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I remember reading Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The protagonist is a an extremely strong man, capable of hand to paw combat with lions. The origin of his strength is attributed to living among gorillas all his young life.

What hand wavy arguments could I invoke for that incredible strength, speed and stamina of Tarzan, the ape-man? It doesn't look to me like any human being would win a wrestling match with a hungry lion, however hard they would train.

Tarzan is slightly more than 2 meters tall, he must have very strong bones and very efficient and powerful muscles. How did he get those, it's a mystery.

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    $\begingroup$ with hand wavy anything is possible $\endgroup$ – depperm Aug 4 '17 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Very similar to worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/72291 $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 4 '17 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Lions have claws and teeth. Even with exceptional strength, he'd be better off using a primitive weapon (eg. spear) to defeat his opponent. $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Aug 4 '17 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ Alternatively, a style of combat adapted to using the opponent's strength against them (eg. jujutsu), but adapted for Lions? $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Aug 4 '17 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ I've read this before, about 50% of tiger attacks are survived by men. This does not mean the men won, but that it may be a lot more survivable than most people expect. $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Aug 4 '17 at 20:21
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Genetically is feasable.

Louis Cyr was considered the strongest man ever lived. He was able to lift 500 punds with a finger and almost 2 tons with his back.

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    $\begingroup$ Holy hell; that's unreal. Any info on how he managed to be that strong? Did he just exercise constantly? Did he have any health problems as a result? So many questions. $\endgroup$ – MozerShmozer Aug 4 '17 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ What I've read, he was always like that. They said he was able to lift a wood log when he was 12. $\endgroup$ – Lunar Heretic Aug 4 '17 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ I added a link to Wikipedia for those curious to learn more. That said, that article does appear to be rather short on references. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 4 '17 at 20:14
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A proper environment and training makes a lot of difference.

To give you a real life example that what looks like extreme performances can be routinely achieved, consider that in some african tribes a young boy, in order to be considered an adult man, had to be able, among others, to high jump his own height. That is having an elevation of 1.6 to 1.9 meters (while dunking NBA players reach 3.15 meters starting from around 2.0 meters or more).

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  • $\begingroup$ This is fascinating if true. $\endgroup$ – user9981 Aug 5 '17 at 8:16
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    $\begingroup$ Reference please. $\endgroup$ – NauticalMile Aug 5 '17 at 12:37
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Tarzan is the effect of a great deal of hand-waving for reasons too copious to bother detailing them.

If memory assists, in the books he defeats bare-handed a gorilla (his step-father) by "re-inventing" a "double Elson" grip and thus breaking gorilla's neck.

The lion was defeated with another "re-invention": the lasso built with a rope obtained entwining grass straws.

While he was supposed to be very big, strong and trained from birth he was not supposed to be "superhuman" in any way.

Not having used our skills for maaaaany generations we have lost a lot of strength, skill and endurance ( I know this is a bad reference, but I'm lazy ;) ).

Just revive a Neanderthal or an ancient Australian and You'll have something "better than Tarzan" ;)

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The combination of a suppressed myostatin gene, adrenaline, and a lack of muscle inhibitors (in the brain) would make a person exceedingly strong. Perhaps too strong, as in hurting themselves strong. You could also give this person thicker bones to make up for that, but I'm not entirely sure what repercussions that would have. Swimming would certainly be more difficult, but it's also feasible that the extra muscle produced from the suppressed myostatin gene would make up for it.

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I'd be cautious about saying it's impossible.

There are plenty of reports out there of people winning fights against dangerous wild animals with their bare hands. http://mentalfloss.com/article/80239/time-carl-akeley-killed-leopard-his-bare-hands, http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/18/us/colorado-mountain-lion-attack/index.html, http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Ageing_Farmer_Kills_Leopard_With_Bare_Hands_In_Kenya.html, etc.

Lions are strong but they're not invincible. I wouldn't be surprised if a skilled martial artist could beat a lion.

Personally, I'd use my bare hands to pull the trigger on my .357 magnum, but whatever.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't see much to this answer that actually discusses "What hand wavy arguments could [OP] invoke for that incredible strength, speed and stamina of Tarzan". You do cite some examples from the real world, but you don't discuss much at all what made those examples possible; doing so would probably improve this answer greatly. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 6 '17 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ I disagree, this does provide an answer: You don't need hand-wavy arguments if the task is possible in real life; and just in case you do, being skilled in martial arts (perhaps, I would add, with some knowledge of lion anatomy) might be enough to keep one's wits and kick a lion in the heart or carotid artery to cause a stroke, or use the heel or blade of the shin or forearm (a martial arts term) to crush its windpipe and cause it to choke to death. I'm voting to leave open. $\endgroup$ – Amadeus Aug 6 '17 at 17:13

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