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Warrior Monk
Pray they heal, rather than put you in the hospital.

He doesn't necessarily hit you with his sword arm. He hits you with his faith.
Dungeons & Dragons designer Andy Collins, on 4th Edition Paladins

The Warrior Monk is a fighter defined by his or her faith, which serves as a weapon and armor the equal of any mundane wargear. He focuses his mind with sacred chants before the battle, quotes scripture while he smashes aside infidels, strikes with absolute conviction, and fights without fear or hesitation. He is a combination of the archetype of the warrior and the archetype of the shaman. Both archetypes share the need of rites of passage.

This character is often a member of a Church Militant, be it a martial-minded sect within a larger religion or the divine army of a powerful theocracy. Other Warrior Monks have more diverse backgrounds, and could hail from actual monasteries, master-apprentice relationships, or could even be self-taught. Warrior Monks may be shining examples of a religion's ideals, or in some situations may end up fighting a Church Militant if the latter has become a Corrupt Church. Others may ignore religious politics altogether, doing more for their faith by acting as an example.

This character type has two regional variants: The Western form of Warrior Monk often turns out as a particularly devout Knight in Shining Armor, a heavily-armed and -armored crusader combining martial prowess with unmatched devotion to the ideals of the church (if not necessarily the church itself). Expect such warriors to be referred to as paladins or templars. In a fantasy setting, these Warrior Monks frequently enjoy tangible signs of their deity's favor, defensive, curative, or augmentative powers overlapping with the Combat Medic's repertoire...though they occasionally have more offensive abilities along with battle skills. Still, this fighter enjoys charging in and smiting enemies of the faith in close combat more than serving as a dedicated healer or spellcaster.

The Eastern variant is usually the stereotypical kung-fu Shaolin monk, because for some reason every Eastern religion includes martial arts as part of its teachings. This seemingly-harmless, lightly-armed traveler unexpectedly displays incredible ass-kicking abilities at the sign of trouble, then gives some words of wisdom to any survivors. Due to the differences between Western and Eastern religions, these Warrior Monks tend to be more contemplative mystics than dogmatic, crusading zealots, but are no less devout than their foreign counterparts. When it comes to an Eastern-style Warrior Monk's powers, all bets are off: they can be wielders of a Simple Staff, melee masters of Ki Attacks, or walking avatars of elemental destruction.

If their cause is worthy enough, these characters can be among the most noble heroes in the world. Other times, Warrior Monks can become self-deluded extremists who let the end justify the means. It is also important to remember that evil churches can have (un)holy warriors, too.

This character type is usually confined to medieval settings, though modern examples exist. See Badass Preacher for when a holy man takes up arms to protect his flock, and Church Militant for religions that don't shy away from violence. Can sometimes overlap with Master Swordsman. Bare-Fisted Monk is a subtrope, and is by no means confined to Western-style Warrior Monks. May have Enlightenment Superpowers. Some examples of a Warrior Monk may be encouraged by their order to be a Warrior Poet.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

Western-Style:

     Anime & Manga  

     Comic Books  

     Film  

  • The eponymous character from the movie Priest belongs to an Anglican/Catholic order with the sole purpose of ridding the world of vampires using knives and other pointy objects.

     Literature  

  • The Thirty of David Gemmells drenai series are a group of warrior monks, who spend their lives training to fight in one battle against evil were all but one of them will die. The survivor is usually sent away before the final attack or their last stand and will form the next Thirty.
  • Aramis of The Three Musketeers was studying to become a priest.
  • The Church Knights from the Elenium and Tamuli by David Eddings are an odd example. While technically orders of cloistered monks when not on the battle fields the normal rules of the clergy are relaxed for them. For example they can get married despite being clergy in an Expy of the medieval Catholic Church. What makes them really odd though is that in a world where Religion is Magic their magical powers come from the Styric Gods (and in the case of the Genedian Knights, the Troll Gods as well). It leaves them essentially straddling two religions while otherwise playing the trope (mostly) straight. Lampshaded within the books themselves when it finally dawns on them all that since 'magic' comes from gods they never really needed to go outside their own religion as the Elene god probably could have been convinced to do the same thing for them that the Styric and Troll gods do for their followers. It's concluded that the Elene god is so aloof, it's no surprise no-one thought it would be possible.
  • Joscelin Verreuil from the Kushiel's Legacy series belongs to an order called the Cassiline Brotherhood. Cassiline Brothers train for 10 years to beclome elite bodyguards who serve the royal family. All members swear allegiance to the Precepts of Cassiel which include celibacy.
  • In some of the Robin Hood stories/ballads, Friar Tuck is an accomplished swordsman and archer, and when he isn't he can usually hold his own with his fists or a staff.
  • In the Emberverse, the Monks of Mt. Angel become this after the Change. Notable in that it is not only a conscious shift from a more traditional monk to Warrior Monk, but that they also Lampshade it very often.
  • The Acts of Caine
    • The Monastics are warriors, diplomats and assassins with high-end somatocommand skills. The 'religion' part seems almost tacked on.
    • The Priests of Khryl (and Knights of Khryl) are the Knight in Shining Armor variant of this trope and devotion to their god has its benefits. Khryl is a god of war.
  • The Abellican Church from R. A. Salvatore's Demon Wars saga has very strong martial traditions (the only warrior able to consistently best elf-trained swordsmen is an Abellican monk, albeit an evil one), though not all Abellican clergy follow that path.
  • Archbishop Turpin in the medieval Chanson de Roland.
  • The Five Ancestors
  • The villain of Ivanhoe is a literal Knight Templar as well as an example of the trope.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a few:
    • Thoros of Myr is a red monk of the fire god R'hllor as well as a fearsome fighter. He has overthrown many a man in a melee with his flaming sword and was famously the first warrior over the wall during the seige of Pyke. He lapsed in his faith for some time until early in the series, when he experiences a re-awakening.
    • The Drowned Men are holy men of the Drowned God who are expected to take up driftwood cudgels and kick ass for the faith when heathens are about.
  • In Anathem, the avout, who are monks of science, logic and philosophy, have an order of the Ringing Vale, who specialize in the science of combat.
  • Thraxas runs into two groups of warrior monks, unsurprisingly in Thraxas and the Warrior Monks.
  • In Elantris all clergy of the Derethi religion are trained in monastaries where they learn combat skills, among other things. This is taken to its most extreme by Wyrn's favorite enforcers, the Monks of Dakhor, who use a combination of Body Horror and Blood Magic in tandem with fighting skills to make them so dangerous that opponents of the Derethi sometimes call them demons.
  • North from Of Fear and Faith, who is very upfront about his faith in a world where almost no one believes in God anymore. He often prays before and after battle, and always prays for the souls of those who died in battle, whether they were his allies or enemies.

     Live Action TV  

  • Series 5 of the new series of Doctor Who has a religious order of Clerics, who judging by the titles they hold appear to be members of a variant of Anglicanism. Refreshingly for a warrior monk order from the far future, they wear practical camouflage combat gear instead of anything overtly religious or ornate.
    • It's an unusual version where The Reveal is that the soldiers are priests, rather than that the priests are soldiers.
  • The Rangers in Babylon 5 might almost count as warrior monks.

     Tabletop Games  
  • Warhammer 40,000 has several. Although the Ecclesiarchy is a Chruch Militant that mostly restricts itself to preaching and keeping the whole Imperium fanatical, some of priests and drill-abbots actually go into the field and handle some military duties alongside the Imperial Guard, some Inquisitorial cells, and most notably the Sisters of Battle, who are technically a group of client institutions of the Ecclesiarchy.
    • While the Adepta Sororitas has many orders dedicated to medicine, diplomacy, and scholarly pursuits; it the Orders Militant, better known as Sisters of Battle, that really play this trope straight.
    • In terms of individual Space Marines Chapters, they have something of a sliding scale of this trope. Most Chapters are essentially monastic and militant brotherhoods, and have their members doing little more than sleeping, eating, praying, and drilling for most of their members not at war; and are prone to shouting out mantras, litanies, invocations, and other Imperial catchphrases in the middle of battle.
      • The Black Templars, rather unsubtly, play this trope completely straight, since they're a notoriously devout and furiously puritanical chapter. They draw many elements and inspiration from the Teutonic Knights and the Knights Templar.
      • The Dark Angels and successor chapters, however play this trope just a little less unsubtly, as they are essentially Arthurian knightly orders. However, they seem less monastic than the Black Templars, who's source of inspiration were founded on religious grounds.
    • And of course, since dark deities also occasionally flirt with this trope, darkly devout Chaos Space Marine chapters and warbands fit. Also, Grey Knights are the only faction that has never had an example of anybody turning over to Chaos, so their ranks will inevitably include some Ecclesiarchy priests and the odd Adepta Sororitas elements. Most notable is the Word Bearers legion, who are arguably the ones ultimately responsible for the state the galaxy is in, who were the first Crusaders of Chaos, who opened the way to Chaos worship for every other Imperial faction, and of course remain to be Its most fanatical followers.
    • And finally, Space Marine Chaplains and Dark Apostles are the spiritual leaders within Space Marine Chapters and Traitor Legions. These guys are fanatical and charismatic to the point that they become spiritual leaders of good and evil orders of Warrior Monks, which is impressive in itself.
  • Warhammer also gives us the Warrior-Priests of Sigmar who like to bash stuff with big hammers. Followers of Ulric are similar, but favor axes. There are also Bretonnian Questing and Grail Knights, and some Chaos warlords qualify as evil versions of this trope.
  • Paladins and clerics in Dungeons & Dragons, along with avengers and invokers from the new edition. There's a monk class as well, but oddly, it has significantly less religious content than the above classes. (But although the monk class is mostly a another name for a ninja, it too has some notion of a pseudo-Buddhist spiritual path.)
  • Magic: The Gathering has Rhox War Monk, alias Pancake Flipper.

     Video Games  

  • Paladins in the Warcraft universe.
    • In World of Warcraft some variations apply:
    • Alliance paladins play it straight - they gain they powers (either defence, healing or ass-kicking) from their faith in Light. Draenei paladins actually have encountered the Naaru, who are Crystal Jigsaw Angels.
    • Blood elves put a twist: playable paladins were initially forcefully sapping their powers from the captured Naaru, resulting in their skills being a bit Darker and Edgier. Then the antagonistic blood elves stole their Naaru and continued to drain powers from him in their favour. Playable elves found that they still had their powers - it was The Plan on part of the Naaru to open them to a true Light. Their skills became more in-line with the Alliance versions, though they still had their specific mount.
    • Cataclysm adds tauren paladins into the mix, who, in line with their Nature Hero tendencies, get their powers from the Sun.
    • This also applies to a certain extent to Druids and Shamans, who are fuelled by their respective spiritual or religious organisations and who are fully capable of bringing the hurt up close and personal. This, however, is not as clear an example:
      • Druids shapeshift to fight, rather than relying on armour and weapons.
      • Shamans do not belong to a specific religious organisation but rather follow the spirits of the land directly.
    • And, of course, the upcoming Monk class.
  • Priests (and maybe nuns) trained by the Order of Saint Lennox in Open Blue, owing to the fact that most of them are sent off as chaplains aboard Avelian warships and thus, need to know how to defend themselves during battles with pirates. And the Order served as Avelia's Spanish Inquisition. v5 adds the Order of Saint Clara, which trains nuns to fight against The Legions of Hell and black magic, and the Order of Saint Micaela which, while specialising in exorcism, nevertheless trains its nuns in hand to hand combat, because the world in general is just dangerous.
  • Sci-fi variant: the Aeon military in Supreme Commander, complete with three known ranks being Knight, Templar, and Crusader. Their leader is called the Avatar of War.
  • The "Holy Warrior" from GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy.
  • Ky Kiske of Guilty Gear.
  • Any tanker in Lineage2 is aligned with the god of their race, Shillien Knight/Templar is worship Shillen, while Eva Knight/Templar is favored by Eva. The exceptions being Human knights, both Paladin/Phoenix Knight and Dark Avenger has no deity, since Grand Kain is considered the Dark God of Destruction.
  • In Sonny, near the end of the first game, Sonny and Veradux run into a Palladin on a mission, and in the second game meet a cult that has these as soldiers.
  • The hammer-wielding, heavily armored Omniknight from Dota 2 fights for the service of "the Omniscience".
  • The eponymous E.Y.E. of E.Ψ.Ǝ.: Divine Cybermancy are described as psi-cybernetic warrior monks. Interestingly, while they all follow the western form of this trope (being armor clad and fighting with guns, Psychic Powers and cybernetics rather than martial arts), they are split into two factions because of resource shortages. While there are few other differences between them, the Culter Dei (player's faction) wear medieval European style armor, while the Jian Shang Di wear armor reminiscent of samurai or ninja. Additionally, rather than being part of a church, they are the militant arm of a group of megacorporations and their main purpose is to fight the Metastreumonic Force, with no mention of any gods. Naturally, the whole setting is heavily inspired by Warhammer 40,000.


Eastern-Style:

     Anime & Manga  

  • The Warrior Priest of the Ishval religion in Fullmetal Alchemist.
  • While not actual monks, in Eyeshield 21, the students of Shinryuuji High School (Shinryuuji means Temple of the Dragon God) are encouraged to invoke this trope, often meditating and reciting Buddhist scriptures. Also subverted since we're often reminded that underneath their stern personas, they're really just your typical girl-crazy teenage boys.
  • Sanzo from Saiyuki is a perfect example.
  • Anji Yukyuzan from Rurouni Kenshin is a fallen Buddhist priest, endowed with phoenomenal strength. He usually fights unarmed, though he carries around a shortsword resembling a buddhist prayer tool.
  • One Piece has Urouge, a pirate modelled after the typical japanese warrior monk, along with his crew.
  • Benkei Musashibou from New Getter Robo is a monk who started fighting the Oni out of necessity. Even when piloting a giant robot, he still recites Buddhist prayers as a form of attack-calling.

     Comic Books  

  • The Kyoto and Nara sohei from Shi are based on the Buddhist warrior-monks of Japanese history (see "Real Life" below), but Buddhism rarely seems to come up and they act more like ninja. Interestingly, protagonist Ana Ishikawa's internal struggle to balance her sohei training and her grandfather's shaping of her into a tool of vengeance with her devout Catholicism makes her the straightest example of this trope in the comic.

     Film  

    Folklore 
  • Musashibō Benkei was a sōhei (see below) who was an important figure in the legend of the Samurai warlord Minamoto no Yoshitsune; he was Yoshitsune's retainer and trusted friend, often depicted as a man of great strength and Undying Loyalty.

     Literature  

     Live Action TV  

  • Shaolin Monks appear as one of the contenders on Deadliest Warrior vs. the Maori. They win, handily.
  • The evil monks in the Doctor Who episode "Tooth and Claw" were martial artists. Which was a bit out of place given that they were 19th century Scots.
  • Kwai Chang Caine, Kung Fu.
  • In the Chinese Paladin series, the monks of Mt. Shu are this, dedicated to exterminating evil and aiding the just and innocent. They also have a demon-expelling mantra that doubles handily as a Badass Creed. Mo Yixi and the Sword Saint from the original series, and Xu Chanqing from the sequel are primary examples.

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • The Monk class in Final Fantasy.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic has monks who fire energy balls and later call down meteors. The exception was the two first games, but even they had religious figures in hooded robes that throw energy balls. They just happened to be called druids instead of monks.
  • The "Martial Artist" from GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy.
  • Sohei warrior monks are recruitable in both Shogun: Total War games. In the second game, they are the specialty of the Uesugi clan. The Ikko-Ikki also use the Sohei as a special unit.
  • Mortal Kombat gives us Liu Kang and Kung Lao. They even got a spinoff called Shaolin Monks.
  • The Order of Biron in Legend of Legaia is a monastic order of Eastern-style Warrior Monks, combining spiritual teachings with martial arts training. Gala, one of your party members, is a member of the order at the beginning of the game. Unlike many examples of this trope, he wields axes, clubs, and maces.
  • The Monk role in NetHack is a mystic martial arts expert who maintains rigorous spiritual conduct (ideally, though not always in practice.)

     Western Animation  


Other:

     Comic Books 

     Film  

  • Jedi Knights from Star Wars combine Western chivalry and swordsmanship with Eastern mysticism and acrobatics.

     Literature  

  • The members of the eponymous organization of Special Circumstances come from a wide range of religions, both Western and Eastern varieties, each having their faith an integral part of their offensive and defensive capabilities.
  • Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara makes reference to a temple full of Shaolin Acrocanthosaurus.
  • The sfvantskors, warrior-mystics of the Old Faith from The Chathrand Voyages are basically what you'd get if you mixed Eastern-style ninjas, shaolin monks, and Western-style paladins. They have a well-earned reputation for being some of the most Badass warriors in their world. Neda Pathkendle, also known as Neda Phoenix-Flame, sister of the main protagonist, is one.

     Tabletop Games  

     Video Games  

  • The Fire Emblem series has tons of these. In some games you can promote the previously helpless Cerics into Badass [Ax Crazy Ax weilding] men of faith. Then there's the former dragon Gotoh, who gave men the gift of magic (from Shadow Dragon and Mystery of the Emblem) , Celica, one of two protagonists of Gaiden, Frost from Shin Monsho no Nazo, and Jodel from Binding Blade just to name a few.
  • Mass Effect 2 adds not one but two Warrior Monks to Commander Shepard's team. First is Samara, a member of a very rare sect of asari warriors who swear off having family or possessions beyond weapons and armor, and follow a strict Code which obligates them to protect the innocent and stop lawbreakers. Samara at one point compares herself to a Knight Errant or a samurai.
    • On a more informal level, meanwhile, there is Thane Krios, a drell assassin and devout polytheist who kills people he believes deserve to die in an effort to make the galaxy a better place. Best illustrated in his first lines:
      Thane: Prayers for the wicked should never be forsaken.
      Shepard: Do you really think she deserves it?
      Thane: Not for her. For me.
    • Neither of these are straightforwardly "holy" characters. Samara's Code takes a very hardline stance toward crime, and though she's capable of finessing situations to keep from being forced to take unnecessary action, she makes it clear that this only goes so far. Thane's religion, meanwhile, takes the concept of a soul separate from the body a step or two beyond human faiths, to the point that he makes a clear distinction between acts of his own personal volition and acts that are performed solely by his body (for example, in the service of others, a mindset doubtless informed by the fact that he was raised as an assassin from the age of six) - he holds himself no more responsible for the latter than he would consider a gun to blame for shooting someone, a philosophy that would probably make prosecuting a drell serial killer a real headache.
  • The Paladins from The Battle For Wesnoth are described directly as 'warrior monks' in the in-game description. While mainly Western-style, the no-religion-in-Wesnoth rule dictates that they gain their power not from any divine source, but from adherence to the philosophy of good itself. Although they are not as tough than their more mundane counterparts, the Grand Knights, they are faster, have basic healing abilities and are wield an Arcane-power infused attack that makes them extremely effective in combating Undead entities.
  • The Pax Dei, the military forces of the Order of the New Dawn, from Ground Control is an army composed of warrior monks in a Sci-Fi setting, from the lowliest Crusader (a basic infantryman) to a Volans (heavy Hover Tank) pilot to a Paladin (an autonomously operating general). They don't have any special personal powers, but they do have heavy weapons and war machines, and plenty of Applied Phlebotinum.
  • Might and Magic 7 has a monk class that is a combination of the Shaolin and Western style of monk, with magic for good measure.
  • Dungeon Keeper 2 features monks that are look like the traditional plump, brown-robed European friars, but possess the hand-to-hand fighting skills of Shaolin monks. As did the prequel's, though they focused more on healing and spellcasting (everybody in the prequel did more spellcasting).
  • The Monk class in Ragnarok Online is a cross of East and West—kung-fu with distinct Catholic motifs.
  • Sulik from Fallout 2 is a somewhat strange warrior who is guided by the spirits, if the Chosen One is a Good Karma character he can join his party. He gives spirtual advice for each location in the game.
  • Majesty features Monks trained at the temple of Dauros, the God of Law, who are a mashup of both varieties; they specialise in hand-to-hand combat that apparently draws from Kung-Fu, but their aesthetic is decidedly Catholic, including something very like Gregorian chanting being audible from the temple when at least one monk is resting there.
    • The Paladins, also made available by building a Temple to Dauros, are rather obviously based on Joan of Arc.

     Web Comics  

  • An example of a kung-fu nun, Chen-Chen in Harkovast has incredible abilities relating to her martial arts training she received as a member of a religious order.

  • In The Order of the Stick, Miko Miyazaki and the rest of the Azurite Paladins of the Sapphire Guard are Western-style Paladins from an Eastern-inspired civilization who call themselves Samurai. Miko further complicates matters by having levels in the actual Monk class.

     Western Animation  

  • The Kids Next Door could fit this trope to a certain degree, though they're modeled mostly as a military organization, the kids that join them are generally taught and trained to fight to protect kids and their rights from evil, and do whatever is associated with achieveing that goal. And KND Operatives, for the most part, have an ingrained determination to fight for that cause while never giving it up. Those traits give the KND much in common with warrior monks. Essentially they're taught to fight for an ideal, though not political or religious, has been what kept the KND together and what might be the cause of how it's an organization that's been around since the 19th century.


     Real Life 

  • Bishops and other clergy often fought in The Crusades. It's widely believed that clerical law against spilling blood forced them to use blunt weapons such as maces, but this is a myth. There are a number of medieval illustrations of clerics using edged weapons, for instance, in the Rolandslied of Conrad the Priest, c. 1170.
  • The Sohei of Japan and the original Shaolin monks are obvious historical Eastern variants. Famous warlord Uesugi Kenshin became a monk of the Buddhist god Bishamonten, and is depicted as His devout follower in both Samurai Warriors and Sengoku Basara.
    • Much the same in Korea, where, during wartime, Buddhist monks often furnished a large number of fighters, either for government armies, or as volunteers fighting on their own against aggressors. During the 16th century Japanese invasion of Korea, this led to occasional battles where combatants on both sides were Buddhist monks.
  • As Western examples, crusading orders such as The Knights Hospitallers and The Knights Templar, as well as organizations such as the Teutonic Knights or Norse War Clerics. How holy these warriors were depends on how favorably you view their actions and members..
  • On the Islamic side, ghazis and some orders of dervishes would also qualify to varying degrees. Most of the key religious figures in Islam including their founding fathers were warriors or commanders because the political situation of the time demanded it.
  • In the 1380 CE Battle of Kulikovo, both Russian and an unspecified Tatar Khanate's armies put forth a champion to decide the outcome without actually fighting. The Tatar champion was Temir-murza and the Russian, the warrior monk Alexander Peresvet. Unfortunately, the two killed each other in the first round and an all-out battle still took place.
  • Military chaplains are considered non-combatants, but carry a side arm and are often present in combat operations.
  • Sikhs could be considered a mild example, as a part of the purpose of carrying a Kirpan is to prevent violence against the innocent when all else fails.
  • Joan of Arc was a chaste maiden dedicated to the church, and could qualify. (Though, she more technically could be classified as a Warrior Nun.)
  • The Shaolin Monks.
  • Clergymen provided a surprising number of guerrilla fighters during World War II, particularly in the Balkans. Some of these zig-zagged this trope by having abandoned religion and joined communist guerrilla forces (e.g. in Tito's army), even though many still performed religious roles vis-a-vis civilian populations in the areas they controlled.


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