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Top 10 martial artists from DC and Marvel comics

Best martial artists in comic books (Image via Marvel and DC)
Best martial artists in comic books (Image via Marvel and DC)
Abhirup Sengupta

Martial arts has always been one of the most prominent forms of combat techniques utilized by vigilante superheroes in comics. With the recent live-action debut of Marvel's Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, as well as DC's Richard Dragon and Bronze Tiger from CW's Arrowverse, the interest in comic characters practicing martial arts has increased over the years.

In comics, the skill of hand-to-hand combat techniques has been showcased by enhanced or even superpowered characters. These skill sets enabled these characters to carry on crime prevention with their vigilante justice even without any further reliance on weapons or gadgets.

Disclaimer: The following list will include the characters with extensive training in one or more forms of martial arts, which has become one of the trademarks of the character in the comics.

This list will not rank the characters as most have not fought each other in the comics, which makes it difficult to predict the best among them in hand-to-hand combat.

Note: The following list is subjective and reflects the author's personal opinions.


10) Elektra - Marvel

Elektra Natchios (Image via Marvel)
Elektra Natchios (Image via Marvel)

Elektra Natchios started learning combat techniques at a very young age after her mother's death. The character has showcased unique capabilities when it comes to hand-to-hand combat. In Elektra Assassin #3, she possessed phenomenal instincts and reflexes during her fights.

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As per comic backstory, Elektra has trained in multiple forms of martial arts, including Ninjutsu, Aikido, Kendo, and Karate from China, Thailand, and Japan. According to Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #3, Elektra is also an Olympic-level athlete and gymnast, which gives her more advantage in close-range combat.


9) Cassandra Cain - DC

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Multiple combat experts have trained Cain in the comics, including her father David and numerous others. Her long list of trainers includes several members of the League of Assassins, Bronze Tiger, Lady Shiva, Black Canary, Batman, and Malcolm Merlyn, amongst others.

Cassandra Cain is adept in almost all forms of combat techniques and can analyze the body language of her opponents to predict their moves.


8) Bronze Tiger - DC

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Ben Turner, aka Bronze Tiger, is considered among one of the greatest martial artists in the universe, as per the DC Comics Encyclopedia: All-New Edition. During his bout with Batman in Batman (Volume 3) #9, the caped crusader acknowledged that Turner was faster than him.


7) Daredevil - Marvel

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Matt Murdock is one of the most famed martial artists in the Marvel Universe. The Devil of Hell's Kitchen is also an extremely proficient fighter due to his heightened senses. Murdock is a self-trained boxer who was later trained by one of the most experienced fighters in Marvel Comics, Stick.

According to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z #3, Murdock learned several forms of combat arts from Stick, which included Ninjutsu, Kung-Fu, Karate, Krav Maga, Aikido, Silat, Jiu-jitsu, Taekwondo, amongst many others.

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With his intense training and experience, Daredevil developed a high pain tolerance, endurance, and agility. The character is also one of the best acrobats in the comics and can easily lift over 400 pounds.

Although he is a human, the character's training conditioned his body to the peak, where he can do much more than an average man of his stature. In Daredevil Vol 2 #27, the character single-handedly overturned a limo.


6) Iron Fist - Marvel

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While the Netflix X Marvel's show failed to establish the character's combat prowess, Iron Fist is a proficient fighter in the comics. Danny Rand is easily in the top one percent of all martial artists amongst both Marvel and DC comics characters.

Trained in K'un-Lun, Rand is proficient in several forms of martial arts, with the ability to augment his chi. In the comics, he was portrayed to be better in hand-to-hand combat than even Wolverine and Black Panther. In Immortal Iron Fist #8, the character was established to have infinite ways to kill someone.


5) Richard Dragon - DC

Richard Dragon (Image via DC)
Richard Dragon (Image via DC)

Dragon is known to be one of the best experts of close-range combats in DC comics. The character is a master of several combat styles, including Aikido, Kung-Fu, Karate, Muay Thai, Judo, and Jiu-Jitsu.

He has also trained several vigilantes in the comics, including Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle), Helena Bertinelli (Huntress), and more.


4) Batman - DC

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The legacy of this character needs no words. Bruce Wayne is one of the most potent non-superpowered individuals in comic book history, who has conditioned his body to perform at peak performance.

Batman's combat skills and tactics make him the top martial artist in any comic universe. As per Detective Comics #949, the character knows well over fourteen different combat styles. The character has bested powerhouses like Ra's Al Ghul, Deathstroke, Bronze Tiger, and others in combat.

Among his numerous combat techniques, Batman is also proficient with the ancient style Dim Mak, which paralyzes his opponent in a fight.


3) Shang-Chi - Marvel

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Shang-Chi is perhaps the best in Marvel when it comes to martial arts. The character is trained in multiple forms of combat techniques, which, combined with his reflexes, makes him one of the deadliest fighters in the Marvel universe.

His control over his chi also helps him enhance his physical skills in a fight. While many label him to be on par with Iron Fist, in Black Panther Vol 4 #11, the titular hero stated that Shang-Chi could surpass Danny Rand.


2) Lady Shiva - DC

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Sandra Woosan, aka Lady Shiva, is one of the most dangerous assassins in the comics, who is an expert in numerous forms of hand-to-hand combat. Like her student, Cassandra Cain, Lady Shiva can read the opponent's body language and predict their moves.


1) Karate Kid - DC

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Not to be confused with Ralph Macchio's classic movies, Karate Kid is a DC character who is an expert martial artist. Val Armor, aka Karate Kid, is from the 30th Century, Japan, which enabled his exposure to all combat techniques of the past and even some in the future.

As per the Legion of Super-Heroes comic series, Armor knows almost all forms of martial arts. The character is so proficient in combat that he can go toe-to-toe with Superboy and has even trained him. Karate Kid is so skilled in combat that he does not feel the need to carry any weapons.


Edited by Prem Deshpande

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