Another thing to remember is that while general bad assery has a lot to do with the multitude of asses you kick, there's more to fighting than just being able to flatten a roomfull of angry mooks.
After all, you can be big, strong, and an expert martial artist, but if someone gets the drop on you with a gun, it's completely understandable that you're not going to have an opportunity to manhandle them. In fact, most people would probably call you stupid when you lunged at the mugger who is probably on an adrenaline rush outside of arm's reach.
While straight-up strongarm competitions are often good to establish some kind of pecking order, showing that one character was better prepared, or had a skill that just barely managed to counter our surprised hero, or that brought just the right abilities to a certain situation could show that a villain is definitely a force to be reckoned with, without making the hero's primary strength less impressive.
The idea is that just because someone might be an Olympic kick boxer, a practiced trickshooter from the age of four, or the greatest traceur
in France doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of completely mundane situations where they can be put at a serious disadvantage. Just remember that it is very important to do it right: throwing in too many traces of, say, a Genius Ditz
("Oops, I forgot my guns back at home before I went on patrol at midnight!") can get tiresome if they are supposed to be a powerful and independent character; on the other hand, the coincidences that take them by surprise must be well spaced, original, and believable, lest you become so contrived that it begins looking like Kryptonite is everywhere
It's a careful balance, and I'm sure that every once in a while your character should lose in a contest of raw strength or ability if you really want to show that a villain or rival has chops. But this should be the best way to keep your audience from catching on to all the times when you specifically need to take somebody down a notch to tell the story in the way you really want to. Remember, in some cases, tropes are not bad
edited 17th Feb '11 3:40:30 AM by Toodle