What We Can Learn from Batman – a bizarre philosophical article

As you know, given that the majority of my time is spent talking about the great literature of the past, sometimes in these blogs I like to discuss the literature of our time, and not just books and poetry, but also music, films, and adaptations. Recently I was reminded of a quote from the ‘Batman Begins’ movie that truly inspired me, and that is, in my mind, an absolute true pearl of wisdom.

I’ll set up the quote for you however, to give a bit on context (and definitely NOT because I’m obsessed with Batman right now…)

Bruce Wayne’s parents have been murdered. Bruce has travelled the world, searching for the meaning of evil, and seeking to understand it and thereby combat it. He is sought by a guild of ninjas that recruit and begin training him to rid him of his former weaknesses. His trainer, a ninja played by the great Liam Neeson, remarks that Bruce must be angry, because it was his father’s fault that both his parents got shot. Bruce defends his father saying that the man had a gun, and that his father was unarmed. Liam coolly asks if that would have stopped Bruce from ‘acting’. Searching for a response Bruce bursts out to the ninja that: ‘I’ve had training,’ – implying that his father had no training whatsoever and therefore would not be able to have engaged a man with a gun.

It is at this point that the quote comes.

The ninja looks at Bruce for a moment as they spar, and then says: ‘The training is nothing. Will is everything,’

At first this idea may seem ridiculous, but I think it resonates with absolute truth. There is an old saying in Shaolin Kung Fu, that ‘First is courage, second is strength, and third is kung fu,’ i.e. third comes the skill and the training, but first comes the courage, or, in other words, ‘the will to act’.

If we look at it in a non-combative way, there are many fantastic musicians in the world. How many of the top ten in any specific style, instrument, or genre are auto-didactic, or in other words, self taught? It’s a large percentage, probably impossible to calculate exactly to be fair, but even for a lot of the musicians that did have tutors or teachers: they began experimenting on their own, or conversely left their teachers to become self taught once they’d reached a certain level. There is a sense that with an absolute motivation to do something, the acquirement of skills becomes secondary to the will to do it itself, and that I believe is what we can learn from a Batman movie…

‘The training is nothing. Will is everything.’ – you have to will something for the training to even begin, and when you do train you find that the thing that sets apart good sportsmen from great, good musicians from phenomenal, excellent writers from the outstanding, is the will and courage that comes through.

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed it!

If you want to read more articles you can by following me on Twitter at: josephwordsmith

And if you want my recommendation of a film to see: The Dark Knight Rises is coming out July 20th. I’m literally like an excited school girl…


3 thoughts on “What We Can Learn from Batman – a bizarre philosophical article

  1. In context of the film, I don’t know if I can agree with this philosophy. Ras Al Ghul implies that if Bruce’s father would have had the “will to act” than he would have been able to save himself and his family. Police officers are required to go through intensive training before they are able to react appropriately to high tension situations, for example when someone is pointing a gun at them, the heart rate goes up, adrenaline kicks in and the options are fight, flight or paralysis from fear, paralysis being the more common scenario, most people cant move because they are terrified, only after training under pressure are they able to respond appropriately. Think about it, what could Doctor Wayne have done ? Used his non existent training to disarm the man ? He did what any logical person would do he gave the robber his wallet. The notion that if he had just had the “will to act” then he would have been able to save his family is absurd. If you take a novice fighter and put him in the ring with a professional fighter, having the “will to act” will not help him win the fight, to quote a line from The Mask Of Zorro, “You would have fought very bravely and died very quickly”.

    1. Gabe, all true. I think if you read my article a little more closely, you’ll see that I’m not interpreting this quote as ‘if you have will you need nothing else’, I’m interpreting it that ‘without will, nothing can get achieved in the first place.’ If said police officer from your example has no will to face people who are armed with guns or weaponry, then we won’t even be able to get to the training stage.

      And yes, Wayne could have done something without training. Anybody could. It might not have worked, but they both died anyway – so what would have been the harm in trying?

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