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All Asians Know Martial Arts

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"Yeah, but see, that's the thing, I bet you every single person in America thinks that Asian people are good at like, what? Math... Piano... Martial Arts... that's about it, actually."

In Western-made works, Asian characters, especially those who are otherwise unassuming Funny Foreigners, are likely to know some kind of martial arts and demonstrate it proficiently, if not superlatively. For instance, the stereotypical Japanese character in many Western works written in the first half of the 20th century will probably demonstrate his jujitsu skills on some other character at some point.

It should be noted, that while martial arts indeed have more prominence (however even this is debatable) in Asia, than in Europe, it was at least partially caused by significantly more restriction, historically put by many Asian cultures on weapon ownership. In many Asian countries, peoples outside warrior or noble classes were historically forbidden to carry weapon even for self-defense. On the contrary, in Europe there wasn't many such limitations, so anyone interested in defending himself would more likely train with blade, than with bare hands.

See also Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting. All Chinese People Know Kung-Fu is a similar trope, but is about how Japanese (one Asian group) view Chinese (another Asian group). Anthropomorphic animal artists, often Chinese, will usually be Fighting Pandas. All Monks Know Kung-Fu is this trope applied to all kinds of monks. Can lead to a Chop Sockey.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Exploited and lampshaded in Code Geass: Akito the Exiled, where Akito intimidates Leila's annoying and pushy older brother to drive him off, and then later tells her that it worked because everyone assumes all Japanese people know karate, ninjutsu, and the like.
  • In Lupin III: Travels of Marco Polo – Another Page, Big Bad Bernardo, after having his men attacked by the girls of Benkei's clan, angrily asks if all Japanese people know karate.

    Comic Books 
  • Iron Man: During the 1970's kung-fu craze, it was established that Fin Fang Foom knows giant monster-sized kung-fu that he can use against other giant monsters. Because he's a Chinese dragon, you see. Or at least, an alien dragon that hung out in China.
  • Jonah Hex: The current series gave Jonah Hex's wife Mei Ling kung fu skills despite her never displaying any during the original run of the comics.
  • Justice League of America: In the very first issue of Justice League International, the Japanese heroine Doctor Light manages to take down a female terrorist with some martial arts moves that impress Martian Manhunter. This is despite the fact that she's a scientist in her civilian identity, and her superpowers are not physical in nature.
  • Kerry Kross: during the climax of one of the early volumes, a random Vietnamese secretary tries to pull some kung-fu like moves on Kerry, who just shoots her in the chest.
  • The Other History of the DC Universe: Katana admits that she was never actually given any serious martial arts training (with her main athletic background being in gymnastics) before starting her career as an assassin, but got labeled a "master of martial arts" anyway, because it was the early 80s and that was the only thing anyone knew about Japanese people. She didn't bother to correct anyone, as it made her sound more intimidating.
  • Richard Dragon: Originally averted in Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter where Lady Shiva's sister Carolyn could have rescued herself from her murderer if she had any martial arts training. Later retcons played it straight with Carolyn having skills to match her sister's prior to her murder by David Cain who felt Sandra was holding back for her sister.
  • W.I.T.C.H.: Hay Lin is the Guardian of Kandrakar with Chinese ancestry, and the one who is shown proficient in some unspecified martial art. That's before her crash course into Capoeira.
  • Wolverine: Averted with a Lampshade Hanging in the storyline Goodbye Chinatown, when streetwise tagalong kid Yuen Yee ends up in the middle of a pitched battle between Wolvie, an ancient kung fu master, a talking gorilla, and a bunch of ninjas, yakuza thugs and giant dragons.
    Mook: You gonna show us your kung fu too, you little-
    (Yuen draws a pistol and shoots him)
    Yuen: Right. Because all Chinese know kung fu. You racist *#$@.
  • Y: The Last Man: Discussed and subverted, as shortly after the three main characters start traveling together, Yorick mentions that Dr Mann has less to worry about than him. She asks if he thinks her being Asian automatically makes her some kind of martial arts master; he just meant she looked "pretty ripped."
    Dr.Mann: (sheepishly) Oh. Thank you. I used to be into pilates.

    Fan Works 
  • Played straight in the Hetalia: Axis Powers Highschool AU fanfiction Outcast. China, the only Chinese student at the St. Hetalia Academy for Boys, is able to intervene when the spirit of Ancient Scandinavia takes over Sweden's body and nearly kills Finland. Although China uses a spell tag to disable the possessed Sweden, Finland mentions China "standing over him in a kung fu stance" during the rescue. In a later conversation, China assures Finland that he could defend himself in a fight if need be, as China has had hundreds of years to study martial arts.
  • Weiss starts off as a Politically Incorrect Hero in White Noise. The first thing she says when her father tells her that Yang is her bodyguard is that "because she's Asian, and probably knows some kind of kung fu, I'm supposed to believe that she'll be able to keep me safe over your other guards?". Yang doesn't know martial arts, but she can still fight.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the Novelization of Turning Red this is downplayed. Of all the characters of Asian descent, only Abby is said to know martial arts with her having a green belt in aikido.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Anna and the King, the King is shown doing tai chi. This is completely contrary to history note  and was put in to appeal to fans of Chow Yun Fat and of this trope. Even the movie poster has a martial arts background.
  • In the second "Crocodile" Dundee, Mike Dundee is rescued by a Japanese tourist who jump kicks the mooks away. The Japanese man then takes a picture of Mike because he thinks he's Clint Eastwood.
  • The Dead Pool plays with this trope. Dirty Harry gets a new partner. An asian one. He assumes his new partner knows martial arts, the partner points that it's kinda racist to assume this. Some ten minutes later, said partner disarms and knocks out a robber with some fancy martial arts moves.
  • Played for Laughs in Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. In a scene parodying the intro to Menace II Society (and using the same actor and actress), the Korean shopowner jumps from one side of the store to the other like in a martial-arts film.
  • In Ghost Rock, the Chinese family who own the farm outside of Ghost Rock and who are friends of Johnny's all are kickass martial artists. As is Hana, the Japanese whore in the saloon. When Billy grabs Jasmine. Ming and Hana when they are trying to escape the final gunfight, Ming and Hana use coordinated kicks and punches to knock him out:
    Jasmine: Damn! Am I the only person who doesn't know this stuff?!
  • In Judge Dredd, the film's Asian Evil Genius, played by Joan Chen, busts out martial arts during the climax's Designated Girl Fight, even though there was no prior mention that she was capable in combat.
  • In the original The Karate Kid series, every single Japanese character knows karate - namely, the men. The women, on the other hand...
  • Discussed and lampshaded in the The Karate Kid (2010) movie: after telling his mother that he's being taught kung fu by the maintenance man, Dre replies, "Mom, it's China - everyone knows kung fu."
  • No Escape (1994): The only prominent Asian character, the Father's bodyguard, wields a sword and knows some martial arts moves.
  • The Princess: The film's East Asian characters (or fantasy equivalent) Linh and Khai, her uncle, both know martial arts. Linh instructs the princess (portrayed by a white American) and gives her equal skills.
  • Prom Wars: Francis is the only Asian main character and while he doesn't display martial arts fighting moves, he uses a ninja blowgun and has lots of Offscreen Teleportation moments during the paintball fight.
  • Red Sonja: Sonja learns sword fighting from the Grand Master, who is East Asian along with the rest of his students. Even little Prince Tarn knows some moves (though being a child, there is a lot he still has to learn).
  • This trope was discussed, lampshaded, and ultimately averted in Revenge of the Nerds; an Asian student was asked by a Jerk Jock if he knew martial arts. When the student confirmed that he didn't, he had a jock-strap pulled over his head.
  • Rogue One: Even a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away Chirrut, one of the only two East Asian main characters in the films thus far, just happens to be a martial artist (and blind to boot).
  • Star Trek (2009): Sulu has "advanced hand-to-hand combat training", namely fencing. With a katana... But in the Original Series, he used an actual fencing sword.
  • Invoked Trope in the comedy They Call Me Bruce? (not the one with Bruce Campbell). Since the title character is Asian everybody assumes he knows kung fu — and he uses this fact to escape from a would-be mugger with a Sinister Switchblade. (Unfortunately the second time he tries this trick against some guys in a bar, they not impressed and Bruce has to do a Bathroom Breakout.)
    Bruce: With my right foot, I can knock out that knife. With my left, I can kick your nose. With this hand I can poke out your eyes, with this I can break your neck. Take a good look at my face. I'm an Oriental! (makes Funny Bruce Lee Noises until the mugger backs off)
  • Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision: The second of Chan's ancestors who Miller tries to kill works as a hostess at a Chinese restaurant her boyfriend owns. Said boyfriend, the waitress, and the cook all fight Miller with martial arts moves (and some cleavers in the cook's case), driving him away and saving his target without any help from Chan.
  • In the beginning of The Tuxedo, Jackie Chan gets his ass walloped by a NY cyclist and notes regretfully that not all Asian people are Bruce Lee. Of course this all changes the moment that he gets the titular magic tuxedo from Jason Isaac.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Psylocke is extremely proficient with a katana, and she demonstrates her combat skills on a few occasions.

  • City of Light: Karah, who turns out to be from Kajin, which resembles China, just happens to know martial arts and easily beats up a couple of robbers.
  • Averted in Tadgifauna, and discussed, after Haru (the Japanese-American protagonist) is badly beaten in a fist fight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Deadly Class: All of the Asian characters on the show are capable martial artists. This is justified by the fact that all are either students or teachers at an assassins school or seasoned gangsters.
  • Used by Holmes in Elementary when he and Watson had to get into a locked office during a blizzard. Holmes threatened the person by telling him that Watson has several black belts. This is a reference to Lucy Liu's talents in martial arts.
  • In an episode of The Invisible Man, Hobbes has to work with his Chinese counterpart. Given Hobbes's personality, he soon comes to verbal blows with the Chinese agent and offers to settle it with martial arts. The Chinese agent claims that Hobbes believes this trope. However, the guy in question is a spy. It's kinda assumed that someone like that would be trained in hand-to-hand combat.
  • In an episode of Lovejoy, a Japanese customer helps Lovejoy escape some thugs by pretending to know martial arts. They believe this trope and run.
  • Subverted in MADtv's "Average Asian" sketches where a common joke is that everyone believes the eponymous character has martial arts abilities despite him constantly telling everyone that he doesn't. He can call upon ninjas, though.
  • Mako Mermaids: An H₂O Adventure: Weilan demonstrates that Eastern Pod mermaids use martial arts movements to accomplish feats of magic, whereas all the Australian (and in Mimmi's case, Canadian) mermaids are more of the point-and-shoot types.
  • The Messengers: Kao Lin does, and uses her skills to fight Raul.
  • A The O'Reilly Factor man-on-the-street segment filmed in New York's Chinatown and aired in October 2016 set off controversy for its use of pretty much every Asian stereotype imaginable; at one point the interviewer asks an Asian man if he knows karate.
  • In both Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue and Power Rangers Wild Force, the Token Asian is a martial arts prodigy.
    • Power Rangers Operation Overdrive plays it straight with Blue as a professional stuntman. However, Pink is pretty much the worst unmorphed fighter, being Asian and Nerdy instead.
    • Lampshaded in Power Rangers Turbo when Cassie, the only Ranger who was not an athlete, got asked where she learned how to fight.
      T.J.: Where'd you learn to do that?
      Cassie: My ancestors invented it.
  • Played for laughs in Scrubs when one JD's innumerable Imagine Spots turns into Turk and the Todd kung-fu-fighting a mob of other surgeons for the chance to get into the good graces of a senior staff-member.
  • Scoundrels (2010): Cal's attempt to steal from the Hong family's house is foiled when he ends up bumping into grandma Hong, who beats him up with her martial art skills.
  • Sense8: Sun, the Korean character, is highly skilled in martial arts, to the point of defeating multiple opponents at once.
  • Stargirl (2020): Paula is one of only two adult East Asians in the cast and also quite skilled at martial arts. It's downplayed though since her white husband and other (white) members of the ISA also have a lot of skill with it. Also, her martial arts skills seem to resemble something more akin to capoeira (a Brazilian martial art, not an "Asian" one) mixed with cat-like animalistic movements, making her less an Asian martial artist and more a cat-based Animal Themed Super Being of Asian descent.
  • Played with in the original Star Trek, where Japanese-American Lt. Sulu is adept at fencing, a European martial art. According to George Takei's autobiography, the writer of that episode asked him whether he'd rather use a katana or a rapier, and Takei chose the rapier to defy the stereotype.
  • For the first three seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise, Hoshi Sato is the least confident member of the crew, but in an effort to make her more of an Action Girl she's retconned with martial arts skills which she uses against Phlox's kidnappers in Season 4. While it's quite likely Hoshi would have become more assertive after her experiences during the Xindi conflict, it would have made more sense for Hoshi to have used the more simple takedowns taught to the crew by Major Hayes during this time. But less cool, we're sure.
  • In the Superbowl episodes of 3rd Rock from the Sun, a group of alien supermodels plot to conquer the earth. When Sally tries to stop them, naturally the only Asian supermodel tries to fight back with full-blown yet dainty martial arts.
  • In the 30 Rock episode where Jack got stuck in Canada, he met an Asian meth dealer that went to law school for a day:
    Drug Dealer: I was just so tightly wound that I got kicked out for karate chopping my roommate. I know. [chuckles] I'm a stereotype. All guys from Quebec are good at karate.
  • Top Gear (UK) once had the Chinese "cousin" of the Stig. Unlike British Stig, driving is his second favorite thing to do. His first is to go around and attack everyone around him kung fu-style, including the presenters, camera crew, and track officials.

  • Lampshaded (of course) by Knorkator's Arschgesicht, which is sung by one of the band members small son who has a thai mother.
    "Take a close look, I am Asian. And this means I Know Karate!"

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This trope is an old pro wrestling staple, inherited from the times in which promotions featured foreign heels from exotic lands. If they were Japanese, Chinese or relatively Asian, then they would know some kind of ancient martial art like kung fu or karate, showed in a mystical and sneaky fashion as opposed to the traditional native hero (often because the wrestlers playing the gimmick didn't actually know these arts). Even today, Japanese wrestlers working in American promotions are practically forced to use a stereotypical puroresu/strong-style moveset with plenty of kicks and artful holds.

  • Billy, the "Jap butler" in The Bat, practices jujitsu on Richard Beresford in an attempt to prevent him from entering.

    Video Games 
  • In EarthBound (1994), Poo is the only Asian party member, and he actually gets a disadvantage to his attacks when he's equipped with weapons apart from his Infinity +1 Sword. However, from what we see of his home country, it's more akin to India than China or Japan.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero and Trails to Azure, most of the named Asian-analogue characters know martial arts. This has less to do with their being Asian and more to do with the fact that they are members of or are tied to a Triad (Asian mafia) analogue (along with the daughter of a martial arts master turned spy). There is no evidence that the staff of the local Chinese restaurant are anything other than cooks and waitresses.
  • Averted in The Matrix: Path of Neo as the only ones who know martial arts are either trained practitioners or gangsters.
  • Sifu takes place in an Asian country, most likely China. Everyone from the rugged street mooks to the Dawn Group that you're hunting down knows martial arts.

    Web Original 
  • In his Crossed review of House of the Dead, Karim Debbache notes how inherently racist it is for the only Asian girl of the film to fight the zombies with martial arts.
  • Exploited in Freddie Wong's Kung Fooled. First he scares off a would-be mugger by imitating kung-fu, then he gets into a "duel" with another Asian guy who is also pretending to know kung-fu. They proceed to make themselves look utterly ridiculous.
  • Invoked and mocked by Monty Oum during his guest appearance (as a "martial arts instructor") on Rooster Teeth's show Immersion: "As the Rooster Teeth resident Asian, I am fully qualified to teach you in the art of fruit self-defense."
  • Lie Ren of RWBY (also voiced by Monty Oum) appears to be proficient in martial arts, using palm thrusts and various combat stances when fighting the King Taijitu in Volume 1 of the show. His combat skills were also seen in "Best Day Ever" during a food fight with Team RWBY in Volume 2, where he briefly held his ground against Yang Xiao Long. The world of RWBY is a Constructed World and there isn't supposed to be a China (or any of East Asia) but he's clearly based on Asian features.

    Web Comics 
  • This trope is discussed by Ashley in El Goonish Shive. She states that she has had people assume she is "some kind of magical martial artist" simply because she's Asian. Amusingly, the character she's talking to is actually some kind of magical martial artist. The author also took the opportunity to gently mock himself over the fact that Nanase, the first explicitly Asian character he introduced was a martial artist (Tedd was introduced earlier, but the fact that he's half-Japanese wasn't made known until later).
  • Doctor Sun of Girl Genius. Frankly, it wouldn't be true to its pulp roots if he didn't.
  • Something*Positive mocks this. Peejee rescues a man she knows from an awful date by pretending he's her boyfriend, and angrily scaring off his date by threatening her with "the ancient Chinese secret of the bowel-emptying death-grip dragon noogie".
    Peejee: Fucking white people. It amazes me the bullshit they'll believe as long as you're Asian and precede everything you're saying with "ancient Chinese secret". Eyes so big, brain so small.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama likes to mock this trope. In one episode about Star Trek, Japanese-American George Takei complains that people shouldn't expect him to know karate just because of his Japanese ancestry. It turns out that he does (which is true in Real Life) but that they shouldn't have just assumed that he could.
    Takei: Have I ever led you to believe that I have studied karate?
    Shatner: Well, no, you never talk about yourself!
    Takei: Maybe if you showed a little interest...
  • The Three Little Pigs episode of Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child has a Vietnamese pig who is a Tai-Kwan-Do expert.
  • During an episode of King of the Hill, Hank compliments Bobby for beating the Laotian Chane Wassanosong, because he assumed Chane would know "Some oriental martial arts".
  • This trope is criticized in The Life and Times of Juniper Lee. For context, Ah-Mah gets turned into a teenager and goes to her granddaughter's middle school as a new student. One of the classmates thoughtlessly asks out loud if she knows karate leading her to go on a tirade over the stereotype.
    Ah-Mah: Well for starters, karate is Japanese. And secondly, why do people always ask if Asians know karate? First thing you ask is "What are you?", second thing "Do you know karate?". So, I'm Chinese and yes I know karate. AND TWENTY-SIX OTHER FORMS OF HAND TO HAND COMBAT!!
  • In Miraculous Ladybug, Sabine Dupain-Cheng, Marinette's Chinese mother, is able to pull off a smooth fighting pose against a pestering camera crew in the Season 2 episode "Troublemaker". It comes off as questionable as she's never shown or alluded to having any martial arts knowledge until that moment.

Alternative Title(s): All Asians Know Kung Fu