Anybody can vaporize you with a disintegrator gun or blow up your planet with an ultimate weapon — but it takes a real badass to thrash you with a fictional martial art. Especially a discipline designed for many-armed aliens.
Here's our list of the 10 most ass-kicking fictional martial arts from science fiction and fantasy.
Note: We had some debate over whether lightsaber concept from Star Wars counts as a martial art. We wound up not including it — but feel free to weigh in in the comments.
You know you're in a dystopian future, when everyone has awesome outfits and uses an esoterically amazing martial art. In Equilibrium, Christian Bale is in charge of wiping out human emotion and making sure everybody takes super-Prozac. And to help with this struggle, Bale learns a martial art called Gun-Kata, in which you use science to predict where people will be shooting at, thus allowing you to dodge their bullets. Click here for another video, explaining just how Gun-Kata works.
Do we really need to explain? Oh, very well then. Howard the Duck, that exile trapped in a world he never made, needs to defend himself from ruffians. So he goes and completes an entire lifetime's study in three and a half hours, enabling him to become... Shang-Op, master of Quack-Fu. You can read the whole stirring saga here.
8) Heliconian Twisting
Hari Seldon, the hero of Isaac Asimov's Foundation books, didn't just predict the future using the new discipline of psychohistory — he also learned some impressive fighting skills on Helicon that helped him later, on the planet Trantor. Raych Seldon and Stettin Palver also learned Heliconian Twisting, which contains elements of submission wrestling, Jiu Jitsu and Krav Maga. (Via Wikipedia and Who's Who in Asimov)
7) Hokuto Shinken and Nanto Seiken
These fictional martial arts come from the post-apocalyptic anime series Fist of the North Star. Most fighters only use 30 percent of their natural fighting ability, but Hokuto Shinken lets you use the remaining 70 percent — and you can strike your opponent's 708 secret pressure points, letting you destroy him/her from within. Because of its deadliness, Hokuto Shinken can only have one successor per generation — and students who fail to become that successor must renounce the discipline or have their memories erased or their fists crushed. Nanto Seiken, by contrast, focuses on destroying your opponent from the outside. (Thanks to DTurkin for the suggestion!)
There are tons and tons of great martial arts in Terry Pratchett's Discworld, including Deja-Fu, in which the user's arms move in time as well as space, so the opponent feels the effect of past blows while standing in front of the apparently motionless Deja-Fu practitioner. And No Kando, which may be made up. But Sloshi, the martial art practiced by the hardiest and most worthy Fools and Clowns, may well be the greatest. Sloshi is basically the physical comedy of clowning, without the careful attention to making sure nobody gets hurt.
5) Torquasm-Rao and Klurkor and Horu-Karu.
Superman's homeworld of Krypton had a wealth of martial arts, including all the ones listed above. Klurkor is apparently a Kryptonian form of Karate, while Torquasm-Rao allows you to focus your Chi and attack on the astral plane. (And yes, "Torquasm-Rao" does sound kind of dirty.) The cool thing is that you don't need superpowers to rock any of these martial arts, and at various times Lois Lane has been said to have learned some or all of them. In the picture at left, Lois Lane is using Klurkor to rock out in roller derby, via Slay Monstrobot.
4) Fremen Kempo
This is the Fremen martial art that everyone, including children, women and the elderly, are trained in. It prizes speed and flexibility over strength — and you get chrysknife made from a Sandworm's tooth. The many styles of Fremen Kempo range from Tai Chi to kickboxing. Dune also offers the Bene Gesserit Weirding Way.
3) Panzer Kunst
A martial art developed for cyborg combat in the Battle Angel Alita series — it's used by Alita herself, as well as her replicas. Panzer Kunst seeks oneness between all the senses, and is both the strongest of the cyborg martial arts and the basis for all other space-based fighting styles. The art is geared towards fighting in zero-gravity as well as freefall, and against opponents with ranged weapons. Attacks include vibrations that can damage an opponent's internal organs.
There's no such thing as the Vulcan Death Grip, sadly — but if you wanted to use the Vulcan Nerve Pinch technique to slaughter someone, this is what you would use. In Tal-Shaya, you apply exact pressure to the victim's neck, snapping it instantly. When a delegate aboard the Enterprise was killed using this method on Star Trek, Ambassador Sarek was the main suspect. Trek also has the fantastic Mok'bara, the Klingon martial art that clears your mind and lets you slice someone to ribbons with a Bat'leth. (We've all decided to pretend Tsunkatse never existed.)
1) Venusian Aikido
Back in the 1960s, the time-traveling hero of Doctor Who solved his problems with his wits, and a bit of gentle humor. He seldom used violence, except when there was a caveman whose skull needed bashing in. But in the 1970s, the Doctor suddenly got more physical, using karate chops and tossing his oponents here and there. He soon revealed he was an adept at Venusian Aikido, a martial art developed for the six-armed Venusians. Here's a video of the Third Doctor beating the crap out of people.
Additional reporting by Katharine Trendacosta and Michael Ann Dobbs.