One consistent thread throughout Batman canon is that Bruce Wayne, in order to become the legendary crime fighter and world's greatest detective, spent many years of his life training in escape artistry, martial arts, various technological fields related to crime, and other talents.

To learn those skills, particularly martial arts and other hands-on skills, he had to have a teacher of some sort, or at least a partner to go up against. And while he could use a pseudonym, the second he becomes Bruce Wayne again, he's a world-famous figure in the business world.

How is it that his past trainers and partners haven't recognized this incredibly famous figure who they once taught suspicious crime-fighting skills to?

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    Do you know what Lachlan Murdoch or Rory Gates look like? high net worth individuals often lead relatively private lives.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 20:46
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    And so what if they recognise Bruce Wayne? Heck, Vladimir Putin is a black belt and he's hardly a supervillain. Oh, no wait...
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 20:48
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    Either that, or his trainers are in the same lime pit as all the contractors and workers involved in the construction of the Batcave.
    – Kyle Jones
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 21:11
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    Do you mean to imply that the existence of Batman is implausible? How dare you!
    – KSmarts
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 21:30
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    Ignoring the "which canon" question entirely (which is a bad idea). Some possibilities could be: Division of labor-if learns a little here and a little there he doesn't raise as much suspicion as he would going to caped crusader university; pseudonyms-at worst, when he returns to his public life, one of his old teachers would say "Hey Bruce Wayne reminds me of 'Frank'!"; distance matters-if he does a LOT of learning in remote parts of the world, no one cares that he's Bruce Wayne; Alfred-let's be honest, he doesn't just buttle.
    – geewhiz
    Commented Feb 6, 2015 at 22:36

4 Answers 4


Who says they didn't recognize him? Depending on canon, many of Bruce Wayne's trainers were the top of their fields in what they did. When Wayne wasn't roughing it crossing the world, he was training with masters, people so skilled at avoiding being found, it likely cost Wayne a pretty penny to be able to interact with them at all.

  • Bruce Wayne learned from people who simply had no interest in exploiting their knowledge of who he was. They were either already wealthy, or had NO interest in what Wayne had to offer.

  • There are people in the world who may be masters of their craft who do not buy into the industrialized world's perspective of "money is power". Either they already had their own power, such as Ra's Al Ghul, or eschewed money as a means of interaction.

  • They might have also decided that being in the debt of a man with power might be worth the effort to train him if they thought they could later control him. (See: Ra's Al Ghul)

In many of the canons of Batman's origin, the individuals he trains with are diverse and often secretive themselves. (See: Who were the 6 people who trained Batman in the New 52?)

  • Ted Grant (secretly the crimefighter, Wildcat) was one of the world's most formidable pugilists. A member of the Justice Society, he has his own secret identity and likely assumed Bruce had a score to settle and wanted him to be as prepared as he could be. Grant has no interest in exploiting Bruce Wayne.

  • Giovanni Zatara: Stage magician and member of a subgroup of humanity called Homo Magi. He trained Bruce Wayne in theatricality and slight of hand. No idiot, it is likely he knew who Bruce Wayne was and agreed to train him.

  • Henri Ducard: A trained and reputedly brilliant detective, he likely investigated who Wayne was and for his own reasons agreed to train Wayne. A devoted and slightly crazed man-hunter Ducard's ethical lack did not appear to make him interested in exploiting Wayne for his wealth.

  • Harvey Harris (From Detective Annual #1) Bruce learns the bulk of his detective skills from this man who was reputed to be THE best detective in Gotham city. Bruce tried to disguise himself and it didn't matter.

There are many other examples of individuals whom Wayne learned the bulk of his abilities from. He likely chose them because they were anti-social or disconnected from society at large, ensuring they would have little interest in Wayne once he returned to being his one-man war on crime.

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    Also, some might say, what difference does it make that the general public knows something like Bruce Wayne trained in Wing Chun from Richard Dragon. That seems like a perfectly acceptable thing for an eccentric billionaire to do with his leisure time. Even if everyone knew he had studied in all of those fields, very few would put it all together to form the big picture.
    – Monty129
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 12:51

His first master was simply experience

Batman's "training" is usually described to have involved a period of "reckless youth", where he wandered the world just getting into trouble. In the Nolan films, we see him stealing Wayne Enterprises property, and living as a vagabond in Asia. He seems to have taken a false name, although I don't recall if we ever learn it. But he talks about needing to steal to eat, so we know he's "roughing it". Various comic and cartoon stories have touched on this, but it's almost always there, and it's usually where he begins to pick up some skills in stealth, combat, and investigation. They're unrefined, but he has an aptitude even by this point.

Bruce Wayne sitting in an alley looking rough as if he's been sleeping out

For this period, he likely didn't make many close friends (he was an angry kid), and he probably used a fake name. If anyone did recognize his face later, it'd be one of those "wow that kid from ten years ago kind of looks like that celebrity" sort of things. Hardly a security risk.

His true "masters" often did know his identity

Bruce Wayne has had many masters and mentors in various stories, but the more they meant to him and the more important they are to his origin, the more likely they are to know his identity. Using the Nolan films as an example again, Ra's al Ghul did know his name, even before they started training together. I seem to recall an episode of the animated series where his old master dies or is in danger, and his identity is no secret there either. (I could be wrong about that, though.)

Bruce training alongside Ra's al Ghul at the League of Shadows

Generally, these figures are either so remote (e.g. a temple in Nowheresville, Nepal) that they aren't likely to ever spill the secret, or they are powerful and discreet enough (e.g. Ra's al Ghul and the League of Shadows) that they're keeping his secret, along with their own. Notably, this latter scenario has come back to haunt Bruce (for example in Batman Begins).

I can't recall him "training" or receiving any truly vital skills from anyone who was a security risk. His primary mentors seem to be either involved with him (like Alfred), aligned with him (like Ra's), or simply on the back-end of nowhere. They aren't strangers, who might "figure it out" and spill the beans. I've never seen any stories that had him learning to fight at the YMCA.

  • Something outside the Nolanverse would be appreciated, since this is all based on those movies so far, and not the comic books or anything else.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 2:20
  • The TAS episode(s) you're thinking of are "Night of the Ninja" and "Day of the Samurai". They have the same antagonist: an old sparring partner who knew Bruce Wayne and determined his secret identity after fighting Batman Commented Feb 7, 2015 at 4:30

There are a number of reasons this wouldn't be an issue:

1. Most Masters of note care not about a students profile or reputation, but about his character and intent. Traditional masters, at least. As a student of the fighting arts, its not uncommon to be in awe of a teacher who has earned a lot of renown... but if you speak with these "celebrity teachers" [think Bill Wallace, Don Wilson, Jackie Chan, Scott Adkins, Donnie Yen, Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee and many of his students], they often don't make reference to the ones they taught, save as examples to inspire others.

Think of it another way: Who were the teachers that taught them?

Most people will know of Ip Man as Bruce Lee's first teacher, but only because he has garnered a certain amount of legend/regard via big screen treatments of his life in films. But if this master taught the legendary "Little Dragon," how good did he have to be?

Someone like Bill "Super foot" Wallace will be well known because of his competitive career, but he had to gain those skills from somebody. And only rarely are accolades put onto his "Well known" students.

Nutshell: Most teachers who are true masters of their craft don't just go around "bragging" about the students they taught, and vice-versa, as a matter of respect. The few that do usually only do so to drum up business via association with a great.

2. Many of these teachers would be secretive in their own rights. This doesn't just account for his martial arts instructors, but those in most of the crafts Bruce learned. Wayne often sought out only THE Best of the best.... we're talking people like the unarmed Master, Lady Shiva, Zatara, and too many others to named. Many of these "Masters of their Craft" would only train Bruce under oath of secrecy.... hell, some of them didn't even want to share their knowledge at first. Others still---- like the guy that taught him expert race car driving in Brazil; sorry, name escapes me---- were straight up criminals! Example: In the animated movie Gotham Knight, Bruce is travelling the world picking up skills, and he wants to learn super-human pain tolerance. All of the famous gurus flat out refuse to teach him, as he is a foreigner. The teacher he finally does get is highly skilled...but she is an outcast to the others, and her teaching him brings her even more backlash. You can bet she didn't publicize it:

A lot of high level martial arts teachers, especially, are very much like this. Mind you, this is traditional martial arts; in today's MMA obsessed fighting community, it may be different, but I'm willing to bet Bruce himself wouldn't wish to be taught by someone whom would be so indiscriminate with such valuable knowledge.

On that same note... few would have an idea as to the extent of Bruce training, and the masters that did it, even in comics, wouldn't share that knowledge or the fact that they trained him so readily. In fact, in most cases, they even did the training itself in secret, as seen here:

Bruce is training meditation under a waterfall by an unnamed master

I don't remember the name of this particular master, but in-story he didn't strike me as the kind of man that would go to such lengths to train a student and then seek world wide praise for it. Again, as a student, traditional martial arts may have their faults... but a Sensei that speaks of mastery of mind and body wouldn't likely be the first person to seek worldly fame for passing on skills that help people to defend their lives. Even if they recognized their students gifts in the exploits of the Batman... it would essentially be breaking a sacred trust to "out him" like that.

And remember: the bulk of what happens on Batman's missions is not known to the public. So there would be very little opportunity to compare specialized techniques to what some rich guy you taught years ago may have learned, anyway.

So these are just a few in-story reasons his skills are so secret.


There's a whole other, meta possibility which is separate from the "in-story" issues I mentioned in my last answer, so I thought I'd mention it here:

Many high profile celebrities know some form of self defense, so Bruce Wayne having this kind of knowledge wouldn't be seen as particularly "uncommon" these days... even if it was made public.

Question: What do Al Bundy, John Coffey, Rachel Greene, Shallow Hal, Sebastian from Cruel Intentions and Prince Hakeem of Zumunda all have in common... aside from being fictional characters?

Answer: They are all played by actors who have years of genuine martial arts training and experience!

While most folks may not be surprised by some of these actors, others would leave an average person shocked! Personally, I was astounded to find out Ryan Phillipe was a freaking tournament tested black belt in Tae Kwon Do... let alone that Ed Oneil (Al Bundy) only got into BJJ in his 50s and is now a recognized black belt instructor! Micheal Clark Duncan was known for football, yeah....but not being a purple belt in Gracie jujitsu! Jennifer Aniston apparently has been taking Budokan for over a DECADE; she is a very well known performer, but never has she been seen as a "martial arts" star! hell, even Jack Black actually took Kung Fu to prep for Kung Fu Panda... and is apparently quite good! Thing about it, one wouldn't know these celebs were so versed unless you followed them closely, or did the research... and it's rare that you see celebrity trainers "bragging" about their students in real life.

Apparently, though... this isn't an uncommon thing! Many celebrities take classes to avoid issues with dangerous fans, or just for health benefits; others (actors especially) seem get into self defense due to it being part of their characters' profile. For example, Eddie Murphy has been doing action films since the 80s, but got into true self defense some time in the 90s. In an interview, he stated that while having bodyguards is cool, because you are such a public figure, you could be subject to attack at anytime ... so learning some form of self protection is just a sensible precaution that a lot of public figures tend to take at some point.

Considering the amount of attempts on his life, threats to his company, kidnappings and ransoms to his adopted kids, and hell, just his (ahem) "childhood background"... Bruce Wayne would likely be in the same boat. And given his publicly acknowledged "enjoyment of extreme sports", I doubt many would find that too suspect if he added MMA or some even more obscure self defense art to his list of personal fitness hobbies.

While he probably wouldn't "broadcast it", for fear of the comparison, if some famous teacher were to say Bruce had been trained by them in the past, well...

  • "I've been attacked at my home and offices before"... (which is a documented fact)

    Batman from Brave and the Bold is attacked in his office by a "robot looking" figure

  • "Come on; killer clowns, Man-Bats, Mad Hatters, metahumans and then human gangs, robbers and murderers. I love this city, but Gotham is a dangerous place to live"...

    The Mad Hatter holds Bruce hostage whilst stating Batman needs to reveal his face on TV or Bruce will "drop a couple of hat sizes"

  • "My parents were killed in front of me by a gun-wielding mugger when I was just a boy..."

    A young Bruce kneels over his father's body shortly after he was shot

  • "I raise kids here, and I wanted to be prepared to protect them in an emergency situation..."

    Batman is surrounded by some of the Bat-children he raised cuddling into him as he says happy Father's Day to Alfred stood behind him

  • "I've had some crazy threats on my life from ex-girlfriends/stalkers"...

    Bruce is surrounded by woman all ogling him

    Harley questions Bruce over all the girl's names (ex-girlfriends) he speaks about in his sleep

Any of these excuses would make sense as to why Bruce Wayne would take some lessons in how to fight. And considering the popularity of MMA these days...it would actually be more surprising that Bruce is so high profile, and yet hasn't taken such a precaution! However, the whole scenario does present another problem:

Possibly similarities with his alter ego, thus heightened suspicions of being Batman.

This, though, would be a risk more only for his trained enemies,, rather than the general public; for example, the hero Wild Cat was seen as a brutal and very skilled fighter, but even with the same "Signature style," few ever suspected pro-boxer Ted Grant as his identity. Now, any reasonable fighter knows a fighting style is almost as distinguishable as a finger print.... but Bruce already has a few ways around this...

  1. He is versed enough in several styles and modes, from striking to grappling to military to weapons arts. As such, he does not need to fall into his "vigilante mode" in public, anymore than Saitama needs to resort to his "Serious punch" with most enemies; likely, if threatened, Bruce could do a little MMA, boxing or Krav Maga...all very widely known methods....to defend himself. This way he could stay unharmed, but not "out" himself with Batman-level tactical fighting, master martial artist skill or QCQ.
  2. The best secrets are those kept in plain sight; Bruce's persona has already been established as a "Billionaire Playboy with No Day Job", as well as the "Altruistic businessman and eccentric adventurer", with both the time and propensity to high adrenaline activities. But that's the brilliance of it: to hide his in-field injuries, true skill level and fitness from training... Bruce has made it publicly known he's into dangerous activities ("cave diving", "base-jumping" and "helo-skiing" in the Nolan films), and often goes on "pleasure trips" that have left him bruised up and injured.

I was looking for a panel to show it, but in one comic, Bruce (as himself) goes to the doctor to have a physical, possible for insurance purposes. Here too, Bruce says he is "an extreme sports junky," and has gotten "a few scraps and marks," as his upper body is a road map of healed scars you'd see more likely see on a soldier or pro fighter. The doctor puts him through a regular stress test to check his blood pressure and heart.... basically has him running on a treadmill and checking his oxygen level. All this, only for the doctor to say, in total confusion "According to this, Mr. Wayne... you have no stress!

Again, this makes sense; Bruce exercises daily, and faces everything from hostile take overs to explosions to gun wielding maniacs to world ending threats from alien Gods; him being "stressed" by a treadmill run would be highly unlikely. But in the comic, he uses "Eastern meditation with a guru, alternative therapies and daily yoga and weights" as a viable excuse...and considering he has pictures of himself actually doing this crazy stuff in different locations around the world, a few on-call personal physicians like Dr. Leslie Thompkins to fix him up whenever, and a public persona as a bit of a risk taker with the means to actually live this life regularly... these explanations aren't exactly out of the question.

I mean honestly, which sounds more likely: Your patient--- one of the wealthiest, most prominent, high-profile, and likely busiest people in the world---- is secretly a highly trained, near-peak conditioned vigilante who spends his nights tracking down and beating hardened criminals into submissions with his bare hands every day .... or that he's simply an eccentric, very active, thrill-seeking, easily-bored health nut celebrity who uses his money to keep himself in great shape with life coaches and holistic therapies, all to indulge in the type of craziness we see eccentric regular people do and document on Instagram all the time?

Oh, and who may happen to have taken some self defense classes from a well known coach in the past....okay, so? The guy is rich, was traumatized as a kid and has a lot of haters... why wouldn't he learn to protect himself in a pinch? That's just logical good sense.

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    You could add many names to the list, and not just martial arts: Geena Davis is/was a world-class archer, as an example. Commented Jun 12, 2020 at 16:01
  • @KeithMorrison Exactly. She's also a member of MENSA, thus a recognized genius. Natalie Portman speaks like 4 different languages, and the actor who plays Leslie Chow in The Hangover series was a licensed, practicing MEDICAL DOCTOR. Even as public figures, a lot of people wouldn;t know this about them
    – Russhiro
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 0:34

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