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With My Hands Tied

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"I bet I can take you both with my hands tied behind my back!"
Aang (who promptly does so), Avatar: The Last Airbender

So you've captured the hero, and have him at your mercy, but don't kill him just yet. So tie the guy up and leave him, he'll be harmless for now, right?

Wrong! What Were You Thinking?

Most heroes are so badass that they can outfight your Mooks even while they're physically restricted. Their hands might be tied, but they can still kick. Chained down, they can still dodge. Shackle two together and you'll just have Back-to-Back Badasses. Plus the odds are pretty good that they'll make clever use of their binding, as garottes, club, or flails — see Handy Cuffs. And also that they'll be Breaking the Bonds.

In some modern works, this is parodied by having the characters willingly impose a handicap to make things "fairer" for the enemies. The hero will make some Badass Boast to "fight you with one hand tied behind my back!" (or even both hands) and the villain will take him up on it thinking he's crazy. Maybe he is crazy, or maybe he isn't, and the villain will be in for a very big surprise.

Female heroines may sometimes incorporate Kick Chick and Combat Stilettos with this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Happens with Okoi in Basilisk. Despite being tied to a pole, she starts draining Rousai's blood when he touches her. She further traps him between her legs when he tries to retaliate, and finally kills him by draining all his blood.
  • In Brave10, Anastasia can easily clean a room full of guards with her hands tied and hanging upside down.
  • The first episode of Code:Breaker has Sakura kicking a couple of gang members while bound.
  • While Mina Tepes from Dance in the Vampire Bund is first held prisoner by Duke Rozenmann, when an unexpected explosion distracts her two armored guards a second or two longer than it distracted her she drops one with a kick to the jaw and springs off the other so she can drop her full weight onto his headnote  before rooting for the keys to her restraints.
  • Badou Nails from Dogs: Bullets & Carnage once gunned down several people while his arms were tied behind the back of a chair.
  • Dragon Ball
    • During the Red Ribbon Arc, hired assassin Tao Pai Pai combined this with the Worf Effect by killing General Blue under these circumstances, by using his tongue to press on his temple. Both Commander Red and Staff Officer Black are spooked by this, considering Blue had nearly killed Goku earlier in the story.
    • At the climax of the initial Demon King Piccolo storyline, Piccolo gets Goku to stand and take his long distance attacks by threatening to kill Tenshinhan. Goku had already had one leg broken at this point, and Piccolo uses the circumstances to break Goku's other leg and one of his arms before taking off to finish Goku with death from above. Goku manages to use that one working arm to counterattack with a Kamehameha to propel himself into the air, punching a hole through King Piccolo.
    • When Goku and Piccolo fight in the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai, Piccolo gets Goku with a lucky shot then breaks each of Goku's arms and legs, remembering what happened in their previous fight. Then he unleashes a blast that apparently vaporizes the hero...but it turns out Goku learned how to fly during the Time Skip, and uses the momentum to knock Piccolo out of the ring, winning the match.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Frieza manages to do this when he took on Nail In this case it was less to prove himself and more to keep himself entertained. He even intentionally exposes his neck, but his power is so enormous he doesn't sustain a single injury.
    • Subverted in the early portion of Goku's fight with Frieza, where the latter offers to fight without his arms (leaving only his legs and tail). To Frieza's surprise Goku puts up enough of a fight that he's forced to use one of his arms, and is not amused that Goku managed to accomplish it.
    • Later on during the 25th Budokai in the Buu Arc, Trunks makes a bet with Goten that he could beat him with only one arm. Similar to Frieza, Trunks is forced to use it and isn't very happy that Goten pushed him to that limit.
    • Vegetto makes a similar bluff to Super Buu, which is ultimately a plot to annoy him so much that he'll absorb Vegetto, allowing him to rescue the others Buu has absorbed. This is why you might find Vegetto's fighting style includes a lot of kicking in the video games; Vegetto isn't featured very long so most of his moves were with his legs.
  • In Eyeshield 21, Hiruma plays the second half of the game with the Hakushuu Dinosaurs with a broken right arm. Keep in mind that he's a quarterback (the position which throws the ball) A month later, at the Christmas Bowl, it still hasn't exactly healed, so he'll have to keep off it... causing the star running back of the opponents, the Teikoku Alexanders, to say he'll also play without using his right arm. And while this ultimately turns out to have been a ploy by Hiruma so the Alexanders would underestimate him, Yamato keeps using only one arm until he's forced to do otherwise, to show he doesn't need to try to kick ass.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist ch 105, Wrath loses both his arms, but still manages to stab Scar by holding a sword in his teeth.
  • Hell's Paradise: Jigokuraku: The convicts are first forced to slaughter eachother before venturing into Kotaku; to cull their numbers, save resources and because the Shogun is bored. And they aren't allowed to remove their binds. The more capable criminals have no issue slaughtering the others. Special mention goes to Gabimaru, who stills rips and bites other opponents to death.
    • Sagiri initially forces Gabimaru to keep his hands tied per the rules of the shogunate, even when Gabimaru is forced to fight another criminal (who doesn't even have his hands tied, because none of the other Asaemon bother keeping their prisoners physically restrained because its a stupid rule). Gabimaru not only No-Sell's said criminals' attacks while re-tieing his hands, he skewers him to death offscreen with several of the man's own weapons.
  • How badass is Uvogin from Hunter × Hunter? So badass that he kills three experienced assassins while paralyzed from the neck down.
  • One episode of Kill la Kill has Satsuki Kiryuin escape naked while shackled, with nothing but a sharp metal toenail attachment.
  • Annie from the anime Movie of The Magic Tree House tackles a pirate from shooting her brother despite being a little girl with her hands tied behind her back on a plank and the pirate being a grown man with at least two feet on her. This gives them enough time for her mouse to chew her bonds off.
  • Megalo Box: Yuri tries taking on Junk Dog during their first match by only using his left hand to show their power difference, though Junk Dog forces him to use his right as well.
  • Naruto
    • Though he's not technically tied, the effect is much like it: in the Land of Waves arc, both of Zabuza's arms have been crippled during his fight with Kakashi, such that he can't move them at all any more. When Gatō shows up with an army of mercenaries to kill both Zabuza and Naruto's team, Zabuza, bolstered by Naruto's speech about Haku's devotion, chews through the wrap over his mouth and asks Naruto for a kunai. He proceeds to grab it with his teeth and murder his way through Gatō's army with it until he reaches the man himself and takes his head.
    • Deidara, too, gets one arm crushed and the other blown into an alternate dimension... and still fends off four ninja. Later, he tries to strangle Tobi with his legs.
    • Danzo can only use one of his arms to full functionality (most of the time), but still manages to kill a 17-man team of assassins. One particularly memorable part was when he took out the first wave of them, and when the second came he used the head one of the first wave who survived his attack as a sword holster so he would have a free arm to use the guy's body as a human shield.
  • One Piece'
    • During Fishman Island arc, Luffy manages to beat down Vander Decken with both his arms and legs tied together.
    • Before that, Big Bad Hody Jones wipes out a whole pirate crew (albeit underwater where fish-men have an advantage, and pumped up on stimulants) with his hands shackled together. One pirate realizes that the handcuffs are to show just how outmatched the crew is compared to Hody.
    • Trying to restrain main character in handcuffs usually doesn't work out. Just as an example:
      • Mr 3 put his legs in wax shackles, so he used them as a weapon.
      • Eneru encased his hand into a giant golden ball to hold him back. Luffy not only used it to destabilize a giant electric bomb, but also dealt a finishing blow with it.
      • Despite Doflamingo gaining a considerable advantage, after he tied his hands behind his back, Luffy was still able to block both Doflamingo's string clone and a string-controlled Bellamy, with only his feet.
    • Ace also managed to fight off several Impel Down guards with his hands chained behind his back.
  • Ranma ˝:
    • Ranma actually does a lot of things with his toes in the manga, one chapter had him hanging from a rope with his arms bound by the aforementioned rope while going up against the Principal, using his toes to maneuver himself and kicking.
    • Kodachi tried to hinder Ranma's agility by shackling her to Akane's pet piglet P-chan. It backfired spectacularly since it provided Ranma with a piggy-shaped flail.
      • She might have assumed Ranma wouldn't want to hurt the cute innocent widdle pig. "Pig is VALID weapon...." Cue the squealing....
    • Near the end of the manga, Ranma's hands and arms were held in place and encased in nigh-indestructible crystal, product of Saffron's metamorphosis. He was still able to fight almost to his full abilities, even wielding the spear-like Gekkaja with his toes and cut a giant Phoenix statue's neck in half that way.
    • Ryoga, under the "Mark of the Battling God", become invincible, but get also an embrassing mark and need to be defeated to remove the mark from his body. In order to make things easier for Ranma, Ryoga has blindfolded himself along with tying his hands together and placing large weights to his ankles. But he fail and still easily knocks Ranma into the ceiling.
  • The titular character of Rurouni Kenshin has at one point had his hands tied to a tree.
  • Black*Star in Soul Eater thinks he can do this to make his fight with Patti 'fairer'. Trouble is, he gets someone to tie his hands after their match has started...allowing Patti to do a Groin Attack that wins her the match straight away.
  • In one episode of The Vision of Escaflowne, Van got himself tied with his hands up. He pulled the one of his guards' sword from the scabbard with his legs, throwing it so it would cut the rope he was tied with, and then proceeded to off the soldiers aroung in industrial quantities.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Kurama vs Gama. Once Gama's makeup is applied to Kurama it acts as a weight attached to each of his limbs, this does not stop Kurama from easily defeating him. As a dying act, Gama does the same to Kurama's spiritual energy, as Touya enters the ring.

    Comic Books 
  • Batwoman: Kate Kane learned how to fight with her wrists bound behind her during her training.
  • In one issue of Cable & Deadpool, Deadpool and Weasel play on this trope by kidnapping a bunch of high-ups from the military, etc., who might need to hire a mercenary, then showing them that Deadpool can beat the Taskmaster with his wrists and ankles manacled. It backfires, though — the military types already knew how good Deadpool was, but they won't hire him because he's too unstable. Also: Weasel lost the key to the handcuffs. Oh dears.
  • In a variant used in an early Captain America story, Cap once got his hands untied, but his feet were still bound together. Even so, he was doing well fighting a small army of goons under that circumstance to the point when he got his legs free, the crooks know they were now really in trouble.
  • At one point during the Dark Reign-era Thunderbolts, Mr. X riles Headsman into fighting him, and nearly kills him with both hands behind his back.
  • The Death of Superman: Doomsday, only partially out of the super-strength straitjacket he'd been buried in for millennia, manages to decimate the Justice League literally with one hand tied.
  • In Domino Lady's Jungle Adventure # 3, Domino Lady is shackled to a wall but manages to take Mussolini hostage by wrapping her Murderous Thighs around his neck.
  • In a Story Arc that takes place over a few issues of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, Snake-Eyes's wrists are manacled together with a long chain, which is then thrown over a hook a few feet up a stone wall. He manages to feign death by slowing his heartbeat — which of course annoys the would-be torturer enough that he lets his guard down — steal a poker from the torturer, leap up to the hook, pry it free of the wall using the poker, and then use the chain to steal a sword from a guard. At that point, it's all over.
  • The Infinity Gauntlet. Captain America is stuck up to his ankles in pavement and still faces down the God-Level Thanos. He gets his shield shattered and smacked to death but still...
  • In Lucifer, Mazikeen is forced into a Trial by Combat, with one hand chained behind her back and blindfolded. Through skill and guile she wins anyway.
  • The Punisher once shot a guy with his hands tied behind his back. In the head. With the gun upside down.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: One comic showed a young Ki-Adi-Mundi tracking down a group of bandits on his homeworld. Being a young and brash man, he boasted that he could beat the leader with his hands tied behind his back. So she takes him up on it, and Surprisingly Realistic Outcome.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • Hawkeye in "Ultimates" continuity. They should have taken his fingernails.
    • Black Widow in the "Ultimates" continuity, Ultimate Marvel Team Up Issue #14. Bonus points that not only was she bound at the hands and feet, she was hung upside-down from a ceiling. She manages to dispatch several of her captors nonetheless. When one pulls a pistol and aims it at her, she shoots him a "I'm upside down, tied- and you need a gun? How pathetic are you?" look.
    • All-New Ultimates: Taskmaster fights against Bengal and is winning, despite the minor inconvenience of having his arms fully trapped into Spider-Man's webbing.
    Taskmaster: I guess you don't care if I hand you your arms with my arms tied.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • In the Golden Age Wondy (and/or Steve Trevor) ended up bound in some way Once an Episode, and occasionally the baddies even untintentionally stumbled upon her odd Kryptonite Factor by having a man weld together her bracelets of submission, depowering her. Generally this did nothing to prevent her from defeating them given her training and she merely had to do so with her wrists bound and a normal human's strength and speed.
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana ends up bound to a pole with her unbreakable lasso. As she can't break the lasso she just tears the pole out from where it's bolted and uses said pole to free Etta Candy and the Holliday Girls by smashing the wall of the prison they're in.
  • When Gambit is captured along with the other X-Men in mutant-enslaving Genosha and is hanging by his shackled arms, he deliberately allows himself to be impaled with a steel spike — which he works out, drops and catches it between his feet, then with his feet over his head picks an electronic lock and frees himself.
    • In another story, a totally immobilised Gambit takes down the guy who has him bound by spitting chewing gum in his face. Chewing gum that promptly explodes like a grenade thanks to Gambit's mutant powers.

    Fan Works 
  • In chapter 6 of Naruto: the Secret Songs of the Ninja, Naruto is caught up in a big battle with his arms shackled behind his back. Having to take on a sword-wielding opponent who he knows would slice him apart if he tried to fight using only kicks and headbutts, he suddenly recalls the LAST time he saw a ninja forced to fight with no arms and gets Sakura to throw him a kunai which he catches in his teeth.
    Naruto: Here's to you, Zabuza.
  • In one Naruto/Ranma ˝ story, Ranma proves that the Hyuuga's Gentle Fist isn't perfect by sparring with Neji with one hand tied behind his back, standing on one foot, and blindfolded. He utterly destroys Neji.
  • In Daphne Greengrass and the Boy Who Lived, during Umbridge's control of Hogwarts, Harry only fights the Inquisitorial Squad's attempt to start duels with him with his weakest spells, but he is such a good duelist by this point that even Malfoy stops trying to provoke him into a fight.
  • Second American Civil War: Isabella disables Mayor Abercrombie with her hands cuffed behind her back, and he never even lands a blow on her. He thought her Supersoldier implants had been disabled, only to discover that Phineas's upgrades removed the Restraining Bolt.
  • Naruto and Harribel spar this way in Shards due to her martial arts style being used primarily by slaves who frequently had their arms bound, making her a Kick Chick when not using her sword.

    Film — Animated 
  • In the last Dot and the Kangaroo sequel, Dot is tied up and gagged by bubble-shaped aliens who proceed to inspect her to see if she's round or not, she repeatedly kicks them and stamps on their feet in retaliation.
  • Done as a Funny Background Event in Kung Fu Panda 2. While being taken in shackles to Lord Shen, Tigress keeps getting jabbed by a spear-wielding wolf guard. Finally, she's had enough and kicks the spear out of his hand; cue Oh, Crap! look from the guard.
  • In Disney's Peter Pan, during the climax, Captain Hook taunts Peter for being a coward because he always flies away instead of fighting him man to man. Accepting the challenge, Peter fights Hook with one hand behind his back, without flying.
  • In Quest for Camelot, Kaylee kicks the feet out from under one of Ruber's mooks and drops him through the floor while tied up.

    Film — Live Action 
  • In Anaconda, Jon Voight strangles Kari Wuhrer to death with his legs while handcuffed to a pole.
  • In The Avengers (2012), Black Widow's reintroduction is, after being the Play-Along Prisoner for an indeterminable amount of time, her beating up a gang of Russian thugs while tied to a chair. It's amazing.
  • In The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, Romeo has his hands chained behind his back while he fights a large Frenchman. Romeo dodges his attacks, flips the chains to his front and takes the man down with a submission.
  • The Bourne Supremacy. Cautious about getting too close to another Treadstone agent, Jason Bourne gets the man to ziptie himself, meaning his hands are tied in front of him and prove only a minor impediment when he attacks Bourne, as they both have the same skill and training.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Cap spends most of the Elevator Action Sequence with one wrist manacled to the elevator wall and still curb-stomps everyone else in there.
  • Casino Royale (1967) — Archvillain Woody Allen tries to show to a captured agent that he's just as manly as his uncle Sir James Bond — he sits down at a piano and masterfully plays some Debussy (a passionate pursuit of Sir James), then goes all "Look, one hand!" — then hastily hammers the piano off when it keeps playing without him.
  • The film of Charlie's Angels (2000) had Dylan tied to a chair. She releases her feet. And just before the minions go after her, she asks them to stop and explains exactly how she's going to kick all of their asses, ending by announcing that since her "trusty lighter" isn't working she's going to do it with her hands tied behind her back. Cue the fight. She eventually breaks the chair and gets her hands in front of her, but they're still bound the entire time.
  • In the novelization of The Dark Knight Rises, Bane kills the CIA agent while handcuffed and hanging upside-down by his feet.
  • Edge of Tomorrow. Because the protagonist is in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, he's able to dodge every punch thrown at him by a fellow soldier not only with his hands behind his back, but with his eyes closed as well.
  • F/X: Murder by Illusion (1986). The protagonist is able to knock out a hitman and ties him up with his hands behind his back; but when the hitman revives he's able to partially free himself (in the middle of their struggle) by leaping up in the air and whipping his bound hands underneath his feet in one movement.
  • Ghost in the Shell (2017). While handcuffed to a stripper pole in a Bad Guy Bar, Major does a Bullet Dodge before taking out the mook firing at him.
  • In the first live-action Hellboy movie, Hellboy has to hold a box of kittens out of the way during part of the fight in the subway station. Less well done in the second film, where he vaults around a building fighting a giant monster while holding a baby in his stone hand.
  • In Ip Man 2 Wong Leung manages to handle himself decently while bound by kicking things at his attackers.
  • Killer Elite. The hitman protagonist Danny is tied to a chair by his antagonist, ex-SAS man Logan for interrogation and killing. A third party then enters and takes Danny prisoner, binding his hands behind his back. This leads to a three-way fight involving two bound badasses trying to kill their captor and each other at the same time.
  • In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Charlie, the film's Dragon has a mechanical arm. During the Final Battle, his arm is torn off. Eggsy, ever the gentleman, holds one of his own hands behind his back for the remainder of the fight.
  • In Lethal Weapon (1987), Riggs manages to kill Al Leung while tied up and hanging from the ceiling.
  • Subverted in Lonely Are the Brave (1962) when the hero gets into a Bar Brawl with a one-armed man (played by the same actor who played the one-armed murderer in The Fugitive). To make things fair, he declares he'll fight with one arm held behind his back. As he's not used to fighting in this manner, he gets his ass kicked.
  • Done beautifully in a deleted scene from The Lost World: Jurassic Park in which Roland picks a fight with a womanizing man who harasses one of the waitresses at the bar/restaurant they are both at. The man sizes up Roland, then boasts he could beat Roland with one hand behind his back. Cut to Roland having a hand tied behind his own back, then as the other man attempts to correct Roland's "mistake", gets punched out, slammed into a table and a pole or two, then has his nose broken by Roland's single hand crushing it with his index and middle fingers.
  • Money Movers: When Henderson is 'negotiating' with Eric about getting a cut of Eric's planned heist, he has Eric sat in a chair with his hands tied behind his back. Eric manages to get up, fight his way past Henderson's mooks, get out of the house, and over the fence. He is halfway down the hill before he is finally stopped by being tackled by four of the mooks. In the next shot, he has been tied to the chair with copious amounts of rope.
  • It takes Anton Chigurh a horrifically long time to finally strangle his arresting officer with a pair of handcuffs in No Country for Old Men.
  • In The Old Guard, Joe and Nicky are handcuffed and chained to the floor of a van, surrounded by five heavily armed soldiers who make the mistake of yanking them apart while they're having a romantic moment. Cut to the van arriving at the airport, the guards opening it up...and five dead soldiers tumbling out, with Joe and Nicky sitting there calmly.
    Keane: Get 'em on the plane NOW!
  • In a slightly unusual variant on this, The One has Jet Li practice kung fu (apparently hsing yi chuan) while wearing handcuffs.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl has an early scene where Jack Sparrow engages in a daring escape and sword fight while his hands are shackled. At one point he fights while one hand is stuck to a moving cogwheel.
      • Jack actually wanted to be shackled, just so he could escape (first thing he did was use them to hold Elizabeth in front of him so he wouldn't get shot. Second thing was to use them as a pulley to slide down a rope). As soon as they got the cuffs on him, he says "Finally".
    • In the second movie, he doesn't do much fighting, but he still manages to pull off quite a lot of crazy stuff while tied to a pole.
  • Not tied up, but in The Presidio, Sean Connery wins a bar fight using only his right thumb, explaining that his "left is much too powerful".
  • Riddick. Riddick kills the leader of a team of Bounty Hunters with his own machete within five seconds of having a single foot unchained. And he told him it would happen too.
  • Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Alice is Caught in a Snare and beaten with rifle butts by Umbrella goons. She wrests a rifle off one and uses it to kill the others, all while hanging upside down by one leg. Then she falls right into another trap, and ends up in a fight with her hands cuffed.
  • Jackie Chan, in Rush Hour, had a nice battle with both his hands cuffed to a (removed) steering wheel. He also manages to go over a twelve-foot wall with his hands still chained. The post-movie blooper reel has a screamingly funny outtake of the wall climb...
    • Only one hand was cuffed to the steering wheel, which just made it an unusual weapon/thing to try and conceal.
    • Not the first time he's done this either. In Who Am I?, he escapes from his captors and makes his way down a three-story building by turning himself into a human yo-yo with his hands cuffed behind his back.
    • And in Mr. Nice Guy, near the end, the Big Bad ties a bunch of ropes to him so he can beat him up without worry, but Jackie still manages to get the upper hand once.
    • He likes this trope. In The Tuxedo he ends up wearing only the pants of the titular tux and activates "pants only combat".
      • From that same movie, he was fighting off a bunch of mooks from all directions while keeping the movie's plot device from escaping by keeping it in a glass that was pressed up against the compulsory lady love's face.
  • Spectre. James Bond defeats two mooks while both tied-up and black-hooded.
  • In the Shredder’s first scene in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), he beats up a Foot ninja with his hands literally tied behind his back.
  • Us has Adelaide spending most of the movie handcuffed given it's one of the first things her Tethered Red does to her. She only gets free (along the way managing to kill one Tethered by impaling her with her own scissors) after killing Red and thus being able to take the key from her. And the flashback revealing Adelaide is the Tethered shows that it was retaliation, as Red handcuffed Adelaide to a bed before leaving to steal her identity.
  • In When Taekwondo Strikes, Japanese goons chain Li by the wrists to a wooden beam. He saws through the beam with the chain, then proceeds to beat up the goons, both kicking them and using the chain as a weapon.
  • The Wizard of Oz — the Cowardly Lion tries to start a fight with the others, snorting "I'll fight ya with one hand behind my back!" (And standing on one leg, and with his eyes closed.) It doesn't go well for him.
  • In a Villainous version, X-Men: The Last Stand has Mystique break the neck of a Mook with her legs because she's hanging from the wall by her arms.
    • Earlier, she tries to strangle a police officer who's interrogating her, with her handcuffs.

  • Discworld:
    • Parodied in Men at Arms:
      Cuddy: I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back!
      Detritus: You get opportunity! I tie BOTH hands behind your back!
    • Genre Savvy Vimes in Night Watch tries to use this, getting his hands cuffed in front of him rather than behind his back. They're old, heavy handcuffs, or in other words, "his arms were a hammer." The History Monks interrupt him in the process of swinging it, though.
  • Subverted in The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton. The protagonist uses his psychic arm to kill the villain who has him tied up, but that only means he's still stuck there, waiting for either his police colleagues to realise he's gone missing, or a mook to check on why his boss is taking so long.
  • Redwall: In Mossflower, Martin the Warrior, Determinator that he is, fights off guards who are dragging him into Tsarmina's chamber over the course of three chapters or so.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister, an in-universe Memetic Badass and widely considered to be the greatest fighter in the Seven Kingdoms, gets into a sword fight with Brienne of Tarth, whose first on-screen action was to defeat something like forty other knights, including a young knight who is generally thought of as the new Jaime. Jaime's hands are shackled together at the time, and he'd been locked in a dungeon for some time prior to the fight. Brienne is arguably also hampered in that fight by her oath not to do any harm to Jaime until they reach their destination, and is on the defensive until he starts to taunt her. They fight for what's implied to be the better part of a day, and by the time they're done they've both lost their swords and been injured. It only ends when they're interrupted while grappling. Most fans give that fight to Brienne, as she was (successfully, until the interruption) trying to drown Jaime in a creek. Each is astonished at the other's skill, with Jaime later judging the strength of his opponents by Brienne (and finding them wanting,) and Brienne mentioning that no knight she's ever faced would be able to withstand Jaime at his full strength.
    • Leading to the funniest exchange in the whole book (paraphrased):
    "You can't hurt him. I swore that I would get him safely back to King's Landing."
    "When we caught you, he was in shackles and you were holding his head under water."
    "Well, he was getting on my nerves!"
    • It's been not so subtly hinted that Jaime Lannister is (or was, in his youth) the greatest living blade on Westeros. Brienne was no slouch but its implied that most of the warriors of the new generation haven't learned to fight in real battles. The distinction between being good in tournaments and being really good is discussed by Jaime and Barristan Selmy.
  • Spenser fights a tough mook in Crimson Joy with one hand, using the other to keep his gun trained on the guy's buddies so they don't jump in. Slightly subverted when he cheats a little by switching the gun from one hand to the other, but he still never uses more than one hand at a time.
  • In the first book of the Sword of Truth series, several characters are captured, and one in particular, a boundary warden named Chase, has his hands tied behind his back (because he'd already killed five of the nine attackers on his own). When a suitable distraction happens, he tackles one of the captors and snaps his neck with his legs before being beaten savagely by the captor's leader. He's standing up again within minutes, leading one of the other characters to remark that he's far tougher than he has any right to be.

    Live Action TV 
  • 24: If Jack Bauer is handcuffed, chained up, or otherwise restrained, you can bet he'll break a Mook's neck with his feet.
    • He one-ups it in the Season 6 premiere. After tricking said Mook into getting close enough, he tears his throat out with his teeth.
  • Adam Adamant Lives!: In "Allah Is Not Always With You", Adam defeats a knife-wielding thug despite being tied to a chair at the time.
  • Arrow
    • In "The Climb", Ra's al Ghul is able to defeat Oliver Queen despite starting their Duel to the Death completely unarmed (until he takes a sword off Oliver) and holding one hand behind his back.
    • In "Broken Arrow", Roy Harper surrenders himself to police as The Arrow to protect Oliver. There are plenty of fellow prisoners eager for revenge, but just because Roy's not the real Arrow doesn't mean he's not badass.
      (Roy beats them up with his hands cuffed)
      Roy: And remember—that was without arrows.
  • In a mild example, one episode of the classic '60s Batman (1966) show featured the Caped Crusader fending off mooks while holding a cat in his arms. Sure, he could have just set the kitty down before kicking ass, but where's the fun in that?
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003). Leoben breaks his cuffs and gets the drop on Kara Thrace simply to show he can during his interrogation. Cylon prisoners after this episode are always excessively chained and restraint-collared. Not that this makes much difference. While on Kobol, Athena is placed in three sets of handcuffs and is still able to wrestle a rocket launcher away from Apollo to shoot at the Centurion approaching him from behind.
  • Occurs in the Bones episode "Two Bodies In The Lab". Brennan does it trying to escape Kenton in the warehouse. It works for a while, until Kenton gets the upper hand on her.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Buffy has done this on more than one occasion, including kicking Drusilla while she's chained in a dungeon. On another occasion, when the town attempted to burn her at the stake, she simply unearthed the stake and impaled a monster on it.
    • In "Who Are You", Buffy is captured by a Watcher's Council wetwork team. When their leader goes to execute her, Buffy grabs his pistol between her feet and pulls his head into the bars, then uses the gun to shoot out the various locks holding her captive and escape. She does all this wearing someone else's body too!
  • Daredevil (2015): In "Condemned", when corrupt cops in Wilson Fisk's pocket corner Matt and Vladimir, Matt waits until one of the officers puts their handcuffs on him before attacking. He makes short work of the three cops, then uses their keys to free himself.
  • On Dexter, the title character is kidnapped, tied up and thrown in the back of a van by a dirty cop trying to force a confession out of him. Dexter kicks him in face, then manages to wrestle the man's knife from him and take him down with his hands still tied.
  • In Dollhouse, Ballard manages to deliver a pretty thorough beating to a pair of large thugs despite having his hands cuffed behind his back.
  • Firefly:
    • Bushwhacked. A handcuffed Mal leads the Alliance soldiers who arrested him into Serenity with the intention of capturing the deranged prisoner who murdered the Alliance doctors that were looking after him. When the deranged prisoner attacks the Alliance captain, Mal saves the captain's life by using his handcuffs to strangle and break the neck of the lunatic.
    • Ariel. Jayne, Simon and River are arrested by the police and their hands are handcuffed behind their backs. While being escorted, Jayne manages to knock down one of the guards, pull his hands to the front of his body, and kill the guard. Meanwhile, the pacifistic Simon manages to knock down the second guard, and kneel carefully on his windpipe to knock him unconscious without killing him.
  • Game of Thrones: Jaime thought he could do this to Brienne, but she proves far more skilled than he thought and armoured as well, while he is unarmoured, bound, and weak from imprisonment. Brienne simply remains on the defensive and uses body-blows until Jaime becomes clumsy with exhaustion.
  • Played with in one episode of Get Smart, where Max and his friend Sid are shackled by their hands in front of a deathtrap. Max frees himself by releasing the fake hands that were bound by the shackles.
    Sid: Oh, the old false-hands-in-the-chain trick!
  • Amanda did this on Highlander, savate-kicking several mooks unconscious before breaking the chair she was bound to.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow when Ray Palmer/the Atom and Amaya/Vixen are both being held prisoners by Nazis and Ray is being forced to synthesize a super-serum. He asks for the cuffs on his wrists to be removed to make it easier for him to work, saying "What am I gonna do? Beat you with a microscope?" He is, of course, denied. Later, he actually does this (while handcuffed) and helps Amaya break free of her restraints. She hits a few of the soldiers with the (now broken) chair she was sitting in, he quips "Aww, I wanted to do it with just the microscope!"
  • In Lost Sayid's Moment of Awesome is where he manages to break a man's neck...with his legs, while he is still tied up from being held at gunpoint moments before.
  • The Mandalorian: The third season finale opens with a bound Din Djarin being dragged through the hallways of Moff Gideon's fortress by a pair of Imperial Super Commandos. Within minutes Din is able to overpower his captors and kill one of them, all while his hands are still tied.
  • In Season 2 of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, Rocky, Adam and Aisha are chained to a tree by some Putties. They manage to escape by kicking a soccer ball at the "Z" symbol of the Putty holding the keys.
  • Tony combines this with a Redundant Rescue in the NCIS episode "Under Covers", managing to kick a Mook unconscious before the rest of the team could come to his rescue, in spite of the fact that he is tied to a chair.
  • The New Avengers: In "The Tale of the Big Why", Purdey takes down one of her kidnappers despite having her hands tied.
  • The Professionals
    • Played for Laughs in "The Female Factor", where Bodie fights a drunk in a nightclub while holding a pint in one hand.
    • Played for Drama in "A Stirring of Dust". Doyle is Bound and Gagged on the floor, so he kicks one of his captors out the window. And in "Man Without A Past", Doyle has to dial a phone for help and later escape with his hands tied behind his back.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • In "Remembrance", Faceless Goons teleport into Dahj's apartment, murder her boyfriend and shove a sack over her head so she can be hauled off for interrogation. She proceeds to kill every one of them despite being unable to see.
    • In "Broken Pieces", Elnor has a clever method to free his bound hands and disarm an assailant. When a female guard attempts to stab him with his own sword, he moves in such a way that not only does she end up slicing the zip ties which were keeping him restrained, but he also knocks the tan qalanq out of her grasp so she can't attack him with it again. He then proceeds to strike her and another soldier until they become unconscious.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess had this more than a few times. Of course, Xena was contractually required to display as much badassery as possible, so it's no wonder the bad guys were allowed to capture her occasionally.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In Professional Wrestling, any wrestler who says something like "I could beat you with one/both hand[s] tied behind my back" will inevitably be put in a match with that stipulation. Quite often, this will then be used to trip said wrestler up further by rearranging the match stipulations even more.
  • After boasting that they could beat (some other team) with their hands tied behind their backs, the APA (Ron Simmons and John "Bradshaw" Layfield) were once forced into a match where they had one hand each tied behind their backs.
  • In the October 16th, 2019 episode of AEW Dynamite, Darby Allin pulled off multiple suicide dives and pinning predicaments on Chris Jericho after the latter duct taped Allin's hands behind his back.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition has conditions "Helpless" and "Restrained". You can attack while helpless (although it's usually paired with another condition such as unconscious) although the DM may rule that you are tightly bound enough to prevent that. You may also attack while restrained with a slight penalty to attack rolls.
    • 3rd Edition monks could use an unarmed attack with elbows, knees, feet... The only penalties to having their hands tied behind their back were that manipulating items such as potions, wands, thrown weapons and so on would pose problematic.
  • Just about everyone in Warhammer 40,000, hence why more... exotic... measures are commonly employed.

    Video Games 
  • In the first Baldur's Gate, bandits and guards are occasionally heard quipping "I can take Drizzt with both hands tied behind my back.". With a cheat code, it is possible to summon Drizzt and prove how terribly wrong they are, as Drizzt is totally badass in this game...
  • There's a section near the beginning of Batman: Arkham City where Bruce Wayne gets arrested on bogus charges for speaking out against Arkham City, and after he gets thrown into the prison himself, you to fight off a few groups of goons as a still-handcuffed Bruce. Partway through the fight, Bruce kicks so much ass the handcuffs shatter.
    • There's also an in-game handicap available during campaigns called With One Hand Tied: in combat maps, it disables counter icons, and in predator maps, it makes silent takedowns from behind unavailable.
  • The first time you meet the Big Bad of SquareSoft's The Bouncer, Dauragon C. Mikado, he shows off by fighting with one hand chained behind his back. This does make him somewhat easier, but beating him just reveals that, like any self-respecting Corrupt Corporate Executive, he's got a Trap Door installed in his private suite. Later on in the game, he's shown to actually use the chain as a weapon, too.
  • The backstory for Jaeyun in Brawlhalla mentions a legendary fight where he approached a giant with a stick and said that was the only weapon he was using, to make sure it was a fair fight. The giant was scared and promptly fled... when Jaeyun reads about that tale, he confesses that he lost his armor and weapons while gambling and finding that stick was just a lucky break.
  • In Bug Fables, the mantis ruffians in the Rubber Prison that were released during the wasp occupation are capable of fighting even when cuffed and chained. Their bestiary entry even states that the wasps could've broken the cuffs, yet they didn't, because the ruffians are already dangerous enough.
  • In Carmen Sandiego: Word Detective, at one point while you are searching for passwords for a key stasher to free an Acme agent captured by Carmen, you find a microfilm of a note Carmen sent to her henchmen warning them about her ex-partner, Chase Devineaux, along with a dossier of him. In the note, Carmen specifically notes that one time when she still worked with him at Acme, Chase captured three criminals with his hands tied behind his back! If you look at the microfilm in the intermediate or advanced levels, she adds that Chase did this while on a highwire!
  • Cinderella from the Cinderella Escape series spends the whole series with her hands cuffed behind her back, relying entirely on her legs. The second game (in which she actually fights people) establishes that her handcuffs are cursed and cannot be removed even by magic, resulting in a fighting style that looks like a mix of ballet spins and Street Fighter-style spin kicks. Every character she meets mistakes her for a legendary fighter who handcuffs herself to train her legs, which she eventually gets used to taking advantage of. The player has the option to remove them, but the story still acts as if she is wearing them. (The ending implies that the handcuffs can be removed by True Love's Kiss, which in this universe can negate any magic, but Cinderella laments that no man would rescue someone like her from her prison, implying that she will spend the rest of her life handcuffed.)
  • Artorias the Abysswalker from Dark Souls. Not only does he fight you with one broken arm, but it's his dominant arm, meaning he's wielding his greatsword in his offhand. And it's still one of the most intense fights in the game.
  • Ryuji Yamazaki of the Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters series kicks copious amounts of ass with one hand in his pocket (though he'll occasionally pull it out to attack, revealing he's carrying a knife in his other hand.) In his case it is not a self-imposed handicap but rather a sign of respect for a gangster who taught him everything he knows about the life.
    • Jhun Hoon always fights with one hand behind his back, and because he's a Taekwondo practicioner, he doesn't even use that.
    • Iori Yagami has the legs of his pants tied with a belt, and he still has an awesome footwork (have him perform a hard kick up close to the foe; he stretches his leg almost vertically but somehow doesn't pull his standing leg out from under himself), although in his case it's more of a fashion statement than an intentional handicap.
  • In Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise, Kenshiro is forced to stand in place in the first phase of the boss fight with Jagi, who is holding his friends Rei and Airi hostage and will have them killed if he doesn't comply. While he's not allowed to move freely, Ken is still capable of dodging and punching. Eventually, after enough damage is done Rei and Airi are rescued, meaning that Jagi loses his leverage and Ken can fight for real.
  • Prisoner 945 in Heroes of Newerth is a four-armed giant bound with ball and chains and two of his arms locked in a stock, and he uses his restraints as weapons. When he uses his ultimate for the first time, he breaks out of his stock for the rest of the game (which is purely cosmetic and doesn't affect his combat abilities).
  • Metal Gear:
    • Raiden does this a few times in Metal Gear Solid 4: first with a couple of Gekkou which have tied down all his limbs (Snake frees his arms, but he breakdances hard enough to sling the Gekkou around anyway), next against Vamp (Vamp pins his arms to his back with knives, but he holds him off long enough to free himself) and then with a squad of knife-wielding FROGs (having lost both arms previously, he fries some of them with electricity, then takes his sword in his foot and fights the rest off.)
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has Quiet manage this after being captured by the Soviets late in the story. Despite having her hands bound behind her back and half of a prisoner outfit interfering with her ability to breathe through her skin, she's able to lay waste to her would-be rapist and several of the other soldiers keeping her captive before things get ugly.
  • In Mortal Kombat 1, at one point in the story, Scorpion is clapped in irons. It isn't until he's sufficiently angered does he begin mauling everyone present with his shackles and even superheats the chains not to free himself from his restraints, but to instead decapitate someone with it as an improv garrote.
  • Lisa from Resident Evil on the Nintendo GameCube has her hands shackled, but can deliver extremely powerful blows on the player.
  • Kuroda Kanbe in Sengoku Basara combines this with Epic Flail. He fights with the manacles on his wrists, attached to a giant steel ball which he can swing around with ease. A Running Gag is his failed attempts to remove said shackles. In fact, several of his attacks (including his Basara Attack) are actually attempts to break the manacles that fail.
  • In Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Grievous will occasionally boast, "I could do this with one, two, no, THREE ARMS TIED BEHIND MY BACK!"
  • Cody from Street Fighter Alpha 3, an escaped convict, wears handcuffs. In one of his taunts, he easily takes them off and then puts them on again. This is because he wears them by choice, as his fighting ability has increased to the point that he requires a Power Limiter in order to even be remotely challenged by anyone. In fact, breaking out of prison in the first place was spurred by his incessant boredom growing out of his head with no one to fight; he ends up going back afterwards because he still admits he's not a very upstanding guy.
    • Oro from Street Fighter III has one arm tied inside his gi. He refuses to use it until and unless he finds an opponent his equal. In Street Fighter V, he's untied his arm... but now carries his pet tortoise in one hand at all times. (This is to avoid the issue of an Ambidextrous Sprite in a 3D game.)
  • Regal from Tales of Symphonia bases his entire fighting style on the fact that his hands are shackled, and he's not going to take them off.

    Web Animation 
  • In Homestar Runner, one of the questions Strong Bad asks Homestar in the short "The Interview" is "Who would win in a fight: Strong Sad or The Cheat?". Homestar's response comes with a cutaway to a brief demonstration:
    Homestar Runner: Oh, man. That's not even fair. The Cheat would win with both hands duct-taped behind his back, and little pieces of duct tape covering his eyes, and Strong Sad can have a spear, even!
  • In "Super Natraps X' Turbo" from the Natraps X series, Sylvia, the Damsel in Distress in Kung Fu Master, beats all the enemies in a stage while tied to a chair. She still can't climb the stairs at the end.

  • From The Dreadful: Even after being captured and bound, Kit still kicks the asses of the JDA agents when they try to beat her up.
    Agent: You said she would be weak and vulnerable.
    Sabueso: She is. Relatively.
  • Vaelia of Drowtales, a recently bought slave, took on Jer'kol when he tried to suffocate Ariel. Vaelia is still wearing shackles and Jer'kol is fully armoured and armed. The fight is short and one sided, but Vaelia buys enough time for help to arrive.
  • Get Schooled: In the cult arc, Warden Im is captured and tied to a chair. All she needs is one free hand and a pen to stab Pastor Kim in the neck and hold him hostage.
  • An extreme version of this appears in Goblins: K'Seliss gets captured by an undead abomination that eats liquefied and dissolved flesh. After getting both his arms destroyed by a disease the creature uses to create its 'food', the creature leaves him to slowly die and rot away from the disease, unwilling to confront him further. Even with that handicap, K'Seliss manages to kill it by jumping onto its back and biting its head off even as his feet and tail are rotting away. He dies shortly after as biting it spreads the disease to his head.
  • In Homestuck, Terezi puts a scarf over her eyes to fight Gamzee because he made her restore her sight. She slices him to bits, although this has little effect on him.
  • Subverted in The Princess Planet: see the bottommost strip of this page.

    Web Original 
  • The Frieza example in Dragon Ball Z is parodied in Dragon Ball Z Abridged when Goku decides to oblige to by claiming that he'll beat him without his shirt. When Goku bites Freeza's tail, Freeza ends the "game" by slugging him, then rewards him by trying to drown him again.
  • Steve of KateModern gained major badass points when he fought off the Shadow Terrence whilst chained up and gagged in "Precious Blood".
  • In the "Turnabout Conspiracy Part 1" episode of Artificial Ace Attorney, Apollo Justice is able to wield a shotgun to kill three gun-toting assailants while being handcuffed.

    Western Animation 
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang's first meeting with prince Zuko involves his taking out two guards, evading others and finally breaking his bonds with the spiky helmet of one last mook.
    • In another episode, Iroh gets captured by soldiers from the Earth Kingdom. After a first clever but failed escape (he asks one of the guards to tighten his shackles, superheats them by blowing steam out of his nose, and burns the guard's hand), he is soon caugh again and has to be rescued by Zuko. Once freed, however, he proves his fighting skills (alongside with Zuko) by using his long shackles to beat up all the guards in a matter of seconds.
    • Bumi beats both by taking back the city of Omashu while being trapped in a metal box and able to move nothing but his chin.
    • In the penultimate episode of Season 3 of the Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra , the titular heroine manages to put up a hell of a fight against Zaheer with her hands and feet shackled in platinum cuffs that she can’t metalbend. It takes Zaheer blowing her dad off a cliff for him to get the upper hand.
  • In Batman: The Animated Series, Batman is forced to beat up two burly orderlies while in a straitjacket and held for treatment in Arkham.
    • Another episode had Batgirl and Catwoman working together. When the badguys tie the duo up, Catwoman uses her claws to free herself and start a fight. Batgirl fights, too, but with her hands still tied behind her back, making it a very literal case.
  • A similar concept is seen on Danny Phantom. Vlad says, "Oh, please, Daniel, must I actually defeat you with one hand behind my back?"... as he literally does just that! Talk about adding insult to injury.
  • In the second part of Justice League's three-part Grand Finale, half the team gets a chance at this. Wonder Woman, impressively, manages to free herself while tied to a pole by throwing the enemy's knife at the control panel with her teeth.
  • In the Kim Possible episode "The Twin Factor", Ron doesn't exactly fight Kim and Shego (both under Drakken's Mind Control), but he does manage to evade both of them while tied up and maneuver so that one of Shego's attacks cuts him loose from his bonds.
  • In Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness, a complacent Po shows off by defeating the Croc Bandits with just his pinky. This gets subverted in their next encounter, after the Crocs have gone through Training from Hell and are able to defeat Po, even after he starts using both pinkies.
  • In Motorcity, Mike is able to take out Kane's guards with his hands tied behind his back, with Chuck tied to him, and in the series finale he even takes out Red while chained to a wall — after having been tortured for days.
  • Discussed and parodied in one episode of Mutant League, when Razor Kidd tells the strong badass, "I can beat you with one hand tied behind my back!" Of course, the strong guy rips off Razor's arm as a literal response, and the latter snaps back, "Hey! I said tied!" Razor even tries to kick the strong one, who quickly rips off his leg as well!
  • In an episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Applejack ties down Rainbow Dash's wings to keep her from flying during a race.
  • Samurai Jack; in the first episode where Jack encounters the Scotsman, the two are attacked by bounty hunters and end up literally shackled together. They argue a bit at first, but when push comes to shove they get over it and pwn the bounty hunters and the robot hordes chasing after them.
  • In a Halloween episode of The Simpsons, Lucy Lawless beats up a villain while encased in a giant Mylar bag.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: When Marco becomes a knight of Mewni, he expresses a desire to give up his knighthood rather than accept a lifetime appointment away from his friends and family. The other knights tie him up to teach him a lesson (it's in the rulebook), but Marco proves that he really is as good as he says he is by beating them all up with a bored expression on his face. Then he unties himself.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • "Legacy of Terror": Luminara Unduli, after being captured by undead Geonosians, puts up a good fight while handcuffed during an attempt to escape.
    • "The Academy": Ahsoka Tano does this to a round-dozen corrupt Mandalorian Police after being captured, even managing to capture their leader in the process, all with her hands bound.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
  • In The Venture Bros.., Brock kills two mooks this way: One of the mooks was giving him a cavity search. Brock tightens up (enough to make the guy scream in pain), swings the guy around like a flail, and knocks the other guy out, all while being in shackles.
    • This scene also wins awards for quite possibly the best dialogue in the series.
      Pirate 1: Where are the keys?
      Brock: They're in my ass.
      Pirate 2: Really?
      Brock: Why don't you reach in and find out?
      Pirate 1: Well... what are you waiting for?
      Pirate 2: What if he's lying?
      Pirate 1: Oh, and it would be better if he was telling the truth?!

    Real Life 
  • The Brazilian martial art of Capoeira was originally created on the assumption that the practitioner might well need to fight with hands bound, since the art began as a means of self-defense among Brazilian slaves, and so emphasizes fighting with the hands close together, as well as foot strikes and highly acrobatic attacks and movements.
  • This Never Mess with Granny story of a 87-year-woman who locked a police officer in her basement after he thought he'd pull a warrantless search stunt... after he had handcuffed her for trying to stop it.


Video Example(s):


The Lost Sinner

Both her hands are trapped in wrist shackles. Doesn't stop her from wielding her sword well, though.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / WithMyHandsTied

Media sources: