I have been watching the British TV show Sherlock and it has got me intrigued about the the character. Sherlock is mostly depicted as an extremely intelligent and sharp individual whose brain functions much much faster than others. But at times he is seen getting involved in physical duels as well and he does fairly well at that too. I want to know that does Sherlock the original character, has good fighting skills too. Do we have any instances from the novels that Sherlock is good at tackling the enemy physically as well. If yes then I would like to know about the skills he is having. You know like Dr. Watson is a very good shooter but this is because he is from Army. Like that


2 Answers 2


He does indeed have skills, all of which are listed in detail on his Wiki page. These skills include:

  1. Ability to use pistols, shown in a few stories e.g. Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four.
  2. Ability to use cane/walking stick as weapon
  3. "Apparent" ability to use a sword (according to Watson in A Study of Scarlet he is an expert). I say apparent as I don't recall it ever being shown in the books.
  4. Ability to use a riding crop as a weapon (and described in The Six Napoleons story as his favourite weapon).
  5. Formidable bare knuckle boxer, discussed and shown in A Sign of Four.
  6. Ability to use martial arts (in particular baritsu). This was mentioned by Holmes in The Adventure of the Empty House as how he defeated Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

Some evidence of his fighting skills:

With regards to his boxing (from Sign of Four):

“I don’t think you can have forgotten me. Don’t you remember the amateur who fought three rounds with you at Alison’s rooms on the night of your benefit four years back?”

“Not Mr. Sherlock Holmes!” roared the prize-fighter. “God’s truth! how could I have mistook you? If instead o’ standin’ there so quiet you had just stepped up and given me that cross-hit of yours under the jaw, I’d ha’ known you without a question. Ah, you’re one that has wasted your gifts, you have! You might have aimed high, if you had joined the fancy.”

With regards to baritsu (from The Adventure of the Empty House):

He drew no weapon, but he rushed at me and threw his long arms around me. He knew that his own game was up, and was only anxious to revenge himself upon me. We tottered together upon the brink of the fall. I have some knowledge, however, of baritsu, or the Japanese system of wrestling, which has more than once been very useful to me. I slipped through his grip, and he with a horrible scream kicked madly for a few seconds and clawed the air with both his hands. But for all his efforts he could not get his balance, and over he went.

With regards to the riding crop (from the Red Headed League):

“The light flashed upon the barrel of a revolver, but Holmes’s hunting crop came down on the man’s wrist, and the pistol clinked upon the stone floor.”

Fun Trivia:

Some bare knuckle boxing is shown in Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock films. This is because Downey Jr. is a practitioner of Wing Chun kung fu, so it was decided to include a scene using this as the basis of baritsu.

  • Wow !! great to know that Sherlock is a formidable bare knuckle boxer and knows martial arts as well.
    – Ankit
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 9:05
  • 1
    One of the key differences between Sherlock and his older brother Mycroft that comes up in the books is that Sherlock doesn't shy away from action. Although Mycroft is much more intelligent, his lack of energy and ambition makes Sherlock the better detective.
    – tobyink
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 17:56

In "A Study in Scarlet" Watson compiles a list of Holmes' limits and abilities.

  1. Knowledge of Literature.—Nil.
  2. Philosophy.—Nil.
  3. Astronomy.—Nil.
  4. Politics.—Feeble.
  5. Botany.—Variable. Well up in belladonna, opium, and poisons generally. Knows nothing of practical gardening.
  6. Geology.—Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance different soils from each other. After walks has shown me splashes upon his trousers, and told me by their colour and consistence in what part of London he had received them.
  7. Chemistry.—Profound.
  8. Anatomy.—Accurate, but unsystematic.
  9. Sensational Literature.—Immense. He appears to know every detail of every horror perpetrated in the century.
  10. Plays the violin well.
  11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
  12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

 #11 shows that he has certain abilities in this regard. This is also mentioned in other places in the stories.

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