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Battle atop the Poles

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Occasionally, solid ground can get in the way of the ultimate showdown between hero and villain. They end up retreating to the top of a conveniently placed forest of wooden poles, continuing the fight whilst also balancing precariously.

This is a sub-trope of Interesting Situation Duel, wherein these fights usually occur in period-construction settings — e.g., the site of a temple or palace being erected. Often, for increased stakes, the characters will have accidentally set a fire before retreating to the top of the poles, which will quickly begin burning said wooden poles (and giving them a limited time to deal with their adversary), until the entire conflict devolves into a specific type of epic Battle Amongst the Flames. In this case, the climax usually occurs when one opponent manages to successfully knock the other into the fire.

For the Live-Action version, expect much Wire Fu to justify the combatants' abilities to leap high enough to get a footing (as the poles are usually at least 10 feet tall), as well as combatants often having to dance and leap from pole to pole to evade or attack. Also, expect the poles themselves to become Improvised Weapons, as the foes will try to rip them out of the ground and use them to extend their reach.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency: One of Lisa Lisa's training grounds is an arena composed entirely of raised spikes. Hamon users are meant to channel Hamon energy to protect their feet; however, Esidisi the Pillar Man allows his feet to be pierced by the spikes, since they'll heal anyways.
  • Ranma ½: It is while Saotome Ranma and his father Genma are honing their combat skills in mainland China that they come to an old training ground that is littered with poles for exactly this type of combat. There, they take to the poles, which have only enough diameter for one foot, and begin sparring. Ranma is the first to topple his father off a pole into a pool of water. That pool happens to be one in which a panda drowned. Ranma is so shocked to see his father transformed into a giant panda, that he failed to stop Genma(who hadn't noticed the change yet), from knocking him into another cursed pool, one in which a young girl drowned....

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Trope Codifier is the 1993 Donnie Yen Kung Fu film Iron Monkey. Iron Monkey and Wong Kei-ying battle Hin-hung in the local Governor's mansion, which is undergoing renovations, and has a series of wooden tall wooden stakes setup as part of the construction. After setting a fire, Iron Monkey and Wong Kei-ying pursue Hin-hung to the tops of these poles, where they fight to the death while their footing becomes more precarious as the fire quickly burns the poles.
  • Donnie Yen had another one of these in Ip Man 2; when Ip Man fights Hung Chun-Nam, combined with a table upended on top of the poles that they have to stay standing on. One of the spectators complains that they used to use knives instead of poles.
  • The Kung Fu film Secret of the Shaolin Poles also climaxes with the hero and villain fighting on top of a field of poles.
  • In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne spars opponents while balancing on wooden stakes during his Training from Hell by Ra's Al Ghul.
  • In the Dolph Lundgren vehicle Bridge Of Dragons, a downplayed and played for laughs version shows up in a tavern fight ring: the poles are short and anyone who falls finds their landing cushioned - by manure.
  • The fight between Li Mu Bai and Jen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon evokes this image. Li and Jen super jump to the tree tops of a forest, and duel while leaping from tree-top to tree-top. However, far from adding tension, Li Mu Bai is so serene during it that the stakes actually diminish once it becomes clear that Jen cannot beat him.
  • Hot Shots! Part Deux has such a battle at the climax between Ramada and Michelle Huddleston, once the latter is outed as The Mole who has sabotaged countless previous attempts to rescue captured American soldiers from Saddam Hussein. In a shout-out to American Gladiators, of all things, they end up jumping on top of a pair of tall wooden poles that just happen to be there and start hitting each other with weighted sticks until Michelle falls over. It's just that kind of film.
  • Young Hercules: The Movie: Cadets at Chiron's academy are actually trained how to fight while standing on the top of poles. Hercules starts training after hours, as well, after Iolas beats him in their first sparring session. Chiron even encourages him to train blindfolded. The final battle takes place in a temple Ares is having built to honor himself, and part of the construction includes a field of perpendicular poles. The climax homages Iron Monkey — complete with a three-way battle — with Ares fighting Hercules and Iolas on poles that are slowly burning. For added heft, Hercules is temporarily blinded by a burning pole to the face, and Iolas has to direct his foot movements while standing on his shoulders. They eventually knock Ares into the inferno; but, since Ares is immortal, this just makes him a very angry god on fire. Hercules and Iolas eventually defeat him by knocking him into the fire again and dropping a carved stone effigy of Ares's own head (which Ares had built), on top of him. This causes Ares to retreat to Mount Olympus.

  • Wulfrik: The Wolf Forest is a collection of long poles with tiny platforms atop each one and spikes at each base [used for elimination (literally) matches] to determine who can join Wulfrik's crew. Wulfrik himself uses it to fight against Sveinbjorn's Forsaken champion, impaling said champion on the spikes and then jumping down to finish the job.

    Video Games 
  • In The Matrix: Path of Neo, Neo and Seraph's first fight begins in a temple, but progresses outside, where for some reason there are a number of poles sticking up from the ground, which they then fight on top of as they catch fire. It serves as a direct homage to Iron Monkey. However, the fight does not conclude there.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves: Sly's finale battle against the villainous General Tsao takes place on the tree tops of a large forest, which also have very tall poles sticking up out of them, necessitating Sly employ his spire jumper ability. The area is said to be charged with spiritual energy, allowing the combatants to perform superhuman feats as they fight. The effect in game is the duel feels like a wuxia style fight.
  • Sonic Adventure: A one-way example. During the fight against Chaos 0, after Sonic knocks his health down to below half, Chaos springs himself into the air, hops from lamppost to lamppost, and after stopping, attempts to jab Sonic with his Extendable Arms from the top of a lamppost.

    Western Animation 
  • In a flashback in Avatar: The Last Airbender, Airbenders play a game called airball on a court filled with tall poles, which they stand on top of.

    Real Life 
  • This method of fighting does actually have some basis in reality. The real-life Kung Fu training tool known as "Mei Hua Zhuang" (or "Plum Blossom Poles"), which consists of large poles — similar to telephone poles — sunk into the ground. Students then practice their stances while moving from pole to pole. Students begin training on short poles that are close to the ground; and as students become more proficient, they graduate to taller poles.


Video Example(s):


Chaos 0

Chaos 0 is fought within the back alleys of Station Square while it's downpouring. After Sonic hits him twice, Chaos catapults himself into the sky and jumps from lamppost to lamppost, using his extendable arms to try and hit Sonic from above.

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Main / BattleAtopThePoles

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