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Anime Underground

The 20 Best Martial Arts Anime About Hand to Hand Combat

Elemental powers and high-tech weapons are great, but sometimes all you want is to watch anime characters throw hands. It's especially impressive when the characters have dedicated their lives to sharpening their bodies into weapons on par with knives and guns. If you're looking for some amazing fights featuring hand-to-hand combat, these martial arts anime have got you covered. We won't be including major shonen like DBZ, Yu Yu Hakusho and Naruto. While we absolutely won't deny that those shows feature some world-class martial arts matches, we're trying to go a little further afield here. 

From displays of intense manliness like Baki the Grappler and Fist of the North Star to slice-of-life shows with martial arts elements like Yawara! there's a lot to choose from. These shows may be different, but all of them celebrate the awesomeness of martial arts. 

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  • Kenichi Shirahama is no one's idea of a powerful fighter, but when various forces involving a bully, a girl he's fallen in love with, and even gang-related problems combine, he finally gets motivated to show what he's made of. Not content to simply learn one martial art, Kenichi studies Karate, Muay Thai, Ju Jitsu and Chinese Martial Arts at the dojo Ryouzanpaku. The training is tough, but if he actually masters these techniques, he'll be able to combine them into a new martial art of his own creation. 

  • Samurai Champloo
    Photo: Manglobe

    After destroying a tea shop and taking down an important figure in order to protect a waitress named Fuu, Jin and Mugen are nearly executed. Fuu rescues them and hires them as her bodyguard as she seeks out "the man who smells like sunflowers." Along the way, they face foes that they battle using Jin's swordsmanship and Mugen's breakdance-inspired martial arts. This classic show is a must-watch for any anime fan!

  • If you're looking for an old-school classic that's intensely violent, look no further than Fist of the North Star. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the series follows Kenshirou on a journey that starts with his attempts to rescue his kidnapped fiance, and turns into a complex series of high-stakes, high-octane martial arts battles that utilize Kenshirou's treasured Hokuto Shinken technique. 

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    Kengan Ashura
    Photo: Kengan Ashura / Larx Entertainment

    In order to settle business deals, the powerful people in the world of Kengan Ashura hire martial arts experts to engage in gladiator-style battles. Ouma Tokita is a fighter who wants to prove his worth. Alongside his very average manager Kazuo Yamashita, he aims for the top and throws himself headlong into battle.