What would Batman do? It sounds like a T-shirt slogan, but it's actually one of the best questions you can ask yourself in almost any situation. Here's an example: Netflix has just put up season 12 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but your workout plan says it's squat day – would Batman really sacrifice valuable leg strength for a Terry Crews binge, however hilarious? A colleague brings in two-dozen Krispy Kremes and you're staring at a tupperware box of chicken – ask yourself, would the Caped Crusader take the trans fat hit? Let's be clear, nobody's saying you should live entirely like Batman – after all you aren't a billionaire with Olympic-decathlete genetics. But that's macro-level stuff. For the small things, WWBD is your new mantra.
Nowhere, of course, is this more true that when you're learning to fight. Knowing what to do is a tricky one: yes, we know what works in the safe, referee-enabled confines of the UFC Octagon, but what about real, actual fighting, the sort that involves weapons and rooftops and indeterminate numbers of opponents? If you’re looking for efficient self-defence, you can’t do better than the Caped Crusader…
Batman is the best fighter in the world: that's a given. He's a master of dozens of fighting styles and the pinnacle of physical achievement – but he's also risk-averse, goal-oriented, and brutally, ruthlessly efficient. Batman *cannot* lose fights: if he does, he dies. So let's say you want to learn to fight in a time-efficient manner: the obvious question is, what would Batman do? RISING spoke to some real-life fighters to get their take. And please note that, while RISING would never condone brawling on a rooftop, vigilantism or wearing a cape, a spot of self-defence, if it’s well-taught, will always increase your self-confidence in a worst-case scenario.
‘Leg kicks are great for handicapping opponents…especially when you have reinforced body armour to add that extra sting’
Striking Hard, True And Complex
In (most) comics and the Arkham video game series, Bats is a straight-up showman: never one to throw a simple right cross when a flying hook kick will do. In the films, he’s a touch more direct: director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight uses Keysi, a Spanish-inspired art that’s heavy on the elbows, and Bat-fleck goes even more route-one with tight, straight punches. This makes sense. ‘For striking, Muay Thai and boxing are probably the most efficient choices,’ MMA fighter Helen Harper, who competed in season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, tells RISING. ‘Muay Thai covers a lot of techniques that work across every range, but boxing has more powerful punches. Really, Batman needs to learn a bit about every art so that he can counter their moves, but there’s no point being a white belt in every single thing: it’s better to specialise in a few.’
Then there’s the multiple-opponents angle to consider. ‘If you’re fighting a number of opponents simultaneously, the priority is in removing opponents as quickly as possible with the most powerful single strikes possible, because in a prolonged confrontation the outnumbered fighter will always be at a disadvantage,’ Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Oliver Geddes tells RISING. ‘Leg kicks are also a great tool for slowing and handicapping opponents when there isn't time to remove them from the fight completely, and are also made significantly more powerful when you have reinforced body armour to add that extra sting.’
The Key Move: An elbow strike will deliver more stopping power than most punches – and leave your precious metacarpals intact. Practice on a heavy bag, whipping your arm over and down.
Taking Down The Trash
As a master of (supposedly) 127 martial arts, Batman mixes up his takedowns: in one scene, Zack Snyder’s Bat-fleck uses a Judo ippon seoi nage, a kote-gaeshi from Aikido, something that looks like a Rock Bottom, and a leaping head-smash onto a crate. In real life, this approach makes perfect sense – though you’d want to keep the wrestling a little bit more Olympian than WWE. ‘I would lean towards learning Judo just for the close foot trips and the clinch throws,’ pro MMA fighter (and Judo black belt) Ash Grimshaw tells RISING. ‘But you could also argue that Greco-Roman wrestling, which focuses on upper-body throws, could be used. I'm not sure freestyle wrestling would be that much of an asset – a solid double leg takedown is great and all, but I just don't see it being that great if he has got a group of guys around him.’
The Key Move: Ippon seoi nage - ‘one-point shoulder throw’ - is the simplest, nastiest thing to do to an untrained attacker. Done on a Judo mat it’s relatively harmless – on concrete, it’s a guaranteed rib-cracker. Before you even start throwing, any competent Judo gym will insist that you learn the shoulder roll, which will also stand you in good stead if you go flying off a motorbike.
Bringing It To The Ground
Though video game Batman tends to mainly use limb-breaks as an interrogation technique – after all, controlling an opponent for long enough to snap an arm isn’t always practical in a melee – it’s got less sadistic uses too. ‘’Not all of Batman's fights are against large groups of goons,’ says Geddes. ‘At times, he’ll face an opponent who is significantly stronger or larger than he is, and in those situations, straight striking is probably not sufficient. For moments like that, although he will have gadgets to fall back on, the logical answer is the ultimate art of technique overcoming power: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This extends from chokes, to arm and leg locks; all exceptionally good ways of focusing all of Batman's physical strength on a single limb of an opponent, allowing him to overcome a significant strength disadvantage, even against superhuman opposition. Whilst grappling is probably not the strategy of choice against multiple opponents, in a one-on-one confrontation once all the minions are dispatched, it’s an immensely powerful tool to have in his arsenal.’
The Key Move: The heelhook is the most feared finisher in the UFC – done right, it’ll wreck a hired goon’s knee ligaments in seconds. Do not try it unsupervised – it’ll pop your knee long before you feel any pain, so it’s imperative that you recognise when it’s on and tap out accordingly.
‘It really comes down to willpower… Batman’s constantly outside his comfort zone’
Wow, That Escalated Quickly
The difference-makers are weapons. However good you are as a UFC fighter – as Jon Fitch knows – facing knives, bats, katanas or guns changes the game entirely. ‘In those situations, weapon-specific training is going to be required, and no arts are better known for that than the Filipino martial arts, particularly Kali,’ says Geddes. ‘While they traditionally focus on the knife and short stick – themselves incredibly common weapons for Batman's foes – they also cover the use of and defense against spears, whips, longer swords, basically everything Batman is likely to come up against.’ And guns? A few arts – Krav Maga is the most popular – promise to teach you to defend yourself against anyone stupid enough to threaten you at close range, but since you can’t actually dodge bullets, a bulletproof Batsuit is probably your best bet.
The Key Move: Run away. You aren’t Batman, and as Bruce Lee’s contemporary Dan Inosanto demonstrates here, if someone wants to stab you, they probably can.
WHAT NEXT? Do a harder workout this week. ‘Ultimately, a lot of what Batman can do is down to willpower,’ says Harper. ‘And you build willpower by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little bit every day.’ Aim for three rounds on the heavy bag – wrap your hands first, since you aren’t wearing Bat-gauntlets – and go from there.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your Doctor before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.