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The Greatest Style

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"Let me say it again. Hokuto Shinken is invincible!"

This trope occurs when there's a style, art, or craft that outshines the others in its particular field, whether that field be combat-oriented or competitive, or not. Becoming adept in this style will, at the very least, make one a capable artist. Mastering it, on the other hand, will make them exceptionally talented within the setting.

There are several forms this trope can take:

  1. The style counters, or exploits a weakness, in the other predominant style(s) of the time. Since most people use these other styles, this one becomes "the best" only by a relative technicality. Outside of that context, however, the practitioner may fall under Crippling Overspecialization.
  2. This style is an elite form that can only be used by people with The Gift or an innate ability that most people do not possess. Being able to use it at all places the users above the competition. As such, even a bad or mediocre user of this style can handily defeat other opponents.
  3. The style combines the best parts of other crafts without any, or few, of their weaknesses.
  4. The style is just flat out better than all the others. The techniques are better, faster, more efficient, and more flexible than other styles. This typically results in a Lensman Arms Race, where everyone starts to learn it or its counters.

Sub-Trope of My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours. This trope does not have to be about a martial art, but most examples will likely be along those lines, due to the prevalence of violence as the most common form of Conflict. This also tends to overlap with the Master-Apprentice Chain, in that the Greatest Style may only be passed on to specific people.

Sister Trope to World's Strongest Man and World's Best Warrior. May overlap with Dangerous Forbidden Technique.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Claymore, Teresa is the number one warrior of all time, largely because of having such immense power that only a fraction of it could defeat the other top level warriors of her day. However, the other thing that makes her incredibly dangerous is her ability to sense Yoki to such a degree that it gives her Combat Clairvoyance. After Teresa's death, her remains were used to empower her adopted daughter, Claire. Claire happens to be the weakest warrior of her generation, but inherited Teresa's sensing abilities and trained them further so that the stronger an opponent is, the better she can predict their abilities. The catch is that this is useless if her body isn't fast or strong enough to react and counter the foe. Claire's struggle throughout the series is to become stronger so that she can put this style to use against her target, Priscilla, the most powerful being on the planet.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba has the Sun Breathing, later called the Hinokami Kagura. It's the first and strongest swordsmanship style created by the strongest Demon Slayer in history who nearly slew Muzan 400 years ago, Yoriichi. All other Breathing styles are inferior derivatives that Yoriichi taught to the other Demon Slayers to suit their specific talents when Sun Breathing proved too difficult for them to master. By the present day, its connection to Yoriichi has been forgotten and it's now called the Hinokami Kagura.
  • Dragon Ball Super introduces Ultra Instinct, said to be the ultimate fighting style that even Gods of Destruction have trouble mastering. It allows one to fight entirely unconsciously, allowing the body to move automatically and instantly dodge and counter all incoming attacks. Goku attains full mastery of it by the end of the Tournament of Power, allowing him to defeat Jiren, the mortal more powerful than Gods of Destruction; however, Goku collapsed from the strain it puts on his body before he managed to ring out Jiren. Later, Vegeta learns Ultra Ego, a style that is functionally opposite to Ultra Instinct. It involves taking damage to become stronger instead of dodging attacks, and retaining control instead of moving automatically. While angels like Whis are always in Ultra Instinct, Gods of Destruction like Beerus use Ultra Ego.
  • Fist of the North Star:
    • Hokuto Shinken, the eponymous style of the series (used by protagonist Kenshiro and his brother Raoh) is the most powerful martial art in the world, enabling Kenshiro to defeat the endless number of tyrants and savages in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and allowing Raoh to ascend to position as ruler.
    • Nanto Seiken, the yang to Hokuto Shin Ken's yin, is in theory equal to Hokuto Shinken. In practice, no one has taken Nanto Seiken as far as Hokuto. There is also Gento Koken, which was originally superior to Hokuto Shinken, but has stagnated as Hokuto has continued to develop. Then there is the heretical Hokuto Ryuken, which initially has more techniques than Hokuto Shinken until Kenshiro goes back and learns the original Hokuto Soukei style, which Shinken and Ryuken are improvements of. Though it is inferior, learning its fundamentals finally makes Kenshiro's Hokuto Shinken the undisputed best martial art (but as stated, Nanto and Gento have the potential to be just as good).
    • A notable subversion: a mook puts his back to the ground, claiming his particular style makes him invincible. Ken agrees, and does the only thing possible: he walks away. The mook, of course, abandons his posture and gets his ass kicked.
  • In Gamaran, several warriors from all around Unabara try to claim about the invincibility of their style, though the actual experience of the user influence the effectivness. Amongst the many, we have Nikaido's Souen Ryuu, which epytomizes the Boring, but Practical fighting style with katana and wakizashi, Toujou's Tengen Ryu, which praises the naginata as the most versatile and effective of all the melee weapons. Kashitarou's purpose is to turn the whole Ogame Ryu into the ultimate fighting style.
  • In the High School Exciting Story: Tough manga, the Nadashinkage is (repeatedly) shown to be the best of all, allowing feats like bullet dodging (from a minigun). There are maybe four people who've mastered it, two of them heroes and the other two villains.
  • Holyland has various characters make the claim about their style, and makes a point that, in its proper conditions, any style is superior but can be much weaker or even helpless in the wrong ones. The best example is Tsuchiya the Wrestler, who is noticeably weakened on concrete due his best moves needing him to go so low his elbows and knees will scrape the terrain (something that once got him defeated without his opponent even touching him) but on soft enough terrain is next to invincible, to the point that Shougo, a Blood Knight who had previously beaten him, just refused to fight him the moment he found him waiting for a fight on grass, and the three guys with him instead attacked and quickly proved Shougo's point.
  • The Hyuuga clan's Gentle Fist style in Naruto is, combined with the clan's Byakugan, which grants them 359-degree telescopic X-Ray Vision, the best close quarter combat style in the setting. In a world where everyone's a Kung-Fu Wizard, the Hyuuga clan can shut down their opponents' chakras, and internal organs, rendering them powerless and dying with nothing more than a light touch. It's noted that while there are many ways a fighter can train to make themselves more able to withstand a beating, there's no training that exists to make internal organs more durable: no matter how tough you are, you still die if your heart can't beat. The clan's Secret Arts also include a spinning maneuver that generates a nigh-impenetrable Force Field, giving them not only the best offense, but the best defense as well.
  • One-Punch Man: The most powerful fighting style ever shown off is the Monster Calamity God Slayer Fist style, developed by Hero Hunter Garou and combining 12 separate martial arts he mastered. Noticeably, this style was so strong that the only time the creator of the technique used it was when his body evolved to his "Awakened" state that physically already made him one of the strongest beings on the planet. His body needed to reach that point just to handle the sheer speed and power behind the style's techniques.
  • Ranma ˝: Ranma is a practitioner of the Saotome School of Anything-Goes Martial Arts, a style that gives him the skills and flexibility to not only learn but master many of the most difficult and dangerous fighting styles in the world. Genma, who taught Ranma much of what he knows, also used it to develop his own devastating techniques, the Umi-Sen Ken and Yama-Sen Ken. However, Genma also tends to parody this, coming up with such moves as the Crouch of the Wild Tiger (begging for forgiveness), the Howl of the Demon Dog (hurling insults) and the Saotome ultimate move (running away).
  • Rurouni Kenshin has the Hiten-Mitsurugi-ryu, a legendary sword art used by Kenshin and his master, Hiko Seijuuro XIII. This art makes the two of them, combined, the World's Best Warriors. The irony, however, is that this technique is actually not suited for someone of Kenshin's build, though his master had intended to fix that with a special training regimen before Kenshin ran off to join the Meiji Revolution in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate (thus zig-zagging "The Gift" version of this trope).

    Comic Books 
  • In the modern day The DCU, both Lady Shiva and Cassandra Cain (mother and child) have a fighting style which depends on their natural gift in Combat Clairvoyance. This style enables them to act and react with borderline-superhuman speed and efficiency, making them the two greatest martial artists in the world.
  • Another DCU example was the ancient style that died out with the Raul Lama, who was the last master of the discipline and whose students included Tim Drake and Bruce Wayne. It was a style balanced between weaponry, hand-to-hand, detailed anatomy studies, meditation and healing arts that gave those who mastered it unnaturally long lifespans and allowed for mastery of bio-feedback.
  • Iron Fist trained in the mystical K'unlunquan martial arts, which enables Ki Manipulation and other superhuman abilities. He is also a master of many other styles. In terms of pure technique, his only true rival is Shang-Chi, who has mastery of a greater number of styles.
  • Val Armorr of the Legion of Super-Heroes (known as "The Karate Kid") uses a future style of Karate that has been refined after one thousand years of progress in a universe of superhumans. Val is completely human, but his style is not. It enables him to smash through extremely tough constructs, and damage or restrain superhuman opponents as if he had power equal to theirs.
  • Played for Laughs in one Punisher story where a martial arts assassin is sent to take out the Punisher. After commenting on how many styles the guy's mastered, Frank introduces him to one he doesn't know: Car Fu.

  • The Destroyer series. Sinanju is a Charles Atlas Superpower Secret Art, a Supernatural Martial Art and a Fantastic Fighting Style. It even grants New Powers as the Plot Demands. It's the "sun source" of all other martial arts — in other words, all other martial arts are based on it, and it is better than any of them.
  • Katanagatari: Male protagonist Shichika gets scouted for the big artifact-sword-retrieval mission of the story after previous-attempt helpers had helped themselves to the swords they were supposed to recover. Shichika is a safe choice because his sword(s)manship-style has no need for swords, and he does prove himself capable to hold his own against the sword-wielders and more. The latter fact would later prove to have been Foreshadowing.
  • Deja-fu in Thief of Time is a martial art based on time-bending, and supposedly the greatest secret of the History Monks, who at lower levels learn a lot of martial arts in addition to bending time, but not the combination. Lu-Tze the Sweeper dismisses these legends, saying none of the monks know deja-fu, and he'd know if they did. Because he's the one person who does.

    Multiple Media 
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Juyo/Vaapad is considered the deadliest of the seven classical lightsaber combat forms, countering most defenses with its unpredictable and aggressive manner. However, it is dangerous to use because the practitioner must skirt perilously close to the Dark Side. Mace Windu is the only Jedi to have ever truly mastered it, and he was considered the greatest lightsaber fighter of his time.
    • Teras Kasi, from Masters of Teras Kasi was developed by survivors of Palawa, a planet that challenged the Jedi Council and was destroyed in the ensuing war. Those who trained in it developed the sheer speed needed to match the Jedi, while closing their minds to avoid influence or revealing their intentions, thus they could fight Jedi armed with lightsabers hand-to-hand and could utterly destroy normal martial artists. Legends ran with this, claiming in various prequel books that Darth Maul and some of the greatest swordsmen of the Order had all incorporated Teras Kasi into their style.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Antonio Inoki's trick for getting New Japan Pro-Wrestling over was starting a dojo with the Tag Line "Professional Wrestling Is The Strongest Martial Art In The World". When trained martial artists would show up to test this theory Inoki would lock the doors and have his students assault them. On New Japan's shows themselves, Inoki would promote "mixed style" fights where he would beat up famous martial artists.
  • In spite of his famous snipe at Giant Baba's "showman style", NJPW's strong style isn't an example of this. Rather, "strong style" is a form of wrestling psychology where the wrestler wavers between trying to beat the opponent in front of him and trying to use his opponent to send a message to the enemy out of his reach. In the beginning this "enemy" was, of course, All Japan Pro Wrestling's dojo. Telling people New Japan's style was stronger was the marketing pitch but it was really about almost every NJPW match being a drawn out demonstration of why their wrestlers were better than AJPW's in every way and thus "deserved" all the attention, and gaijin, AJPW had.
  • This was turned against Inoki by Satoru Sayama, Akira Maeda and Nobuhiko Takada's Universal Wrestling Federation, which boasted shooting style as the strongest form of pro wrestling and the best martial art developed in Japan since judo. Its innovators claimed fatigue from "helping" inferior opponents in NJPW who couldn't keep up with them. UWF became extremely popular until Sayama left and started what came to be known as Mixed Martial Arts. It turned out the best shoot wrestlers in MMA were low card guys not being pushed while the supposedly superior stars failed to impress. While Kazushi Sakuraba did prove pro wrestlers could win fights, he also affirmed shoot wrestlers were still helping inferior opponents. Meanwhile NJPW was pushing anyone who won an MMA fight and burying anyone who lost, yes at the expense of its own business but also at shooting style's. Then UWF made the mistake of cross promoting with NJPW and letting Inoki handle all the booking. All the shoot style wrestlers were then destroyed in worked matches as well.

  • In the 1960s, high school track and field athlete Dick Fosbury began experimenting with a radical new approach to the high jump, eventually settling into a style where he went over the bar facing the opposite direction and landing on his back. Most coaches tried to steer him away from the technique, but backed down when Fosbury kept breaking school records. Fosbury went on to win gold at the 1968 Olympics, and his new way of high jumping, nicknamed the "Fosbury Flop," is now used by practically every athlete in the event.
  • The early Ultimate Fighting Championship events were marketed as the proving ground to establish the best fighting style. Could wrestling beat karate? Could boxing beat kung fu? The events were co-created by a family of martial artists, the Gracies, who wanted to prove that their style, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is the best. In fact, their championnote  did dominate the early UFC events. Fighters quickly started cross-training a variety of styles, including BJJ, taking the best parts of each to create a hybrid fighting style that became known as Mixed Martial Arts.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted has multiple circles of martial arts for mortals, Exalted, Celestial Exalted, and Sidereal Exalted. Mortal - non-magical - martial artists can break a brick and jump over a hedge. A Terrestrial (weakest Exalted) martial artist can break a boulder and jump over a building. A Celestial martial artist can break a city wall and jump across a mountain. A Sidereal martial artist can split a soul and jump to Heaven. Specific flavors include:
    • Bondage Fighting? Laughing Wounds.
    • Turning yourself into a living golem with extendable magic claws? Prismatic Arrangement of Creation.
    • Charcoal March of Spiders: when you absolutely, positively have to punch out everyone on the continent twice in the same instant, accept no substitutes.
    • One Celestial Monkey style charm permits you to make a called shot to the area that represents someone's primary virtue. Temperance is the head, Conviction the guts, Compassion the heart, and Valour the groin
  • In the Lucha Libre Hero supplement for Hero System, all monsters take double damage from lucha libre maneuvers by default... but that only applies to lucha libre maneuvers. A practitioner of karate, savate, muay thai, or any other martial art who finds himself in a Lucha Hero game will be less effective against monsters because that weakness won't apply to his attacks.
  • Rifts has a variety of martial arts that mostly amount to some extra melee attacks per round and a couple of bonuses and special moves. Then RIFTS Japan and China added mystic martial arts, which added things like super-strength, magic barriers, astral projection and ki attacks into the mix, along with body-hardening exercises that could make a person to tough to be hurt by normal humans, half certain damage types (falling, kinetic impact, fire, ice) immunity to some effects (stun, paralysis, holds and joint locks) super-strong strikes, and increased abilities, like doubling the time one can run/fight or hold one's breath, leaping forty feet in the air, or beating demons in drinking contests. A max level conventional martial artist could theoretically be beaten by a third-level mystic martial artist. This trend reached it's pinnacle with the Way of the Patient Gun, a mystic martial art that let Gun Masters make both Preston and Wesley look like rank amateurs.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy VIII: The Gunblade is noted in-universe to be a hard-to-master weapon, and the only practitioners we see are two people: the hero Squall and his rival Seifer.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: The Fists of Rhalgr are considered to have created the pinnacle of martial arts technique, until the Corpse Brigade developed a style specifically to counter the Fists. The crux of the Stormblood Monk job quests is the player character teaching the job trainer and his other students, who only know the Fists' style, how to counter the Corpse Brigade by mixing the style with the techniques of Ul'dahn pugilism the player character started with.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn: The greatest style is the one used and taught by Greil, the leader of the Greil Mercenaries. Even past his prime and, having cut the tendons in his sword hand as penance for accidentally murdering his wife, favoring the axe as his preferred weapon over the sword the style was originally developed for, Greil was seen as having superhuman strength, and his son Ike was able to become one of the strongest fighters on the continent within about one year despite being a rookie practitioner. The Black Knight, a former student of Greil's (and his killer), also adheres to this principle, though he's aided by above-human strength on account of his status as a Branded, a legendary sword blessed by the goddess Ashera herself, and the possession of goddess-blessed armor that is impervious to anything other than another goddess-blessed weapon.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Played for Laughs with Dan Hibiki, who created his own martial art known as the Saikyo Style note , which is all but powerful... at least in his hands, most of the time. His one and only student, Sakura, learned the style in a week and is far better than he is with it.
    • Not played for laughs is Ansatsuken, which is used by Ryu, Ken, Akuma, Gouken, and a few others. It is generally shown to be the deadliest martial art in the entire universe and the reason why Bison keeps coming after Ryu. It's also why Akuma wants him. The martial art, notably, also produces the Dark Hadou. Sakura and Dan both have a small amount of training in it as well, which is what makes them dangerous to World Warrior levels. Even if Dan (who was Incompletely Trained by Gouken after his motive of revenge against Sagat was discovered) shows a little bit of a good thing is a major bad one.
    • A different style of Ansatsuken is used by Chinese martial arts master Gen, and is why he was regarded as a Living Legend in the Hong Kong underworld even as early as his debut in the original Street Fighter. His mastery of the killing art gave Gen considerable reputation as an assassin, with many seeking him out either to enlist his talents or claim his life for his own. Though a battle between Gen and Akuma during the events of Alpha 2 was called off by Akuma upon his discovery that Gen suffered from leukemia, it's implied that said disease and Gen's old age in general are the only reasons most of the SF cast stands a chance against him to begin with.
    • Karin's Kanzuki-style martial arts is apparently one of the most elite styles in the Street Fighter world. Karin's Story Mode in Street Fighter V states that the best techniques of the style are those which are rare even for the heads of the family (by design, its strongest member) to fully master. Amongst its abilities is the skill to defeat enemies with nothing but a Battle Aura and (according to Karin herself) the ability to levitate like Dhalsim. It's telling that, on Street Fighter V's stat chart, Karin is amongst Zeku and Akuma in technical skill ranking.
    • Bushinryu, employed by Guy, Maki, and their master Zeku, is a refined version of a very ancient art of ninjitsu, which several characters refer to as one of the best combat styles in the world. It's also hinted that Zeku forms his own organization and passes (an improved version of) it along to his pupils, who will become the Striders.
    • Part of the reason why Sagat went so crazy after his defeat at the hands of Ryu (before it was retconned) is that his Tiger-style Muay Thai was considered the greatest in the world, with him as its greatest master. Sagat's defeat rebutted this. While not strong to the level of superhuman abilities, Sagat pushed himself after this defeat to the point that while he may not be able to achieve Ansatsuken levels of destruction, his Tiger style is certainly a second best at worst.
    • Oro, a Japanese hermit introduced in Street Fighter III, is noted to be a Senjutsu master who knows the secrets of immortality—and it shows. Though he normally fights with his dominant arm bound, Oro's max level Super Arts indicate he's able to undo the bindings at any time, amplifying his already superhuman strength, Ki Manipulation, and wide array of esoteric abilities (such as telekinesis) to heights matched only by the heaviest hitters in the 'verse. (For example, the Yagyou Dama is a moderately sized ball of ki. The Yagyou-Odama? A nigh-instanteous Sphere of Destruction comparable to the Spirit Bomb.) If that wasn't enough, a SFV sidestory (Musings on a Still Night) shows Oro is capable of imitating the Satsui no Hado despite not being an Ansatsuken practitioner. It should be noted that a meeting between Oro and Akuma ends with neither party seriously engaging the other due to a guaranteed Mutual Kill if they did, whereas Oro muses in his 3rd Strike ending that Ryu could potentially become a worthy successor of his... in about another 15 years.
    • Subverted by Makoto, who's the Heir to the Dojo of the Rindo-kan Karate school. She participates in street fighting tournaments as a way to promote her family's fighting style and try to make it this trope. In Street Fighter IV, many other fighters' win quotes compliment her on her skill and potential despite beating her.
  • In Virtua Fighter, Lau Chan's style of Koen-ken is considered a "total offensive package" with both speed and power. It's to learn the secrets of this technique that Lei-Fei betrayed his order of monks, and later betrayed and tried to kill Lau himself. After this betrayal, Lau has basically accepted that this style is now doomed to die with him.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: It's called "Do", and is Discussed in Tea and Synergy:
    ‘Do’. The ‘Sun Source’ Martial Art, of which all other schools are fragments, or pale reflections. ... Do would be perfectly flexible in its application and perfectly suitable to the dynamics of the human form. And Do wouldn’t be limited to hand to hand combat ... or even combat. Do would apply to EVERYTHING!

    Western Animation 
  • A meta-example in Avatar: The Last Airbender: the various bending types use moves from martial arts. Earthbending is based on the real-world Hung Ga, but Toph's Earthbending is miles above anyone else's, was self-taught (or rather taught by being around giant badgermoles), allows her to use metalbending (no one else in the series can), and is based on one called Southern Mantis style.