Most readers of Sherlock Holmes stories and adventures are already very familiar with the character’s methods of deduction and observation. It is after all the stuff of legend. But what of Sherlock Holmes fighting style? Dealing with criminals and murderers requires physical prowess to match the mental acuity.
Sherlock Holmes Fighting Style and Skills
Throughout the many Sherlock Holmes stories Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduces us to the various ways that Holmes could physically take on a criminal. Sherlock was a master with both a weapon and hands, and was quite able to disable an attacker.
Sherlock Holmes was physically a strong man although he did not exercise for exercise sake; bodily exertion being a waste of energy. However he did possess strong fingers (The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet) and was an exceptional runner (The Hound of The Baskervilles).
Holmes demonstrates his strength in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”. Watson writes that Dr. Grimsbey Roylott in his tirade against Holmes for meddling picks up a steel poker and bends it into a curve with his bare hands. After the Doctor leaves, Holmes said, “laughing, ‘I am not quite so bulky, but if he had remained I might have shown him that my grip was not much more feeble than his own.’
As he spoke he picked up the steel poker and, with a sudden effort, straightened it out again.” In “The Yellow Face” Watson comments of Holmes, that “Few men were capable of greater muscular effort.”
Sherlock Holmes Martial Arts and Boxing Skills
Sherlock Holmes was a noted boxer who was quite adept with his fists and was also familiar with the martial arts. In “The Adventure of Empty House”, Holmes remarks to John that it was his knowledge of martial arts that enabled him to fling Moriarty to his death at the Reichenbach Falls. Holmes says: “I have some knowledge … of bartitsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me”.
In “The Sign of Four”, Holmes confronts McMurdo, a prize fighter, as “the amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison’s rooms on the night of your benefit four years back.” McMurdo remembers: “Ah, you’re one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy”.
Other stories that remark about Sherlock Holmes boxing abilities include “The Adventure of The Gloria Scott”, “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist” and “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty”. Apparently Holmes was an excellent boxer as he was always victorious.
And who could forget the famous boxing scene in the 2011 movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows?
Sherlock Holmes Boxing Scene
Sherlock Holmes Weapons
Watson and Sherlock frequently set off on their adventures with pistols “in hand”. Watson most likely had his army service revolver (probably a Mark III Adams revolver) issued to British troops during the 1870s) and Holmes had a Webley Bulldog. There are numerous mentions of pistols in many of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
In “The Musgrave Ritual”, Holmes “decorates the wall of his flat with a patriotic VR (Victoria Regina) of bullet holes”, in “the Hound of The Baskervilles” the hound is killed by a well placed shot by Holmes. “The Adventure of the Empty House” sees Holmes pistol-whipping Colonel Sebastian Moran and in “The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”, “The Adventure of Black Peter and “The Adventure of The Dancing Men” guns are used to capture the criminals. A pistol is used by Sherlock in “The Adventure of Thor Bridge” but only as a demonstration piece when he borrows Watson’s pistol.
The cane sword (“The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” Sherlock practices fencing.) and riding crop are other tools that Holmes was adept at using. Holmes usually carried a cane and in several stories he had cause to use it. In “The Adventure of The Speckled Band” Holmes uses the riding crop to drive off the adder and in “The Six Napoleans” he uses the crop to break open a plaster bust.
When Sherlock Holmes fighting skills are combined with his powers of deduction and observation it is easy to see why he was a formidable opponent to the criminal mind.
This marriage of intellect and physical control is illustrated so beautifully in this final fight scene between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Moriarty in A Game of Shadows. Enjoy!