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Invulnerable Knuckles

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Why use the Force, when you can use brute force!
The Heavy, Team Fortress 2

It is a peculiar custom in brawls that almost no one ever hurts his fist in a fight no matter how hard he hits. In fact, it is almost universal. This is occasionally subverted for comic purposes or to show off how little the person punched was hurt, but in any other case, everyone has invulnerable knuckles.

It also doesn't matter if the hittee is bareheaded or is wearing a mask or helmet.

More likely to be averted by punching a wall than in most other situations.

Also a Required Secondary Power for characters with Super-Strength who use it to punch through things.

This is so universal that you're going to get only exceptions, because otherwise no one notices it.

Nothing to do with a certain echidna who picked up an invincibility power-up.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • One exception in Rave Master is the all-out slugfest between Haru and Lucia in vol. 21 when Haru succeeds in breaking Lucia's fist. Lucia just keeps hitting him with it anyway.
  • Rurouni Kenshin:
    • Averted with Anji and Sanosuke, who use a punch technique called "mastery of two layers" and eventually "mastery of three layers". In the Kyoto Arc, Sanosuke's hand actually shatters after over-using it against Shishio, who had the foresight to wear a metal plate because he thought Sanosuke might try it.
    • But it is played straight with Shishio himself, who has a technique which involves soaking his gloves in a mixture of oil and gunpowder, grabbing an opponent, and setting the gloves on fire. By rights, that explosion should have done more damage to him than Kenshin.
  • During her Unstoppable Rage, Subaru of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S punches her enemy's Deflector Shields so hard with her bare hand that her fist bleeds. Being a Cyborg helped prevent her bones from shattering.
  • Avoided in a non-comedic example, by all people, Knuckles the Echidna. During the third season of Sonic X, he smashes at an enemy robot's leg (said robot a prominent member of the Metarex, the Big Bads for that season), and the spurs on his knuckles snap off, causing him obvious pain. Although they do reappear the next episode no worse for wear...
  • In Naruto: Shippuden:
    • Sakura puts on protective gloves before hitting anyone with her Super-Strength.
    • When Sakura punches Sasori in the face after he admits that it's unfortunate that Chiyo didn't lose her life saving Sakura's, he tells her that he feels no pain and she'll only hurt her hand if she keeps punching him.
    • Rock Lee constantly wears bandages over his hands, and it's shown that this is largely due to them being almost perpetually cut up and bruised, thanks to this overly vigorous training methods.
    • Sasuke's hand bleeds after he tries and fails to punch through Gaara's Sand Shield.
  • Hajime no Ippo, being a series about boxing, enjoys subverting this trope. Ippo is informed (after he finds out for himself, unfortunately) that his hands are constantly in danger thanks to his enormous punching power. Coach Kamogawa's backstory reveals that his own achievement also came at the cost of heavily injured fists.
  • In Bitter Virgin, Daisuke breaks the bones in his hands offering a Berserker Tears-fueled beatdown on a man who was trying to rape the lead female Hinako. He promptly switches to the closest stick he can find to continue the beatdown.
  • In the Ghost in the Shell series, a form of electric knuckleduster is used by Batou and the other Section 9 personnel. The Stun Knuckle is capable of sending a 400,000 volt ultra-high pressure shock into the target. Since they're usually fighting cyborgs, it's a necessity, otherwise you might end up breaking your entire arm, let alone skinning your knuckles.
    • There's also the fact that Batou and the Major both are made from titanium and carbon nanotubes. It's not like their arms can break just like that. Except when they do, though considering what she breaks them on...
    • Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 features a boxer turned assassin in one episode who kills by punching his victims so hard their heads explode. He was able to do it bare-handed, once, and needed a prosthetic afterwards.
  • In CLANNAD ~After Story~, Tomoya punches a wall hard in anger due to his father's latest actions, and he bruises his knuckles so badly that his hand needed to be bandaged up.
    • Despite this, the trope is played straight when Tomoya gets in an hours-long slugfest with a delinquent boss, and though they both end up winded and battered, their hands appear to be fine.
  • In Ranma , Akane punches a wall while angry at Ranma. The wall is smashed to pieces, but she injures her hand severely, impairing her in her upcoming fight.
    • Two artificial aversions happen to Ranma himself: once, when he is weakened by a vengeful Happôsai to the point a toddler couldn't feel his punches, he keeps punching things in anger only to hurt his own fist. Many volumes later, third-string character Gosunkugi acquires a Powered Armor that very nearly leveled the field between him and Ranma; the armor is durable enough to bruise Ranma's fist when hit.
    • Also we get to see Ryouga hurting himself quite badly learning his special move where he breaks solid rock with his hands. It's very amusing, if not a real example of this trope: he's not punching the surface and hurting himself, he's poking at a boulder being swung at him and so he gets whapped in the face/upper torso with it if he fails to blow it up.
  • The aversion of this trope makes the audience wince in Saint Seiya's flashbacks. It's bad enough when a small boy punches a wall of solid rock and ends up with a bloody mess of a hand, but then he also tries an open-palm chop on a rock and it also sends blood flying everywhere.
    • During the Galaxian Wars tournament saga, when Bronze Cloths were still considered pretty spiffy, the Dragon Cloth's shield was spoken of as a legendary, invulnerable barrier which no attack could even scrape. Similarly, Shiryu's punch was said to be the strongest among all the Bronze Saints. When Seiya realized he couldn't defeat Shiryu straight on (the latter would easily block every single one of the former's Pegasus Meteors with his shield) he had the bright idea of ramming the shield with his head and trust Shiryu to try to crush his skull by trapping it between the shield and a punch. Seiya slipped out at the last second, Shiryu punched his own shield, and both shield and fist were broken.
  • In Baccano!, Ladd Russo beats a man to death by punching him in the face no less than fifty times, and his knuckles come away looking like this. And that was after he'd cleaned them off.
  • In Holyland, the main character dislocates a knuckle in one of his first big fights, freaks out about the pain and swelling, and another character pops it back in and tells him to see a doctor. Much later, the pattern of bruises on his knuckles lead another character to tell him he's slipping in his form and hitting with his smaller (ring/pinky) knuckles. He does take to wearing protective gear after some time, though.
  • In Kaiji, Kaiji's hand bleeds after he punches a mirror.
  • More often than not in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, the fighters' knuckles are scraped and bloody by the end of the fight. Of course, so is the rest of them. Nobody ever draws attention to it, though.
    • Between the Cell and Buu arcs, Gohan is pretending to be a superhero called the Great Saiyaman. He stops a robbery, taking their bullets and punches and (momentarily) lets the robbers get away. One of them says to the other "I think I broke my hand on that kid's face!"
  • Bean Bandit in Gunsmith Cats demonstrates this on an impostor at the climax of his signature story arc via Punch Parry. Result: Bean looking absolutely badass - and the impostor is left with a fistful of compound fractures sticking out of his hand. He remarks that when he was attacked for his car and transporter's proof, it happened so fast all he could do was take the hit - but he felt the bones in the guy's knuckles crack. This told him the impostor was a boxer - used to having his hands protected with heavily padded gloves - while he's been fistfighting with driver's gloves at best for his entire life, so the bones in his hands are significantly stronger.
  • One minor villain in Hunter Hunter had a steel plate in his fist that let him crush stone... severely bruising and nearly breaking his hand in the process. It's used, along with his ghastly appearance, purely as an intimidation tactic.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Izumi punches Greed in the face. Greed, having Instant Armor, takes no damage and casually asks her how many bones she just broke in her hand.
  • Averted in Bleach with Yoruichi's fight against Yammy. While she stomps him into the ground, the fact that he has literal iron skin results in her hands being seriously injured. (This is the only injury she sustains, as Yammy is unable to lay a hand on her.) During her next appearance, she has armor protecting her arms and legs to allow her martial arts to be used effectively against such opponents.
  • Rin, in Blue Exorcist, has some variety of Super-Strength. While he doesn't seem to injure his hands much in the show proper, a flashback show him in his childhood with some seriously busted-up knuckles. Presumably Super-Strength does not mean super ''endurance''.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Natsu punches Gajeel in the face during their climactic battle. Gajeel, unfortunately, is using his Iron Dragon Scale technique, and his skin turns to iron. This leaves Natsu rolling around on the floor in agony, clutching his wounded hand.
      "AAAAAAAAAAH It's okay! Doesn't hurt at aAAHAHALL!"
    • Later, Elfman transforms into a lizardman in his fight against Bacchus. The martial artist injures his hands striking the tough hide.
  • Actively sidestepped in One Piece, in that Sanji fights exclusively with kicks to protect his hands, which are important to him as a cook.
    • Oddly, this doesn't stop him from spinning on his bare hands on top of rocky or wooden floors.
    • Also during the Enies Lobby arc, after tanking a punch from Luffy, Rob Lucci tells him that anyone else would have broken their hand against his body hardening technique.
    • The Dressrosa arc introduces Bartolomeo, whose Devil Fruit allows him to generate forcefields. His favourite method of fighting appears to be letting his opponents break their own hands trying to punch him.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
    • Touma defeats the concrete golem Ellis once and for all by punching it, at which point his Anti-Magic kicks in and shatters the golem. Touma then shakes his hand trying to get rid of the pain. In the Light Novel, he says he almost broke his hand.
    • Referenced by Accelerator, who explains that since he can reflect anything, even recoil, he can punch as hard as he wants without hurting his hands.
  • In A Certain Scientific Railgun, Mikoto gets a bruised knuckle when she punches out the Graviton Bomber, even though he's a total wimp besides his ability to create explosions.
  • In a late episode of Cardcaptor Sakura, the group is attacked by flying penguin statues. Mei Ling manages to take a good number of them down with her martial arts skills, but during a lull in the fight she collapses in pain because she was just punching statues!
  • In Monster Musume, Kimihito defends his lamia girlfriend Miia's honor from two racist assholes by taking them out with a Megaton Punch. Miia and Ms. Smith are amazed by how powerful the punch is, then Kimihito collapses. He is then shown with a broken hand.
  • In Fist of the North Star, Kenshiro is never actually seen suffering any negative effects for punching or kicking things that the human body simply shouldn't be able handle striking. Granted, he is practically superhuman in his endurance and resilience. This is the man that once punched out a tank so hard that it exploded, after all.
  • Attack on Titan:
    • Averted by the Rogue Titan/Attack Titan. It has a tendency, especially in the first season of the anime, to hit other Titans so hard its arms start to rip apart.
    • In Season 3, Hange can tell from Pastor Nick's body that he was beaten and tortured to death. She quickly notices that the hands of a military policeman "investigating" the scene are skinned, swollen, and tender, and comes to the conclusion that the policeman took part in beating and torturing the pastor.
    • A few episodes after the above Hange has to punch a member of the military police in the face during a fight. She immediately begins crying out in pain and her aide reprimands her for not holding anything back in the punch. The artwork also shows immediate scuff marks on her hands.
  • As with the DBZ example above, in YuYu Hakusho, the characters are often banged up all over, so bruised knuckles aren't really anything to write home about. A notable aversion is when Yusuke unleashes a series of punches on Sensui and his whole arm hurts.
  • Gate: Itami angrily punches out Prince Zorzal after finding out the man keeps slaves. In the manga, he shakes his hand in pain and comments Zorzal's face felt like solid rock. In the anime, he punches him out and then one of his guards without missing a beat.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, King loses his temper and punches Hauser, who is wearing armor. King's hand gets very bloody.
  • In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable, while attempting to inflict damage on the sub-stand Sheer Heart Attack, Jotaro ends up with bloodied knuckles.
  • Deku in My Hero Academia tends to hurt himself a lot when striking, as he only gained his super strength recently and his body is not used to it. The first time he threw a super-powered punch he wrecked not just his knuckles but his whole arm.
  • An early episode of the anime version of Vinland Saga manages to both mostly play this straight and subtly avert it. Thors fights off a whole group of Askeladd's mooks with his bare hands, although he is often using backhand or open handed blows and he strikes more or less exclusively at places that are unlikely to seriously damage his hands, such as the bridge of the nose, the eye, or at the spot where jaw connects. Still he does throw some full force, closed fist punches right at the chins of some of his opponents and goes through the fight without damaging his hands. By contrast, Askeladd throws a single closed fist punch, and afterwards is seen flexing not just his hand but also shaking his entire arm from the impact. Compare and contrast the two.
  • Record of Ragnarok: After Leonidas destroys in a single punch a statue of Apollo to show that he doesn't fear the god, his knuckles are slighty bleeding.

    Comic Books 
  • Spider-Man:
    • In Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man, Spidey punched a just-repowered Superman (who was earlier weakened by red solar energy) in the gut multiple times, and he came away with terrible pain in his hands, wondering if he'd just broken them.
    • The same has happened to Spider Man while fighting the Hulk. Twice.
    • Flash Thompson beats up three thugs who rob him and his then-girlfriend Felicia Hardy (not knowing that she is the Black Cat, and most likely not in danger at all). He sensibly hands over Felicia's purse without argument, but then they grab her with apparent intent to rape. He starts punching, commenting that he's a semi-pro boxer and it kind of hurts without gloves, though it hurts them much more.
    • This trope has been subverted several times with Spider-Man, when the man does NOT hold back and holds his ground, a normal human being who's not superpowered or superskilled is not budging him. And can break his fists. In both the comics and some of the video games Spidey has been known to wrap his fists in webbing to act as makeshift boxing gloves. By protecting his knuckles it allows him to punch harder.
  • Gotham Central seems to be a comic founded upon the principal of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, and that extends to a healthy aversion of invulnerable knuckles in fist fights: every main character is a perfectly normal human, and they take damage. When Renee Montoya begins to slowly and steadily descend into depression and alcoholism she starts getting into fights, and her hands are thrashed. From bareknuckle fights in back-alleys to literal bar-brawls she is bruised and beaten, and her mauled knuckles are one of the biggest signs to friends and family that something is not right in her life.
  • 52: In Kate Kane's third panel in the series, she punches Renee Montoya across the jaw, apparently hard enough for blood to start filling in Renee's mouth. However, when she should have at least split her knuckles, if not broken her hand altogether, the following panels show no pain or damage whatsoever.
  • Averted in The Walking Dead, where Rick finds out who killed Hershel's little girls, and in his Unstoppable Rage he beats the killer so hard his own hand is broken. Despite medical treatments his hand never fully healed and was cut off soon after in the next story arc.
  • A Silver Age Batman and The Flash crossover has a common crook who is totally invulnerable thanks to a magical totem. He's eventually captured and put in jail, but uses his invulnerable fists to punch through the wall pebble by pebble.
  • Superman:
    • Whoever is stupid/angry enough to try punching Superman, Supergirl or other Kryptonian should NOT expect this trope to be played straight.
    • A Death in the Family: Batman punches Superman... and immediately clutches his hand and groans in pain. Superman said he could've crippled himself if he hadn't rolled with the punch.
    • A plot point in Last Daughter of Krypton: Supergirl has just arrived on Earth when she is attacked by an armored squad. Instinctively, she punches one Powered Armour-clad soldier far away, and is stunned to see she has not crushed her own hand or bruised her knuckles. That is her first clue that she has become invulnerable.
    • In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Superman punches a a robot straight on, and despite being depowered, he does not even skin his knuckles.
    • Subverted in The Killers of Krypton. Supergirl gets into a bar brawl, and since she is running low on power, she winces and feels her hand hurting and her knuckles bruised after punching someone.
    • At one point in the run of the Supreme Power series, the Alternate Company Equivalent of Batman punched the ACE of Superman, and naturally hurt his own hand.
  • In the 1970's, when Doctor Strange was hanging out with the Defenders, he once faced a super-scientist with a Cool Chair that let him analyze and counter the mystic energies of Strange's spells. It couldn't, however, counter the physical energy in a punch to the jaw. Strange was rubbing his hand as he monologued to his unconscious foe.
  • In The Punisher MAX story arc, Long Cold Dark, Punisher wakes up in a hospital after blacking out after Barracuda annouced his attention to torture his illegitimate baby daughter in front of him. He was able to piece together what happened based on his injuries, which included broken knuckles.
    Frank: My knuckles are a mess. All of them bruised, a couple cracked. Which means the kind of punches you don't think about before you throw.
  • Asterix, of all people, averts it at least once when he needs to punch out a guard without superstrength potion. Turns out a right hook to the chin from a Gaul warrior will do the trick anyway, but it hurts.
  • In Sin City, Dwight McCarthy hates punching people because he always skins his knuckles. When he ends up punching Shlubb, the inevitable happens. This is why he usually kicks or just shoots his enemies.
  • In KnightsEnd, the last part of the Knightfall storyline, Nightwing's Unstoppable Rage against AzBats leads to the knuckles of his gloves torn and the knuckles themselves bloodied from pounding on AzBats' armor.
  • Daredevil: At the end of Daredevil: Love's Labors Lost, and the beginning of Frank Miller's Born Again, Matt has injured knuckles from a fight.
  • Iron Fist has this as his primary super power; he channels his chi into his fist (or any limb) to make it invulnerable, allowing him to deliver extremely hard punches. Even without using said power, Iron Fist has conditioned his knuckles to be able to punch through stone, but just the fact the he has the power of the Iron Fist implies that he could hurt his hand if he struck something stronger, like adamantium or vibranium. With the power, he can punch Captain America's shield without being hurt.
  • During X-Wing Rogue Squadron: The Warrior Princess, Plourr is driven into a berserker rage and takes out a rather sizeable team of armored commandos barehanded, largely through punching. She's shown rubbing her bloody fists and bandaging her knuckles, and doesn't throw another punch for the rest of the arc.
  • Alt★Hero: A haymaker from Dynamique sends a huge wolfman flying, and leaves her clutching her wrist in pain and envying Shade's thick gloves.

    Fan Works 
  • In How the Light Gets In, Laurel is suddenly brought back to life while still in her coffin, and is forced to punch her way out of the coffin, and then dig herself out to the surface. The process tears off most of her fingernails and leaves her knuckles bloodied and raw. Dean even worries about nerve damage or that she'll need stitches when he sees her hands.
    • Also, after an enraged Dean beats Oliver's face into "something vaguely resembling hamburger meat", his hand is later stated to be bandaged and causing him pain:
      "should've known Oliver Queen would have an obnoxiously hard head".
  • In Fate/Long Night, Shirou Emiya ambushes Nymeria Martell and tries to punch her in the face. Even though he wrapped his fist in cloth and strengthened it with Reinforcement magic, the punch doesn't affect her and he still almost breaks his hand.
  • In Bring Me to Life, during a fight with the First-possessing-Jasmine, Buffy punches her in the face with all her might. Not only does Jasmine/the First No-Sell it, but Buffy's fist shatters on impact.
  • Subverted and played straight in Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness. After trading punches with the tough-as-nails Yuuka a few times Megas's hands start to break, forcing Coop to jettison them in exchange for new ones. By contrast, Yuuka's hands are none the worse for wear.
  • Two Sides of a Coin: Kanril Eleya breaks a bone in her finger giving her ex-fiance a "Hey, You!" Haymaker.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: In their brief fight, Rin tries to punch Fiore, who blocks with her wheelchair mech's metal arm. Even though Rin used Reinforcement magic on her hand, she still hurts it.
  • In Children of the Sanctum it's Averted - punching Stark leaves the Doctor's knuckles quite sore - but Angela clearly expects him to have these. Or at least a Stiff Upper Lip.
    Angela: Oh, pull yourself together, Doctor.
  • In The Magic Goes Away, when Naru loses her Megaton Punch, she also loses her invulnerable knuckles. After punching Keitaro, she's shocked that he just reels back and now her hand hurts. Since her main form of stress relief is punching things/people, her right hand is continously injured throughout the story.
  • In the Gunslinger Girl fanfic "Infidelity", a handler punches one of his cyborg girls in a rage and breaks every finger in his hand. She thinks he's not the first man to find that out the hard way.
  • Averted in Wake. As describing Rei's mistreatment at Gendo's hands, Shinji takes his anger out on the nearest inanimate object, which happens to be a window, and gets his hand bloodied.
  • Fate Azure Destiny: Ritsuka Fujimaru challenges Purifier to punch and try to break Mashu Kyrielight's shield, Lord Camelot, which he is holding. She punches it so hard it makes a Kung-Fu Sonic Boom that nearly knocks Ritsuka off his feet, but the shield is unharmed. Purifier breaks both her arm and her hand, and her knuckles are covered with blood.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Jackie Chan gets comedic fist injuries in many of his films.
    • He also gets non-comedic fist injuries while shooting many of his films (In Real Life).
      • Jackie himself used this as a metaphor to describe the difference between himself and Bruce Lee: "Bruce punches a man and knocks him out; I punch a man and hurt my hand."
    • Even continued in the opening of his TV show Jackie Chan Adventures, where Jackie punches out a Giant Mook and hurts his hand in the process.
  • The protagonist of Punch!, an aspiring kickboxer, coaxes his girlfriend to try kickboxing with him. She winces in pain and holds her hand after her first time throwing a jab at the punching bag.
  • In Mortal Kombat: The Movie, Johnny Cage lands his signature move on Goro... and even that hurts Johnny's knuckles. To be fair to Johnny, Goro is roughly eight feet tall and twice as wide as him and seriously Made of Iron.
  • Played with in Batman Forever, where the Riddler asks Two-Face to show him "how to punch a guy". After Two-Face demonstrates by punching someone out with no ill effect, the Riddler tries to copy him and ends up comically hurting his hand.
  • In In & Out, Kevin Kline's character is visibly in pain after punching Tom Selleck's.
  • In the cage-match scene from X-Men, Wolverine blocks the other man's punch by punching back. The other man's hand/wrist visibly (and audibly) breaks, and is seen bound up later. Of course, Wolverine's bones are reinforced with an indestructible metal..., and any tissue damage would be quickly mended thanks to his healing factor.
  • Avoided in The Bourne Ultimatum; after his fist fight, his knuckles are bruised and swollen.
  • The first Beethoven movie (the one with the St. Bernard, not the composer) has the father of the family punching out the corrupt vet, then afterwards groaning and shaking his hand — while his family admires him for manning up in the face of the family's dog threatened with being unjustifiably put to sleep.
  • When Vandamm wallops Leonard in North By Northwest, he has to reset his knuckles before continuing.
  • In The Thing (1982), when MacReady punches out Blair in the radio room, he leaves shaking his hand that he used to punch him.
  • In M*A*S*H (1970), when Trapper John punches Frank Burns (who totally had it coming), he seems almost as badly hurt as Burns.
  • In The Departed Billy Costigan breaks his hand punching a goon in the face, resulting in him wearing a cast on his arm.
  • A possible subversion occurs in Needful Things, when Norris Ridgewick clearly hurts his hand after punching Dan Keeton. However, two fingers on that hand had already been recently injured, so it's hard to say whether this was truly a trope subversion or not.
  • The Bride in Kill Bill plays this trope straight for most of the movie. However, at the start of her intense training montage, she bloodies her knuckles fairly severely against that damned wooden plank.
    • It's hinted that her knuckles are more than just bloodied. Given the way that she wakes up out of a dead sleep dreaming of that board and clenching her hands in pain, or how she is nearly unable to use chopsticks to eat, it's likely he was drilling her in a variation of the Iron Palm technique. Considering that some versions of that involve breaking the bones in the knuckles and hands so that they regrow denser and stronger, the Bride probably sustained a lot of damage to her hands during those sessions.
  • When Mr. Pink punches Officer Nash in Reservoir Dogs he shakes his fist and even bends over in pain.
  • In Ip Man, after taking down the ten Japanese pugilists, Ip's knuckles are clearly bruised and bloody.
  • Comedic take: Hot Shots! features Topper Harley and his rival about to have a manly fistfight. First they put in boxing mouthpieces. Then they try trashtalking. Finally the rival throws a punch, which Topper blocks, and he responds. The rest of the fight scene consists of 'Ow my jaw!' and 'Ow my hand!'.
  • Lampshaded in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Pianist Michael punches slimy club-owner Nick in the jaw, then promptly exclaims: "I'm a pianist, dammit! This could ruin me!"
  • In Pretty Woman, when Richard Gere's character punches out a guy, he puts an ice pack on his hand afterwards.
  • In DOA: Dead or Alive, wimpy scientist Weatherby saves Helena's life by punching out a mook who was about to stab her in the back. He comically hops around clutching his hand and asking her how "You people" do that without it hurting.
  • Very neatly justified in Oldboy (2003), where main character Dae Su had been combat training for over a decade with a human outline he drew on the wall of the hotel room he was imprisoned in. When he starts training, his knuckles are a bloody mess after a session. For the rest of the film, his knuckles are shown to be largely callused, and he receives no hand injuries from punching people whenever he fights.
  • They Call Me Bruce. The title character has an Imagine Spot where he saves a Damsel in Distress with some cool martial arts. We then cut to him smashing up his furniture as he acts out his Power Fantasy, only to stop on seeing his bloody knuckles. Bruce then thinks he'd better start learning martial arts for real.
  • Rocky:
    • In Rocky, Rocky shows Adrian a dislocated finger.
    • In Rocky Balboa, Rocky only stands a chance in the fight after his opponent breaks his hand during their bout.
  • In Serenity, Simon is seen treating River's bloody hands after her asskicking scene in the bar.
    • Played straight in that most of the blood wipes clean off - it's not hers.
  • In Soldier, Sgt. Todd eventually bloodies his knuckles after repeatedly punching a suspended oil drum.
  • The Karate Kid movies:
    • In The Karate Kid (1984), Ali's arm is in a cast after she punches Johnny when he humiliates Daniel. Gotta give her points for not just slapping him.
    • The Karate Kid Part II sees Mr. Miyagi using Deadly Dodging so that Kreese injures both of his hands punching out car windows. Lampshaded in Cobra Kai season 2, when Daniel runs into Kreese and Kreese mockingly offers his condolences.
    Daniel LaRusso: You're lucky he's not here. How are your knuckles doing there, Kreese?
  • An amusing non-fight scene variant occurs in Iron Man 2, when Tony is having his birthday party in his Powered Armor and is drunk as hell. He turns to his DJ after making a joke and gives him a quick bro-fist-bump, and the DJ winces and shakes his hand in pain after Tony turns around.
  • In Memento, the scene where Natalie gets Leonard to go after Dodd has a shot of Leonard feeling his hands. In the next color scene (movie time), he had punched Natalie after being provoked into doing so, but forgets this by the color scene described here.
  • In Gran Torino Walt is asked how he hurt his knuckles. He lies.
  • During the foot chase in Philadelphia in National Treasure, Ben briefly shakes his hand and says "ow" after decking Viktor.
  • Averted in Hunger in which an officer accidentally punches the wall and his knuckles are shown as bloodied and raw.
  • In Limitless, Eddie beats up a bunch of street thugs who were trying to mug him, but skins his knuckles.
  • In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Bernie punches Jacob in the face and clutches his hand screaming in pain. A few minutes later, Jacob punches David in the face with no ill effects.
  • In Resident Evil: Retribution, Luther punches Bad!Rain in the face, but she No Sells it while he breaks his hand. She's Nigh-Invulnerable; he later smacks her with a fire extinguisher that dents.
  • In Back to the Future Part III, Marty wears a metal plate under his poncho to protect himself from Bueford's pistol. It turns out to be doubly useful when Bueford punches him in the stomach only to recoil in pain.
  • In Die Hard, Argyle finally gets in on the action and punches out the getaway driver...then shakes his hand, obviously in pain.
  • In Kick-Ass 2, when Colonel Stars and Stripes tries to punch Mother Russia in the face, she's unaffected and he breaks his hand.
  • Casino Royale (2006) breaks with James Bond tradition by having Daniel Craig's Bond actually look like someone who's been through a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown after a brawl with a couple of heavies working for the African warlord employing Le Chiffre in the high-stakes poker game/money laundering operation that drives the plot.
  • In The Nutty Professor remake, Sherman's assistant Jason punches Buddy to stop him from drinking the formula resulting pain on his knuckles.
  • In The Wolverine, several mooks hurt their hands when they punch Logan, on account of his adamantium skeleton.
  • In Gamer, Castle mind controls Kable to prevent him from moving, then punches him in the face. It knocks him back, but Castle also hurts his hand.
  • In Deadpool (2016), Deadpool tries to punch Colossus' metal body and gruesomely breaks his wrist. Then he tries it with his other hand and breaks his other wrist. Not learning anything from this, he tries a kick and breaks his leg.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: When Peter first starts hunting down Uncle Ben's killer, one of the signs to the people around him that he's not quite right is how bruised his knuckles are. Combined with other injuries he gets, it helps reinforce that, while he's strong and he recovers fast, he's not invulnerable, which helps with the deconstruction nature of the film.
  • In Doctor Strange (2016), Strange rather foolishly attempts to fend off a mugger by punching him with his already crippled hands. The thug is unaffected while Strange just hurts his hand more, and Mordo has to rescue him.
  • In War, Inc., Hauser blocks a mook's punch with a gun, which makes the mook recoil in pain.
  • Shrooms: While stoned, Troy attempts to demonstrate his martial arts prowess by punching a tree. Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs and everyone watching winces in pain.
  • Inspector Gadget 2: During G2's fight with Claw's henchmen at the warehouse, Jungle Bob punches her. Since G2 is an android made of metal, this goes about as well as you'd expect.
  • Bullhead: A plot point. Jacky savagely beat the man who chatted up Lucia at the nightclub, and badly cut up his own knuckles in the process. When Lucia sees Jacky's scabbed-over bloody knuckles, she knows that Jacky is the man who beat up her friend.
  • Averted in The Italian Job (2003) where Charlie punches Steve instead of letting Stella do it because her role as the safe cracker makes her hands too valuable to be injured. It's obvious that's only part of the reason as Charlie in particular holds a grudge against Steve for murdering his mentor, but since Charlie did injure his hand, the explanation was good enough for Stella to let it go.
  • What's Love Got to Do with It (1993): During the first scene of Ike beating Tina, he backhand slaps her, then punches her twice, shaking his hand in pain afterwards.

  • Chrysalis (RinoZ) tries to deal with punching more realistically on several occasions, such as Tiny being told he needs to upgrade his bone structure when he evolves, so that he doesn't break himself when punching things. The gold star, however, must go to Myrrin, who, after the horrifically painful Legion baptism, punches Commander Titus in the fact with both fists, and breaks her hands so thoroughly that even with healing magic, it still takes her several days to recover.
  • In Worm, Grue finds out he triggered and got powers after beating his mom's abusive boyfriend to the point of death with his bare hands. While washing off his battered and bloody knuckles, he realizes darkness is oozing from the wounds as well as blood.
  • In 9 Dragons, Harry Bosch's knuckles are bleeding after he punches out a bad guy.
  • In the Wilbur Smith novel Power of the Sword, the Villain Protagonist is a boxer. At the 1936 Olympic Games he punches his opponent in the jaw so hard that he breaks several bones in his hand and is unable to continue fighting effectively. Despite this the judges award him the victory — because his opponent is African-American, he's white, and the judges are (literal) Nazis. It's worth noting that the punch which broke his hand didn't break his opponent's jaw, or even knock him down.
    • In another novel, When The Lion Feeds Sean Courtney gets into a fight and breaks his hand punching his opponent. Said opponent discounting the injured hand promptly gets knocked out when Courtney punches him again with the same hand. This time the opponent goes down (but the hand is even more messed up than before.)
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout splits her knuckle to the bone punching out her cousin.
  • In the Inheritance Cycle, Brisingr Eragon breaks his hand after punching through a soldier's suit of armor. After healing his hand, he creates thick calluses on all of his knuckles to cushion his Super-Strength-augmented blows.
  • In the Discworld novel Night Watch, commander Vimes notes that even punching someone out with brass knuckles hurts quite a bit.
  • The main villain of The Gone-Away World trained one of his hands by repeatedly breaking it and letting it heal to the point that it's basically just a club made of hardened bone. The protagonist notes that the hand is now only good for hitting things and is useless for anything else.
  • In Magical Girl Raising Project, Snow White is infuriated by the Deadly Game she and the others had been dragged into and tries to kill Fav by destroying the terminal that ties him to the world. Fav boasts that it's indestructible, and when smashing rocks into it does nothing, Snow White resorts to punching it. Despite her Super-Strength, her fist gets bloody while the terminal is unaffected. Then Ripple stabs it with the magical halberd Ruler with much more success.
  • Lampshaded / discussed in one of the novels in the X-Wing Series: Wes Janson is an experienced street brawler, and knows that punching his opponent in the face is more likely to break his fingers than do damage. When delivering a lesson to an arrogant aristocrat he therefore settles for breaking the guy's nose with a palm strike before getting to work on his abdomen.
  • In I, Jedi, Corran Horn beats up Remart in a bloody, messy, painful way that he later realizes was totally unnecessary, since he could have just knocked the guy out in a few blows. During this he broke several fingers with a punch to the face, although he knew what would happen when he did that. While being bandaged he speculates that he was punishing himself for letting go of his control.
  • In The Zombie Combat Manual, the martial artist interviewed in the section about unarmed combat relates a story about how early in the Zombie Apocalypse, a friend of his who was a boxer fought a zombie unarmed. At one point during the brawl the interviewee got knocked out. When he came to his friend had beaten the zombie to death, but had also completely destroyed his hands doing so, breaking every bone from the wrist forward. What's more, due to getting all that zombie blood in his open wounds, the friend became infected and needed to be put down.
  • In A Drop of the Hard Stuff by Lawrence Block, Scudder figures out a person on his witness list had beaten up the now-dead victim because of the damage to his hands.
  • Averted in A Deeper Blue, where Badass Bystander Will Carter hurts his fist punching out a terrorist.
  • Averted repeatedly in Two Percent Power where both the heroes and the villains frequent suffer injuries from successful punches ranging from Speetah breaking her hand punch a villain to Man-vil pulping his on a concrete pillar to Beat Boxer straining the muscles in her leg landing a successful kick on an opponent.
  • Able Team. Colonel Gunther, The Dragon of neo-Nazi warlord Unomondo, has calluses on his knuckles from extensive martial arts training, but several people note that he also has scars that can only come from shattered teeth when you punch someone in the mouth.
  • Flood by Andrew Vachss. Burke notes the faint blue calluses on Flood's knuckles and recognises her as a martial artist because his friend Max the Silent has them. Max's hands however are far more calloused with enlarged knuckles, causing Burke to wonder if Flood's hands will eventually look like that, a thought he quickly puts out of his mind.
  • In Perelandra Ransom, who used to do some boxing as a student, begins the punching out of Cthulhu with a mean left hook... and the Newton's laws remind him that boxers wear gloves for a reason.

    Live Action TV 
  • A staple of MacGyver was for MacGyver to shake his fist in pain after punching someone in the face.
  • Burn Notice addressed this in the pilot episode. Michael points out that you need to be careful not to break your own hand in a fight, so he starts a fight in a bathroom because it has plenty of hard surfaces that he can slam his opponents into without hitting them.
  • At the beginning of one Firefly episode ("The Train Job"), Mal punches a man out. Later, Simon offers to stitch up his knuckles.
    Mal: I know they tell you "Never hit a man with a closed fist", but it is, on occasion, hilarious.
    • Nathan Fillion gets his hand treated yet again after Castle punches out a perp. Given the number of Firefly references on Castle, it was kinda surprising that he didn't repeat Mal's quote.
  • In the Farscape episode "Taking The Stone" featured Crichton knocking the episode's perpetually-stoned villain out with a single punch to the skull; true to reality, he shakes his fist in pain afterward.
    • And in "Die Me Dichotomy" Crichton, suffering a Split-Personality Takeover and hallucinating, smashes a constantly reforming mirror with his bare fists at least six times, totally unaware that he actually broke it on the first try, and on the other strikes he was punching the metal wall behind it; when Aeryn finally pulls him away, his knuckles are bleeding.
    • In an another episode, Aeryn Sun punches a padded target dummy until her knuckles bleed.
  • In Veronica Mars, Logan is seen after at least one fight with bleeding knuckles. One person he beat up mentioned that he had bruised Logan's knuckles pretty badly with his face.
  • In one episode of Seven Days, the Villain of the Week punches main character Frank Parker in the face and hurts his hand. Frank, completely unfazed, promptly headbutts him unconscious.
  • In the BBC police series Luther, the protagonist gets into a fist fight with a murderer. In the next scene, he's wearing a cast on his hand.
  • Thrown blows in Three's Company invariably would hurt the puncher's hands more than his (or her) intended target.
  • A staple in Star Trek: TOS, particularly with Captain Kirk. Averted on one occasion, however, when Spock asks him if he doesn't find it painful and Kirk replies in the affirmative.
  • Star Wars
    • When Obi-Wan Kenobi first gets into a brawl with a couple of lowlifes, he's shown yelping in pain after punching a Zabrak and cutting himself on the horns on his head. It's a sign of how even a badass Jedi can lose their fighting prowess after a decade in hiding.
    • Occasionally mooks make the mistake of punching The Mandalorian in the head. Given that he never takes his beskar helmet off, this is a bad idea.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Living Witness", a 'historically-accurate recreation' portrays the Voyager crew as genocidal thugs. Commander Chakotay and Ensign Kim, two of the nicest characters in the crew, are shown beating a prisoner. However Kim is something of a Butt-Monkey, so even his evil self is portrayed as a wuss.
    Evil Kim: I can keep this up all day. Tell the Commander what he wants to know. (punches prisoner, then shakes his hand in pain) Maybe I can't keep this up all day.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In "Doppelgängland", Willow decks Anya with a perfect right hook... then grimaces, shakes her fist and yells:
      Willow: Ow, ow, happy, but OWWWW!
    • In "Reptile Boy", when several frat boys have kidnapped Buffy and Cordelia. The Scoobies break down the door and Xander, leading them in, decks the first guy he sees. For the rest of the fight sequence, he pops in and out of frame, swinging around in wild agony and clutching his hand.
  • In the spin-off Angel the titular character throws a punch at Hamilton, only to pull it back, hissing in pain. His opponent doesn't move an inch.
    Angel: Did that hurt at all?
  • In Community Annie finds her flying right cross to Jeff's face extremely painful. So does Jeff.
  • One episode of Matlock shows the innocent man on trial punching his framer in the face. He breaks his hand from hitting the other man's jaw.
  • A plot point in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where Riley was apparently killed by Cameron. John looks at her corpse, and notices a number of self-defense wounds, including bloody knuckles. He then confirms with his uncle Derek, who's been fighting machines most of his life, that if he'd been fighting unarmed against a Terminator like Cameron, he would be killed instantly, and wouldn't get a chance to receive self-defense wounds.
  • Averted in Breaking Bad; when Hank beats up Jesse his hand is noticeably bruised and cut, which is used as evidence.
  • Averted in Kamen Rider Double's first movie, where protagonist Shotaro busts his knuckles open punching the Dummy Dopant-as-Kamen Rider Skull while untransformed.
  • Actively averted in one episode of Stargate SG-1, where Teal'c finds himself in a fist fight with a suburban thug, and ducks his head so the blow intended for his face actually hits the top of his head, causing said thug to wreck (and possibly break) his hand.
    • Not only did the man hit Teal'c's head, he hit the emblem on his forehead. The emblem made of solid metal. Ouchie...
  • In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Big Tall Wish", a boxer loses his temper and punches a wall, breaking his hand.
  • On Scrubs, when Dr. Kelso was being an abnormally big asshole, Dr. Cox punched him in the face (out of his shoes!). He does the pained-hand shake immediately thereafter, possibly because Dr. Kelso is established elsewhere as having a head "like a mountain goat."
  • On Heroes, Peter winces and shakes his fist in pain after decking Sylar in the mouth for making one too many smartass comments about Peter's friend Emma. What makes this scene is that the two of them are trapped inside Sylar's head and thus the pain should be imaginary.
    • But pain is imaginary.
  • In the Smallville episode "Combat", Clark and Lois are pitted against one another in a metahuman fight club while undercover. Lois punches him in the gut, but since Clark is Nigh-Invulnerable, she damn near breaks her hand.
    Lois: That's not just a sixpack under your shirt, that's a steel kegger!
  • Mentioned and subverted in Graceland. Lauren is undercover as a Russian mobster's girlfriend when her mission implodes. Desperate to get the guy, she goes back to him again, and later shows up at home with a massive black eye to invoke her boss Briggs's Big Brother Instinct. However, after they arrest the Russian, the see that his hands were perfectly fine. Briggs later gets into a deliberate bar brawl to punch out a guy and show her what a hand that's punched someone looks like and calls Lauren out on her Wounded Gazelle Gambit.
  • Game of Thrones. Theon Greyjoy winces after punching one of his Ironborn warriors who backchats him. Failed Attempt at Drama is pretty much a Running Gag with this character though.
  • On Grey's Anatomy, the first time Mark is introduced Derek punches him hard in the face. Derek is in obvious discomfort afterwards and needs to put ice on it, and Bailey scolds him with the fact that as a neurosurgeon, Derek's hands are worth a lot of money.
    • In season 12, Maggie impulsively punches a patient's mom (for context, the teenage lesbian patient just attempted suicide because her parents wouldn't accept her sexuality, and the mom still wouldn't back down in sending the girl to conversion therapy). She's later seen getting ice on it, with Callie instructing her how to punch better so that she doesn't hurt herself next time.
  • The O.C. usually played this straight with Ryan's punches but gave an aversion when Sandy laid one on Ryan's deadbeat dad and is shown icing his hand afterwards.
  • In one episode of Without a Trace, a teenage boy goes missing from his school and the only clue is his blood on a bathroom mirror. It turns out he punched it in a rage after the girl he had a crush on cruelly humiliated him, injuring his hand in the process.
  • Oz:
    • In one episode a prisoner on Death Row punched a brick wall in rage after hearing the guy from the next cell make one too many racist comments and ended up with a broken hand. Not that he lets it stop him, he instead gets a metal tool and slowly chips away at the wall until he can break through and attack the racist later.
    • At one point when in solitary confinement Said gets so frustrated he punches a wall, only to immediately howl in pain and start cradling his hand.
  • In Parks and Recreation, Ben punches out a guy who calls his girlfriend a bitch. Afterwards, she shakes his hand for a photo op and he doubles over in pain because his hand hurts so much.
  • When recounting the one fight he got into in his life in How I Met Your Mother, the first thing Ted mentions about a fight that no one tells you is that it hurts your hand. A lot.
    • A non-punching aversion: Barney slaps Marshall three time in rapid succession, then shakes out his hand as though it hurts. Beforehand, he mentions that he's been practicing on a tree trunk.
  • In Sam & Cat, Robbie tries to punch Freddie in the gut, but he doesn't budge and Robbie hurts his hand. Freddie's been working out...
  • Averting this trope is invoked as part of the ads for Daredevil (2015); a number of trailers and motion posters depict Matt Murdock, in his suit-and-tie for his day job as a lawyer, adjusting his tie as his injuries from his night job as a vigilante surface, including bruises and cuts over his face, and visibly bloodied and bruised knuckles.
  • While anyone with a superpower in Luke Cage (2016) plays this trope straight, the series often shows that a normal person punching someone else in the head is going to damage their hands. (This has even become a plot point on several occasions.)
    • The morning after Cottonmouth beats Shameek to death with his bare hands, Pops notices the cuts on Cottonmouth's knuckles and the swelling in his hands, and instantly deduces what happened.
    • The first time one of Cottonmouth's men punches Luke, the unfortunate guy breaks not just his own hand, but his arm as well. Ouch.
    • In the second season after Reverend Lucas fights with one of the Jamaicans who attacked the church, he needs to have his knuckles treated by Tilda.
  • The Defenders (2017): It's how Foggy ends up observing that Matt went out and did crimefighting after the earthquake: Matt's knuckles are visibly scuffed.
    Foggy Nelson: You don't have to say it. Your knuckles speak volumes.
  • Miami Vice: Crockett's knuckles are bloody after he punches a dealer in "Theresa."
  • Wonder Woman: The Rule of Cool and Beauty Is Never Tarnished lead directly to this. Wonder Woman punched a lot of things and never got so much as a scratch. The top test of her knuckles specifically came in "Diana's Disappearing Act". She punches through a brick wall with the bricks exploding out from the force of the blow without harming her knuckles.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has the musical number "Real Life Fighting Is Awkward", which deconstructs a lot of tropes about movie fighting including this one.
    There are no cool sound effects
    Punching doesn't sound like anything
    You often hurt yourself
    More than you hurt the other guy
  • In Doctor Who, the episode "Heaven Sent" features the Doctor punching his way through a wall made of a material 400 times harder than diamond. It does his hand no good whatsoever.
  • Batwoman (2019). In "If You Believe In Me I'll Believe In You", Mary (who has just joined the team) has champagne waiting for Kate Kane when she returns from kicking ass in the Batwoman Cold Open. Kate ignores the champagne and instead uses the bucket of ice it's in to reduce the swelling on her knuckles.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys: Hercules and others don't normally hurt their hands when they punch people. However, in "Judgment Day", when Hercules loses his powers and becomes completely mortal, he punches an attacker and knocks him out, only to clutch his hand in pain and ask, "Do you have a rock for a head?"
    • In a similar vein, Salmoneous once took out a guard with a headbutt. He then clutched his forehead in pain and wondered how people could do that without getting hurt.
  • The Last of Us (2023): Joel beats a FEDRA officer to death to protect Ellie at the end of the pilot episode and his knuckles are heavily bloodied and bruised immediately afterwards. The next day he estimates that he has a hairline fracture that he can only hope heals quickly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Averted in 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by the "Stoneskin" spell; attacking a character protected by this spell with bare fists inflicts 1-2 Hit Points damage — to the attacker.
    • Also, the "crushing blow" technique from the Oriental Adventure allows a martial artist to break wood, ceramics or masonry, but on a failed roll the character severely injures his hand.
  • In Rifts, Titan Juicers are a variant of the standard drug-enhanced shock troops, optimized for brute strength. Their skeletons have nano-surgical reinforcements, but they still need special armored sap gloves to protect their hands if they want to punch out tanks without injury.
  • In GURPS, punching armor barehanded is a good way to injure and possibly cripple a hand. The Martial Arts sourcebook has additional, optional rules under the sidebar "Harsh Realism for Unarmed Fighters," which has rules for hurting yourself by punching a skull or knocking shins together. Of course, there are also ways around this, ranging from gloves or brass knuckles to special training or explicit superpowers, which may or may not be viable depending on the campaign.
  • Even in systems without explicit rules, a botch on a bare-fisted strike to something hard is asking to injure your hands.

  • Real Life background info, via QI: according to historical records, fatalities in boxing have gone up considerably since the invention of the padded boxing glove. In the bare-knuckle days, the pain experienced by the boxer's hands acted as a check on life-threatening injuries to his opponent, with boxers aiming for the well-padded chest and body rather than the head and jaw. With gloves, the boxers are able to strike with more force and not hurt their hands, and are able to fight much longer. This makes it easier for a boxer to cause permanent injury or death via blows to the head.
  • It's generally accepted in boxing that anyone who hits with power will suffer a hand injury in nearly every bout. The human body was simply not built to sustain the sorts of impact and damage that professional boxing places on it. One specific fracture is literally nicknamed the boxer's fracture because it is seen often as a result of punching some. (With actual boxers this specific fracture is generally more common in young or aspiring boxers, since it's much more likely to happen due to incorrect mechanics in throwing a punch.)

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Donkey Kong Country Returns. DK can punch goal barrels and Tikis all day without pain, but when he punches the moon out of orbit, he hurts his fist.
  • In his cameo appearance in Soulcalibur II, Heihachi can chose to fight bare fisted as his weapon. This results in every punch draining a small amount of health. Of course, defending still takes no damage.
    • This is actually kind of an odd example, since Heihachi is plotwise Made of Iron to the point of being nearly invulnerable, and has punched robots to pieces without flinching.
  • Bloodline Champions has the Glutton bloodline, whose main source of damage is punching people. Still, their right hand does have wooden spikes attached to it by default, with even more effective looking alternate weapons to be used on that hand, and the ritual they went through and that gave them earth powers might explain why their left hand works perfectly all right for it.
  • In Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, knuckles are invulnerable against casual enemies, but punching golems or trying to break open metal containers with your bare hands will take a chunk out of your lifebar.
  • Punch a droid in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and you'll take damage.
    • Punch a droid in the original Dark Forces, though, and you can punch it to death. Even the game's iconic Mecha-Mooks can be punched to death.
  • This applies to Vanessa from The King of Fighters series, but only in a few situations: after smashing an opponent with some of her super combos, she immediately shakes out her sore hands before returning to her standard position. She also verbally mentions it in a few of her victory poses and winning quotes. She is one of the game's few boxers and hits very hard, so this surprisingly isn't a case of Faux Action Girl.
  • Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5 shakes his hand a bit after performing a straight punch melee attack.
    • On the other hand, he later pushes a large boulder and seems to get frustrated by it not moving, resorting to punching it. Likely Narm to many people.
  • Halo justifies this trope with Master Chief and the other Spartans being in Powered Armor, though they only punch as a melee attack while holding the plasma pistol (otherwise they usually strike with their weapon). In later games, your Spartan is capable of latching aboard enemy tanks and quite literally punching through their armor.
  • Averted somewhat in Shadow Warrior (1996), where punching walls will actually hurt you (and may kill you).
    • Interestingly enough, punching training equipment will give health. If you grab a power-up that puts your max health over 100 you can grind your Hit Points up to 200 after a few minutes at most when punching the Muk Yan Jong (the wooden pole with smaller sticks poking out). Punching the straw dummies will only break them in a single hit.
  • In Comix Zone, attacking barriers causes you to take damage, and most of the time there's a smarter way to get through anyway.
  • In Fate/stay night, during his fight with blade-transformed Shirou in the end of Heaven's Feel, Kotomine at some point pulverizes his fists. He continues fighting.
  • The Street Fighter games sometimes justify this trope. Most of the characters have some form of fist protection like knuckle gloves or boxing gloves. The trope is, however, played straight by a few characters, most notably by Final Fight's Cody Travers in Super Street Fighter IV, who very casually breaks out of prison by punching a hole in the wall just to go out and relieve his boredom, wearing only hand wraps.
  • Though it's not an aversion, it is still noticeable in the case of Pathologic, since the game has an otherwise strict adherence to realism (many of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality are averted). It's also possibly justified, since Dankovskiy and Artemiy wear gloves. Klara doesn't, but she has magic healing powers, so maybe she uses those to protect her fists.
  • Justified in Shatterhand, where Steve has indestructible bionic knuckles. He can even punch bullets out of the air.
    • And averted at the same time. The box art shows that his repeated punching has torn away the pseudo-flesh on his knuckles.
  • Accidentally Zig-Zagged in Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Kyle Katarn is impervious to damage when it comes to punching metal plated scenery. However, punching certain entities like some droids will damage you by 1 point. This has no threshold, if you throw enough punches, it can kill you.
  • As quoted above, Team Fortress 2's Heavy Weapons Guy. Since melee weapons are for tiny baby men, Heavy uses his gigantic fists. He can punch metal walls and sparks will fly.
    • He can punch metal buildings so hard that they catch fire and then explode. An unlockable set of spiked brass knuckles is actually weaker than his bare meaty mitts. However, said brass knuckles seem to unlock something in the Heavy's mind, allowing him to punch even faster, even though those punches are weaker.
    • Another of his unlocks takes this up a notch with literal Fists of Steel. These giant metal gloves give Heavy a damage reduction from bullets so he can wade through firepower and punch someone to death. Ironically enough, they make him more vulnerable to melee attacks when wearing them.
    • Saxton Hale can punch an entire team of mercenaries to death in "Saxton Hale Mode".
  • Subverted in the case of Ieyasu from Sengoku Basara, who fights with his fists so that he also feels pain when punching enemies.
  • Averted in ARK: Survival Evolved, an FPS survival game. Punching anything harder than leaves will damage your character, but is often a necessary first step in crafting the tools and items you need to stay alive.
  • It's perfectly normal in Nexus Clash to punch down doors without any apparent damage to one's fists. For some characters this is easily explained due to them being Nigh-Invulnerable super-beings, but even mortals can do it with enough punches.
  • Sonic Lost World: During a cutscene, Eggman punches out a wall of solid ice out of sheer anger. It's an aversion as he's in pain afterwards and Orbot shows concern afterward, only for Eggman to snarl that his hands are fine as long as he can still strangle the Zeti with them.
  • Semi-averted in Kenshi: When a character's martial arts skill is low they'll hurt themselves whenever they punch something, especially if it's wearing armour or if the opponent blocks the hit with their weapon. However, as the skill gets higher the conditioning eventually results in the character being able to punch solid metal armour without receiving damage. Skeletons, being robots, are completely immune regardless of skill. Some clothes can also provide partial or full protection.

  • Ethan of Ctrl+Alt+Del once punched a guy so hard that it knocked a tooth out. It also broke Ethan's hand.
  • While mostly played straight in How I Killed Your Master there are occasional aversions when someone is not so much fighting as pounding the crap out of a defenseless foe.
  • This trope is mentioned, and justified, in Schlock Mercenary: The mercenaries all have soldier boosts that reinforce the bones in their knuckles, hands and upper arms and allow them to throw punches that don't hurt their hands. In most situations they also wear Power Armour over said reinforced bone tissue, which further shields their hands.
  • Averted in Girls with Slingshots, here.
  • Subverted in Poppy O'Possum. Poppy has bones that are about as tough as reinforced steel, so she doesn't have to worry about what she punches. So when she punches Boris, a massively imposing boar, and her knuckles do break, it is "very concerning" (to quote the Author's Notes).
  • Averted in one instance of The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. In the final arc, Doc remembers he can use brief moments of Super-Strength and kicks down a large metal door blocking his way. He then groans in pain because he doesn't have the Required Secondary Powers of extra strong muscles and bones to use his super strength much.
  • El Goonish Shive: When Elliot activates Cheerleadra's Superpowered Evil Side against Liam, his hands end up being pretty messed up even after healing. This is not normally the case.

    Web Originals 
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: It's a bit of Running Gag that Linkara will try out his "I AM A MAN!" punch on robots, only for him to hurt his hand in the process. He has successfully pulled it off, including in the movie, but he still grasps his fist in pain afterwards.
  • Discussed in this Cracked article under "Your fists are fragile flowers."

    Western Animation 
  • Arcane: Averted. Vi's hand wraps often have bloody knuckles after punching things, once even after she was wearing boxing gloves to spar an arcade robot.
  • In the opening sequence of Jackie Chan Adventures, Jackie continues a Running Gag from his films by punching a Giant Mook that changes with the season and shaking his hand while making a pain face.
    • He does this repeatedly in the show as well, and responds exactly the way MacGyver does.
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero:
    • An episode had a civilian get involved with the Joe team. In a few scenes he has to fight for himself and when he punches a guy, he winces and says "Ow, my hand".
    • The regular Joes play this straight though, and Sgt Slaughter punches through bad guys, robots, and brick walls.
    • And in the opening to the GI Joe movie of 1987, Alpine punches through the cockpit of a Cobra Firebat and forces its pilot to eject.
  • In the battle sequence at the beginning of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a Clone Trooper tries to punch out a Super Battle Droid, and injures his hand. Then gets shot by the droid. On the other hand, another (more elite?) Clone tries the same thing later, with more success. Perhaps he had better gloves?
    • In one instance, Mace Windu punches out Super Battle Droids after losing his lightsaber in the course of a battle. He does so with Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs, which makes a sound like a repeating blaster. His knuckles remain unharmed and in fact are not so much as even dirty when the rest of him is visibly scuffed and weathered by the fighting. The Droids, conversely, look like someone ran them over with a sandcrawler.
  • In Storm Hawks, Junko usually uses crystal-powered knuckled gloves. When forced to go without them, he initially thinks he's useless and there's an entire The Magic Was Inside You All Along plot where he realizes he doesn't need them to punch things hard... but that he really still prefers using the gloves since punching things can hurt.
  • Justice League:
    • In "Secret Society", Shade throws a punch at Batman, but Superman gets in the way with a Flash Step. Shade hurts his hand.
    • In "Maid of Honor", Flash winces and shakes his hand after zipping thought the space station knocking out mooks. Justified in that he was hitting harder than usual; he'd just been rescued from being Thrown Out the Airlock and was in an unusually harsh mood.
    • In "For the Man Who Has Everything", Wonder Woman attempts to beat the crap out of Mongul, only for her hands to be injured, to her visible surprise.
    • In "Chaos at the Earth's Core", Supergirl hadn't noticed yet that her powers are not working. She tries to punch an attacking dinosaur and hurts her hand.
  • Averted during an episode of King of the Hill, when Bobby socks Joseph for kissing Connie.
    Bobby: If my hand didn't hurt so much, I'd do it again. Eh, what the hell?
    Punches him again
    Bobby: Ow!
  • In an episode of Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series, the team's resident big guy Grin punches a giant robot, knocking it across the room.
    Grin: Pain is an illusion...
    shakes his hand and winces
    Grin: An illusion that really, really hurts!
  • In the sixth season opening of Totally Spies!, Alex hurts her foot kicking Timmy's mech suit.
  • In the Samurai Jack episode "Jack and the Smackback", Jack hurts his hand when he tries to punch the Aqualizer's metal armor. This is a notable aversion to Jack's status quo, as he can usually damage, or at least knock down, metal foes with his fists and feet as part of his usual fighting style.
  • Transformers: Animated: In "Human Error", the Autobots get turned into humans. Bulkhead tries to punch Starscream and only ends up hurting his hand on his metal body.

    Real Life 
  • Not Truth in Television, naturally. Even if you don't injure your knuckles in some way - there's a reason doctors call it a Boxer's Fracture - repeated punches will quickly cause the skin on them to split.
    • Before the invention of boxing gloves, or in current bareknuckle boxing, fighters mostly targeted the body, as a solid punch to the jaw is going to break even the toughest man's hands. The skull has to protect the brain, making it a natural helmet, so it is extremely hard and thick.
  • Fist loads, taping the hands, brass knuckles, cesti, et al protect the hand of the puncher. Any additional damage, or protection, are just a bonus. And if you see any old wood cuts or photos of bare-knuckle boxers, look at how they hold their hands, with a very low guard meant to protect the chest rather than the face. With bare knuckles, you strike differently to reduce the chances of damaging your hand.
  • Some martial arts try to make this closer to reality with training techniques that can increase the density of certain bones and build calluses that act as built-in-brass knuckles. Natural knuckle bones are porous and light, for manual dexterity. If they are damaged repeatedly, those pores scar up, resulting in bone that is stronger than concrete.
  • This is also one reason some self-defense methods teach that you should strike primarily with the palm and elbows: in a fight, someone inexperienced is quite likely to injure their hand with the first good punch thrown, impeding their ability to grab or grapple an opponent. The palm can still cause very severe concussion injuries, and is easier to teach than a proper punch. If you doubt its effectiveness, just ask Bas Rutten, who became a Mixed Martial Arts champion in Japan without ever throwing a single punch to the face.
    • On the other hand, if you must hit someone with a closed fist (especially in the face), be sure to keep your thumb outside! Hitting a punch with your thumb inside can cause you to break your thumb, as you'll end up hitting with it in a position which is simply not made for hitting.
    • Also make sure your fist is at such an angle that the knuckles you are hitting with are lined up with the bones in your arm that way the force will be absorbed better and make absolutely sure that in the fist, the second set of knuckles is parallel to the ground, or there'll be shattered fingers.
  • As told in his interview on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, Jackie Chan and his brothers once became involved in a street fight with a biker gang back when they were younger. Although they won the fight, Jackie injured his fist in the brawl, so grievously that there was a piece of bone puncturing the skin. He was lucky, though - although he refused to go the hospital for two days because he feared he might have killed somebody in the brawl, he eventually discovered the thing was not his own bone poking out, but one of his opponents' teeth, which had broken and become embedded into his hand.