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My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours

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"You can tell a shounen series by the amount of times that someone says 'I'm training to become stronger.'"

In shows where mano-a-mano combat is a main plot element, characters spend much of their lives training and improving their strength so they can one-up each other at a critical point in a fight. This invariably develops into an arms race that can, and has, taken out entire planets and solar systems.

This has a grain of truth in it, as between two equally skilled fighters, the deciding factor will often be one's strength. (Though many series actually do use the word "strength" to indicate skill, or a combination of skill and muscle power.)

Compare Weak, but Skilled, and contrast Unskilled, but Strong. If two nations do this, it's a Lensman Arms Race. When the situation is about equipment and weapons rather than physical prowess, see Bigger Stick. If two Rules Lawyers do this, it's My Rule Fu Is Stronger than Yours. Also The Greatest Style, where one form of "kung fu" really is stronger than another.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z. In fact, this is the point of all four Dragonball shows (though less so in the beginning of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball GT, and much of Dragon Ball Super).
  • Saint Seiya, Naruto, YuYu Hakusho and every other shonen series. It can be seen to a considerably lesser degree in other anime where martial arts are a central element, such as: Ranma ½, Flame of Recca and Sumomo Mo Momo Mo.
  • Also seen to a lesser extent in sports anime such as The Prince of Tennis and Eyeshield 21 (with training the sport instead of fight training).
  • Bleach, between arcs, in the middle of arcs, even in the middle of battles.
  • This isn't just a factor in martial-arts series. It can show up in Mons series like Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon, Beyblade, and Fighting Foodons, and Cooking Duel series like Yakitate!! Japan. Essentially, anything that has individual competition, typically in a Tournament Arc, will tend to end up with this kind of arms race.
  • Displaying formidable multitasking skills, the main character of Lyrical Nanoha is revealed in the series' ancillary manga to be able to train in the magical equivalent of VR constantly while leading her normal civilian life, apparently to explain her jump from neophyte magical girl to hardened battlemage in the short interval between the show's first two seasons. After the second season, she trains so hard she becomes known as "Ace of Aces" and is promoted to Combat Drill Instructor in her early teens. In the third season, another character trains herself nearly to the point of exhaustion in an effort to prove herself (but doesn't quite succeed).
    • It didn't work because the show decided to point out that mindlessly trying to improve yourself with brute force tactics doesn't work, it just breaks you down. Nanoha had a Heroic RRoD in during the second Time Skip, specifically because of all the training she did.
    • And when Teana actually started listening in class, she got a lot better herself.
    • The StrikerS manga devotes two chapters to explicitly deconstruct this trope: the younger cast try to figure out the "strongest fighter" in their organization, but eventually learn An Aesop that no matter how strong your opponent is, he always has a weak spot which you can exploit to defeat him. The winner is thus determined not by a single variable but by a combination of quick thinking, experience, magical power, and sheer luck.
    • Einhard Stratos from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid wants to prove that her Haoryu Kaiser Arts is the strongest. Victoria Dahlgrün wants to prove that her lineage is superior than of the other Ancient Belkan kings. And Sieglinde Jeremiah is more successful in proving that her Black Jeremiah fighting style is the strongest. It also helps that her ancestor, Wilfried Jeremiah, taught Sankt Kaiser Olivie Sägebrecht, who was the strongest warrior of the Ancient Belkan Era, how to fight and taught her the Jeremiah fighting style.
  • In a decidedly more magical example, Negima! Magister Negi Magi's Negi trains constantly for fear of harm coming to his students. He's particularly fond of using Evangeline's time-warping villa to add extra hours (or rather days) to his day to train more.
  • Although the battles are of actual skills (usually) in MÄR, the good guys are often sent to train themselves in this manner for the next set of battles whenever the story allows, often using a time-warp ARM in the process.
  • In Love Hina, Motoko is stunned when Seta defeats her in martial arts, and becomes fixated on challenging him.
  • The titular character in History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi already goes through a daily regimen of Training from Hell to build up his stamina and improve his skills, but the few times he actually loses to an opponent, such as Odin and Tirawat Koukin, he forces himself to train even harder for the inevitable rematch.
  • Multiple Dei in Angelic Layer spend all their free time training for the titular game — even Misaki, the lead character that converts and attracts her opponents by teaching them that it's just a game rather than Serious Business.
  • The very reason Kyo of Fruits Basket goes into the mountains to train for six months is to one day beat his cousin Yuki in a fight (the manga reveals this is a lie covering up an unrelated Heroic BSoD, though). Every time Yuki wipes the floor with him, he only vows to become stronger... over... and over... again.
  • The 5 protagonist of Mobile Fighter G Gundam spend a good period of the middle of the series training in the Guyana Highlands in order to overcome individual failures (For Domon, it's his unfocused rage actually helping the Devil Gundam; for the other four, it's DG Cell possession making them question their own motives).
  • Mugen from Samurai Champloo always trains to the point of absurdity when there is an opponent stronger or more skilled than he is.
  • Swan is a shoujo version of this trope, but with ballet as the plot point.
  • Baki the Grappler. The greatest styles are "Total fighting" (Baki) and "Every martial art you damn please" (Yujiro).
  • Parodied in Ranma ½, when Ryoga learns a technique to channel his Wangst into a mini Angst Nuke. Ranma uses Awesome by Analysis (and deception) to rip off the same attack. Cue contest to have a worse life and channel more Wangst. Ultimately Ranma takes a third option and learns a counter-technique based on confidence. Unfortunately he severely underestimated the power of the upgraded version of Ryoga's technique, which became a true Angst Nuke. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle until Ranma's Awesomeness by Analysis kicks in and points out a weak point in Ryoga's Angst Nuke.
  • Deconstructed in Ramen Fighter Miki, a Deconstructive Parody of the Fighting Series: Hard Work Hardly Works, so the only one who trains to be stronger than Miki the protagonist is Kankuro, the Unknown Rival who doesn’t have a chance to beat her. Toshiyuki (the Worthy Opponent) and Megumi (The Rival) know that they can’t beat Mike with brute force, so they use their intelligence. And not even all of them together can beat Miki’s mother.
  • Benny of Black Lagoon quotes this almost ad verbatim during the Greenback Jane arc.
  • Many characters from Fist of the North Star boast that their martial arts are the best or that they are the greatest fighters. They usually are killed by the main character Kenshiro, who proves that the Hokuto Shinken, which has a 2000 years long history, is the strongest martial arts.
  • Although Fairy Tail usually averts this trope, it is occasionally played straight. Mirajane's victory over Fried despite her rustiness is mostly because she just has more power than he does plus running on Unstoppable Rage. Elfman has to overcome his mental block of using Full-Body Take Over to beat Sol. Natsu gets a temporary power-up from Jellal in order to defeat Zero. Grey despite becoming an Ice Devil Slayer is nearly killed by Invel Yura because Invel's Ice Magic is just that balls-out powerful (and in fact is only able to win by turning that very power against him).
  • A Certain Magical Index: Touma Kamijou normally beats his opponents with his street fighting skills. The reason he can take on powerful espers and mages is because of his Anti-Magic right hand, and he largely Fights Like a Normal. As a result, he can easily be beaten by people who are simply more skilled at him in close combat, like in the Angel Fall arc, where he got completely demolished by Motoharu Tsuchimikado. Motoharu mocked him and said street fighting skills cannot compete with elite martial arts training.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V: The strength of a duelist is a scientifically quantifiable in this series, and is typically measured by the energy given off when they summon their strongest monsters.

    Comic Books 
  • This phrase is actually said in the Marvel comic Iron Fist. The protagonist would necessarily have to have the strongest kung-fu if he could kill a dragon barehanded, so it wasn't empty boasting. Eventually he does get his ass handed to him by a guy who's even better.

    Fan Works 
  • Glorious Shotgun Princess: Wuffles makes a short speech version of this boast to Harbinger, in which he makes it perfectly clear that his opponent's martial arts style is no match for Wuffles's Synthetic Hero Style.
  • In Incarnation of Legends, "Wind Blade" Shinjiro is famed for his mastery of Shohato, a sword technique in which he slashes twice in almost the same instant. Kojiro scoffs at him for being unable to kill a swallow with such a thing, later killing him with Tsubame Gaeshi, which slashes three times in the same motion by attacking with such skill that reality breaks, imposing multiple possibilities and thus multiple swings at the exact same time.

    Films — Animated 
  • Kung Fu Panda:
    • Unsurprisingly, since it is a kung fu movie and owes a certain amount to anime tropes, Kung Fu Panda has this as the basic set-up for the fight with the Big Bad: that in order to defeat Tai Lung, the Dragon Warrior must attain the Dragon Scroll, for only with its cosmic powers can he hope to be strong enough to prevail. To hammer this point home (as if it needed it), after learning that his former student has paralyzed the Furious Five, Shifu declares that "Tai Lung has gotten stronger." Cue the delivery of the scroll to the understandably freaked Po.
    • Played with in Kung Fu Panda 2 where Lord Shen can't beat Masters Croc, Storming Ox, and Thundering Rhino with his admittedly formidable kung fu style... which is why he shoots a cannon at them. Po, however, still uses martial arts to to beat Lord Shen's cannons after achieving inner peace.
    • Subverted in Kung Fu Panda 3, where individual skill in martial arts becomes almost irrelevant due to the fact that the Big Bad, while a formidable fighter, is relying on Chi manipulation, something that has not been seen for over a century and no one alive still practices. Becomes a double subversion later when Poe learns Chi manipulation himself and incorporates it into his kung fu training program.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars
    Yoda: Powerful you have become, Dooku. The Dark Side I sense in you.
    Dooku: I have become more powerful than any Jedi. Even you.
    • Revenge of the Sith: Obi-Wan says he is unwilling to kill Anakin, but Yoda sends him to fight him anyway, because "To fight this Lord Sidious, strong enough you are not." Yoda finds he isn't strong enough either.
  • From Spaceballs:
    Dark Helmet: You have the ring, and I see your Schwartz is as big as mine. Now let's see how well you handle it.
  • The basic premise of the Stephen Chow flick Kung Fu Hustle where everyone's kung fu is stronger than someone else. Sing's kung fu for the majority of the movie is awful, leading to him being beaten and slapped around by everyone... until he is beaten to near death. This unlocks his "blocked chi" and he achieves peace with Buddha. Also he can knock buildings down with his hand. Without touching them.
  • In Man of Steel, Zod boasts during his fight with Superman that he has trained his whole life to be the perfect warrior. What he says has a fair degree of logic, though. Would you expect a person with little to no combat experience to stand a chance against someone who was specially trained to be a warrior?
    Zod: Where did you train? ON A FARM!?
    • On the other hand, Zod has gained his powers for only few days, while Superman has had it for most of his life.
  • The original Game of Death wants to show that a good martial artist always has to improve and adapt to any situation that can occur.
  • Pretty much every Shaw Brothers kung fu movie ever has this as either its major theme or as an important plot element.
    • Executioners from Shaolin even has the villainous Pai Mei telling the heroic Hung Hsi-kuan that "My tiger kung fu is better than yours!" After Pai Mei wins the fight and kills Hung Hsi-kuan, the focus shifts to Hung's son, who must now train both harder and smarter than his father did to get revenge. This means mastering both his father's tiger style kung fu and his mother's crane style.
    • The Battle Wizard's protagonist doesn't have the patience to train and spends the first half of the movie as a Non-Action Guy, but he eventually acquires martial arts skills by drinking the blood of a giant magic snake, whereupon he cheerfully proclaims that "I Know Kung Fu!" Later on, he becomes even more powerful after eating a magic frog. It's a strange movie.
    • In The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, rebels against the Qing Dynasty find themselves utterly outmatched by government forces, so the hero decides to go to the Shaolin Monastery, become a monk, and learn kung fu so that he can pass the techniques on to other anti-Qing activists and they'll stand a fighting chance in the future.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Thunderbolt Fantasy, The Screaming Phoenix Killer meets The Bones of Creation, both pretty obsessed with proving of their Kung Fu. They predict that their battle will end in nine moves and only one will leave alive. Later on, Mysterious Gale in his quest to "steal" the thing Bones of Creation holds most dear deduces that it is his martial arts... And proceeds to solidly trounce him in combat while also deconstructing his philosophy of that pursuit.
  • Power Rangers / Super Sentai has a lot of cases, but especially the Wuxia-themed Juken Sentai Gekiranger, where the entire point of the series was two rival schools of fighting squaring off against each other.
  • In the finale of Dexter - season 3, there is a delicious example of this, in a scene with the season's "Big Bad" and Dexter. Remember Doakes's comment about why would a nerd like Dexter need to learn advanced ju-jitsu? Well it's so that when other killers tie up Dexter and are armed with a pretty menacing blade he can overpower them and snap their neck like a twig...with one good hand as he had to break his other one to get free from those pesky ropes that were holding him(Dex) down. Very strong kung fu indeed.
  • Played for Laughs in The Crazy Ones when Simon Roberts, played by the inimitable Robin Williams, says "Your Kung-Fu is no good!" (with requisite out of sync lip movements) to the giant Rock'Em-Sock'Em Robot in his office as he hides from an important meeting.
  • In Kamen Rider Decade, pretty much the point of Hibiki world. The schools are competing with each other over who can destroy the monsters.
  • Wonder Woman: The source of Wonder Woman's powers. In "Fausta, the Nazi Wonder Woman", Wonder Woman, under control of the golden lasso, explains to a disbelieving Colonel Kesselman that her strength comes from training in a pure environment. And, of course, she had to beat every other Amazon in order to become Wonder Woman.
  • The X-Files: In "The Unusual Suspects" (origin story for The Lone Gunmen), Frohike is stumped by a mystery Byers and Modeski brought to him, and they end up on Langly's doorstep. Langly forces Frohike to quote this trope before allowing them in to use his equipment.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Pili Fantasy: War of Dragons: Part and parcel of a Wuxia story. There are dozens of fist based and weapon based styles, complicated with the existence of magical weapons that boost one's power.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • It's an actual character flaw, explicitly called this, in Deadlands. It's intended for Enlightened, but could thematically be used to create any character who takes great pride in their key fighting skill and is frequently fighting others to prove their superiority.

    Video Games 
  • Any game with a level up system, particularly those that give room for Level Grinding, ultimately runs on this. Most RPG games fall into this trope on some level.
  • Most incarnations of the Street Fighter series portray Ryu as a loner who does nothing but train in his spare time. He is motivated to do this because Akuma killed his master (who was also Akuma's brother). Akuma himself has sacrificed his whole life to the way of the Satsui no Hadou ("Murderous Intent"), striving forever to become a stronger fighter, but also looking for someone who can defeat and kill him. He once defeats Ryu and then spares his life because he knows Ryu has the potential to become the greatest warrior on Earth (and the potential to fall into Satsui no Hadou as well).
  • Also a quote for Duke Nukem.
  • The rift that developed between Aoi Matsubara and Sakashita-senpai in To Heart was the result of the latter's unacceptance of "Extreme Fighting" as a martial art.
    • This rift disappeared when Aoi won the Extreme Fighting Championship in To Heart: Remember My Memories when Aoi defeated her senior Ayaka Kurusugawa who had defeated Sakashita earlier on in the tourney with one roundhouse kick to the head, a la Chuck Norris.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 

Alternative Title(s): My Kung Fu Is Strongest, My Kung Fu Is Stronger