"I bet I can take you both with my hands tied behind my back!"
So you've captured the hero, and have him at your mercy, but don't kill him
just yet. So tie the guy up and leave him
, he'll be harmless for now, right?
Wrong! What Were You Thinking?
Most heroes are so Bad Ass
that they can outfight your Mooks
even while they're physically restricted. Their hands might be tied, but they can still kick. Chained down, they can still dodge. Shackle two together
and you'll just have Back-to-Back Badasses
. Plus the odds are pretty good that they'll make clever use
of their binding, as garottes, club, or flails — see Handy Cuffs
. And also that they'll be Breaking the Bonds
In some modern works, this is parodied by having the characters willingly
impose a handicap to make things "fairer" for the enemies. The hero will make some Badass Boast
to "fight you with one hand tied behind my back!" (or even both
hands) and the villain will take him up on it thinking he's crazy. Maybe he is crazy, or maybe he isn't
, and the villain will be in for a very
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Anime & Manga
- Though he's not technically tied, the effect is much like it: in the Land of Waves arc of Naruto, both of Zabuza's arms have been crippled during his fight with Kakashi, such that he can't move them at all any more. When Gatō shows up with an army of mercenaries to kill both Zabuza and Naruto's team, Zabuza, bolstered by Naruto's speech about Haku's devotion, chews through the wrap over his mouth and asks Naruto for a kunai. He proceeds to grab it with his teeth and murder his way through Gatō's army with it until he reaches the man himself and takes his head.
- Deidara, too, gets one arm crushed and the other blown into an alternate dimension... and still fends off four ninja. Later, he tries to strangle Tobi with his legs.
- Danzo can only use one of his arms to full functionality (most of the time), but still manages to kill a 17-man team of assassins. One particularly memorable part was when he took out the first wave of them, and when the second came he used the head one of the first wave who survived his attack as a sword holster so he would have a free arm to use the guy's body as a human shield.
- Dragon Ball Z subverts this at the beginning of Goku's fight with Frieza. Frieza initially offers to fight Goku without the use of his hands. By the end of the episode he finds himself forced to break his pledge to counter an attack by Goku. Goku offers him a chance to try again, but Frieza refuses.
- Frieza was more successful when he took on Nail with one hand behind his back.
- Later on, near the start of the Buu Saga, Trunks made a bet with Goten that he could beat him using only one arm. He couldn't.
- Vegetto makes a similar bluff to Super Buu, which is part of a larger plan to simply annoy him so much that he'll try to absorb Vegetto, allowing him to rescue the others Buu has absorbed. This is also why you might find Vegetto's fighting style includes a lot of kicking in the videogames.
- Before the Z, at the climax of the initial Demon King Piccolo storyline in Dragon Ball, Piccolo gets Goku to stand and take his long distance attacks by threatening to kill Tenshinhan. Goku had already had one leg broken at this point, and Piccolo uses the circumstances to break Goku's other leg and one of his arms before taking off to finish Goku with death from above. Goku manages to use that one working arm tou counterattack, punching a hole through King Piccolo.
- Earlier, right before the climax of the Red Ribbon storyline, the Red Ribbon Army newest mercenary assassin Tao Pai Pai combined this with the Worf Effect by fighting and killing a soldier who had nearly killed Goku... By using his tongue. Witnesses are obviously spooked...
- When Goku and Piccolo fight in the 23rd Budokai, Piccolo gets Goku with a lucky shot then breaks each of Goku's arms and legs, remembering what happened to his previous incarnation. Then he unleashes a blast that apparently vaporizes the hero...but it turns out Goku learned how to fly during the Time Skip, and uses the momentum to knock Piccolo out of the ring, winning the match.
- The titular character of Rurouni Kenshin has at one point had his hands tied to a tree.
- Mukuro from YuYu Hakusho manages to become a demon king despite having her hands in shackles for centuries. Huh?
- Face it, she's just that Bad Ass.
- In the manga, she does not have her hands shackled together. She can be clearly seen with her hands at her sides in several scenes, such as when she strips naked and reveals her true form to Hiei, or when she sends him flying with one hand in a chapter not adapted into the anime.
- In Eyeshield 21, Hiruma plays the second half of the game with the Hakushuu Dinosaurs with a broken right arm. Keep in mind that he's a quarterback (the position which throws the ball) A month later, at the Christmas Bowl, it still hasn't exactly healed, so he'll have to keep off it... causing the star running back of the opponents, the Teikoku Alexanders, to say he'll also play without using his right arm. And while this ultimately turns out to have been a ploy by Hiruma so the Alexanders would underestimate him, Yamato keeps using only one arm until he's forced to do otherwise, to show he doesn't need to try to kick ass.
- In one episode of Vision of Escaflowne, Van got himself tied with his hands up. He pulled the one of his guards' sword from the scabbard with his legs, throwing it so it would cut the rope he was tied with, and then proceeded to off the soldiers aroung in industrial quantities.
- Ranma ½: Kodachi tried to hinder Ranma's agility by shackling her to Akane's pet piglet P-chan. It backfired spectacularly since it provided Ranma with a piggy-shaped flail.
- She might have assumed Ranma wouldn't want to hurt the cute innocent widdle pig. "Pig is VALID weapon...." Cue the squealing....
- Near the end of the manga, Ranma's hands and arms were held in place and encased in nigh-indestructible crystal, product of Saffron's metamorphosis. He was still able to fight almost to his full abilities, even wielding the spear-like Gekkaja with his toes and cut a giant Phoenix statue's neck in half that way.
- Ranma actually does a lot of things with his toes in the manga, one chapter had him hanging from a rope with his arms bound by the aforementioned rope while going up against the Principal, using his toes to maneuver himself and kicking.
- Badou Nails from Dogs: Bullets & Carnage once gunned down several people while his arms were tied behind the back of a chair.
- Happens with Okoi in Basilisk. Despite being tied to a pole, she starts draining Rousai's blood when he touches her. She further traps him between her legs when he tries to retaliate, and finally kills him by draining all his blood.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist ch 105, Wrath loses both his arms, but still manages to stab Scar by holding a sword in his teeth.
- During One Piece's Fishman Island arc, Luffy manages to beat down Vander Decken with both his arms and legs tied together.
- Before that, Big Bad Hody Jones wipes out a whole pirate crew (Albiet underwater where fish-men have an advantage, and pumped up on stimulants) with his hands shackled together. One pirate realizes that the handcuffs are to show just how outmatched the crew is compared to Hody.
- The first episode of Code:Breaker has Sakura kicking a couple of gang members while bound.
- Black*Star thinks he can do this to make his fight with Patti 'fairer'. Trouble is, he gets someone to tie his hands after their match has started...allowing Patti to do a Groin Attack that wins her the match straight away.
- In a Story Arc that takes place over a few issues of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, Snake-Eyes's wrists are manacled together with a long chain, which is then thrown over a hook a few feet up a stone wall. He manages to feign death by slowing his heartbeat — which of course annoys the would-be torturer enough that he lets his guard down — steal a poker from the torturer, leap up to the hook, pry it free of the wall using the poker, and then use the chain to steal a sword from a guard. At that point, it's all over.
- In a variant used in an early Captain America story, Cap once got his hands untied, but his feet were still bound together. Even so, he was doing well fighting a small army of goons under that circumstance to the point when he got his legs free, the crooks know they were now really in trouble.
- Doomsday, only partially out of the super-strength straitjacket he'd been buried in for millennia, manages to decimate the Justice League literally with one hand tied.
- When Gambit is captured along with the other X-Men in mutant-enslaving Genosha and is hanging by his shackled arms, he deliberately allows himself to be impaled with a steel spike— which he works out, drops and catches it between his feet, then with his feet over his head picks an electronic lock and frees himself.
- In another story, a totally immobilised Gambit takes down the guy who has him bound by spitting chewing gum in his face. Chewing gum that promptly explodes like a grenade thanks to Gambit's mutant powers.
- Hawkeye in "Ultimates" continuity. They should have taken his fingernails.
- Black Widow in the "Ultimates" continuity. Bonus points that not only was she bound at the hands and feet, she was hung upside-down from a ceiling. She manages to dispatch several of her captors nonetheless. When one pulls a pistol and aims it at her, she shoots him a "I'm upside down, tied- and you need a gun? How pathetic are you?" look.
- In one issue of Cable & Deadpool, Deadpool and Weasel play on this trope by kidnapping a bunch of high-ups from the military, etc., who might need to hire a mercenary, then showing them that Deadpool can beat the Taskmaster with his wrists and ankles manacled. It backfires, though - the military types already knew how good Deadpool was, but they won't hire him because he's too unstable. Also: Weasel lost the key to the handcuffs. Oh dears.
- At one point during the Dark Reign-era Thunderbolts, Mr. X riles Headsman into fighting him, and nearly kills him with both hands behind his back.
- In one issue of Superman/Batman, Lois Lane makes up for years of helplessness when she's about to be burned at the stake by a bunch of loonies who think Supes is a god. Still tied, she breaks off the stake, knocks a guy out with it and threatens to break his neck with her bare feet unless they release her. It's the timely arrival of Batman which scares them off moments later, but still.
- One Star Wars comic showed a young Ki-Adi-Mundi tracking down a group of bandits on his homeworld. Being a young and brash man, he boasted that he could beat the leader with his hands tied behind his back. So she takes him up on it, and Reality Ensues.
- The Infinity Gauntlet. Captain America is stuck up to his ankles in pavement and still faces down the God-Level Thanos. He gets his shield shattered and smacked to death but still...
- The Punisher once shot a guy with his hands tied behind his back. In the head. With the gun upside down.
Film — Animated
- In Disney's Peter Pan, during the climax, Peter fights Captain Hook with one hand behind his back.
- In Quest for Camelot, Kaylee kicks the feet out from under one of Ruber's mooks and drops him through the floor while tied up.
Film — Live Action
- Pirates of the Caribbean has an early scene where Jack Sparrow engages in a daring escape and sword fight while his hands are shackled. At one point he fights while one hand is stuck to a moving cogwheel. In the second movie, he doesn't do much fighting, but he still manages to pull off quite a lot of crazy stuff while tied to a pole.
- Jack actually wanted to be shackled, just so he could escape (first thing he did was use them to hold Elizabeth in front of him so he wouldn't get shot. Second thing was to use them as a pulley to slide down a rope). As soon as they got the cuffs on him, he says "Finally".
- The film of Charlie's Angels had Drew Barrymore's character fight off a group of minions while tied to a chair. Why didn't they simply grab her from the back?
- Done beautifully in a deleted scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park in which Roland picks a fight with a womanizing man who harasses one of the waitresses at the bar/restaurant they are both at. The man sizes up Roland, then boasts he could beat Roland with one hand behind his back. Cut to Roland having a hand tied behind his own back, then as the other man attempts to correct Roland's "mistake", gets punched out, slammed into a table and a pole or two, then has his nose broken by Roland's single hand crushing it with his index and middle fingers.
- Jackie Chan, in Rush Hour, had a nice battle with both his hands cuffed to a (removed) steering wheel. He also manages to go over a twelve-foot wall with his hands still chained. The post-movie blooper reel has a screamingly funny outtake of the wall climb...
- Only one hand was cuffed to the steering wheel, which just made it an unusual weapon/thing to try and conceal.
- Not the first time he's done this either. In Who Am I?, he escapes from his captors and makes his way down a three-story building by turning himself into a human yo-yo with his hands cuffed behind his back.
- And in Mr. Nice Guy, near the end, the Big Bad ties a bunch of ropes to him so he can beat him up without worry, but Jackie still manages to get the upper hand once.
- He likes this trope. In The Tuxedo he ends up wearing only the pants of the titular tux and activates "pants only combat".
- From that same movie, he was fighting off a bunch of mooks from all directions while keeping the movie's plot device from escaping by keeping it in a glass that was pressed up against the compulsory lady love's face.
- In the first Lethal Weapon film, Riggs manages to kill Al Leung while tied up and hanging from the ceiling.
- In a slightly unusual variant on this, The One has Jet Li practice kung fu (apparently hsing yi chuan) while wearing handcuffs.
- In a Villainous version, the film X-Men: The Last Stand has Mystique breaks the neck of a Mook with her legs because she's hanging from the wall by her arms.
- Earlier, she tries to strangle a police officer who's interrogating her, with her handcuffs.
- In Anaconda, Jon Voight strangles Kari Wuhrer to death with his legs while handcuffed to a pole.
- It takes Anton Chigurh a horrifically long time to finally strangle his arresting officer with a pair of handcuffs in No Country for Old Men.
- F/X: Murder By Illusion (1986). The protagonist is able to knock out the hitman and ties him up with his hands behind his back; but when the hitman revives he's able to partially free himself (in the middle of their struggle) by leaping up in the air and whipping his bound hands underneath his feet in one movement.
- In the first live-action Hellboy movie, Hellboy has to hold a box of kittens out of the way during part of the fight in the subway station. Less well done in the second film, where he vaults around a building fighting a giant monster while holding a baby in his stone hand.
- In Ip Man 2 Wong Leung manages to handle himself decently while bound by kicking things at his attackers.
- Not tied up, but in The Presidio, Sean Connery wins a bar fight using only his right thumb, explaing that his "left is much too powerful".
- In Boondock Saints II All Saints Day, Romeo has his hands chained behind his back while he fights a large Frenchman. Romeo dodges his attacks, flips the chains to his front and takes the man down with a submission.
- In The Avengers, Black Widow's reintroduction is, after being the Play-Along Prisoner for an indeterminable amount of time, her beating up a gang of Russian thugs while tied to a chair. It's amazing.
- The Wizard of Oz - the Cowardly Lion tries to start a fight with the others, snorting "I'll fight ya with one hand behind my back!"(And standing on one leg, and with his eyes closed.) It doesn't go well for him.
- Casino Royale (1967) - Archvillain Woody Allen tries to show to a captured agent that he's just as manly as his uncle Sir James Bond - he sits down at a piano and masterfully plays some Debussy (a passionate pursuit of Sir James), then goes all "Look, one hand!" - then hastily hammers the piano off when it keeps playing without him.
- Killer Elite. The hitman protagonist Danny is tied to a chair by his antagonist, ex-SAS man Logan for interrogation and killing. A third party then enters and takes Danny prisoner, binding his hands behind his back. This leads to a three-way fight involving two bound badasses trying to kill their captor and each other at the same time.
- Riddick. Riddick kills the leader of a team of Bounty Hunters with his own machete within five seconds of having a single foot unchained. And he told him it would happen too.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister, an in-universe Memetic Badass and widely considered to be the greatest fighter in the Seven Kingdoms, gets into a sword fight with Brienne of Tarth, whose first on-screen action was to defeat something like forty other knights, including a young knight who is generally thought of as the new Jaime. Jaime's hands are shackled together at the time, and he'd been locked in a dungeon for some time prior to the fight. Brienne is arguably also hampered in that fight by her oath not to do any harm to Jaime until they reach their destination, and is on the defensive until he starts to taunt her. They fight for what's implied to be the better part of a day, and by the time they're done they've both lost their swords and been injured. It only ends when they're interrupted while grappling. Most fans give that fight to Brienne, as she was (successfully, until the interruption) trying to drown Jaime in a creek. Each is astonished at the other's skill, with Jaime later judging the strength of his oponents by Brienne (and finding them wanting,) and Brienne mentioning that no knight she's ever faced would be able to withstand Jaime at his full strength.
- Leading to the funniest exchange in the whole book (paraphrased):
"You can't hurt him. I swore that I would get him safely back to King's Landing."
"When we caught you, he was in shackles and you were holding his head under water."
"Well, he was getting on my nerves!"
- It's been not so subtly hinted that Jaime Lannister is (or was, in his youth) the greatest living blade on Westeros. Brienne was no slouch but its implied that most of the warriors of the new generation haven't learned to fight in real battles. The distinction between being good in tournaments and being really good is lampshaded by Jaime and Barristan Selmy.
- In the first book of the Sword of Truth series, several characters are captured, and one in particular, a boundary warden named Chase, has his hands tied behind his back (because he'd already killed five of the nine attackers on his own). When a suitable distraction happens, he tackles one of the captors and snaps his neck with his legs before being beaten savagely by the captor's leader. He's standing up again within minutes, leading one of the other characters to remark that he's far tougher than he has any right to be.
- Parodied in Men at Arms:
: I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back!
: You get opportunity! I tie BOTH hands behind your back!
- Also from the Disc, Genre Savvy Vimes in Night Watch tries to use this, getting his hands cuffed in front of him rather than behind his back. They're old, heavy handcuffs, or in other words, "his arms were a hammer." The History Monks interrupt him in the process of swinging it, though.
- In Mossflower, Martin the Warrior, Determinator that he is, fights off guards who are dragging him into Tsarmina's chamber over the course of three chapters or so.
- Spenser fights a tough mook in Crimson Joy with one hand, using the other to keep his gun trained on the guy's buddies so they don't jump in. Slightly subverted when he cheats a little by switching the gun from one hand to the other, but he still never uses more than one hand at a time.
Live Action TV
- After boasting that they could beat (some other team) with their hands tied behind their backs, the APA (Ron Simmons and John Bradshaw Layfield) were once forced into a match where they had one hand each tied behind their backs.
- Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition has conditions "Helpless" and "Restrained". You can attack while helpless (although it's usually paired with another condition such as unconscious) although the DM may rule that you are tightly bound enough to prevent that. You may also attack while restrained with a slight penalty to attack rolls.
- 3rd Edition monks could use an unarmed attack with elbows, knees, feet... The only penalties to having their hands tied behind their back were that manipulating items such as potions, wands, thrown weapons and so on would pose problematic.
- Just about everyone in Warhammer 40,000, hence why more... exotic... measures are commonly employed.
- Regal from Tales of Symphonia bases his entire fighting style on the fact that his hands are shackled, and he's not going to take them off.
- Ryuji Yamazaki of the Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters series kicks copious amounts of ass with one hand in his pocket.
- Jhun Hoon always fights with one hand behind his back, and because he's a Taekwondo practicioner, he doesn't even use that.
- Iori Yagami has the legs of his pants tied with a belt, and he still has an awesome footwork, although in his case it's more of a fashion statement than an intentional handicap.
- Cody from Street Fighter Alpha 3, a recently escaped convict, wears handcuffs. In one of his taunts, he easily slips them off and on again.
- Oro from Street Fighter III has one arm tied inside his gi. He refuses to use it until and unless he finds an opponent his equal.
- The first time you meet the Big Bad of SquareSoft's The Bouncer, Dauragon C. Mikado, he shows off by fighting with one hand chained behind his back. This does make him somewhat easier, but beating him just reveals that, like any self-respecting Corrupt Corporate Executive, he's got a Trap Door installed in his private suite. Later on in the game, he's shown to actually use the chain as a weapon, too.
- Raiden does this a few times in Metal Gear Solid 4: first with a couple of Gekkou which have tied down all his limbs (Snake frees his arms, but he breakdances hard enough to sling the Gekkou around anyway), next against Vamp (Vamp pins his arms to his back with knives, but he holds him off long enough to free himself) and then with a squad of knife-wielding FROGs ( having lost both arms previously, he fries some of them with electricity, then takes his sword in his foot and fights the rest off.)
- In the first Baldur's Gate, bandits and guards are occasionally heard quipping "I can take Drizzt with both hands tied behind my back.". With a cheat code, it is possible to summon Drizzt and prove how terribly wrong they are, as Drizzt is totally Badass in this game...
- Lisa from Resident Evil on the GameCube has her hands shackled, but can deliver extremely powerful blows on the player.
- Kuroda Kanbei in Sengoku Basara combines this with Epic Flail. He fights with manacles on his wrists, attached to a giant steel ball which he can swing around with ease. A Running Gag is his failed attempts to remove the shackles.
- In Star Wars Battlefront 2, Grievous will occasionally boast, "I could do this with one, two, no, THREE ARMS TIED BEHIND MY BACK!"
- There's a section near the beginning of Batman: Arkham City where Bruce Wayne gets arrested on bogus charges for speaking out against Arkham City, and after he gets thrown into the prison himself, you to fight off a few groups of goons as a still-handcuffed Bruce.
- There's also an in-game handicap available during campaigns called With One Hand Tied: in combat maps, it disables counter icons, and in predator maps, it makes silent takedowns from behind unavailable.
- In Homestar Runner, one of the questions Strong Bad asks Homestar in the short "The Interview" is "Who would win in a fight: Strong Sad or The Cheat?". Homestar's response comes with a cutaway to a brief demonstration:
Homestar Runner: Oh, man. That's not even fair. The Cheat would win with both hands duct-taped behind his back, and little pieces of duct tape covering his eyes, and Strong Sad can have a spear, even!
- In the parody video Super Natraps X' Turbo, Sylvia, the Distressed Damsel in Kung Fu Master, beats all the enemies in a stage while tied to a chair. She still can't climb the stairs at the end.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender , Aang's first meeting with prince Zuko involves his taking out two guards, evading others and finally breaking his bonds with the spiky helmet of one last mook.
- In another episode, Iroh gets captured by soldiers from the Earth Kingdom. After a first clever but failed escape (he asks one of the guards to tighten his shackles, superheats them by blowing steam out of his nose, and burns the guard's hand), he is soon caugh again and has to be rescued by Zuko. Once freed, however, he proves his Bad Ass fighting skills (alongside with Zuko) by using his long shackles to beat up all the guards in a matter of seconds.
- Bumi beats both by taking back the city of Omashu while being trapped in a metal box and able to move nothing but his chin.
- In The Venture Bros.., Brock kills two mooks this way: One of the mooks was giving him a cavity search. Brock tightens up (enough to make the guy scream in pain), swings the guy around like a flail, and knocks the other guy out, all while being in shackles.
- This scene also wins awards for quite possibly the best dialogue in the series.
Pirate 1: Where are the keys?
Brock: They're in my ass.
Pirate 2: Really?
Brock: Why don't you reach in and find out?
Pirate 1: Well...what are you waiting for?
Pirate 2: What if he's lying?
Pirate 1: Oh, and it would be better if he was telling the truth?!
- In the second part of Justice League's three-part Grand Finale, half the team gets a chance at this. Wonder Woman, impressively, manages to free herself while tied to a pole by throwing the enemy's knife at the control panel with her teeth.
- A similar concept is seen on Danny Phantom. Vlad says, "Oh, please, Daniel, must I actually defeat you with one hand behind my back?"... as he literally does just that! Talk about adding insult to injury.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, Batman is forced to beat up two burly orderlies while in a straitjacket and held for treatment in Arkham.
- Another episode had Batgirl and Catwoman working together. When the badguys tie the duo up, Catwoman uses her claws to free herself and start a fight. Batgirl fights, too, but with her hands still tied behind her back, making it a very literal case.
- There was an episode of Samurai Jack where Jack and the Scotsman were literally shackled together. They argue a bit at first, but when push comes to shove they get over it and pwn the bounty hunters and the robot hordes chasing after them.
- In a Halloween episode of The Simpsons, Lucy Lawless beats up a villain while encased in a giant Mylar bag.
- Ahsoka Tano does this to a round-dozen corrupt Mandalorian Police after being captured in "The Academy", even managing to capture their leader in the process, all with her hands bound.
- In an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Applejack ties down Rainbow Dash's wings to keep her from flying during a race.
- Discussed and parodied in one episode of Mutant League, when Razor Kidd tells the strong Badass, "I can beat you with one hand tied behind my back!" Of course, the strong guy rips off Razor's arm as a literal response, and the latter snaps back, "Hey! I said tied!" Razor even tries to kick the strong one, who quickly rips off his leg as well!
- In Motorcity, Mike is able to take out Kane's guards with his hands tied behind his back, with Chuck tied to him, and in the series finale he even takes out Red while chained to a wall—after having been tortured for days.
- In Kung Fu Panda Legends Of Awesomeness, a complacent Po shows off by defeating the Croc Bandits with just his pinky. This gets subverted in their next encounter, after the Crocs have gone through Training from Hell and are able to defeat Po, even after he starts using both pinkies.
Truth In Television
- The Brazilian martial art of Capoeira was originally created on the assumption that the practitioner might well need to fight with hands bound, since the art began as a means of self-defense among Brazilian slaves, and so emphasizes fighting with the hands close together, as well as foot strikes and highly acrobatic attacks and movements.