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Heroes Fight Barehanded

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And you call yourself the God of War?

"Good! Now we can fight as warriors! Hand to hand! It is the basis of all combat! Only a fool trusts his life to a weapon!"
Gray Fox, Metal Gear Solid

Many times, heroes have to face their enemies in battle. They can have access to a vast variety of weapons, from swords to axes to staves to knives. However, sometimes the hero will take a third option and fight with his own hands.

Sometimes is because the character is a Bare-Fisted Monk who uses martial arts, or perhaps doesn't like weapons or killing. Sometimes it's because the character is so damn strong that he doesn't need weapons at all. Often it represents a very blunt, straightforward personality. If the main hero travels with his friends expect his lancer or Big Guy to use weapons instead, to make the contrast clear. This can also be played with the unarmed hero and the weapon-using villain.

Attacking them with weapons is usually a bad idea.

See also: Bare-Fisted Monk, Technical Pacifist and Doesn't Like Guns. Contrast with Heroes Prefer Swords.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sechs from Battle Angel Alita went from fighting with a combination of brutish Panzer Kunst, Sechster Angriff, and the Solenoid Quench Gun to mostly just punching, because he no longer has the Quench gun, and normally immediately loses his Titan Blade in fights.
  • Inverted in Bleach, as Ichigo swings around his massive Big Fancy Sword while one of his friends, Chad, fights unarmed. OK, with Power Fists for his hands, but still unarmed.
    • Played straight in the original pilot chapter, where Ichigo insults Rukia for using a sword to fight instead of her hands.
  • The Celestial Zone: Averted; a sure-fire sign that a character has reached a high level of spiritual cultivation in The Celestial Zone is when they are capable of manifesting their spiritual energy as a physical weapon, and their most powerful techniques are all executed with their spirit weapon in hand. Though the trope is played straight most of the time otherwise, as characters capable of generating spirit weapons but chose to fight bare-handed are generally holding back.
  • Natsu from Fairy Tail, contrasting Erza, Gajeel and Gray, who all use weaponry of some sort.
  • Kenshiro himself in Fist of the North Star as well as almost all the other characters, except Mamiya and Jagi, the former due to not being formally trained in one of the Fantastic Fighting Styles of the series, and the latter due to being a Dirty Coward willing to stoop to any tactics to win. While Kenshiro himself is not above picking up things nearby or even using the villains' own weapons against them, he only does so when the situation requires it.
  • Subverted in Gamaran: the main character is a swordsman, and at one point he fights the Kyosen Ryuu warriors, whose martial arts revolves on bare-handed combat. As he points out, their arts are useless if they don't connect, and in the first few minutes of combats three of the five bare-handed Kyosen Ryuu are easily dispatched.
  • Hero Tales: Taito/Hagun fights the sword-wielding villain Keirou/Tonrou with nothing but his bare hands.
  • Shichika, the protagonist of Katanagatari, is a swordsman who doesn't use swords. Don't think about it too hard. Technically he isn't a swordsman, he is a sword. He is the culmination of seven generations of training and mental conditioning to raise a warrior whose very body is a weapon.
  • Karakuri Circus: Invoked. The main antagonists are the living alchemically-powered dolls known as automata. Unstoppable and deadly for any common mortal, they have a glaring weakness: since they're entertainers above all else, they won't use their superior speed or power against an unarmed opponent (audience, for them). The use of Chinese martial arts can disrupt their vital fluids and kill them, making them more vulnerable to bare hands than to conventional weapons.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple (which anyway gives more emphasis on weaponless fighting) there is an example with two groups of evil martial artists: it has been implied several times that the members of the weapon division of Yami are inferior both in fighting skills and fighting ethics to the weaponless Yami fighters. Many weaponless Yami masters tend to be more anti-villains, while the weaponed Yami masters are usually presented as ruthless hoodlums.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid: Main characters Vivio and Einhart both use bare-handed martial arts as their fighting style. In fact, they're some of the few characters in the setting whose Device isn't a weapon of some kind.
  • In Naruto the titular hero heavely relies on Taijutsu, contrasting Sasuke who prefers to use a lightning-enchanted chokuto. On a similar note we have Tsunade versus Orochimaru (uses the Kusanagi sword) and the Raikage compared to his brother Killer B.
  • Negi Springfield of Negima! Magister Negi Magi slowly phases out his weapons after he gets a ring to serve the same purpose as his staff. This moves him into Full-Contact Magic.
  • In One Piece, Monkey D. Luffy is incapable of fighting with the use of weapons, but his barehanded fighting prowess is so much so that he has been labelled a fighting genius.
  • Ratman: Some heroes don't use weapons even if their budget could let them. On the other-hand, some have powers to supplement them.
  • Inverted in Rurouni Kenshin: The Hero Kenshin is a swordsman, though he uses a blunt blade, while The Lancer Sanosuke focuses on barehanded fighting after discarding his Zanmato.
  • Played with in 3×3 Eyes. Yakumo has to win a kickboxing match against an opponent with a highly superior fighting technique and he can't use magic because of all the muggles betting on the fight. So he purposely requests a barehanded kickboxing match without boxing gloves, so he and his opponent will get hurt more, so he can win in the long run due to his healing factor. Otherwise, this trope is inverted: Yakumo can fight barehanded but is not shy about using hidden blades, swords and whatever he can pick up for a fight. The Dragon Benares instead always fight barehanded (sometimes turning his fingers into claws, but still) or with his Summon Magic.
  • Saint Seiya: While some of Saints do have some sort of weaponry with them, most of them fights barehanded. In fact, it becomes a plot point that among Athena's Saints the Gold Saint of Libra is the only one explicitly allowed by Athena to wield weapons, and all other Saints are forbidden from the practice (apparently, flail and chain-wielding Saints such as Bronze Andromeda and Silver Cerberus are also exempt because said chains are an integral part of the armor; likewise, the Gold Saint of Sagittarius gets a bow and arrow, but it only gets brought out for extremely special, and especially dire, situations). And even then, Libra's weapons tend to be used as tools more often than not, as both Dohko and Shiryu favor unarmed fighting techniques even when wearing the full arsenal. Usually most of the Big Bad here have weapons of sort and won't hesitate to wield them against Athena, such as Poseidon's Trident and Hades' sword.
  • Seikesshou Albatross: Yuki, being trained in martial arts by his mother, fights this way against Monobiles. It also helps that he got power from a sacred stone, the Flame Isotope.
    • He later receives a sword from Albatross which he can channel the power through and fights with it; he becomes more of a Heroes Prefer Swords person.
  • Senki Zesshou Symphogear has Hibiki, the series' main protagonist and the only one who doesn't use an armed gear. She spends a fair amount of the first season lamenting the fact that she can't summon one (by all rights, her Gungnir relic should provide her with a spear). Then she realizes that her hands are her armed gear and starts to like the idea of being weaponless because it means she can hold people's hands. That said, she doesn't play this completely straight thanks to her gauntlets.
  • Ichise from Texhnolyze, mainly because he's a prize fighter. He does get a sword later on.
  • The titular characters of Tiger & Bunny. Given that the show is about american-style superheroes, this makes sense.
  • Tokyo Ghoul: Zig-Zagged. The Anti-Hero Main Characters fight bare-handed or with their Kagune, with their CCG Hero Antagonist foes armed with Quinques and/or guns equipped with anti-ghoul rounds. However, in addition to the moral ambiguity above, there are many less-than-heroic ghouls and investigators who also fight without/with weapons respectively, and later in the series we see ghouls using guns.
  • Toriko fights with his bare hands, although he can also manifest a knife and fork to attack stronger enemies with.
  • When Thors from Vinland Saga tells his son that a true warrior has no use for weapons, he means that true strength and courage lie in pacifism and mercy. He also proves this literally when he effortlessly defeats most of a viking band plus an enraged berserker with his bare hands. The raiders are surprised to realize that none of them are dead or even seriously injured.
  • Elemental Hero Neos, from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. He may be the most popular, powerful, and heroic of Judai/Jaden's monsters.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, the Barian emperor Alito uses Boxer themed cards (Burning Knucklers or Battlin' Boxers), exhibits himself great boxing skills, and in his past life, was known to be one of the greatest gladiators of all time, fighting only with his fists. It helps that he becomes Yuma's Friendly Enemy and is seen as an all-around good person.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam showcases this trope with Domon's Finishing Move: "This hand of mine glows with an awesome power; it's burning grip tells me to defeat you!" Cue a crushed gundam's head section.
  • All Might in My Hero Academia. Most of his fellow superheroes (and villains) use high-tech support equipment to enhance their abilities, but he gets by solely through the overwhelming brute strength, durability, and speed of his Quirk, One For All. His protégé, Izuku Midoriya, subverts this, bringing specialized gloves to protect his arms, iron-soled shoe attachments that increase his kicking power and jumping ability, and later adds even more tools like focusing devices to help him produce Razor Wind attacks.

    Comic Books 
  • Most of the Marvel/DC Comics heroes.
    • Notable exceptions include Tim Drake and Dick Grayson of DC, both former Robins who now fight crime as Red Robin and Nightwing respectively. Tim uses a Bo staff and Dick a pair of Escrima sticks, presumably because their focus on agility over strength compared to other barefist DC fighters means the weapons give them the 'kick' they need.
    • Other notable Marvel/DC heroes who use weapons are Thor, who wields Mjolnir, Katana, who (funnily enough) wields a katana, and Bucky Cap, who uses a pistol. Many of Thor's warriors buddies like Valkyrie and Lady Sif will frequently use weapon, and Wonder Woman wields a lasso while a sword is the favored weapon of her Combat Pragmatist sister Nubia.
  • Marv from Sin City has a gun which he named Gladys but mostly just uses his "mitts". Considering his brutish strength, it makes sense.
  • Action Comics had... uh... fist air fight: Supermobile.
  • The Phantom often sees the nominal Non-Powered Costumed Hero non-lethally disarm his foes via Improbable Aiming Skills. However, he's more likely to leave his pistols in their holsters and fight bare-fisted because, in the words of the strip's creator Lee Falk "that's how heroes fight".

  • In Fallout: Equestria, the Zebra fighter and companion Xenith is a master of "Fallen Caesar Style". Combined with her skill in stealth and ability to use Zebra alchemical brews in unexpected ways in combat (such as running along ceilings); she can engage armed and armored foes with no more than her hooves. She does, however, don a clawed helmet when it's argued her skills won't be as effective against magically shielded foes.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Disney's Hercules, losing his sword in the battle with the Hydra, Hercules struggles to hold the Hydra back with his bare hands.
  • Seen in Kung Fu Panda 2: Po and the Furious Five are all unarmed kung fu fighters (though Monkey sometimes use a staff), while the Big Bad Lord Shen carries around a flame-like partisan and tons of throwing daggers, and all his henchmen are heavily armed.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In The Fifth Elephant Captain Carrot faces the Nazi-esque Wolfgang disarmed, giving him a chance to fight dirty. Furthermore Carrot, despite owning a Cool Ancient Absurdly Sharp Blade prefers to use his bare hands (capable of demolishing trolls) in many situations. Not mentioning his unearthly charisma.
    • Subverted by Carrot's boss, Vimes, who carries a sword and a crossbow but prefers to take his enemies alive, and is therefore more likely to attack with his fists — and a hidden set of brass knuckles, which very few of his opponents see coming.
  • Journey to Chaos's hero, Eric Watley, zigzags this trope depending on whether or not he is in grendel form. In the first form, he will fight with his Magic Staff. In his second, he will fight with his fists because they are bigger, stronger, and coated in a metallic hide. The others on his team always use hand-held weapons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Kung Fu: Kwai Chang Caine always fought with his bare hands, though he'll occasionally use improvised weapons. Whenever he disarmed an opponent of a weapon, he would discard or destroy it instead of using it himself.
  • Eliot from Leverage prefers to fight bare-fisted or using an object as a club, even when faced with guns. He constantly says he Doesn't Like Guns, thinking they're too sloppy. Of course, that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to use them.
  • Hercules in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys usually fights barehanded, regardless of whether his foes are armed, since his Super Strength is generally enough to make weapons redundant. When he actually does pick up a sword or other weapon it's a sign that things are serious.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Elemental Hero Neos.
  • Zig Zagged Trope in Dungeons & Dragons. Most good aligned monks qualify. Good aligned characters from most other classes, aside from the odd grapple fighter build generally don't. And then, monks only need to be lawful, allowing a Lawful Evil monk to qualify as a villain fighting bare handed.

    Video Games 
  • In Blue Dragon the only good guy with a sword is Zola but she's The Lancer.
  • In Dragon Quest VIII you can have a barehanded hero and armed party members, but in this way you miss the chance of using powerful and useful weapons. You can however learn how to cast Razor Wind.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, the Hand-to-Hand skill allows for you to play this trope straight with the Player Character. However, it is dropped as a skill as of Skyrim, making it much harder, as there are very few and limited options to get better at it.
  • Can be played straight in Final Fantasy with a Monk/Master as the main character. The fact that he's also unearthly powerful helps a lot.
  • In a similar way, in Final Fantasy II you can focus on the barehanded fight and obtain good results.
  • Snow in Final Fantasy XIII has no weapon and battles monsters using only his fists, although the leather-looking gloves he wears do incorporate the same AMP (Antimatter Manipulation Principle) Technology which powers most of the other weapons in the game.note  And he talks about being "a hero" all the time... at least until his Character Development kicks in.
  • Vhaidra from Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 can be this if you play as her. You can still give her halberds and staves but her unarmed fight skills are faster and stronger.
  • In Zeno Clash, most of the combat's done with fists, apart from the occasional shooting level.
  • In Sengoku Basara 3 Tokugawa Ieyasu can be considered the main protagonist and fights bare-handed (so he too can feel pain), contrasting with his rival Ishida Mitsunari, an Iaijutsu Practitioner.
  • In Disgaea 2, Adell finds weapons just not [his] style, and fights barehanded (though he can be given any weapon in gameplay, he's just not too good with them, suffering slow skill gain).
  • Mario is not exactly reliant on an specialized combat style, but some games, especially Super Smash Bros., show him to be a force to be reckoned with even when using his fists.
  • Although he usually wields a katana, this is the philosophy of Gray Fox, the Cyber Ninja in Metal Gear Solid. In the boss battle against him, it's basically useless to engage him in a firefight (as he wields his aforementioned katana to such a degree of skill that he can use it to deflect machine gun fire), but, per the quote at the top of the page, he will sheathe his sword and fight you hand-to-hand if you put your guns away.
  • In the Tales Series, aside from swordsmanship in some form, the most common protagonist fighting style is good old fashioned Bare-Knuckle Brawling from a Bare-Fisted Monk.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Spirit Hunter: NG is a no-nonsense brawler who prefers using his bare fists over any kind of weapon, as he says when he's given Seiji's gun and hides it away instead of using it.

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, despite owning at least two swords, Finn usually fights with his bare hands.


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