Punch, Kick, Tackle, and Grapple – Martial arts are utilized in some of the most exciting anime series around. However, while swords and other weapons still count as a martial art, only the manliest, toughest, most brazen anime characters are daring enough to use their fists. So if you like epic fist fights and even more epic punches to the face, then it is time to get into some of these martial arts anime series.
Dragon Ball / Dragon Ball Z
When you mention martial arts, this is typically where most anime fans go. While Dragon Ball Z often got a little less fist-fighty and a little more beam-fighty with all its ki blasts, the original series is almost nothing but punches and kicks. However, if you like manly yelling and even manlier hard muscled bodies, Z has that in spades.
Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple
Kenichi isn’t the first dedicated martial arts anime, but it is easily one of the best. However, while it starts with a typical weakling getting strong via training, what sets Kenichi apart is the focus it gives to each martial art in the show. You see, Kenichi doesn’t just learn one style of fighting, the show covers everything including Karate, Muay Thai, Ju Jitsu, and Kung Fu so that he can cultivate his own style.
Hajime no Ippo
Not unlike basically every other martial arts anime, Hajime no Ippo starts off with a weak main character who is bullied a lot before he meets a mentor to train him up. In this case, that mentor is a boxer who trains him in the skill. However, that story is so frequently used in this genre because it is so effective. People have stuck with this show for countless seasons because not only is the boxing a thrill to watch, but overcoming challenges is a theme we can all get behind.
Baki the Grappler
Baki the Grappler is fist fighting in its purest form. The plot is simple, there is a ranking of fighters in the world and Baki’s father Yujiro is at the top, thus Baki aspires to be at the top. However, before he can fight his father, there are a whole lot of other people that he needs to fight first.
Despite the panty shots and the bouncing cleavage, Tenjo Tenge is a fighting anime, and a damn good one at that. It takes the spin on the classic high school thug and puts those thugs in a fighting-themed high school where all they teach is martial arts. Of course, it is not all fist fights, there are swords and such, but a good majority is hand to hand combat.
Fist of the North Star
Although Kenshiro is based on Bruce Lee and Fist of the North Star incorporated many of his moves, this series worked hard to create fighting styles that were innately unique. However, what really kept people watching (other than the heads exploding and the whole “You’re already dead!” thing ) was that it told a classic vengeance story in the middle of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Not completely unlike Tenjo Tenge, though occasionally confused with it, Ikki Tousen still delivers that light perversion in the form of panty shots, but tells the action-packed story of a turf war between seven high schools in the Kanto area of Japan. While a touch of supernatural is added by some of the fighters carrying the souls of warriors from the past, seeing past battle strategies used in this current setting adds just another layer of interest.
Don’t be fooled by the Gundam moniker, G Gundam moves away from the classic mecha battles for something most Gundam fans didn’t want – a martial arts tournament. It has a pretty good mix of actual fist fights and mech fist fights, which is definitely something that, if nothing else, refreshed the martial arts genre at the time.
Ashita no Joe
Ashita no Joe is basically the older version of Hajime no Ippo. However, the story, of course, differs in many parts as the main character doesn’t start off as such a weakling. However, like Hajime no Ippo, this boxing series is about addressing challenges, then overcoming them with your fists!
After a certain point of watching martial arts anime, you realize they all have pretty much the same plot. This is why you should be watching them interspersed with other genres and definitely not in one long binge session. However, if you want something that is different plot-wise, Ben-To is where you should head. This series is still about fist fighting, but it is about fist fighting over delicious bento lunches.
Tiger Mask / Tiger Mask W
There is not nearly enough anime about wrestling. The only really good series is Tiger Mask. However, ol’ Tiger Mask is showing its age, so we recommend you go to the newer series Tiger Mask W, which only requires you to really know the basic backstory of a once wrestling villain now fighting to be the good guy.
Ranma 1/2 is often consider a shojo anime for girls because it was made by a woman and spends a decent chunk of the time on abstract silliness and romance. However, Ranma 1/2 is actually one of the more classic martial arts series. It is not as gory as Fist of the North Star, but it still upholds the basic principles of a warrior that you learn from most martial arts series.
Kurokami is less about a specific martial art and more about street fighting for survival. It follows a boy who has been followed by misfortune as he becomes bonded with a Mototsumitama named Kuro. She believes that his misfortune is because three people are sharing his life energy around the world. However, she is not the only one to investigate this phenomenon.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
While Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure has a lot of bizarre moments as well as adventures like its surprisingly on the nose name suggests. There isn’t a whole lot of weaponry within. After all, when you have such GAR-bodied men, why not make them fight each other hand to hand in some of the fastest and most fun fight animation this side of DBZ.
Unlike the many live action attempts at Street Fighter, the anime series aren’t all completely bad. Like with your classic martial arts anime series, you can always expect some fist fights in a Street Fighter series. I mean, it is based on a fighting game, after all. Since it uses characters from all around the world, you also become quite familiar with different fighting styles.
Did we miss your favorite martial arts anime? Let us know in the comments section below.