Do Superpowered Characters Need Combat Training?

Batman vs Darkseid

This is an interesting question.  One that I’ve seen debated over the years.  What are the two sides?

  1. Some people think a character who has super powers doesn’t need to have any combat training.  They believe it just comes with the powers and is instinctive.  Others say that you just have them overpower enemies like Superman.  The key point is that a character with superpowers doesn’t need to be trained in regular combat.
  2. Others believe that a hero needs to be trained in combat even if they have powers.  It is argued that they won’t know the correct way to throw a punch or a kick even if they can hurl a building.  There has to be an explanation to them being able to fight correctly beyond they ‘just know’.

You can imagine how often Batman factors into this argument.  Well, let’s take a look at him as a character.  He has no powers, but has a ton of combat training.  Batman is very smart and can come up with plans, but I’m going to put that aside.  In a straight fight, he can have an advantage over a villain with superpowers and no training.  You can even look at two of his most common enemies.  Killer Croc is a super-strong bruiser who fights like an animal.  Batman has the training advantage and can win even if he has been overpowered.  On the other hand, Batman will have trouble with Bane who is super strong, but trained.  It’s more of an equal fight on this one, which shows how much of a difference training can make.

Part of the issue could be that people don’t know what training entails.  I’ve spoken to many who think it’s only getting your body to be stronger and learning the flashier martial arts moves.  Anyone who has done any sport that mimics combat will tell you that there is more to it.  For example:

  • You learn how to defend yourself and create openings.
  • You learn how to move while attacking and defending.
  • You learn how to read opponent’s moves.
  • You learn how to strike with precision.
  • You learn how to strike and defend without getting hurt.

There’s a lot more to it, but none of that will come from simply having powers.  (The obvious exception is natural combat ability, which is a cheat.)  Powers give you a physical edge in combat, but they don’t always level the playing field entirely.  Fledgling superheroes can’t do a lot of what is listed unless they get trained or get plenty of experience.  They will get hurt a lot if they take that second route.  Superman is a good example here since he never had to get trained.  Yet, at times that he has lost his powers, he’s been able to fight because he’s been doing it for so long.  Personally, I think he figured some stuff out from watching or talking to Batman too.  Anyway, Superman had to develop combat skills after he got his powers, especially to handle anyone who could work around his powers.

It isn’t really that hard to get them training either.  Maybe they have a friend who can help them out or they can take a class.  If their powers aren’t obvious then they can easily take a few martial arts classes.  You can even have them read a book or watch movies to get general ideas.  The important part is to factor in their experience and training when it comes to fighting.  Not just the powers since those are only one piece of a character’s action scene puzzle.

So, do you think superpowered characters need some combat training?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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14 Responses to Do Superpowered Characters Need Combat Training?

  1. noelleg44 says:

    You know, Charles, this question never crossed my mind. I like to think of superheroes as not needing any training. They just are.


  2. L. Marie says:

    Yes, I think training is necessary, especially for the reasons you gave. Even a prodigy like Mozart was trained in music. Having a skill doesn’t mean you don’t need help to hone it. A knife can be sharp, but still needs honing every once in a while. 😊A good training master-strategist can help a superhero with techniques that might help him or her to avoid wasting energy and/or death. Even Wonder Woman received combat training!


    • Superpowers are where things get tricky. As you said, Wonder Woman received combat training. Spider-Man and Superman never did, but they can hold their own thanks to their powers. It’s a strange gray area that author’s don’t really delve into.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        I can understand in the case of Superman and Spider-Man. There was no one on Earth who understood their unique abilities and how to help them use them. They had to experiment on their own to test the limits of their powers. The graphic novel SUPERMAN FOR ALL SEASONs reminded me of that.

        This is why I love SPIDERMAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE. Peter Parker trained Miles Morales in combat. Only a fellow Spider-Man could do that 😊


      • People have actually argued about Spider-Man not being trained. The truth is that combat training doesn’t really have to revolve around powers. For example, Peter Parker could have taken some martial arts classes to improve his fighting ability as Spider-Man. The training would teach him about fighting regardless of his powers. Many times, a character has superhuman abilities and can suddenly throw down like a professional fighter. It makes it seem as if the powers came with the knowledge of how to fight.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. L. Marie says:

    Did anyone tell you why he or she is arguing against the training of superheroes? Are they just wanting them to have the gifts and not have to go through the work of training? I can’t help thinking of the “with great power comes great responsibility” line of Uncle Ben. Wouldn’t part of that responsibility be to learn what one could in order to responsibly use one’s ability?


    • It was actually them arguing why Spider-Man should be trained. They pointed out that powers doesn’t mean a character suddenly knows how to fight effectively. Peter Parker didn’t really get trained until some point in the late 2000’s or something when Marvel suddenly had him be Wolverine’s student.


    • I’d guess there’s a risk that training sequences will be boring or stereotyped, and readers just want to get to the action. That said, group titles like X-men and Avengers often show regular training sessions. But you can work other plot material into those scenes, which might not be possible with a solo hero just swinging around or whatever.


      • The argument I saw was primarily over comic heroes. Many times a character gets powers and suddenly knows how to fight. Novels seem to get a pass if time passes between chapters.


  4. I have two thoughts. 1) An untrained fighter is not efficient and will get tired before the fight is over, or will make mistakes that give the opponent an opening. 2) Fighting is also an emotional experience, and someone who isn’t trained may be traumatized by seeing blood spray out, objects broken, etc.

    Soldiers in the real world have to be trained for what they’ll experience. Superheroes should be, too. A smart hero will look for opportunities to be prepared before they start.


    • The emotional experience is something to consider. I think the main focus was on your first point. Aside from efficiency, untrained fighters can hurt themselves by punching and kicking incorrectly. They can risk joints and tendons too b


  5. I look at it like an author. It depends upon the story you’re telling. If it’s an existing, long-term character, probably not. If it’s an origin story, a good training sequence could really help sell it.


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