Japan is known for many great things, but two of its most famous imports are anime and martial arts. Because of this, it’s fair to say that Japan has given the rest of the world a lot of interesting creations over the years. However, for the most part – these two entities remain separate. This is strange considering their shared country of origin, nonetheless, it’s not common to find martial arts featured in anime.
Having said this, there are certainly some anime shows or movies that do feature martial arts. Whether it’s a brief cameo or something that is heavily influential on the plot, it’s fair to say that when the two combine it can have a pretty awesome result. From the crazy fight scenes in Dragon Ball Z to the intricate grappling details found in Attack On Titan, we’ve got it covered. Here are the top 6 times that Anime has successfully used martial arts.
Ninjutsu used in Naruto
Arguably the most popular anime ever, Naruto is based on Ninjutsu. This is pivotal to the role of the show and it portrays Naruto Uzumaki who is a young ninja. Throughout the show, Naruto develops his ninja skills and slowly but surely develops into a great warrior. Due to this, it’s commonplace to find Naruto learning how to be a ninja. From throwing starts to stealth training and parkour, he trains regularly in the quest to become a greater martial artist.
This isn’t just some crazy, made-up idea either. It turns out that his training is somewhat realistic and appropriate to real life. As it happens, Ninjutsu is a real martial art that is based around behaving and fighting like a Ninja. Like anime, this art was founded in Japan and was used in ancient times to kill enemies and win wars. In today’s world it may seem odd, but before technology, being a ninja was a genuine occupation for those who were trained to kill. So, when you see Naruto jumping from trees and using weapons, remember that this was once a real thing. Even to this day, Ninjutsu is still practiced and probably gained a new following due to the anime.
Wing Chun and Karate used in Dragon Ball Z
Similar to Naruto, Dragon Ball Z (DBZ for short) is also one of the biggest anime’s of all time. Such is its popularity that it dominated kids TV during the 90s and brought the genre to the mainstream. It’s fair to say that without DBZ, anime wouldn’t be as widespread as it is today. Like Naruto, Dragon Ball Z’s main protagonists all train martial arts extensively and live and breathe fighting. This can be seen with the main character Goku amongst others who are all in great shape and take their training very seriously.
For those wondering about the fighting styles used in DBZ, it is a combination of Wing Chun and Karate. For a more umbrella term, these two arts fall under the Wushu category that means ‘striking’. Karate is often used in DBZ when kicks are performed or certain throws. However, Wing Chun dominates the show as its fighters often rely on lightning speed-reactions to block and punch with their fists. This style was popularized by Bruce Lee who proved that speed and technique were crucial whilst fighting. Undoubtedly, the show took inspiration from the legendary martial artist and used his style when showing fight scenes.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu used in Attack On Titan
In the modern age of mainstream anime, it’s fair to say that Attack On Titan has been a massive hit. This show was picked up by Netflix and shows a group of teens defending their city against rabid, cannibal giants. One of the positives of Attack On Titan is that it has great attention to detail. Throughout the show, it uses precise artwork and subtle character building to generate a truly immersive experience. One of these details can be seen with the fight scenes which have become iconic.
Specifically, Attack On Titan uses Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is very open about it. It’s assumed that the heroes learn martial arts at some point and are encouraged to use it when facing the Titan’s. This means you can expect submission holds such as Guillotine chokes and Armbars to help destroy the villains. Not only this but the show also focuses on takedowns and sweeps that are also central to the art. This quiet nod is yet to martial arts is yet another reason as to why Attack On Titan has proved to be so critically acclaimed.
MMA is used in Kengan Ashura
Kengan Ashura follows underground fighter Tokita Ohma who is paid to brawl. This brutal, bare-knuckle affair pulls no punches with gorey effects such as blood splatters and hard hits shown throughout. As you may expect by a modern day anime with martial arts, it is fairly up to date with its portrayal of fighting too. Unlike others on the list, Kengan Ashura has a mixture of fighting styles and isn’t exclusive to any one system. With this said, it’s fair to say that it can be classified as mixed martial arts.
This means that it features all sorts of interesting fighting styles. Martial arts such as Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Wrestling and Jiu Jitsu are all used regularly on the show. For instance, certain fighters have certain styles that are unique to themselves. In this sense, Kengan Ashura mirrors real life and shows a variety of different martial artists and their fighting strategies. In a cross between Gladiator, Blood Sport and Dragon Ball Z, it’s fair to say that Kengan Ashura is one of the coolest anime shows on the planet.
Boxing is used in One Punch Man
Another fan favorite, One Punch Man has also taken over the world in recent times. With a combination of humor and serious fight scenes, it’s a winning formula that has spread to western audiences. As you have guessed with the title, One Punch Man is what it says it is…this is based on Saitama who trains his body religiously and reaps the rewards. By doing a combination of 100 push-ups, sit-ups, squats and running 10KM every day, he develops an incredibly powerful punch.
The result of this power can be witnessed in full on the One Punch Man video game. Released on the PS4, this game was fairly balanced in most areas. That is, apart from when Saitama was allowed to power up his punch. True to his title, his ‘One Punch’ could kill any opponent instantly, regardless of their health status. This may have annoyed fans of the game, but most people took it as a joke which we’ve come to expect from the series. Saitama’s martial art of choice was boxing and he could use it to devastating effect.
Kendo and Samurai used in Demon Slayer
Like One Punch Man, Demon Slayer does what it says on the tin. Want to see evil demons get slain? Then this is the anime for you. There are a couple of different martial arts that are used in this show. The first is the obvious, a mixture of Kendo and Samurai skills when characters yield swords. Whilst most people are fully aware of the Japanese Samurai, less is known about Kendo. Basically, Kendo is the modern-day sequel to Samurai that trains sword fighting with the use of wooden sticks for safety reasons.
This means that the Demon Slayer characters would use a combination of the two arts to help hone their sword skills. Elsewhere on the show, it also features breathing skills that are essential in most martial arts. Breathing skills are key to performing well in any fighting scenario and are used in the show to power up abilities. Martial arts legends Bruce Lee and Rickson Gracie have both proved the importance of breathing skills which are beneficial. These benefits include thinking clearly, improved cardio and better blood flow to your muscles. These are all important aspects whilst fighting.
Tom Higginson is a keen anime enthusiast who began watching it as a child with Dragon Ball Z. Since then he has developed a taste for writing and these days his favorite show is Attack on Titan. In his spare time he can be found either writing short stories or watching anime.