March 30th, 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics.
It has long been speculated that Bruce Wayne masters BJJ and Judo (in addition to several other arts) during his time away from Gotham before he comes back to create the Batman. Quite often, we see Batman facing opponents much larger and more powerful than he is (e.g. Bane). Graciemag published a clip exemplifying Batman’s use of leverage and submission holds. In the clip, he also uses the ever-popular ground and pound, which some credit to Royce Gracie.
Is the Dark Knight the true mixed martial artist?
Bloody Elbow took an in-depth look at Batman’s martial arts skills prior to the release of the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy. While it is obvious from almost every Batman production that he practices boxing (exactly how many heavy bags does Wayne Manor have?), in Detective Comics #36, Batman explains that he uses an “old jiu-jitsu trick” to escape from underneath Dr. Strange.
It is clear from the early days of Batman that someone in the writing or art department knew something about Jiujitsu and/or Judo. When Batman first appeared 80 years ago in 1939, judo had exploded in popularity and was being used and taught by some US police forces. In the true spirit of Bruce Wayne’s journey to master every martial art, surely Japan and Brazil could not have been left off his list.
So the question becomes: Did Batman train under Carlos Gracie? Helio? Were he and Royce training partners?
Because BJJ had not yet become popular in the United States, it’s likely that Wayne had to make a field trip mid-Batman career to pick up some additional tricks from Brazil. Bob Kane and Bill Finger likely would have known Kodokan Judo, rather than Brazilian Jiujitsu, and modeled Batman’s fighting style after what they knew.
We already know that Batman tries to maintain distance with his boxing. But what happens when a villain closes the distance?
Well, when the Joker shoots a double leg, Batman doesn’t pull guard, instead breaking grips and preventing himself from being held. He avoids being taken down entirely, a key skill in Judo, particularly when combined with his takedowns.
Particularly in the older comics, readers can see Batman successfully demonstrate a number of Judo throws, such as the tomoe nage. To subdue resisting opponents, different chokes can be seen when readers know what to look for. Bloody Elbow’s breakdown provides some excellent images near the end of the article exemplifying Batman’s BJJ and Judo.
So, you see Batman at the open mat. He’s courteous enough to discard his utility belt. Are you rolling with him?
Really brings a whole new meaning to “shoulder of justice”.