A hero with no name is a strong pacifist. The why is not important right now.

The problem: he lives in a world of kung-fu where just being quiet and polite to live happily can't work for long. This is not a society where the violence is a distant thing and only in hands of army/police.

Plus, he has a goal, and some other people don't wanna let him achieve it... ACTIVELY!

Confrontation CAN BE DELAYED with negotiation, talking, and other soft-skills, but sooner or later, violence will be required.

Because of his goal, he can't just take the damage or accept death for his ideals.

Now, I need a way for him to "fight" without turning into a martial pacifist (somebody that only fights as last resort but still actively uses violence, for example, Batman who fights but just avoids killing).

I'm looking not only for a combat system but also the strategy, tactics, and philosophy that allow him to succeed (ie: a martial art).

Also, because him is totally aware of the bad situation and conflicting goals of this setup, the hero knows that he must become one of the best "fighters" in the world to have a chance. When things start to unroll, he must be ready for the challenge.


  • No magic based solution. I want a realistic-ish martial arts. However, you are free to suggest things that stretch a little real-based combat systems (ie: Like in Kenichi) where the combat looks plausible, or if the style requires some upgrades of humanity to work (like Daredevil but not like Thor).
  • The time period is like ancient Edo/Japan. Everyone use classic martial arts and weapons. This idiot is the only one that refuses to use it properly, you know?
  • He has companions with more flexible morality. He hates that and uses all his strength to avoid relying on them. He is a pacifist that wishes everyone else would become one, too. He is unwilling to just let others do his fighting.
  • The hero will not actively use violence and prefers to not use anything that could lead to bad injuries or be considered a weapon first, like swords. Sticks or anything else like that could be ok, but you must explain how he uses it without crushing skulls.
  • He avoid fights but does not hesitate to help others. Unfortunately, this means not much time for negotiations..
  • Any other creative solutions, such as use of smoke grenades, but such solutions must be integrated into the martial art. I have designed systems where my hero could dodge, run, and evade but still found the need to apply force somehow...
  • The style must work against a small number of opponents, like that pesky gang that is trying to hurt an old lady.
  • Is ok to make him taller, stronger, faster, or any other thing that could reduce the disbelief of his "fights"
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    $\begingroup$ I'm looking not only for a combat system but also the strategy, tactics, and philosophy... That's a very tall order and probably too broad. Let's see how the answers fall out, but I suspect you'll need to lower your expectations a bit. A good answer to that question would fill books, which is what our "too broad" VTC reason is meant to prohibit. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 10 '18 at 7:40
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I don't expect a full book, but more a high-level description. $\endgroup$ – mamcx Jun 10 '18 at 16:56
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    $\begingroup$ Sounds like you have just described the basis for most of Jackie Chan's movies. $\endgroup$ – Jonnyboy Jun 11 '18 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ Most forms of martial arts are quite suitable. Pacificists are perefectly capable of learning martial arts. Kungfu proper, karate, ju-jitsu, even tai chi, and possibly judo. The majority of these martial arts have a philosophical dimension. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jun 12 '18 at 13:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH You apparently know little about martial arts. There's nothing too broad about the possible choices for martial arts that meet the criteria in the question. It's ridiculous to believe anyone would need books to answer the question. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jun 12 '18 at 13:29


Its the only sport that is officially completely defensive. That I know of. There are no contests between aikidoka as they would just stay and wait for the attack. That might look like it violates your "complete pacifist" clause but it is fully possible to provoke someone into an attack through your approach (which can unbalance them in advance).

The premise is that your enemy hurts himself by not accepting your moves, and as long as he accepts your moves he'll either stop the attack or he'll end up stuck in a hold.

Is it a "better" martial arts than others? That varies on skill and preference.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ok, look like Aikido + JiuJitsu is the base of the combat system. I like because Aikido was base around a defensive mind-set. $\endgroup$ – mamcx Jun 10 '18 at 17:08
  • $\begingroup$ Beaten to it. There's a great Captain America scene in an old comic where he's up against a guy that repels any and all force applied to him. Cap puts him in an Akido hold, the guy tries to escape, and it hurts, something he's utterly un-used to. $\endgroup$ – VBartilucci Jun 11 '18 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ Aikido is a 20th century innovation built on the foundation of jujitsu. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Jun 12 '18 at 12:23
  • $\begingroup$ @pojo-guy That is something I don't know before. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – mamcx Jun 12 '18 at 16:17

5th degree black belt -

I'm looking not only for a combat system but also the strategy, tactics, and philosophy...

This pretty much defines the difference between a martial art and a combat system. Boxing is a combat system, but karate is a martial art. Aikido and Wado (kai/ryu) are two very different martial arts I know of that start with a pacifist philosophy.

As @Demigan noted, Aikido is defensive to the point that contests would never happen because both practitioners would wait for the other to begin. There are intimately related systems Aikijutsu (more aggressive japanese form) and Hapkido (written with the same characters as Aikido, but with strong Korean influence) that do entertain contests.

Wado (peaceful way), on the other hand, has a pacifist philosophy, but also has the assumption that contests are a necessary step in preparing oneself mentally for a confrontation. Ohtsuka Sensei's contribution to the martial arts community as a whole was adapting the point system from Judo to striking arts, making tournament a viable form of training. Old style wado was a blend of Shorin ryu karate, jujitsu, and innovations of Ohtskua's own making.

Terry Pratchett lampooned Wado very recognizably in one of his discworld novels as 'The Way of Peace and Harmony and How to Blast Someones Liver Out Their Ears".

Here is a translation of common words and suffixes that will give you a handle on what a particular art is about:

  • shaolin = pine trees, reference to a famous Buddhist monastery and martial arts center
  • shorin = pine trees, national tree of Okinawa, Japanese pronunciation of shaolin, also credit to shaolin temple in china
  • shoto = pine tree, nipponization of shorin to mitigate the Chinese origins of the art from sinophobic japan

  • Kai = large organization, trade union, church denomination, etc

  • Ryu = school
  • Kan = club

Anyone can teach Wado Ryu, but you must be a member of a particular organization to teach Wado Kai. The syllabus of both would be the derived from Ohtsuka Sensei's teachings.

  • jitsu = art (aggressive martial form being implied)
  • po = method (aggressive martial form with an emphasis on the intellectual analysis being implied)
  • do = path, philosophy

The difference between ju-do and ju-jitsu is that in judo you twist you opponent's arm into a pretzel and lock them into submission, whereas in ju-jitsu you twist their arm into a pretzel, break it in three places, punch them in the head, and then lock them into submission.

In a fight (as opposed to sparring ) the two most important factors for victory are size and overall athleticism. Knowledge/skill has am impact equivalent to 10 lbs (4.5 kg) of mass for every dan degree of rank up to 4th degree. In the edo period, the dan ranking system did not exist, so this is for information only. In order for your hero to be continuously victorious, it is fully reasonable for him to be larger than average.

The problem you will have is that, in the edo period, none of these 20th century martial arts existed except possibly jujitsu, whose purpose was to capture armored samaurai in battle. As a precursor to aikido, it is within reason that a jujitsu practitioner could discover the same principles as Ueshiba did 4 centuries later, and develop a system very similar to modern aikido.

What we call Kung Fu (literally good exercise) today would have simply been called "Chinese fighting" or some synonym thereof. Some example names are Shoriniji kempo (shaolin [ pine trees ] fist method), tang te (Chinese [tang dynasty] hands, kara te (Chinese [tang dynasty] hands, shorin kumite (shaolin tangled hands), chinto (Chinese hands). As recently as WW2, Kitagawa Sensei referred to his art simply a "kumite", or "fighting" (literally tangled hands), before politics morphed it into Shorin Ryu Karate (pine trees (shaolin) school empty hands (using a rare kanji for "empty" instead of the more common kanji for "chinese" to keep the name the same but not alienate the Japanese public).

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Polynesians had a martial arts and weapons like this which was used by chiefs to settle disputes preferably without killing but with the capacity to maim or kill if it went that far. It was a strong deterrent and when a chief waded into a confrontation with one of these weapons it meant that people need to calm down immediately. It was a weapon of peace, not war.

Basically it is a big heavy hooked weapon which is designed to block and capture opponents weapons rather than kill them, but it also has projections specifically made for shattering bone just below the hook, so if it captures your weapon and you do not let go immediately you will lose the use of your hand forever.

These were not the easiest weapons to wield, but practitioners were feared. enter image description here

If you model your hero's weapon and technique with similar aims in mind it could work well for your story.

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  • $\begingroup$ Exist a video reference on how this work? If I suddenly see someone with this I probably start running for my life! $\endgroup$ – mamcx Jun 10 '18 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Never seen a video sorry $\endgroup$ – Kilisi Jun 18 '18 at 17:00

Warning: I am not a martial artist but I have watched a lot of animes

To fight without fighting, your martial art must actively de-escalate the situation. Your hero knows not to apply any more force than is necessary to get an opponent to calm down to quell fighting. To the best of my knowledge, aikido was developed to disarm sword swinging opponents (some good videos can here). I would recommend a modification of aikido that allows for your hero to add on handcuffs!

Yes, handcuffs! What would be more demoralizing than having your hero walk up to the big boss, try diplomacy and when the big boss starts swinging, your hero disarms him and handcuffs the opponent. After handcuffing, your hero could even proceed to try to have a conversation with his opponent like nothing ever happened.

The philosophy should be something simple like violence only begets more violence. Your hero has decided that the only way to stop the violence is to break the very cycle of violence itself. As soon as violence starts to go down, your hero should try to disarm opponents and use the environment like a Jackie Chan movie to aid the hero

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  • $\begingroup$ handcuffs sound like a good idea! I was thinking in rope before but look like requiere too much time for restrict somebody. $\endgroup$ – mamcx Jun 10 '18 at 17:10

Funnily enough, Edo-period Japan actually had a weapon that suits your purposes, the sasumata (the one on the right in the image below). The broad forky part is used to catch or trap people, and the hooked parts (they're normally sharpened, but you can leave that off) can trip or throw people around. It normally has a nice long spear-like shaft that you can use for blocking, and to give your fighter an edge over people with knives or short swords.

These were normally used in a police context (to catch troublemakers with less lasting harm), so they would by no means be impossible to get or make, but they might be a little unusual depending on what your character ends up doing.

enter image description here

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I think combat styles that focus on redirecting the enemies attack as well as grappling moves would fit such a character, for example Aikido.

According to Wikipedia:

Ueshiba's goal was to create an art that practitioners could use to defend themselves while also protecting their attacker from injury.

But just because he's a pacifist, doesn't mean that he can't throw a punch. Knocking enemies out without injuring is fine - after all, what's the harm of a minor concussion?


There's this thing called cloth-fu where a piece of cloth is twisted and held with both hands to block weapons (even swords), wrapped around an extended fist to restrict movement, used like a whip to tie around weapons and disarm an enemy, thrown over an enemies head to temporarily blind them (for the next punch to the face) etc. After or even during the fight it can also be used to tie up defeated enemies. I believe Jacky Chan uses it a lot in his movies, but I couldn't find a quick example on YouTube.


He would to use stealth and disguises a lot, after all there won't be much conflict if the enemy can't spot him.

In general Jacky Chan would be a great example, he doesn't want trouble most of the time, but trouble finds him and while he does punch and kick his enemies, he tends to helps his enemies when they hang off of a ledge for example.

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    $\begingroup$ The harm of a minor concussion is, with 21st century medicine, quite measurable. Even non symptomatic head injuries have a cumulative effect. After 30 years competing in the martial arts without any symptomatic head injuries, I now have mild cognitive disorder, alexithymia, and issues forming short term memory. $\endgroup$ – pojo-guy Jun 12 '18 at 3:34

The most obvious answer would be Shaolin Kung Fu itself, which combines the philosophy of Zen Buddhism with Martial Arts, cf. Wiki's entry on Shaolin Kung Fu. Among the basic principles of Zen Buddhism, the following are cited:

a life of humility; a life of labor; a life of service; a life of prayer and gratitude; and a life of meditation.

Respect for all life is a very important part of Buddihst philosophy. If your hero is very pious Buddhist, it would make sense for him to only act defensively and avoid combat as far as he could, rather preaching or citing his monastic wisdoms to people to sway them from combat. Also as a monk, some might have religious issues to openly attack him right away.

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Experience, Training vs Dogma

Most of the folks in here have been recommending traditional martial arts and defensive martial arts. This is well and good, but you will find that the best way to counter an opponent is to be more familiar with their style than they are.

Basically, If you want to prevent someone from throwing you with judo, the best way to do that is to practice a hell of a lot of judo. If you want to prevent someone from hitting you with a punch, you should train your boxing, your footwork, your slips, weaves, and head movement. If you want to prevent someone from striking you with a weapon, you best have a lot of experience facing someone with that same weapon.

Experience is and will always be the best teacher. Unless your pacifist can't tell the difference between training and application, avoiding practical martial arts is unwise.

As for the main base to pacifists training? I would recommend a combination of boxing for the footwork and evasion, Judo for grappling defense (judo in the era mentioned had both extended ground fighting and throws, unlike modern judo), and spear training for weapons work. @Cadence 's sasumata seems like a good choice.


If you wish your pacifist to have an interesting martial arts philosophy, I would recommend training Aikido or some form of Kung Fu. With all respect to practitioners of these arts, they simply do not stack up.

Martial arts with no active, high intensity contest both within gyms/dojos and between gyms/dojos do not have their skills tested, vetted, and best practices do not spread.

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