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Heroes Fight Barehanded

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And you call yourself the God of War?

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. 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.

A lot of comic book heroes who are Badass Normal (no superpowers) eschew guns not just on principle but because it just makes them all the more awesome and it makes fights more interesting in print. Because comics are a static medium, artists find that hand to hand combat, being up close and personal, is just more much more dynamic to illustrate than ranged combat with firearms. Also, in decades past, they often had to also eschew swords and other bladed melee weapons because their practical use in many cases would violate not only Thou Shalt Not Kill, but also the Comics Code Authority. It the character does carry a sword, it is typically an Ornamental Weapon or there is some pretext as to why it is never used to actually fight anyone such as its primary use being a magical object and not a melee weapon.

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 Berserk, Guts has his BFS while many of the antagionists he faces (especially upon going One-Winged Angel) have no weapons e.g Zodd, Wyald, Snake Baron, the Count, Rosine, Mozgus, Slan and Femto (though in the latter two cases it's because they are Physical Gods who don't need such trivial things as weapons).
  • 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.
  • Buster Keel!: Keel the Dragon Ape only fights with his natural weapons, enhanced by his monster nature: his companions use, respectively, a magic guitar (to empower monsters) and a set of crescent-shaped axes.
  • A Certain Magical Index: Downplayed. Kamijou Touma mostly fights with his bare hands against superpowered enemies, while his allies rely on their magical prowess and superpowers; since he only has an Anti-Magic fist this is the only thing he has going for him. However he lacks superhuman strength nor durability or has sufficient enough martial skills to compliment his fighting style, hence he relies on his quick thinking, the occasional Improvised Weapon, and a willingess to fight dirty to survive.
  • In Dragon Ball with the sole exception of Future Trunks with his sword, none of the heroes ever use any weapons. Then again, given that they can catch bullets and lift mountains, they really don't need weapons. There is a lot of Blasting Time with their Ki Manipulation but it still primarily comes down to punching and kicking, even when their foes are explictly using weapons againist them like Dabura with his sword and Frieza's mooks or Gamma 1 and Gamma 2 with their fancy blasters. Goku did avert this earlier on the series with the Nyoibō aka Power Pole, which he used frequently and still made good use of it up to Dragon Ball Z: Dead Zone againist Garlic Junior's Quirky Mini Boss Squad (who had scimitars) but soon put it aside in favour of pure unarmed combat.
  • Inverted in Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai: the former Hero Avan was a swordmaster, while the Demon King Hadler is a master of magic and bare-handed combat, at most using the Hell Claws as a trump card. Downplayed during the battle between Dai and Baran: the latter can use a massive falchion, but is also so strong that mundane weapons break against him, forcing Dai to spend a large portion of the battle punching and kicking him.
  • 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. Inverted in the sequel series, where most of the heroes used armed styles while the elite of the Genkai Tenpei have mastered bare-handed kung-fu to use in tandem with exotic weapons.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Naruto, the titular hero heavily 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. Above all everyone else though there's Rock Lee and his mentor Might Guy who unlike even Naruto lack fancy Chakra attacks and are pure Taijutsu through and through (they sometimes have nunchaku though).
  • 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 (amped by his Devil Fruit) is so much so that he has been labelled a fighting genius. Pretty much all the important Arc Villains he fought (from Buggy to Krieg to Enel to Kaido) used weapons against him. Other than Luffy, there's Sanji who refuses to use a weapon in any of his fights (even kicking away a sword his Arch-Nemesis dad offers during their fight in the anime) and one time he did used knives againist Wanze was simply because the fight took place in a kitchen and Wanze was using Ramen againist him, making it fair game for a Chef of Iron like Sanji. In the climax of the Wano arc Sanji takes this even further, destroying the Raid Suit despite the advantages it gave him in combat and beats Queen (who's walking a Walking Armory) unarmed. Joining them is Jinbe who likewise fights unarmed, unless you consider the water he uses in Fishman Karate a weapon. There's also Robin and Chopper who don't use weapons either, but their Devil Fruit powers like Luffy makes this not a disadvantage in the slightest.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Thorfinn eventually follows in his father's footsteps during the second arc, adapting his old knife-fighting style to fighting unarmed. He continues to fight unarmed for the rest of the series, taking on several powerful (and armed) warriors with naught but his fists.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • Il Grande Blek: Blek often relies on his fists for fighting and uses his rifle only for very serious circumstances.
  • 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 other Asgardian warriors, like Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, will frequently use weapons. Iron Man sometimes resorts to fisticuffs, but more often depends on his armor's weapons. 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.
  • Zigzagged by Spider-Man. Spidey typically fights barehanded, but he'll sometimes cover his hands with webbing to harden his punches, especially when his opponent can either No-Sell his normal blows or can't be safely touched.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • 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 uses 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 

  • Discworld:
  • 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.
  • Way of the Tiger: Avenger, the playable character, is a ninja and devout follower of Kwon, patron god of martial arts and ninjutsu, thus he excels at barehanded combat, using at most shurikens from afar. Villainous ninja of other orders will fight with weapons and Avenger's greatest rival, Honoric, wields an Anti-Magic black sword with great skill.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Kung Fu (1972): 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.
  • Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Starting from late season 2, the Rangers began relying on their weapons less and less in battle to the point that they were almost completely phased out of the show, save for the odd moment in which Tommy used Saba.

  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • 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 Blue Dragon the only good guy with a sword is Zola but she's The Lancer.
  • In DC Universe Online, unlike what is typical in comics, there are 11 weapon classes and only 3 of them (Brawling, Martial Arts, Hand Blast) have the "Bare Hands" style in the Equipment-Hiding Fashion system that lets you cosmetically hide your Power Fist if so wished.
  • 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). This applies to Adell even on a series-wide scale, as he is the most unambiguously heroic of all the series' protagonists, and the only one who specializes solely in fists.note 
  • 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.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In the 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.
    • In Morrowind, Blades Spy Master, primary Quest Giver for the first half of the main quest, and candidate for Big Good Caius Cosades is unarmed and shirtless. He is not to be underestimated, however, as he has the second highest Hand-to-Hand skill in the game and is implied to have killed people who've underestimated him.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • 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.
  • Channing from Lunarosse is the main character and the one who fights with his fists the most, albeit with some claws for extra attack. He was originally going to use a sword, but it got changed when the creator realized he was more of a face-punching kind of guy. A few other party members also fight this way.
  • 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 Midnight Fight Express, while most of the game prioritizes unarmed combat, there are several segments in the game where you're either forced or heavily incentivized to use weapons and firearms.
  • 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.
  • Mario is not exactly reliant on a 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.
  • 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.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles:
  • Xenogears: In a change from most JRPGs, Fei Fong Wong doesn't wield a sword or a bladed weapon of any kind, but rather fights barehanded due to him being a Martial Pacifist.
  • In Zeno Clash, most of the combat's done with fists, apart from the occasional shooting level.

    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.