How To Be Batman!
Admit it. You know as well as I do that you have probably spent far too much time imagining you have adamantium claws or the power of flight or the ability to transform into a giant green rage-fueled juggernaut. Maybe you secretly wish you’d been bitten by a radioactive spider when you were a teenager, or you see yourself as an Amazonian princess who looks really good in hot pants. Not that I look good in hot pants.
However I also know that the chances of any one of us spontaneously learning to shoot lasers from our eyes or move faster than a speeding bullet are pretty slim. In point of fact, they’re virtually non-existent.
But there’s one hero we all know and love, one hero who captivates our hearts and minds so completely, that we can’t help but want to imitate him from time to time. Because in the back of our heads we see him as one of us, just a regular guy who thought enough is enough and decided to do something about it.
Okay so he might be a billionaire, which probably helps, and he might have a suspiciously convenient cave complex below his mansion that doubles as his secret headquarters, but he’s still one of us because of the very fact that he can’t bench press 1000 pounds, or force-push bad guys into next week.
He’s the one and only billionaire playboy philanthropist, Bruce Wayne. The Batman.
Actually there is another, quite famous, billionaire playboy philanthropist who seems pretty good at the whole vigilante crime-fighting gig. But Mr Stark is a super genius. Bats is just a regular genius, like Stephen Hawking, Leonardo Da Vinci or Germaine de Staël. Given the correct training we could be him. Right?
Begin At The Beginning
Let’s assume you’ve decided that a life of crime fighting is the one for you. But, like most of us, you don’t have billions in the bank and you haven’t inherited a huge cave/mansion combo from where you can base your operations. The most sensible option would be to join the army, get into a Special Forces unit and then become a police officer after you leave the military.
You would get all the right training, gadgets, a uniform, money in the bank, even a pension. But let’s say you don’t fancy the army life, or more likely, as you’ve chosen the career path of Masked Crime Fighter, you’re a bit too much of a rebel for the police force, what then?
First, you’ll need some training. Serious training too, or the very first time you don your hero costume and venture out into the night, you will either wake up in a hospital bed or a police cell. Or, if you are really unlucky, not at all.
Bruce Wayne is fit, strong and handy when it comes to fisticuffs. So you need to start by training your body. Take up swimming- great for all round low impact body building and physical conditioning. Or how about rock climbing, it’s a bit more expensive as a hobby, but it’s great fun, pretty easy once you get the hang of it and gives you the grip strength of an angry gorilla.
If you’re on a budget then what about Parkour, or Free Running? It’s comparable in price to taking swimming lessons, but not as soggy and slightly more heroic when you see it in action. If you’re really serious about your Batman training then you should consider doing all of the above.
Fight Like The Bat
Along with your fitness, strength and conditioning training you are going to need to learn how to defend yourself. Because when you’re out late at night and you step from the shadows with the intention of stopping a criminal, or even gang of criminals, from doing crime stuff don’t expect them to be all, “Fair enough, guv’nor…” They will very probably be a bit annoyed that some idiot in a costume has interrupted them. Criminals, even a lot of white collar criminals, will turn to violence when backed into a corner.
If the Ultimate Fighting Championship has taught us anything, it’s that some martial arts just aren’t that effective when it comes down to it. Yeah, they might look good in the movies, or when you’re playing Bruce Lee with your mates at the park, but when it comes to real life and possible death, but more likely serious injury, there are a couple of fighting styles that you will want to invest your time in.
Batman tends to use a lot of elbows, knees and low or front kicks. The reason being is that your knees and elbows can take and deliver a surprising amount of damage. And flashy high kicks are for flexible folk who are asking for their legs to be knocked out from underneath them. Punching should be kept to a minimum. Just ask any boxer about ‘boxer’s fracture’, even professionals can suffer from it, so trying to punch your way out of a situation may not always the best plan. Remember, this isn’t the movies, kid.
Thai Boxing, or Muay Thai, is an excellent style utilised by many mixed martial arts fighters. You can find inexpensive classes all over the world, it will make you fit and strong and it even has a deadlier ancient version, Muay Boran (made famous by Tony Jaa in Ong Baak) although a good Muay Boran teacher is a bit harder to find. An added bonus to training in Muay Thai or Muay Boran is that you can also learn Krabi Krabong, which might sound like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles villain, but is instead a no-nonsense weapon combat system.
As most physical confrontations result in a lot of grabbing and rolling around you will need to augment your Thai training with some Jujitsu skills. Originally a Japanese martial art that has become more widely known for its Brazilian version, Jujitsu is a complex grappling and ground-fighting system that is second to none. Just ask Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silver, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu exponent and widely regarded as, pound for pound, the world’s greatest fighter.
Rise, Dark Knight
You are going to get hurt. A lot. Accept this safe in the knowledge that getting hurt, well, really hurts. It’s all fine and dandy training to be fit and strong, and learning how to elbow people unconscious or hip-throw goons across a room, but at some point in your training and later as a professional crime fighter, you will suffer, and maybe even cause, a few injuries.
What is needed now is some serious Trauma First Aid training. When you get back to your secret lair you will need to know how to patch yourself up, you don’t want medical professionals asking you any awkward questions when you have to visit the A&E department of your local hospital.
The Caped Crusader has taken some serious beatings over the years (Brucie even suffered a broken back for a good while) but at no point did he risk his secret identity by taking a trip to the doctor to stick a plaster on his hurty place. Neither should you.
The World’s Greatest Detective
Bats isn’t just a violence engine. He also happens to be brilliant thinker, a sort of goth Sherlock Holmes with a costume fetish, who prefers brains over brawn most of the time. So, train your brain. Hone your deduction skills while learning to trust that gut feeling. If it looks like someone is up to no good, they probably are. But don’t rely on instinct alone and don’t go jumping to conclusions. It might look like someone is robbing that house, but they may well just be helping a friend move.
As you are busy training your brain, you will want to seriously consider brushing up on your knowledge of criminology and law. To catch a criminal you need to know how they think, what motivates them, what historical and environmental factors shape their behaviour and why they take to a life of crime. You will also need to know the law. You can’t just be judge, jury and executioner, Dredd style, as you’ll find yourself in the slammer quicker than you can say Ra’s al Ghul.
In the same way you will be studying the criminal mind, you should also take the time to learn about regular human behaviour. It’s possible to deduce a person’s mood, whether they’re lying or even what they have been doing that day by closely observing their stance, body language, pattern of speaking, even what clothes they are wearing.
But, let’s be honest, a couple of heavies in ski masks, wielding sledge hammers, sprinting full tilt in your direction probably don’t want to stop and chat about your lovely costume.
To Cape Or Not To Cape?
After forking out a heap of cash for martial arts training, along with the occasional night school psychology course, you will want to budget whatever you’ve got left for your shiny new hero suit. Now a lot of you will have some splendid (and maybe crazy) ideas on what you want to parade around in, but let’s get a couple of things straight out of the gate:
Capes are a big no-no! Sorry Bat-fans but if, like me, you agree with the Incredibles approach to costuming you won’t want to get yourself tangled up in a floor length bit of swishy cloth. You will only send yourself tumbling ungracefully to the ground, catch it in a closing door or get the blasted thing wrapped around your neck. Leave the cape at home.
You need something comfortable, warm and durable, something that can take a bit of a beating but still has an ounce of presence about it as you’re sprinting past midnight to the coming dawn, felling bad guys as you go. Take a look at army surplus stores. They’re a great place to pick up some cheap clothing that is used to and has possibly already taken a beating. Don’t forget footwear either. A sturdy pair of boots will serve you well, whether crime fighting or festival going.
While you’re there pick up a Balaclava, not only will it keep the wind off your no doubt attractive cheeks but it will stop those pesky cops from taking a mug shot from those annoying CCTV cameras.
If you can afford it you might want to stretch to a bit of body armour and a helmet, always better to be safe than sorry and as you will be making a bit of a target of yourself it’s probably best to not try and scrimp in this area. Oh and you’re going to need some tactical gloves unless you want to leave your fingerprints everywhere.
Where Do You Get Those Wonderful Toys?
At last we come to the bit that I personally enjoy the most about the Dark Knight; his lovely, lovely playthings. When I was a kid I really wanted a grapple gun, I loved climbing things and thought that this and this alone would complete my 9-year-old armoury along with my Big Stick of Hitting Things With and Dustbin Lid of Absolute Protection Against Anything.
But you as a vigilante crime fighter don’t need this. It’s a cool idea but not all that practical. They are heavy, cumbersome and actually pretty loud, and there’s nothing more obvious than a man in a Balaclava trying to scale Pizza Hut. You’re not trying out with Fathers-4-Justice you are a cold hard angel of renegade justice here to strike fear into the criminal underworld!
Keep it simple. A decent torch (or flashlight for our American cousins), some cable ties to use as handcuffs, a cheap mobile police scanner to intercept crime and if you want to be really swish some sort of night vision set up.
If you really think you need weapons than throwing starts come pretty cheap on the internet, but you will miss over and over again, much more useful would be a crow bar, handy in a pinch as a lethal bludgeoning item and good for jimmying open locked warehouse doors down by the old docks.
A word about guns: BAD! Batman didn’t use a gun, they are a coward’s weapon; and anyway, why would you need to pack heat when you’ve spent all that time training your body to be a lean mean martial arts machine?
Forget get about pimping up your car too. When it comes to transport stick to two wheels. A well-kept bicycle can get you across town in a jiffy, but if you want to look cool get a motorbike. You can nip through traffic, they’re surprisingly hard to catch in a car and you can park them pretty much anywhere.
Let’s Get Serious…
Finally you are ready! Not only have you trained your body and mind to the peak of physical and mental fitness but you’ve outfitted yourself in your finest hero regalia, you’re tooled up and ready to rock. Now what?
Well… honestly? Leave it to the police. They are the trained professionals whose job it is to tackle all criminal activity. Hang up your costume, put away those toys and for the love of all things great and good take off that Balaclava, you look like a right old silly.
This is the regrettable yet logical conclusion I’ve come to. For as much as I will always love Batman I will never be him, and neither should you try, lest you wish to find yourself doing a stretch at the pleasure of the authorities.
If you really want to help then join a neighbourhood watch scheme, or even get a job with the police, they are always hiring. Just don’t go running around in the dark, all dressed up, trying to take on career criminals. By all means report crime where you see it, just don’t go endangering your life or anyone else’s.
In the end we don’t have the Justice League to call on when we get in a tight spot. But c’mon, how cool would it be if we did?