Follow TV Tropes


All Asians Know Martial Arts

Go To

"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.


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). All Monks Know Kung-Fu is this trope applied to all kinds of monks. Can lead to a Chop Sockey.


    open/close all folders 

     Anime & 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.

     Comic Books  

  • The current series of Jonah Hex gave his wife Mei Ling kung fu skills despite her never displaying any during the original run of the comics.
  • Y: The Last Man - 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." "Oh. Thank you. I used to be into pilates."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Averted with a Lampshade Hanging in the Wolverine 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 *#$@.
  • Hay Lin from W.I.T.C.H. 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.



  • Comes up in the comedy They Call Me Bruce? (not the one with Bruce Campbell). Since he's Asian everybody assumes he knows kung fu — and he uses this fact to escape from a would-be mugger.
  • 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.
  • Discussed and lampshaded in 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."
  • In the original The Karate Kid series, every single Japanese character knows karate - namely, the men. The women, on the other hand...
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kung Fu Hustle is built on this. For great hilariousness.
  • 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 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.
  • Averted in The Green Hornet Serials. With one exception (a karate chop), Kato uses the same Hollywood fighting style that everyone else is using.
    • Ironically, the actor playing Kato in the original series was specifically chosen for his martial arts prowess. His name? Bruce Lee.
  • Big Trouble in Little China includes a restaurant owner, an maitre'd, and a Chinatown tour guide who all know martial arts for some reason.
    • The tour guide isn't a martial artist - he's a sorcerer. The maitre'd is also a pretty crummy fighter and doesn't do much of anything without a gun. As for the restaurant owner, it's pretty heavily implied that he grew up poor, possibly on the streets - in which case he was probably forced to gain some fighting proficiency just to stay alive. Doesn't explain why he's good enough to stand up to the Storms, though.
      • Wang only becomes good enough to fight the Storms after drinking Egg Shen's magic potion. Before that he is terrified of them and doesn't even try to face them in a fight.
  • 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.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Psylocke is extremely proficient with a katana, and she demonstrates her combat skills on a few occasions.
  • Rogue One: Even a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away Chirrut, one of the only two Asian main characters in the films thus far, just happens to be a martial artist (and blind to boot).


     Live-Action TV  

  • 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, I'm sure.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 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.
  • Averted and played for laughs 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.
  • The Messengers: Kao Lin does, and uses her skills to fight Raul.
  • Sense8: Sun, the Korean character, is highly skilled in martial arts, to the point of defeating multiple opponents at once.
  • 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.
  • An 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:


  • 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  

     Web Original  

     Web Comics  

  • 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.
  • Doctor Sun of Girl Genius. Frankly, it wouldn't be true to its pulp roots if he didn't.
    • Mind you, having a strong personality in this setting more or less equates to the ability to kick ass, and Doctor Sun has one of the fiercest wills in play, s he had to be able to kick ass. His granddaughter has shown no sign of sharing this ability; the most martial thing she's done is yell at people over a clipboard.
  • 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).

     Western Animation  

  • Futurama likes to mock this trope. In one episode about Star Trek, Asian-American George Takei complains that people should not expect him to know karate just because of his Asian ancestry. It turns out that he does (which is true in Real Life) but that they shouldn't have assumed that he could.
    Takei: When have I ever led you to believe I have studied karate?
    Shatner: Well, you never talk about yourself!
    Takei: If you'd shown a little interest...
  • 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".
  • 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.

     Real Life  

  • In China the children are taught tai chi in their physical education class (P.E.). In Japan, they do kendo in their physical education class (P.E.) as well. Additionally, many high schools in Japan have clubs for kendo (fencing), kyudo (archery), naginatajutsu (halberd/spear), Karate and Judo; these clubs are more like sports teams than clubs though.
    • Same with the Philippines and arnis/kali, though this is mandatory. Some schools specialize in fencing, karate, judo and Taekwondo.
    • Korea has similar clubs of kenpo and taekwondo, among other martial arts. It should also be noted that young men must enlist in the military which means a significant number of citizens have received combat training.
    • Taiwan and Singapore also practice nation-wide compulsary military conscription. Its not unusual then that every male citizen has had *some* hand-to-hand combat training, formal or otherwise.
  • The first time an Asian-American woman (Caroline Hsu) was elected Rose Queen, for the 2002 Tournament of Roses parade, all the commentators made sure to mention that she was a taekwondo black belt.

Alternative Title(s): All Asians Know Kung Fu