What skills does Batman have? There are many ways in which Batman has changed over his 75+ years, but one thing has remained consistent, he is a man of many talents. One does not go toe-to-toe with super villains and earn the title of "World's Greatest Detective" without a wide breadth of abilities, both intellectual and physical. What of these skills is it reasonable to believe that Bruce Wayne is actually a "master" or "expert" in? And what skills are actually worth the investment for Batman in his fight to clean up and protect Gotham?
These are the questions I want to explore in this post. In my next post I'll put together a roadmap for myself.
Skills and Abilities
Martial arts and combat
According to the Batman Wiki, Batman is well versed in 127 different forms of martial arts, here are those that are listed in that wiki and others I've found through some additional research. Knowing all of these different fighting styles, Batman then combines the varioues techniques fluidly during any fight.
- Muay Thai
- Brazillian jujitsu
- Krav Maga
- Wing Chun
- Shorin Ryu
- Chin Na
- Varma Ati
- Jeet Kune Do
- Ba Gua
- Hung Gar
- Tai Chi
- Kung Fu
Tactical and practical
Aside from martial arts, Batman has a range of other tactically oriented skills that help him in combat-centric situations. I've enumerated those that I can think here:
- Wall climbing
- First aid
- Combat weapons (marksman)
- Offensive driving
- Tactical breaching
- Knot tying
- Situational awareness
- Scuba diving
- Knife throwing (a la Batarangs)
- Fear and intimidation
- Mechanical skills
- Creating and getting into disguises
Considering that Batman is known as the world's greatest detective, there's a lot of other intellectual skills behind the Olympian caliber man described above. With all of the comics, cartoons, and movies that I've been through, I came up with this list.
- Computer and network exploitation (e.g. "hacking")
- Acting and social engineering
- Strategic thinking
- Game theoretic reasoning
- Tactical planning
- Forensic science
- Forensic toxicology
- Hardware hacking
- Criminology, forensic psychology, profiling
- Practical chemistry
- Crime scene analysis
- Data science and analysis
- Code breaking
- Puzzles and riddles
- Intelligence analysis
- Risk assessment
- Open source intelligence gathering
- Counterfeiting and con artistry
- Multi-lingual (Spanish, French, Latin, German, Japanese, English, Russian, Cantonese, Mandarin)
For a while there was a belief that it took 1,000 hours to become an expert at any given skill. This belief was initially popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers. Considering all of the skills outlined above, that's a whole lot of hours. At 12 hours a day focused on one skill, you're still looking at over 2 years to become an expert. Undoubtedly there is a decent amount of overlapping fundamentals that can allow someone to more rapidly learn the nuances of say, a different martial arts discipline; but we're still talking about decades of study and training to become an expert at every single one of these things. With Batman coming back from his training sometime in his twenties, that seems quite unlikely following this definition.
Fortunately, this notion has since been dismissed (e.g., Princeton study, Inc. article, and talks by Tim Ferriss) as we've collectively learned a lot more about, well, learning. Becoming proficient in any given skill has more to do with systematic deconstruction, practice, and real-world application. All things that Bruce Wayne could have certainly adopted, especially considering the huge amount of overlapping building blocks of the Bat Skills.
Is All That Really Necessary?
Thinking of all the crazy villains and situations we've seen Batman overcome, all of these skills certainly seem appropriate in hindsight. But Bruce Wayne didn't get into the vigilante business to save the world from God-like figures and demonic beings from Apokolips; he started trying to fight crime and corruption in Gotham City.
Focused on that initial goal, I think Batman could have potentially structured his learning and training a bit differently. It might take away from all of the fantastical stories, but thinking purely about what is practical and actionable for Bruce Wayne in his mission, I would probably make the following modifications, at the very least focusing on bare minimum building blocks that can picked up later on as-needed.
|Skill||Modification||Application to original mission|
|All of the martial arts skills (summarizing for brevity)||Focus on a mix of styles that can be fluidly combined and keep you on your feet with maximum pain, speed, and takedown effectiveness.||Very|
|Scuba diving||Maybe leave this as a skill that gets picked up as Bruce Wayne is taking vacations for appearances, in the concrete jungle of Gotham it seems a bit odd that scuba diving would frequently come up.||Almost non-existent|
|Offensive driving and piloting||Assuming that so much of Batman's original intention was focused on stealth, this seems a bit unnecessary and contrarian to the original goal. Perhaps a greater focus on stealth and fear instead of crazy vehicles would keep Batman centered in the myth and legend category.||Moderate|
|Multi-lingual||Profiling the criminals in Gotham city and focusing on those languages spoken there might have been a bit more efficient, however learning a new language probably isn't that big of a burden considering the rest of the skills on this overall list.||Moderate|
|Hardware and computer hacking||I could see this coming into play primarily from a tracking and tactical entry perspective, aiding Batman's investigative work. That all being said though, it's very possible this could be outsourced in some way or to simply purchase the best of the best tactical gear used by special forces or law enforcement personnel through shell companies.||Moderate|
I don't know that I'll be able to travel the world, study with experts, and learn all the skills that Bruce Wayne gained on his path to becoming the Batman in any short amount of time. A systematic approach will be necessary and so in a future post I'll build out a roadmap as well as introduce a few tools and a framework I've used throughout my own life for personal improvement, I hope that it will be useful to you all as well!