampire who turns people he bites into werewolves.
No, that honor has to go to the sociopathic teddy bear Played for Laughs. NMS, by the way, has ninja bookkeepers. Not just bookkeepers who are ninja, but people trained in the art of ninja bookkeeping. Both bookkeeping with ninja skills, and keeping ninja books. *stage whisper*: They really only call it that to make the extremely elderly bookkeepers feel better about not reliably being Badass Great-Great-Grandparents.*/stage whisper*
Oddly, this plays into a real life example, with Ninja New York, an actual ninja-themed restaurant in which your servers will appear from nowhere, and you might just get assassinated.
Played with in The Order of the Stick, where a waitress, upon sneaking up on her customers and startling one, admits that she's waiting tables to pay for ninja school.
The original GBA version of Rhythm Heaven had a calligrapher who did his strokes with the power of a martial artist, complete with kiai calls on the power strokes you were supposed to press A on.
In The Weather Channel Goes the Way of MTV from Hitherby Dragons, there are weather ninjas that dress up in costumes with the weather forecast on them. Accordingly, we have martial arts like the invincible TORNADO WARNING fist and the FLOOD ALERT style.
Chaka, at Super Hero School Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe, has the superpower of Ki control, and has invented new Martial Arts and Crafts at the drop of a shuriken. When given detention, she invented (on the fly) martial arts mopping (instant cleaning by attuning her Ki with the mop), martial arts linen folding, martial arts grime scrubbing... She has used her martial arts skills for healing problems beyond medicine, like Doctor Heavy's inability to turn off his local 8-G gravity field (she turned it into a local 0-G field by accident). And she has developed all kinds of martial arts weapons for herself, including sewing needles, forks, playing cards...
Fighters High sports this as an essential part of the eponymous school's culture. Within the first 10 minutes of the first episode, we've seen the school's cook face off against a student, blasting him into a wall using a fireball generated via spatula.
In the first episode of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, the turtles walk through the "ninja district" of the city and, after finding their original destination (Ninja Pizza), see signs for Ninja-run dry cleaning, shoe repair, video rentals and dentists. At said Ninja Pizza, the food is thrown like shuriken at the customers (and either you catch it or it ends up all over you).
(a ninja throws a dagger with a piece of paper at the Turtles' table, landing smack in the middle; Raphael picks it up) Leonardo: What is it, a threatening note? Raphael: Worse than that... it's the check!
Spongebob Squarepants: In one episode, it is revealed that SpongeBob is nigh-obsessed with karate, driving his boss Krabs to nearly fire him from his frycook job due to the fact this obsession is interfering with his work... until he realizes that SpongeBob's karate can also be used to mass-produce burgers and to put on a very entertaining show for customers.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the various bending techniques are shown to have various practical applications. These range everywhere from the sensible (i.e. using firebending to set stoke a boiler, earthbending for stonemasonry, and waterbending to propel river boats) to the somewhat ridiculous, but still very effective (i.e. using earthbending to send mail).
There's this one guy in "The Desert" who uses his dual dao swords to prepare soft drinks.
When there wasn't anyone to spy on or assassinate, the ninja worked as gardeners.
After Tokugawa Ieyasu became shogun (and started the centuries of seclusion) the ninjas of the time found their job opportunities, i.e. assassinations, were running out. The shogun, not wanting a bunch of well-trained killers angry at him, made a large chunk of them into his personal spy network, answering only to him and the Emperor of Japan. To hide their real job they often worked as carpenters and gardeners in the homes of their lords.
Traditional samurai martial arts included not only a variety of fighting styles, but every necessary skill for a soldier, split up into different techniques or jutsu. This meant a well-trained warrior knew, besides the better-known jujutsu (unarmed technique) and kenjutsu (sword technique), things like suijutsu("swimming in armour technique") and kajutsu("burning down peasant huts technique"). All of these are still taught by a few hardcore traditionalist schools, although one wonders how they practice arson at the dojo.
Probably with Rebuilding Jutsu so they can perform arson again and again for practice.
The ubiquitous "dragon dance" seen at Chinese New Year — and so damn many movies — is a form in Kung-Fu.
Most of the "Animal Style" Kung Fu traditions have a legend about their founder watching some animal in its natural habitat doing what comes naturally. These masters are then struck with inspiration and found a new tradition of martial arts based on the natural flow found in the animal's movements.
Another view is that some wise old master looked at the beauty of nature & said to themselves "I could really mess someone up with that."
A third point of view is that the monks were getting fat and lazy, so they said, hey animals are never fat, if we copy their moves, maybe we could drop 30 pounds.
Yet another view is that the Kung Fu styles actually came first and it was the animals that copied the monks.
A lot of weapons started out as agricultural and gardening tools including scythes, flails, and even kunai! In fact, the French Revolution was mostly fought with farming equipment.
In fact, save for obvious exceptions such as swords and certain types of firearms (e.g. machine guns and artillery), most weapons have legitimate civilian uses. The spear and bow were originally hunting tools, for example, and axes and hammers were and still are construction tools. Even those types of weapon mentioned do have legitimate uses, for example, using cannons as avalanche control devices. It's just that those uses are much harder to find.
And of course, a sword is just a knife long enough to be impractical for daily use as a tool. Gunpowder was the result of Taoist alchemists looking for an elixir of immortality, and most small arms have legitimate civilian uses including hunting (muskets, rifles, shotguns) and defending oneself against illegitimate civilian uses (e.g. shotguns, handguns). Also, gunpowder and dynamite (and plastified explosives in modern times) were extensively used for mining and industrial demolition. A great many battles have also been fought with hunting guns—the sharpshooter units of many European armies are called "hunters" (chasseurs in French, Jägers in German, snipers in Englishnote After a type of bird, the snipe, that is notoriously difficult to stalk — and yes, it really does exist) because that was what they did for a living in peacetime.
A 10-people building deconstruction firm in New York specialised in doing their job with Karate.