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Becoming Venom isn't cause for Flash to throw away his Army training.

Jake: I thought your power was eyebeams, 'Cyclops', not Kung Fu.
Cyclops: That's not my power. That's my training. I was taught it.
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Some heroes win the Superpower Lottery. Super Strength, Eye Beams, and Energy Blasts make issuing a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown a relatively straightforward matter. So Once Again, the Day Is Saved. Hooray and stuff.

Then there's the rest of them. They have bonafide powers that set them apart from Puny Earthlings, but for one reason or another, they either can't or won't just rely on them alone. They've taken Boxing Lessons For All Those Other Poor Schmucks and fight very similarly to a Badass Normal most of the time. This can be for any of several reasons:

  • The powers don't directly apply to combat, such as Telepathy, Speaks Fluent Animal, and X-Ray Vision. However, they may have indirect uses for assisting. Or they do upgrade their natural fighting abilities, but only moderately beyond normal human limits, without anything fantastic such as flight. They have an advantage against the mooks, but only if they can stay on their toes and fight smart.
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  • The character has been Blessed with Suck. Their powers can easily wipe the floor with most mooks but are very difficult to use safely, such as having uncontrollable Splash Damage, being Cast from Hit Points, or attracting even more enemies. Or they're subject to Magic Misfires or governed by rules they haven't figured out yet. In either case, they'd rather use mundane methods than chance it.
  • The character is Willfully Weak. Maybe they're a Blood Knight who has more fun with hand-to-hand, or a Smug Super that can beat you with their powers tied behind their back; both are more likely to pull out the big guns for a Worthy Opponent. Alternatively, they might simply detest their powers for some reason ("I don't want to rely on my superpowers too much" is a common one), and thus stick to good ol' non-superpower methods like martial arts or mundane technology. One more possibility is that their powers are too strong. Being able to disintegrate people with a look (and having no "stun" option) is usually not acceptable to a hero with a Thou Shalt Not Kill moral code. And finally, they might just be trying to hide their true identity and using their powers would blow their cover.
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This trope was also an inadvertent side-effect of Coconut Superpowers in old shows and serials due to a lack of the special-effects technology to properly depict fantastic powers.

Compare Boxing Lessons for Superman, where trained fighting is an optional extra the character takes to help with extreme circumstances; and Guile Hero, where they prefer trickery to outright confrontation. This trope can overlap with Empowered Badass Normal if the character still needs to mostly rely on previous fighting skills post-upgrade.

Contrast Powers Do the Fighting, where the fighter does nothing at all and their abilities are still more than enough.

Related to Afraid of Their Own Strength, as this can be one of the ways a character keeps themselves in check to avoid unnecessary damage or harm.

NOTE: A depowered character such as a Henshin Hero only counts if they can voluntarily switch them on and off at will and keeps them shut off most of the time, in which case they're Willfully Weak. The character must have a choice whether or not to (try to) utilize their powers to qualify for this trope, or otherwise have powers which have no bearing on combat that can't be realistically replicated (such as Longevity, which would remove them from Badass Normal territory). Also, if Everyone is a Super then fighting with powers is normal — in such a setting, someone who can't or has reason to avoid doing so is actually a Handicapped Badass.


This trope fought its way into these works the old-fashioned way because its Wiki Magic was just Too Awesome to Use:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Alucard from Hellsing is a vampire with supernatural powers. Despite that, he prefers to simply shoot his enemies with custom-made guns rather than use his inhuman abilities, mostly because he considers the majority of his opponents not worthy of using his superpowers against them. His guns, both of which qualify as Hand Cannons, require his vampiric strength and resilience anyway — a normal human trying to fire those guns like Alucard does would break both their wrists from the recoil. He's not particularly exceptional in that regard, either; most of the vampires in the series prefer guns or other hand weapons rather than using their vampiric abilities directly. Like Alucard, they're often used in a fashion that would be impossible for a human — his apprentice, Seras, carries a 30mm cannon that fires rounds designed for AA guns, while a number of minor villains dual-wield machineguns or rifles.
  • The titular character of Rune Soldier Louie is a mage, yet he prefers to fight with his hands, using his famous "LOUIE PUNCH!". He is called out on it multiple times.
  • Li Ho from The Law of Ueki. His power is to turn hair into telescoping bats, but prefers to use taichi moves in combat.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Kamijou Touma has an Anti-Magic right hand which he can only use defensively, so he usually fights superpowered individuals with fisticuffs.
    • Similarly, Tsuchimikado Motoharu can only use magic in limited amounts as it risks killing him (which his esper ability, Auto-Healing, only partly mitigates). Therefore, he relies on hand-to-hand combat and is even better at it than the protagonist.
    • Non-violent example, but Mikoto's friend Kazari Uiharu is a level 1 esper, who is also a genius computer hacker known in certain circles as "the Gatekeeper." For a long time, it was assumed that her power boosted her hacking abilities in some way. Eventually, we found out her power is temperature regulation—which, obviously, has absolutely nothing to do with computer hacking. She's just that good.
    • Mii Konori fights using martial arts because her power is X-Ray Vision. Her ability is used to scan opponents for concealed weapons.
    • Accelerator, after his Drama-Preserving Handicap limits use of his Story-Breaker Power to a few minutes at a time, starts carrying ordinary firearms so he can defend himself when his full powers aren't necessary or are unavailable.
  • Zenkichi from Medaka Box only has passive powers Nullifying coincidence and Parasite Seeing, so he mostly still has to rely on his savate abilities in fights.
  • Golden Lion King from Rising × Rydeen has no choice but to rely on his hand-to-hand combat skills as his superpower which is that he can glow when he roars is useless in most situations.
  • One Piece has a lot of this; This is after all a world where you can eat any of over a hundred fruits to obtain completely random powers. Some people obtain extremely useful powers like transforming into and manipulating an intangible element, or an animal form. Some others get powers with seemingly no use at all. With the aid of Charles Atlas Superpower and a lot of training, many characters manage to turn these impractical powers to their advantage with creative Combat Pragmatism, but still often have to rely on their basic fisticuffs to deal damage.
    • While Luffy can be very creative with his Rubber Man powers, he's still capable of fighting with fisticuffs, especially when facing Lucci.
    • Mr. 2 can transform himself into others. Of course, this can increase (or decrease) his physical strength, but the fighting techniques themselves will have to be his normal ones, meaning that he's trained himself in non-superpower-related martial arts.
    • A major component of Blackbeard's plan to become the strongest from behind the scenes is consuming a Devil Fruit that, amongst other powers, allows him to totally disable a Devil Fruit user's powers by grabbing them. A snag in this plan is discussed by his crew as they watch his battle with Ace; he needs to draw his opponent towards him in order to grab them, leaving him vulnerable to characters who can also fight like a normal. Ace demonstrates this by managing to injure Blackbeard even after he had been grabbed.
    • Discussed and Enforced in the New World. Previously, Logia users are really difficult to fight due to their intangibility giving them Nigh-Invulnerability, unless you can counter their specific element. Then comes Armament Haki, allowing anyone to hit a Logia user who isn't themselves trained in Haki, and how common it is in the New World. One character remarks that "Logia users who rely on their powers too much have short lifespans."
    • Absalom can turn himself and anything he touches invisible. He mostly uses plain bazookas strapped to his arms in fight, but he uses his invisibility for the element of surprise's sake: When the bazookas are invisible, no one can see when they're fired, and to those that don't know of his power, it looks like he's firing a shock wave or beam, confusing the hell out of a lot of opponents.
    • Kin'emon has a Devil Fruit, but since all it allows him to do is summon clothes, he fights with his sword.
  • Several Contractors in Darker Than Black have abilities not directly usable in combat and have to fight like any other Muggle if they throw down. One-note antagonist Itzhak is the most noticeable as his power is completely non-offensive, and fights using a rifle.
  • Vice Granscenic of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS. He's technically a mage, but he doesn't have enough magical power to cast combat spells on his own. However, he's also a Friendly Sniper with Improbable Aiming Skills, so hand him a Sniper Rifle or even an unsighted Boom Stick and watch as enemies that stronger mages have trouble with start dropping like flies without knowing what hit them.
  • Homura Akemi of Puella Magi Madoka Magica is the only Puella Magi who doesn't have some sort of magical weapon or directly offensive powers. Instead, she uses firearms stolen from the Yakuza and the JSDF as well as homemade explosives augmented by her time control and Bag of Holding abilities.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Protagonist Izuku Midoriya/Deku is a deconstruction of this. He greatly desires to be a superhero despite being among the 20% of people born without a Quirk. However, after impressing All-Might, the hero gives Izuku his powers to train him to be his successor. Great! Except that, because he was Quirkless for most of his life, he views One For All as a sort of superpower and thus his body is not used to the vast accumulated power. In fact, he tended to break his bones whenever he used it. As such, he's forced to save his powers for emergencies, and gets by as best as he can with Quirkless moves or playing The Strategist. However, this is mainly because of his mentality of how he views Quirks. Once he trains under All Might's mentor, Gran Torino, he begins getting a better hold to accepting it as a natural part of him. He achieves this through "Full Cowling" where rather than focusing all the power in an attack, he uses a small percentage through his body to improve everything, with him being able to accept more of it over time. It is becoming a Reconstruction over time because he maintains some of the mentality.
    • Stain is a formidable hand-to-hand fighter and Knife Nut. However, his combat ability is unrelated to his Quirk, which involves ingesting an opponent's blood to paralyze them. Either one alone is potentially dangerous. Combined they make Stain a dangerous enough supervillain to merit the nickname "Hero Killer."
    • The main characters' teacher Aizawa/Eraser Head has a quirk that can deactivate the quirk of whoever he's looking at. But seeing as he has only two eyes and lacks any superhuman physical abilities, he relies on weapons and a highly aggressive fighting style when he has to fight a group of villains.
    • Aizawa passed his fighting style down to Shinso, who, like Aizawa, has a quirk that is very powerful (he can mind-control his victims whenever they reply to him) but not reliable (it won't work if his opponent keeps quiet, and is useless against non-humans like the robots in the entrance exam).
  • Given what the series is known for, it's easy to forget that most of the heroes from Dragon Ball are trained martial artists who know how to fight without using energy attacks. In the original series, Goku, for example, rarely uses the Kamehameha or other advanced techniques and prefers to fight with his fists. This was mostly because energy attacks cost a lot of stamina and were best used for finishers. Some of this can still be seen in Z where most of the older cast members prefer fighting on the ground and don't beam spam that often.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: While fighting a Stand user without your own Stand is exceedingly impractical (since you can neither see nor damage the Stand itself), many characters have Stands with non-combative abilities and fight with their own physical strength. Kenzou of Stone Ocean in particular is already a skilled martial artist; all his Stand does is point him in the right direction. In a non-combative example, D'Arby the Elder's only power is that he gets your soul if he manages to beat you in a game. He still has to beat you at the game first, relying entirely on his own skill as a gambler and an inveterate cheat.
  • In Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus and especially Sailor Jupiter are prone to try and just beat the stuff out of their enemies. Justified as they both tended to get into brawls before getting their powers, with Venus being implied to know Savate by how she kicks and Jupiter being a confirmed martial artist.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz is a ridiculously powerful lich, and has a bad case of Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond (that is, while he considers himself in the middle of the upper tier of level 100 YGGDRASSIL players, the strongest in the new world are maybe level 30). Thus even as a Squishy Wizard, his physical strength and damage resistance is enormous, which is why he can masquerade as a giant warrior Dual Wielding One Handed Zweihanders. He later asks for a duel between him (in his lich form) and the Empire's resident Gladiator Games champion, agreeing to use no magic (and even disables his damage resistance). He still trounces the champion with ease, and the Emperor, seeing that there really is no hope of beating Ainz in melee either, surrenders the Empire to him.
  • In Naruto, while it may not be obvious at first, Might Guy is this. While he's not particularly proficient at it, Guy has demonstrated at least some ability in using ninjutsu. He just chooses to focus solely on taijutsu as a show of solidarity with his student, Rock Lee, who is outright incapable of using anything other than taijutsu. Of course, this doesn't stop Guy from being regarded as one of the most powerful Ninja in the Hidden Leaf Village and as far as taijutsu is concerned, Madara Uchiha himself states that Guy has no equal amongst ANYBODY he has fought, making him, at least as taijutsu is concerned, the World's Strongest Man.
  • Dorohedoro:
    • Shin is a mage and in contrast to his partner Noi (who has to fight this way because her power can only heal people), his magic power allows him to dissect people alive at range. Outside an event in his backstory, he prefers beating people to death with a claw-hammer, or simply using his bare hands.
    • Nikaido, despite being a mage, fights entirely bare-fisted for the early series. It is eventually subverted during the latter half of the manga.
  • Rosario + Vampire: Doppelgangers are capable of transmuting anyone's form from person to person by touching one hand to each face; in the case of other monsters, this also carries over powers and abilities. However, they're otherwise no better than humans; the first doppelganger we meet in the series is a human-world criminal who usually only uses his power to mask his allies for an easy getaway. Thus, he trains himself in martial arts, which he notes that humans came up with because they're weak; he almost wipes the floor with the Amazon Brigade of main characters while using Tsukune's form, and when he gets his hand on Moka's face...

    Comic Books 
  • The Immortal Iron Fist for the most part relies on his martial skills in combat. Sure, he has his chi abilities, but he earned those powers by winning a fist-fight with an immortal dragon, so he doesn't much need them. Plus, at first his Iron Fist ability served mostly as a Finishing Move: it was too damaging to use against mooks, and initially left him so tired he couldn't overuse it.
  • Black Canary from the DCU may be the single best example. Her only superpower (sonic scream) is rarely used, and she's probably gone on 15-20 issue streaks of not using it at all, but she's a martial artist good enough to give Lady Shiva pause. Not surprising, as the character was strictly a martial artist for twenty years before she got her powers.
  • Combat training is standard for the X-Men since many of them have powers that are either not specifically combat-oriented or too dangerous to utilize except as a last resort. Most of them mainly rely on their mutant powers, but exceptions include Cable and Bishop, two time-displaced soldiers with vast but hard-to-control powers who normally just use guns.
  • Hitman's Tommy Monaghan pretty much stopped using his powers entirely after the first twenty issues or so, getting by on charm, badass, and luck. As they consisted of rather unimpressive telepathy and X-ray vision that mostly just gave him a nosebleed, and he was already a career killer before then, it's no surprise that he quite literally stuck to his guns.
  • Spawn has superpowers but prefers not to use them, since they're granted by hell and each use further damns his soul. Instead, he prefers to pack some major heat to deal with his foes.
  • Hellboy is a demon summoned from hell, but he certainly never uses his demonic powers against the monsters, faeries, demons, and gods, and while he has a really good healing factor, he mostly uses his Good Old Fisticuffs, his Hand Cannon, and other weapons and other religious and magical artifacts.
  • Preacher: as the series goes on, Jesse relies less and less on his Compelling Voice and simply fights his enemies with fists and guns. Jesse explains that he doesn't want to exploit his voice too much for fear that karma will come back around on him. In one instance he even admits that he Forgot About His Powers. Writer Garth Ennis admitted that he'd written himself into a corner with Jesse's powers and began ignoring them to preserve the drama.
  • Wolverine adversary Kenchiro Harada, aka the Silver Samurai, possesses the mutant power to surround his sword with an energy field, effectively transforming it into a lightsaber. That's the extent of his powers, and in order to actually use it effectively, he's reliant on his martial arts training and mastery of swordsmanship.
  • Deadpool's sole superhuman power (Healing Factor) has no offensive use, so he tends to fight relying only on his skills, katanas, and guns. Granted, his power still allows him to use self-destructive tactics that would get anyone else killed.
  • Daredevil has no powers except supernaturally heightened senses to make up for his blindness. He combines these with top notch martial arts training. Daredevil (2015) further grounds this by showing Murdock regularly ending up winded or even on the verge of collapse from his fights against multiple people, being unable to take down many enemies in one blow, and often getting hit when ganged up on.
  • Darkseid possesses matter manipulation, telepathy, mind control, erosion blasts, chronokinesis, and teleportation. However, whenever he battles Superman, he tends to just fight the Man of Steel with his bare hands while ignoring those other abilities (save for some occasional Omega Beams). Admittedly, a chunk of this is likely due to writers not really understanding Darkseid's powers.
  • Honor Guest, The Silencer, has the ability to project a sound-dampening field around her body. Since this doesn't usually have any offensive or defensive use, she mostly uses guns, knives, or martial arts to fight.
  • Mister Terrific and Dr. Midnite from Justice Society of America both have powers that, while not entirely useless, are deeply unimpressive: the former can't be detected by machinery, while the latter can see in the dark. However, both of them are extremely intelligent and well-trained and use both facts to good advantage. Wildcat is also an example of this - thanks to a magic spell he has nine lives. This offers no offensive use and he simply gets by on his martial arts and boxing prowess.
  • Also back in the golden age. Kent Nelsson would often forego the helmet of Nabu in favor of a non-magical 'half mask' version and only rely on the cape of levitation and the amulet of Anubis for crime-fighting. No in-universe reason was originally given for this practicenote  but All-Star Squadron later revealed that it was because he realized that every time he put it on, Nabu was actually possessing him through it and he was afraid of losing himself.
  • In PS238, Ambriel/Guardian Angel's power is a sort of sentient force that protects her from harm. She eventually got a baseball bat that explodes things, giving her a more combat-ready ability.
  • Ultimate Nick Fury is actually the first super soldier, and he has all the powers of Captain America. But he thought that being Captain America was something that only The Chosen One would be, and he did not feel like being that one. He still serves his country but fights like a regular person.
  • Checkmate:
    • Jessica Midnight possesses magical powers but relies on her armed and unarmed combat training. This is justified; Jessica having powers is in violation of Checkmate's Rule of Two that each super-powered or otherwise enhanced member in the “Royal Family” must have an un-powered counterpart in a corresponding position of power. Since there are already two bishops in Checkmate with superpowers (Thinker and August General In Iron), Jessica makes a third. Bea da Costa is the only one aware that Jessica has powers since she used them to defeat Deadshot.
    • Jessica's superior, Sasha Bordeaux also qualifies. Originally she was a Badass Normal and then became a Cyborg. As her cybernetics were forced unto her, she is not very comfortable with them and mostly relies on her skill with firearms in battle.
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: This is what killed Nemesis Kid. When fighting the illusionist Princess Projectra, he adapted the power to see through her illusions. In response, she simply used her martial arts skills to beat him senseless and snap his neck.
  • The Black Widow's powers are slowed aging and an unusually powerful immune system against diseases and sickness. In battle, she relies on her martial arts, cunning, and weapons.

    Fan Works 
  • One Avatar: The Last Airbender fanfic is set in a continuity where Zuko is stripped of his rank and forced to serve in the army rather than exile. Since Ozai ultimately decides his assignments, Zuko is placed in command of a borderline-competent squad and assigned to the most dangerous and unpleasant battlefields in the war so he'll hopefully get killed. Since a lot of these battlefields are in areas where firebending is impractical or just plain impossible (too cold, too cramped, etc.), and since he doesn't take Iroh with him and therefore doesn't learn any firebending since leaving home, by the time Aang is freed from the iceberg Zuko suffers from severe PTSD and has gotten used to fighting with his bare hands and improvised weapons, and therefore doesn't really do a lot of firebending in fights. For instance, the first time he fights Katara; instead of taking her on bender-to-bender, he just steps in under her reach, grabs her by the throat and punches her very hard in the face with gauntleted fists until she stops moving.
  • Fate/Starry Night: As an Inept Mage, Ritsuka has taken the opportunity to get physical and martial training from some of the greatest warriors across history and myth. He dodges some casual blows from both Lancer and Archer (though he admits that they were purposefully swinging slower than usual), pulverizes several Dragon Tooth Warriors summoned by Medea with Li Shuwen's bajiquan, and destroys a skeletal crocodile with some pankration taught to him by Chiron and Achilles. He also mentions to Shinji that he knows how to load and shoot a submachine gun. While these skills won't do him much good against a proper Servant, it's better than relying solely on Shadow Servants for protection.
  • The Democratic Republic of Acturus from The TSAB – Acturus War mostly uses its magic as passive adjuncts to mundane weaponry and equipment, such as enhancing the power of nukes or teleportation to auto-load tank rounds. Only the Assault Troopers directly use offensive magic. This is in contrast to the TSAB, where even the Redshirt Army's standard rifles fire mana bolts.
  • Variant Strain:
    • Invoked in Peter's fight against the Rhino where his use of tools such as a gun rather than relying on his Hydra powers let him win.
    • Also invoked in chapter 55 where he has to refrain from using Hydra so as to not break his cover in front of some Thunderbolts.
  • Miya in Eroninja taught herself to fight without using any chakra at all. This is because the man she wants to kill (Kisame) is capable of absorbing chakra and using it to heal himself, making chakra usage counterproductive.
  • The Bridge: Monster X has Gravity Master and Eye Beams abilities, but he primarily fights using martial arts.
  • In Supernova (One Piece), Luffy mostly fights without using his Devil Fruit powers, in large part because the sun/plasma abilities it gives him are incredibly destructive and he could easily kill people if he's not careful. This draws a stark contrast with Smoker who uses his Devil Fruit constantly while fighting (Luffy actually lamenting that he doesn't have a power that he can use as much Smoker uses his) and is shocked when Luffy reveals that he's a Logia, having assumed that he'd never seen a Logia before. It's not until the end of their fight that Luffy uses his Logia powers which overpower Smoker's easily.
  • Even after ascending to godhood in the Reaching for a Dream series, Naruto usually just uses his powers to enhance his physical abilities. Sure he can destroy enemy ships by conjuring meteors to strike them or even willing them to no longer exist, but he'd rather just jump on top of them and rip them apart with his bare hands. On some level, this is due to having spent the first twenty years or so of his life as a mortal and needing to fight that way, unlike his wife who was never mortal and prefers to stand in one spot and use her divine powers to fight.
  • More like Fights Like a Normal Trainer, but in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash Ketchum possesses an ability that allows him to give his Pokémon temporary power boosts. He refuses to use it in competitive battling because he views it as an unfair advantage normal humans can't compete against, and also because he believes in his Pokémon to be able to win by their own strength, though he's willing to use it if it's to fight a villain or to help someone in need.
  • In Live a Hero, Izuku fights almost exclusively with the plethora of knives he has at his disposal due to how uncontrollable his Quirk is and the debilitating side effects it has on him.
  • In Juxtapose, none of Izuku's three friends have a damaging component to their Quirks, leading them to take up martial arts and a staff to defend themselves. Izuku is also this to an extent since he uses a staff as well because his Quirk is too lethal to use against people haphazardly.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings only used his magic a few times, often preferring to go after opponents with his sword and staff. This is more or less true of the original novels as well but it is emphasized more in the movies. According to Word of God, Peter Jackson was not a huge fan of seeing magic onscreen and preferred Gandalf to be more physical.
  • Neo from The Matrix trilogy mostly used his kung-fu skills but had the ability to manipulate the Matrix, allowing him the ability to fly, telekinesis, and other powers that he only pulled out when he needed them. This mainly applies in the sequels, because in the first movie it took him some time to figure out how to use his powers.
  • Pretty much everyone in Night Watch and Day Watch, since the director Timur Bekmambetov is not a fan of magic (so, of course, he was the obvious choice to make a movie about modern-day wizards).
  • TRON:
    • TRON: Legacy: Sam Flynn never figures out User powers the way his father did, but once he gets the hang of disc combat (mixed with the martial arts training he has in the Expanded Universe), he was able to hold his own against most of Clu's mooks.
    • The Alternate Continuity of TRON 2.0 had the same thing. Jet Bradley didn't resort to User power at all, instead proving adept with a wide range of weaponry that was used by Programs, with the exception of the LOL (sniper rifle) and the Mesh weapons (designed for the Datawraith mercenaries).
  • In Black Panther (2018), Erik Killmonger gets enhanced by the Black Panther herbs, but he still just fights like a "normal" special forces soldier who just so happens to have Super Strength. T'Challa is able to beat him because he has a greater understanding of the Black Panther powers and uses riskier manoeuvres that are only possible with them.
  • Like in the comics, Black Canary in Birds of Prey (2020) is first and foremost an elite martial artist and only uses her sonic scream once in the entire film.

    Literature 
  • "Clockpunk and the Vitalizer" has Clockpunk, a sort-of Time Master who can slow time for seven seconds and see seven seconds into the future. Both are close to useless against The Vitalizer, so she sticks to her non-lethal Kick-Gun and wits to stay alive in their confrontations.
  • Discworld: In this setting, magic is sometimes compared to nuclear weapons—it's good to have, and it's good if people know that you have it, but you want to avoid using it if at all possible.
    • Arch-chancellor Ridcully tends to favor his staff over magic for fighting. His reasoning is that if something can stand up to a solid blow from his staff it's probably immune to magic as well.
    • Granny Weatherwax is a frightfully powerful witch but believes far more in "Headology" (trickery and understanding of human nature) than magic. When backed into a corner, she's more likely to draw a couple of hatpins than cast a spell. This largely goes for the other witches as well, with Nanny dispatching a villain via a cauldron upside the head, and Magrat carrying a bread knife and taking out a pair of Creepy Twins with martial arts.
    • As of Snuff, Samuel Vimes is no longer entirely normal, as a portion of "The Summoning Dark", the vengeful spirit that used him as a host in Thud, remains with him, granting him a small measure of supernatural abilities. He rarely uses them, as he's a cop and mystical mumbo jumbo isn't admissible in court.
  • Fate/Zero: Kiritsugu definitely has the capacity to be a magus, but instead on relies a lot more on good ol' human technology like firearms and explosives, treating his magecraft abilities as simply yet another tool to be used, which he usually only uses to support his mundane abilities and devices in a largely indirect manner, unless they prove to be more efficient than mundane methods (e.g. giving himself Innate Night Vision) or capable of doing something useful to his purposes that mundane alternatives cannot (e.g. Bounded Fields). This serves him well, since almost all Magi despise the idea of depending on muggle-made technology, making it a blind spot to them whose true potential they consistently underestimate. A prime example is at the start of Volume 2 (Episode 6 in the Animated Adaptation), which sees Kayneth being way too prideful, thinking that nothing would be able to invade his multi-layered magic fortress. In response, Kiritsugu has his colleague Maiya rig the building itself with explosives, thus rendering all of Kayneth's careful preparations useless.
  • The Perpetuals from the Horus Heresy series all have Complete Immortality, able to regenerate from even the most thorough obliteration, but that's about it. To survive in the grim darkness of the far future, they've developed their skills. Ollanius Pius is a retired Imperial Army soldier, though his combat experience stretches as far back as the First World War and even into Antiquity; he was one of the original Argonauts. The only human Perpetual with other powers we know of is John Grammaticus, who is also an omniglot.
  • Asha in The Licanius Trilogy has the power to raze entire towns with Essence, but her preferred method of combat is to grab a sword, strap on some armour, and get right into the thick of combat.
  • Limelight in The Reckoners Trilogy won't use his superpowers unless he absolutely has to, since using them makes him into an evil psychopath.
  • When she has to fight, Ida of Shaman of the Undead uses regular kicks, punches, and knives, as her gifts are restricted to world of the dead only. She's not even Badass Normal - she's an Action Survivor who can see ghosts.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • In Young Jedi Knights, Tenel Ka doesn't use the Force if she can achieve her goal with athletic skill.
    • In I, Jedi, Corran Horn advocates adding unarmed combat to the Jedi training syllabus so as to give Jedi a viable alternative to Force powers and lightsabers, especially if they don't want to kill their opponent. Luke Skywalker takes this on board during his Big Damn Heroes moment late in the book.
  • Richard of the Sword of Truth series has phenomenal wizardly might, but relies almost exclusively on his sword for combat, primarily because he has no bloody clue how to get his magic to work at will. This is a borderline example since that sword is itself magic.
  • In the Warrior Cats series, out of the three cats with superpowers, only Lionblaze's are useful in battle (he can't get hurt in a fight). Jayfeather's power is to enter other cats' dreams (though he doesn't fight anyway, since he's a medicine cat), and Dovewing's power - Super Senses - is actually a hindrance in battle because the amount of noise and scents confuses her.
  • In early books of The Wheel of Time, Rand al'Thor has sufficient latent power in Channeling to be a Person of Mass Destruction, but defaults to creating swords of Fire and fighting normally with them. Several people lampshade what a laughably inefficient use of his abilities it is.
  • Safi and Iseult of The Witchlands are both witches but fight like regular people, as one is a Living Lie Detector and the other is The Empath. Though now that Iseult knows she's a Weaverwitch, able to induce Mystical Plague on people, this might change.
  • Harry Dresden is a wizard, and in terms of raw power, is in the top 20 or 30 on the planet. And while he's not averse to slinging fireballs around, he also carries a gun whenever he expects danger, and later in the series takes martial arts training. Partly this is because many of the foes he faces can ignore his fire spells for one reason or another, but mainly it's because of the element of surprise. Most wizards prefer to solve any and all problems with magic. The last thing anyone expects is for a wizard to pull a gun on them.
  • Delta, among others, in Stone Burners augment her techie powers with combat training.
  • Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe actually encourages this, as part of their emphasis on Combat Pragmatism, Mundane Utility, and learning that skill usually beats raw power. Able-bodied students are required to take either martial arts or Survival and Evasion, and the first day of both classes involves a baseline teacher (either the Old Master aikido teacher of the Grizzled Veteran firearms instructor) demonstrating that they can outmaneuver most superhumans through skill alone. This, combined with the vagaries of the Superpower Lottery, often leads low-to-middle powered students focusing on mundane fighting methods.
    • One of the teachers for the aikido classes is sensei Tolman, who is a Type 3: a black woman with superstrength and mental attack powers who just prefers using aikido.
    • Aquerna is a Type 1: she has squirrel powers, so she is stronger and faster than a baseline human, which means she is considered a campus joke. She has been learning aikido, Le Parkour, and martial arts weapons.
    • Several of the smarter (such as Phase) or more pacifistic (e.g. Folder) students are a combination of type 1 and 2; they are rightly Afraid of Their Own Strength (especially regarding baselines), but at the same time, realize that there is Always a Bigger Fish who could out-muscle them. While this is more a matter of Boxing Lessons for Superman, the emphasis on control can lead them to use their powers sparingly if they don't need them.
    • While Counterpoint (aka Ares) usually sees 'rules' as an effete self-indulgence, he is known for doing this when facing students known for combat prowess, in order to get a 'proper challenge' (or even just to rub it in). Also, it seems millennia-old habits are hard to break.
  • Many superheroes and supervillains in Worm learn how to fight this way, since their powers aren't directly offensive. Characters like Armsmaster and Grue uses their powers to augment their essentially-human combat training, and Victor uses his power to give himself human martial art skills.
    • Contessa and Number Man have only information-gathering powers to go with their mundane human bodies and can march up to just about any other parahuman in the world and beat them within an inch of their lives.
    • In the 2 years between Worm and its sequel Ward, the main character avoided using her powers because they reminded her of her trauma. However, she still had the urge to help people so she joined the Patrol Block, a volunteer police department and youth group of sorts, and learned how to fight hand to hand and use guns like an unpowered person. This comes in handy later when she resumes costumed hero work and goes up against Contender, whose power sucks victims into a pocket dimension where superpowers are disabled. She handles herself just fine.
  • Nova of Renegades can induce Forced Sleep with her touch, but because most of her enemies have ranged abilities, she's also an excellent martial artist and can shoot most weapons.
  • Companions in the Heralds of Valdemar series are angelic or quasi-angelic beings with human-level intelligence along with a number of psionic and magical abilities. However when violence is called for their go-to option is close-quarters combat using the bites, kicks, and body-checks that are the general repertoire of mundane warhorses.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Charmed, Phoebe learns martial arts because while Prue and Piper have powers with direct combat application (freezing people and telekinesis, respectively), Phoebe's power of precognition is more passive.
  • In Mortal Kombat: Conquest the villains mostly rely on hand-to-hand combat despite having mystical abilities that give them an edge over the heroes. This is justified in Sub-Zero's case as using his ice powers drains his strength.
  • Power Rangers:
    • The Rangers regularly take out the Mooks without bothering to morph, as part of the series tradition of not escalating a battle beyond what's necessary. Keep in mind, though, that several teams have special abilities that they can and do use even while unmorphed, which disqualifies them for this trope.
    • One episode of Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue has the Blue Ranger Chad defeating a monster in hand-to-hand combat without morphing. Once the monster whipped out an energy staff, Chad morphed and handed him his ass again.
    • In the Milestone Celebration team-up in Power Rangers Operation Overdrive, Bridge is the only one of the Disney Era Rangers who doesn't use his civilian powers in the warehouse fight against the mooks.
  • Justified on Supernatural - Sam Winchester has the ability to kill Final Boss level demons with his mind, keeping the human host alive to boot, but the powers aren't worth the price of unlocking them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Many primary spellcasters in Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e can hold their own quite well in a fight due to respectable hit point totals, equipment proficiencies, and base attack bonuses. Among these are clerics, druids, warlocks, favored souls, and spirit shamans.
  • A few advanced classes from the d20 Modern settings:
    • Urban Arcana: The thrasher (Having an impressive damage reduction coming from magic, i.e. Super Toughness), the Speed Demon (A pilot with supernatural enhancements to his/her piloting skills), the Acolyte thanks to Vancian Magic (he can break out powerful powers, but they have a very limited number of uses per day, so he either saves them or is forced to fight like a normal when he runs out).
    • Agents of PSI: The Battle Mind, whom can mostly enhance his natural fighting prowess with psionics, along with a few more exotic powers.
  • In Mage: The Ascension, it's possible to load up your character with combat stats and skills despite being able to use Magick. If the character doesn't have the Spheres or can't figure out a way to avoid Paradox, it's often advisable to use conventional weapons in a fight rather than Magick.
    • Similarly in Mage: The Awakening. The risk of Paradox increases with each vulgar spell one casts in a scene, meaning that someone who relies on throwing around fire and lightning in a fight will either be forced to take damage from mitigating the Paradox or have their spells go hilariously wrong. It's often better to use self-enhancement magics and/or enchanted weaponry.
    • It helps that Rote spells gain extra power if the caster is especially skilled at a mundane skill, often combat skills in the case of more violent spells. The Adamantine Arrow takes full advantage of this by crossing it with Boxing Lessons for Superman.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Space Marine Librarians are extremely powerful psykers but still wield boltguns and melee weapons. After all, even if you get past their psychic abilities, you're still facing a seven-plus-foot-tall post-human Super Soldier in Powered Armor whose sidearm is a BFG with armor-piercing explosive rounds.
    • Every Grey Knight is a psyker, but the vast majority fight the way regular Space Marines do (for basic troops, their psyker powers give them enhanced melee abilities and that's it).
  • Shadowrun: A lot of Awakened metahumans fight using guns. Adepts can use their bare hands or weapon foci and mages can use Combat spells to fight (and must in order to effectively harm spirits), but guns tend to be just as deadly, require no drain and leave behind no magical signature for magic police to track.

    Video Games 
  • Sigurd of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War has Major Holy Blood, which entitles him to an Infinity +1 Sword and some fancy stat bonuses... however, he doesn't get his hands on it until the last chapter he appears in. For the majority of his story, he fights with normal weapons, but he's still highly effective.
  • A flash game Fan Remake of Kung Fu Master has a special ability you unlock after beating each of the first three stages, all can lay waste to every mook on the screen. When you get to a boss fight, the main character refuses to use these specials, on the basis that he can kick their butts without them. Considering who he's fighting in stages 2 to 4, that's a hell of a statement to make.
  • Raziel from the Legacy of Kain series has plenty of vampiric and ghastly powers at his disposal: A spectral blade, telekinetic projectiles, Elemental Glyphs, etc. But when magic is low and ghost-powers prove ineffective, he's just as likely to grab the nearest pointy object to impale his enemies with.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Korra shows that, even with her bending blocked, she's dangerous. After all, bending is just empowered martial arts, and she's a master-level fighter.
  • Three the Hard Way has Anderson. Already a Lightning Bruiser in the gameplay, he's shown to be even much more powerful in the cutscenes, where he is able to lay waste on entire armies with a single strike. When other characters lampshade this, he responds that he is no longer the mass-murdering madman he was in the past.
  • Among a faction of space ninjas with magic powers, Vauban of Warframe fame relies only on a seemingly endless supply of trick grenades and his armour, but can still kick as much ass as any other Warframe.
  • Golden Sun:
    • While every character is able to cast powerful elemental spells through Psynergy, the game very much favors melee combat, with weapons unleashing powerful effects almost every other turn in the endgame (even for the Squishy Wizard) and spells eventually relegated to healing once in a while. This gets Isaac some not-exactly-unfounded of cheating during the Colosso tournament, where you're supposed to use your non-combat abilities to manipulate the stage beforehand to give Isaac an easier time getting items (during the battle itself, there's nothing stopping Isaac from casting spells, which are apparently Invisible to Normals, the ethics and use of which are handwaved away with "Psynergy is also a warrior's power").
    • In Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Sveta is a beastgirl who can fight and cast like all the others but has a unique ability that allows her to transform into a wolflike creature. This prevents her from using Psynergy or djinn, but it makes her standard attack ridiculously overpowered as it now hits every enemy, every turn, for free (even multi-target Psynergy deals less damage to isolated enemies). While the transformation ends when she runs out of djinn to fuel it, very few enemies can stand that kind of abuse for so long.
  • In Demon's Souls and the Dark Souls series, your character is some manner of immortal being and has access to three different schools of magic. Bloodborne trades magic for guns that fire bullets made out of your own blood, arcane artifacts that also costs bullets to use, and the ability to transform into either a beast or a tentacled Eldritch Abomination with a piece of cauliflower for a head. Yet the most common type of character build you will likely face in PvP involves ignoring all of that crap (besides the innate self-resurrection) and focusing entirely on either Strength, Dexterity (Skill in Bloodborne), or both, depending on the weapon they're using, so they can hit you with said weapon really hard. Even if you do pump your magic stats, you can use them solely to cast Spell Blade buffs on a weapon, while your actual fighting style will still be that of an ordinary physical brute. Or cut out the middleman and just infuse the weapon so that it directly scales off those stats instead of the physical ones.
  • The titular character of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice has Resurrective Immortality and a prosthetic arm that can be outfitted with various attachments for use in combat, but he still has to mostly rely on his own skill with a sword. He later gets a fancy cursed sword that can kill immortal beings, but using it in normal combat costs Spirit Emblems, which are usually better served to fuel his prosthetic attachments, so he'll end up usually only taking it out to deal a finishing blow against an immortal foe after first defeating them with his normal sword.
  • Subverted with the Cyborg Ninja in Metal Gear Solid who declares a true fight is hand-to-hand and that only a fool trusts his life to a weapon, wanting he and Snake to put away their flashy swords and guns and cyborg powers for a true fistfight. However, as the fight goes on and he begins being beaten he starts to rely on his powers more and more, turning invisible and teleporting and continuing to chastise Snake if he pulls out a weapon. It helps that he's trying to prolong the fight because he loves it so much and that he's stark-raving mad.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • Jaune Arc begins the series with no combat training and no Semblance. All he has is a hand-me-down sword and shield, and sheer determination. He has to have his Aura unlocked and learn how to be a Huntsman from scratch, unlike his classmates, who all have years of combat experience behind them. Although he upgrades his weapons in Volume 4, he doesn't unlock his Semblance until the end of Volume 5. Even then, his Semblance is the ability to amplify Aura using his own huge Aura reserves. By amplifying other people's Auras, he can make their natural Aura abilities (such as healing) even better while making their Semblances incredibly powerful. For himself what this means is that.... he just gets more durable when being hit and can heal faster. He still has to rely on ordinary combat skills and Dust just like a non-Huntsman would have to.
    • Pyrrha Nikos is a discussed version of the trope. Pyrrha has a reputation for being "the Untouchable Girl". She is a four times Mistral champion and considered unbeatable in combat tournaments. Aside from her great skill at combat, she appears to use no obvious powers beyond recalling weapons to her hand. This is because she hides what her Semblance really is. Mercury spars with her in training very briefly just to get an idea of what her power is before discussing it with Cinder and Emerald: Pyrrha is using her magnetism power to gently nudge weapons and armour of both herself and her opponent to ensure her strikes always hit and her opponent's strikes always miss. Cinder comments that it makes her seem to others as though she's fated for victory when she's really taking destiny into her own hands.

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Walter "Doc" Hartford has a Series Five implant like his team members, but his enhances his Techno Wizard skills in hacking and machine manipulation and is relatively useless in combat. When the fighting starts, he relies on his wits, his fists, a blaster, and (when he was really lucky) a sword. Sometimes deconstructed as the other three have to cover him while he works, but truly awesome when he was able to take down the nastiest foe in the series singlehandedly.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • Aside from his firebending skills, Prince Zuko is also trained in swordsmanship and his skills come in handy when there are situations where he shouldn't use his powers, like in Season 2 when he is hiding in the Earth Kingdom. During that period, Zuko only uses his firebending once, against a particularly tricky opponent.
      • Zuko's uncle Iroh is shown to be a highly effective fighter without needing to firebend, such as sending Zhao flying with a flick of his wrist and heaving boulders with chains. Given his role as Zuko's mentor, this is something he probably taught him as he compliments Zuko's form after the latter shatters Iroh's chains with a single kick. Plus during Season 3, Iroh escapes from prison using only his strength while firebenders are depowered thanks to an eclipse.
    • The Legend of Korra:
      • Amon fights primarily using chi blocking, which is a non-supernatural fighting style designed to counter bending. He also has the ability to remove someone's bending, courtesy of being an incredibly powerful Waterbender who can Bloodbend any time, no full moon needed, and can do so with a Death Glare alone, but that isn't the kind of thing that he can do while being attacked. His ability to avoid all bending attacks makes him one of the most intimidating characters in the franchise, but he's also using his psychic bloodbending to help him throw off his opponents' movements, giving him a nigh unbeatable edge. Technically, this means that he really isn't fighting like a normal.
      • In Book 3, Harmonic Convergence-empowered Bumi plays with the trope: He does use his airbending in combat; however, he seems to only know how to do so defensively. As far as offense goes, he seems to favor grappling — for example, when fighting Red Lotus earthbender Ghazan, he actually resorts to hair-pulling and biting.
      • Being a trained martial artist (as well as extensively studying Air Nomad culture and philosophy) before he was in prison is why Zaheer is so good at airbending so quickly after gaining the ability (even though he doesn’t bend like a typical airbender; it’s more like firebending).
  • Macbeth from Gargoyles is almost totally immortal; he doesn’t age, can’t die of natural causes and there’s only one person in the world that can kill him (and she won’t because she’d die too). However, he is not invulnerable and doesn’t appear to have a Healing Factor so he can’t just tank damage indefinitely. As such he relies on his arsenal of weapons and centuries worth of combat skill in fights rather than his immortality.
  • In an episode of Jackie Chan Adventures in which the Dark Hand goes on a talisman-empowered crime spree, Hak Foo has the talismans of levitation, healing, and immortality, but feels he barely needs them. When a disgruntled Finn, who got some of the far less flashy talismans, makes note of how they're going unused, Hak Foo disdainfully tosses them his way.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rarity - a fashionista whose main magical talent lies in beautification and beautiful things - can on several occasions be seen punching out her enemies in typical fisticuffs (hooficuffs?) fashion. Unlike her friend Twilight Sparkle, she lacks combat magic, but she won't let that stop her.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Ahsoka starts out the "Walkabout" arc in "Gone With a Trace" doing this, having left the Jedi Order and among ordinary civilians who don't see the Jedi as heroes. She is still able to easily curb-stomp two ordinary criminal thugs who threaten her friend Trace. However, as Ahsoka and the Martez sisters go up against the dangerous Pyke Syndicate later in the arc, Ahsoka winds up having to use her Force powers openly in battle: during their escape in "Dangerous Debt", she starts using her powers a fair bit, but only when no one will notice or realize that she has them.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Kanan uses a regular blaster on a lot of his ops, only breaking out the Force powers and lightsaber when he's in serious trouble. Justified as he's a Jedi on the run from The Empire, and revealing himself as such puts a huge bullseye on himself (which actually happens in the pilot). However, as the series progresses he starts to use his lightsaber more often, as taking an apprentice means he has to relearn how to fight like a Jedi. Culminates in season 3: after being blinded in the season 2 finale, he can't really hide his Jedi status anymore, and although he still carries his blaster he uses it much less.
  • Jefferson Twilight of The Venture Bros. (a Blade Expy) is in the "powers are too minor/noncombative to help him fight" category. Specifically, he can sense the presence of black vampires ("Blaculas", as he calls them), and he is "between worlds", meaning he can have a presence in the physical world and the spiritual world when projected there in some manner — an ability so minor and vague he didn't even realize he had it until he got shoved into the right situation. Because of this, he relies almost entirely on his Dual Wielding skills and his army training, something he's grumbled about when both of his companions have Functional Magic.


Alternative Title(s): Fight Like A Normal

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