A few questions about teaching martial arts to great apes.

So I was thinking about Clint Eastwood the other day, which led to thinking about chimpanzee sidekicks in a bare-knuckled human world, which led to a series of questions that I am not nearly wise enough to answer on my own:

  1. Would it be possible to teach a gorilla or chimpanzee martial arts? Could one of them to become a black (or lower) belt? Which martial art would work best with ape physiology?

  2. Chimp martial artist vs. gorilla martial artist – which would win?

  3. Would it be possible for a human black belt to defeat an untrained chimp or gorilla in unarmed combat? Which martial art would serve the human best? (I realize that martial arts aren’t a magic fight-winning system, so I’m guessing the human is flattened regardless. But that’s a guess.)

If this ends up in IMHO I won’t be surprised, but I really am looking for answers as factual as possible.

Isn’t Eastwood’s sidekick is an orangatan?

It is certainly possible for a human to defeat a chimp/gorilla, using kicks to stay out of reach for example. What the odds are, I couldn’t say.

There’s a small video circulating on the internet showing an ape doing karate kicks under the supervision of its instructor, so it is definitely possible.

I just wanted to chime in that this is one of the best thread titles ever…

I would also submit that martial arts have been developed to take specific advantages of human physiology. While similar, other primates are significantly different from us in joint and bone structure and in musculature - this might affect the efficacy of certain styles.

I’d imagine that most apes would really suck at tae kwon do but probably have a significant advantage at ju jitsu and other grappling arts. And chimps would rock at capoeira.

IANAMACOA (I am not a martial artists, chimpanzee or ape)


As a very minor nitpick, I would like to point out that humans are great apes, too, so there’s certainly at least one species which can do it.

As for style, I suspect that you’d want to develop an entirely new form to accomodate a gorilla or chimpanzee’s limitations and advantages. Leverage would be the biggest issue, I’d think: The other apes are all stronger than us, but partly at the expense of quickness. And, of course, you have the matter of four “hands”, rather than two hands and two feet. Would a gorilla’s hind limbs be more effective kicking like a human, or doing something closer to punching or chopping? And what motions would go into an effective hindlimb punch? What about grappling or throwing with the “feet”? And how would the ape move around during a fight? We mostly move ourselves using our legs, but our hairier brethren use their arms as well. Do we want the ape to be effective on a plain, or just in a forested (or raftered or other equivalent) area where it can brachiate? And is a black-belt ape going to be fighting primarily humans, or others of its kind? The vulnerable targets probably vary somewhat between species.

Next week on AMC… Prehensile Tails Of Fury.

Give an infinite amount of camcorder weilding monkeys an infinite amount of time and they will eventually reproduce the entire Bruce Lee movie library.

Of course it’s not possible.

Martial arts is not just learning technique (and even there the chimp is going to have a hard time learning even the core basics). It is a system of concepts that require a human intelligence to use properly in a life-threatening situation.

I suppose it is possible to teach a gorilla or chimp some basic moves, and then train the animal to employ them, at least against humans. I imagine in a genuine fight against another ape, they would revert to their normal fighting style.

A friend of mine (another black belt at judo) actually wrestled a trained bear named Victor. He lost, very badly and almost at once. The bear (who weighed in excess of 165 kilos) had one basic strategy, which was to rear up on its hind legs, and then fall onto its opponent and twist him to the mat. If that didn’t work, it would drop back onto all fours, and shove the opponent away and then rear up and try it again. It was far too strong to try to clinch, and its hind limbs were so short that it was almost impossible to do a leg pick-up.

I imagine it would be much the same in wrestling with an ape. The animal is going to be much, much, MUCH stronger than any human. And its limb lengths and general body proportions are going to be much different from humans. Add to that the ability of an ape to grip with its hands, and you have big problems.

Striking arts might be different, but I suspect it would be much harder to convince the ape to strike instead of using its natural weapons, which are its large and pointy teeth.

Apes are dangerous animals. At the Yerkes Primate Research Center (Madison, Wisconsin) there have been at least two cases of humans being killed by untrained but enraged chimpanzees.

The gorilla. It is larger.

No. Chimps are in the range of 8-10 times stronger than humans. and they can grip with their rear feet like hands. Add to that those huge canines, and without a weapon of some sort and a good deal of luck, the human will always lose.

And I doubt if trying to stay at long distance and kick is going to work. Most likely scenario is like the early UFCs - human tries a kick, chimp grabs the leg whether or not it lands, and pulls the human in and bites off big bloody chunks.


Dude, they already got their own martial arts. Besides, most martial arts were developed from watching animal movements and at least one came from watching apes/other monkeys.

I thought you were going to provide This link from the master.

Even if you could teach martial arts to a chimp, I don’t think you’d want to. :wink:

I don’t know that I would want to go about creating an indestructible army of ape-jitsu trained ninja-monkies.

Now get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!!!

What am I talking about?!! Of course I would!!

No, you couldn’t teach them any MA’s the same way you could teach a human; all they’d end up doing would be tricks - I doubt they’d “get the point”, and if they ever did fight a human (or any other animal) they’d just do what came naturally to them: grab, scratch, bite, maybe swat, and scream like hell; that’s all they’d need to do to beat most humans.

I think you could get lucky and KO an ape charging in with a good punch or kick, but you’d have the same one chance against a 300lb biker or football player charging you… I wouldn’t bet on it. Professional fighters trained for years at striking and knowing how their opponent will come at them rarely pull that off, so the odds of doing it to a different and unpredictable species are even lower.

IF none of the above were true, meaning you could teach an ape a MA so they’d understand “why” AND they’d actually use it AND they’d abandon their natural instincts (we’re already waaaay into fantasy land here), I’d recomend teaching them some ground and pound; basic wrestling takedowns and dominant ground positioning, followed by pummeling the victim senseless. I doubt you’d even need to teach them submissions since they’d have such an easy time controling the ground game due to their strength and dexterity. Skip the kicking (legs too short and stiff), and save the punching or hammerfisting for when the ape has the human pinned on the ground (standing they might be too slow).

Very true. Read Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzees by Roger Fouts for some insight as to what even a mildly pissed off chimp can do to a human. You’ll also find out the origin of my SN. :wink: