The Caped Crusader is by far the most popular DC comics superhero, and why wouldn’t he be? In a world full of superpowered aliens, metahumans, and insane psychopaths, Batman continues to dominate the competition with his martial arts and wits.
But just how many martial arts does the Arkham Knight know? I’ll break that down and more below, let’s begin!
Table of Contents
- Who Is Batman?
- How Many Martial Arts Does Batman Know?
- Martial Arts vs. Combat Styles
- What Kind of Martial Arts Does Batman Use?
- Batman Martial Arts in Movies
- Batman Martial Arts in Video Games
- Batman Ninjutsu
- How Did Batman Master These Martial Arts?
- Path to Batman
- Which Fighting Style and Martial Arts Batman Uses the Most?
Who Is Batman?
Batman is a fictional superhero created by DC Comics as a masked vigilante superhero detective. The character made his debut in 1939 but it wouldn’t be until much later that DC Comics would fully flesh out his character and backstory to make him the unforgettable superhero he is today.
Since the DC superhero universe has gone through several revisions and rewrites for their superhero universe, I’m going to stick to the basics of Batman’s origins.
Batman is the masked persona of the billionaire Bruce Wayne, CEO of the fictional Wayne Enterprise which is said to have a net revenue greater than the American GDP. Using his wealth, Bruce Wayne created many specialized tools to help him fight crime including his Batman suit, the Batmobile, and more.
In terms of superpowers, Batman has none. However, he does boast an incredibly high IQ and memory that allows him to be one of the best detectives and planners in the entire DC universe. In addition to all of that, Batman is also a terrific hand-to-hand fighter having a great command of a great number of martial arts and combat techniques. I’ll go into these in detail below.
How Many Martial Arts Does Batman Know?
This question often comes up among Batman fans and I’ve seen many articles parroting 127 as the number of martial arts that Batman knows. This claim is pretty much untrue and for reasons I’ll get into shortly. The number ‘127’ comes from Scott Beatty’s 2001 comic titled ‘Batman: The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight’.
There’s an excerpt in the comic that writes “There are 127 major styles of combat. While abroad, Bruce learned them all. From Aikido to Yaw-Yan.” Many people incorrectly take this small mention as proof that Batman only knows 127 martial arts.
Keep in mind that combat styles and martial arts are not the same thing. Thus, the number 127 is a piece of misinformation that I’ve seen far too many people peddle as fact for far too long.
Martial Arts vs. Combat Styles
Usually, people use the terms fighting styles, martial arts, combat sports, and combat arts interchangeably. However, they all refer to different things depending on who you ask. I like to think of each of them as separate things since it helps us better understand their dynamics and emphasis.
A martial art traditionally was supposed to be a set of techniques used by warriors in a war. However, in the modern day, martial arts usually refer to a school of techniques with similar fighting bases, principles, philosophy, and forms.
A fighting style or a combat style is anything that defines your tendencies in a fight. For example aggressive, defensive, evasive, etc.
A combat art is a set of techniques made to disarm an attacker and incapacitate them in a confrontation. A combat art that focuses on self-preservation is called a self-defense system. A self-defense system would usually incorporate conflict avoidance and de-escalation training as well.
A combat sport is a sport that includes physical contact with fighting techniques according to a set of rules. Combat sports focus only on one-on-one fights and never against a group. Unlike self-defense systems that might include techniques to protect yourself against multiple attackers.
What Kind of Martial Arts Does Batman Use?
What martial arts does Batman use? The answer is, all of them! Canonically, Batman has mastered and perfected all forms of hand-to-hand combat. He can effortlessly combine techniques and stances from any number of martial arts to his situation.
He’s said to be a master of all forms of melee weapons as well. There isn’t just one Batman fighting stance, as he’s able to switch it up with ease.
An important thing to keep in mind when looking at Batman is that he is a fictional character. Many of his feats, abilities, and methods are made to be believable but they are in most cases not realistic or even scientifically possible.
Batman is described as the embodiment of the pinnacle of humanity. His physical abilities are described to rival or often surpass Olympic athletes in all categories. He’s able to use micro-sleep cycles to quickly recover and maintain activity with minimal to no sleep. He is also said to possess a prodigious talent for martial arts and all forms of knowledge.
It might be obvious to say but many of these things would realistically be impossible to achieve for any human regardless of how extraordinary they might be. Still, some renditions of Batman have a more realistic take on his martial arts prowess so let’s take a look at those.
Batman Martial Arts in Movies
The Batman movies vary in the level of martial arts skills that Batman demonstrates depending on the director’s interpretation of him. Zack Snyder’s Batman, for example, demonstrates fighting techniques from taekwondo, karate, Muay Thai, and Wing Chun kung fu with a fighting style philosophy from Krav Maga to link his techniques together.
Christopher Nolan’s Batman demonstrates similar skills but adds a mix of boxing and pro-wrestling moves to match his opponents. The fighting directors for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight series employed the Keysi fighting method as the fighting base for all action scenes. A similar skill set is shown in the 2022 Matt Reeves’s rendition of Batman.
All movie versions of Batman are more realistic in terms of their fighting abilities than the comics, but this is largely due to the limitations of the movie format. Still, no matter what version of Batman you pick, the general idea is that Batman can combine multiple martial arts effortlessly depending on the situation.
Batman Martial Arts in Video Games
Apart from the movies and comics, the Batman video games showcase the immense arsenal of Batman’s martial arts skills and capabilities. While some people might dismiss the Batman video games as an improper point of reference, the martial arts showcased in these games are as close as we will ever get to the source material.
The Batman Arkham games are in particular lauded for their attention to detail for combat and martial art forms. Arkham Batman is shown capable of throwing precise boxing combos and then shifting stances to execute deadly taekwondo kicks to his next target. He also uses jiu-jitsu techniques to quickly incapacitate a grounded opponent with ease.
In addition to hand-to-hand martial arts, we also see Batman’s sidekicks expertly wielding traditional martial arts weapons such as the bo-staff, escrima sticks, and T-batons. Since Batman is the one who taught them all they know, it can be inferred that Batman is also an expert in bojutsu, arnis, and tonfa, if not more.
Batman is also a master of psychological warfare and often uses fear as a weapon to disarm or disorient his opponents. He is also an expert acrobat and gymnast, capable of balancing and fighting on every surface.
In addition to all the martial arts I described above, Batman is also proficient in a lesser-known martial art system known as the ninjutsu. If you ever thought that Batman had many parallels with ninjas, you’d be right. This is because ninjutsu is the martial art system for the Japanese ninjas, which is one of the world’s deadliest marital arts.
A direct translation of the word ‘ninjutsu’ would be ‘ninja techniques.’ However, ninjutsu is not a martial art itself, rather it is a combination of multiple martial arts and tactics that form a comprehensive system focused on stealth, espionage, and assassination.
Modern-day ninjutsu has 18 different disciplines that focus on different aspects of specialization. These include martial arts like bojutsu (staff techniques), taijutsu (fist techniques), kenjutsu (sword techniques), sojutsu (spear techniques), and more.
It also includes the discipline of shinobi iri (Silent movement techniques) and intonjutsu (concealment and entering techniques) which form the basic principles behind Batman’s sudden disappearance techniques. Ninjutsu also covers other non-martial art disciplines such as tactics (boryaku), meteorology (ten-mon), and geography (chi-mon).
Lastly, Batman’s preferred weapon of choice is the batarang which is a custom-made bat-shaped shuriken. The art of using shurikens is covered under the shurikenjutsu discipline of ninjutsu.
How Did Batman Master These Martial Arts?
The chronology of how Batman mastered all these martial arts is a bit of a mess given how many authors tend to switch up some parts of Bruce Wayne’s path to becoming Batman. Contrary to popular belief, Bruce Wayne was not trained by Ra’s al Ghul of the League of Shadows (League of Assassins in the comics).
Christopher Nolan came up with the idea of Bruce Wayne training under the League of Shadows in his Batman origin stories. However, Bruce Wayne has never trained with the group in the DC comics.
Still, since Nolan’s Batman is one of the most popular renditions of the Caped Crusader, many non-comic readers incorrectly consider this to be true for all versions of Batman.
To understand how Batman mastered all these martial arts we have to look at not only who trained Batman, but also Batman’s superhuman physiology that allows him to master and use all martial arts.
Path to Batman
Soon after the death of his parents, Bruce Wayne began body training exercises with a focus on stamina, endurance, and cardio. From a very early age, Batman has adapted to strict training and diet plans that allow him to maintain the ideal body weight and metabolism.
Starting in his mid-teens, traveled across the world learning all forms of combat and martial arts from different masters around the globe. During this time, he also learned parkour and free-running to improve his ability to move swiftly across an obstacle-ridden terrain.
While it isn’t detailed just how long it took for Bruce Wayne to completely master all the different forms of martial arts, he is said to be in his mid-twenties when he returned to Gotham City. Depending on the author and the DC comic era you look at, the masters and trainers of Batman are different, ranging from criminal investigators to pro athletes around the world.
Batman in the comics is obsessed with the perfect human condition. His entire training regime is designed to allow him to maintain peak performance at all times. During his travels, he also learned and mastered breathing techniques and meditation that give Batman a heightened focus and memory.
In addition to all these things, Batman is supposedly a combat genius with a natural affinity towards all forms of martial arts. He is said to be the best hand-to-hand rivaling the likes of Lady Shiva who is considered the greatest martial artist in the DC universe.
Which Fighting Style and Martial Arts Batman Uses the Most?
Batman does not have a martial arts base since his Batman fighting style is based on the idea of reacting to the situation with the best possible counter. You could argue that Batman uses MMA as his fighting base, but MMA does not specialize in fighting against a group, a situation Batman often finds himself in.
From the movies, video games, and comics, Batman seems to prefer using Krav Maga when dealing with armed thugs. His fighting style follows the philosophy of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Jeet Kune Do is a martial art known as the art of the intercepting fists. Its philosophy is to counter an enemy strike with a swifter and more precise strike, something Batman loves to do.
Batman is a highly tactical fighter, capable of adopting an aggressive or passive fighting style to best suit the situation. At the end of everything, Batman’s fighting style and martial arts are whatever the author wants them to be. The martial arts mastery of Batman might not be realistically possible, but it is an amusing piece of fiction regardless.