Monday, September 21, 2009
Batman -- Martial Artist - 01 - Boxing
In Detective Comics issue 38 (April 1940), the debut issue of Robin, the Boy Wonder, Bruce Wayne is depicted training the young Dick Grayson. For martial arts, he trains the boy in Boxing and Jiu Jitsu. To my knowledge, this was the first real mention (at least by name) of Batman’s martial arts training. Nowadays, we know that Batman knows many (if not all) styles of martial arts, but 1940 was a different time. There were western fighting arts like wrestling, boxing, fencing, and single-stick fighting (which was a lot like fencing, but with wood). Jujitsu and Judo were pretty much the only eastern arts known in the west, and even those were not nearly as prevalent as they would come to be after WWII. Wrestling seems to most people to be rather boring or even primitive, and fencing and single-stick fighting were only useful when one had a weapon, so boxing seems an obvious choice.
For as much as teachers, students, and various other proponents of the “more graceful” eastern martial arts say that something like Karate or Kung Fu makes a more efficient striking art, boxing has certainly earned its nickname – “the sweet science”.
Boxing is amazingly efficient for what it focuses on. I do think that martial artists and fighters should not be so limited and should definitely learn kicking techniques to supplement hand techniques, but when it comes to flat out punching somebody boxing is the absolute best choice.
Overall, boxers punch much harder and much more quickly than practitioners of Kung Fu, Karate, or even kickboxing. They may not know or use such sophisticated techniques as back fists, hammer fists, chops, or finger thrusts/jabs (these are all effective, though), but they manage to do a great deal of damage nonetheless.
Boxing is as old as wrestling and club fighting. Human beings (and our hominid ancestors) have been punching one another in the face and gut for as long as we’ve been rolling around on the ground or hitting each other with sticks and rocks. As a sport, boxing has existed since at least ancient Rome and Greece. Boxing was an original Olympic sport, and a certain category of gladiators would beat each other to death with their bare hands, metal gloves, or even spiked gauntlets.
In the 19th century, boxing regained its popularity as a spectator sport and manly pursuit. Boxers typically bludgeoned each other with their bare knuckles, going until a knock out. Many bare knuckle boxers died during or right after a match.
It was in the 20th century that boxing became the mega-sport that we know it to be today. Boxers wear good gloves nowadays and follow much safer rules, but plenty of boxers still wind up with brain damage or even die from their injuries.
The goal of the art/science of boxing is really to hit the other guy as hard and as quickly as you can without getting hit by the other guy. Heavy bags, speed bags, focus mitts, and sparring are great ways of training for any martial artist, but they’re absolutely necessary for fighters.
A boxer might only use his balled fists, but an ideal boxer hits so hard, so fast, and so accurately that he doesn’t really need to do anything else.
Without a doubt, Bruce Wayne would learn and utilize boxing. He may not take the posture of a prizefighter when taking care of street punks or super villains, but he hits hard, quickly, and accurately. And often with his fists.
In the Nolan movie universe, I think it’s safe to assume that Bruce would have done some boxing while at Princeton. The Ivy League schools have a good history of boxing clubs.
I don’t know if any of the early Batman comics mention where and with whom Bruce trained in boxing, but more recent comics cover the subject fairly well. I’m not sure when it was first established that Batman had learned how to box from Ted Grant (a.k.a., Wildcat), but in a “fight card” in the back of “Batman/Wildcat” issue 2 of 3 (May 1997) written by Chuck Dixon:
[Bruce] traveled around the world looking for teachers who could help him in his future bouts with the underworld. One of those teachers was heavyweight champion Ted Grant. Bruce was a natural. Grant taught his apt pupil all his best moves. The Champ had high hopes for the kid going into the ring and becoming a contender, but as fast as he’d come, the kid was gone.
He had picked up all he could from Grant and moved on to his next teacher, and his next, and his next. With each new master, he perfected a new fighting skill. He was becoming the sum of all his teachers and more…
Bob Kane and Bill Finger probably had Batman learn boxing simply because they had a very limited knowledge of martial arts, but any crime fighter worth his salt WOULD be quite an adept boxer.