Could anyone beat a chimp in a fight?
February 24, 2010 2:01 PM   Subscribe

Could Bruce Lee (in his prime) beat an enraged chimpanzee in a fight?

My friend and I are having a dispute. In light of a recent NYT Article describing a chimp attack, it is pretty clear that an enraged chimpanzee is extremely dangerous and strong. I think there's no question that an average chimpanzee is much more powerful than an average human.

But what about a top human fighter? Someone who has trained extensively in well established fighting forms. Could an unarmed, top Martial Arts fighter (e.g. Bruce Lee) stand a chance?

I'm not trying to make light of a sad story. What happened was terrible. But this conversation with my friend does make me wonder what the limits of human strength and agility are. How much, exactly, can training and study increase human ability? Would it be enough to allow a human to fend off a large, wild, vicious animal?

I suppose I'll take anyone's speculation, though I would love to hear from those with a martial arts background.
posted by HabeasCorpus to Pets & Animals (45 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Does Bruce know he's going to be fighting an enraged chimpanzee?
posted by fatbird at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have heard of man vs beast , correct?
posted by Think_Long at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2010

Um, chimps are VASTLY stronger than men and have no qualms about ripping your skin off.

I'm going with no.
posted by The Whelk at 2:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

No, he could not.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: Yeah, no. A grown chimpanzee can be anywhere from 3-6 times stronger than an adult human male. His fighting technique would matter VERY little against that kind of strength.

Back in the early half of the century, circuses used to hold fights between apes and the strongest men in the town they were touring through. The men were generally knocked unconscious just a few seconds into the fight, after the first blow from the ape.

The answer is no.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Think_Long: I haven't heard of man v. beast, but thanks for the info.

Fatbird: yes. Assume for the sake of argument that Bruce knows, and can prepare, for his fight.

The Whelk: I definitely know that a chimpanzee is vastly stronger than a human. But I know that a lot of martial arts training involves learning how to fend off/dodge/block attacks. And I bet that Mr. Lee can hit pretty hard. I'm wondering if his ability to block/dodge/fend off the chimpanzee would give him the advantage.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:16 PM on February 24, 2010

No amount of martial arts training or strength training will make up for the fact that chimps are much stronger and faster than humans.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:24 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: No small amount of martial arts is knowing the human body, for instance, knowing where to hit, and how to move to get the opportunity to do so while avoiding making yourself vulnerable, exactly how your opponent will be able to move when you block in a certain way, etc. Nearly all of this would be out the window with a chimp.

I'm going with no. Not even Bruce Lee.
posted by Zed at 2:28 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: I think they have a crazy high tolerance for pain too, so even if Bruce landed a punch, it would probably only piss the chimp off more!
posted by lobstah at 2:29 PM on February 24, 2010

If you want to find a person to fight a 200 lb. chimp, 160 lb. Bruce Lee is probably not a good choice. A chimp versus, I don't know, Mariusz Pudzianowski, might be more interesting. But the point is you can't put that much faith in technique when you're severely outclassed in size and strength.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2010

Do remember that Bruce Lee was an actor first and foremost, although his skill at martial arts was undeniable, and a lot of his famous martial arts demonstrations (e.g. the one-inch punch) were against stationary targets.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: I came in to say pretty much what Zed said - unless Mr. Lee had a couple of good-natured chimps to train with and probably a year or two to work on it, most of his skills and reflexes wouldn't be any help.

For example, gauging your opponent's reach is a critical skill, and going to be wildly different with an animal with proportionately longer arms than a human's. Any joint locks or holds are going to be useless, and vulnerable points may be in different places or simply not be as vulnerable. Like, would a kidney shot do any good? Do they have a comparably vulnerable solar plexus, and where is it on the torso exactly? That sort of thing.

I would guess it's something you could train for, and some of the skills would transfer, but not that many - and that's before you get to the size/strength/speed issue.
posted by restless_nomad at 2:34 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: It doesn't have to be Bruce Lee. It can be a giant, angry Boxer, Mike Tyson, whatever.

But I've marked a few answers as "best", since they seem to get at my question. Thanks for the answers so far, keep em coming!
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: I'll bet a chimp would grab his Bruce's foot on the second kick and then eat his face.

I think part of the reason is that first, under all the hair they look pretty damn powerful. and that in their upper bodies they are more compact, with the muscle attachments reaching further down the bone than in humans. Like a lever, the further you grab it from the pivot point, the easier it is to pull. Us humans are lightly built for broad, repetitive motion like methodically running animals to the point of heat exhaustion. Our legs are strong but are designed so that the muscles are "geared" closer the the ends of the bones for efficiency. Chimps need to lift themselves around confidently and securely at dangerous heights.

I speak from some experience because I was once sexually assaulted by a monkey.
posted by bonobothegreat at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

What kind of fight? Can Bruce use a gun? It's only fair if we get to use our brains and tools in inter-species combat since those are kind of our things.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:36 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

That depends, would the bear have a knife?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2010

I don't think it's a foregone conclusion. Chimps aren't THAT big, smaller than the human fighter you'd put them up against.

The biggest obstacle is getting the human willing to really fight. That means going for genital grabbing and eye-gouging right off the bat. That's the reason chimp attacks are so nasty, they rip and tear and bite once it starts. Humans can take nasty beatings and keep fighting as well.
posted by FuManchu at 2:37 PM on February 24, 2010

From the 1930s through about the '50s, distant (and now long dead) relatives of mine had a traveling carnival show which went through a few permutations over the years, but basically amounted to them roaming around the deep south with a chimp or gorilla, and letting locals either box or wrestle the animal for a cash prize. They never went up against Bruce Lee, but the book Mae wrote about their adventures explained that the prize was for staying up for a certain number of seconds. She made it pretty clear that there was never any question of the chimp or gorilla actually losing. The trick was to make sure the human participant didn't get hurt, and that he took it all in good humor when he got pwned in no time flat.*

And by the way, when I knew them as a child, they'd retired and had a rundown tourist attraction/"refuge" for old primates in Florida. And Bob was missing a few fingers. You don't mess around with chimps.

*This was apparently what ended their Cuban tour in the late 50s. (Trying to keep the show going as the carny business was starting to die off in the states.) They were there just as the revolution was starting to flare up in the countryside. There were bandits in the hills, but the real problem was that macho Cubans didn't get the fun of it. They actually thought they were going to beat the chimp, and when they didn't they felt their manhood had been slighted. More than one apparently threatened to come back and poison or shoot the chimp. They cut it short and headed back to the states.
posted by Naberius at 2:40 PM on February 24, 2010 [19 favorites]

Response by poster: Bonobo, that's a really good point I hadn't thought about muscle structure. I didn't realize that our muscles were built so differently from those of a chimp. Does anyone know of other structural differences that might be relevant?

FuManchu: that's exactly what I was thinking. I thought "well, perhaps its likely, but it's not a foregone conclusion. We might have a well-trained, alert expert who could stand a chance". But from what other people have said, it seems like maybe it IS a foregone conclusion.

Again, I really don't mean to make light of the story. Actually, I was pretty terrified by it. All this time I am thinking, whenever I see one on TV "what a cute little chimp", but here is a trained officer, WITH a gun, scared out of his wits. So I'm just trying to figure out what the differences between man/chimp actually are, and if training would make any difference.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2010

One problem for Bruce in this scenario is that while he is quick and fast and strong, he is used to fighting other humans who are generally coming at him using some kind of system of attack. Bruce can see what the other human is up to and counter it in a predetermined way because he's trained for that.

The chimp will just go balls-out nuts, flailing in a way that is very difficult to anticipate and has no kind of system behind it that Bruce can figure out. Furthermore, the chimp won't have the same kind of compulsion to minimize it's own injury in a fight by showing restraint - it'll just go nuts until the nuts run out.

The chimp is dumber than Bruce, sure, but unless Bruce can use the environment and his McGyver-like wits to thwart the chimp through ingenuity, that chimp is going to roll all over Bruce until Bruce stops twitching. And then it may eat some of him.
posted by Pecinpah at 2:46 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Pecinpah and a few others lead me to another related question:

A lot of martial arts training seems to deal with how to defend against other HUMANS. Would these skills be entirely inapplicable against a chimp, as opposed to say, a tiger, since a chimp is (somewhat) bipedal, and probably uses its arms and legs when fighting? Are martial arts likely useless outside of a human context?
posted by HabeasCorpus at 3:02 PM on February 24, 2010

Yea, I'm gonna retract my statement. I think a nasty monster of a man might be able to fend one off, but not really win.

bonobothegreat's really? picture really drives home Lutoslawski's point: 200lb in a human means something much less than 150lb in a chimp. I guess we really are delicate ... like putting a greyhound against a pitbull.
posted by FuManchu at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2010

The typical way to win a serious fight between humans is either a knock out or to inflict so much pain that they have to withdraw.

A knock out requires hits to the head; especially ones that make the head "snap" quickly. But chimps have thicker skulls and proportionately smaller heads that humans. A knock out would be very hard to do, and short of the chimp being out cold, there is no way you're going to cause enough pain to stop an enraged one.

Something as basic as a stick might make it possible, but totally unarmed, it's verging on the impossible.
posted by spaltavian at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Another conversation on this topic.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:28 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Awesome point from spaltavian. Out heads are huge brain boxes that bobble around atop our tiny necks. Chimp's heads are mostly heavy facial bones and they pretty much have. no. neck.
posted by bonobothegreat at 3:39 PM on February 24, 2010

Not an answer, but somehow I feel an MMA fighter would have a better advantage than a Bruce Lee-type. If they could stay out of the way of the teeth and crotch-grabs, I bet a heavyweight cage fighter could at least subdue a Chimpanzee with holds. To that extent, I bet a fierce heavyweight boxer could land a punch on one that would knock it out.
posted by cusack at 3:42 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: A tiger? Hell, I don't think my martial arts training would avail me much against a bobcat.

Really, any kind of training that increases your speed, strength, balance, and hand-eye coordination would help, but in an actual fight the specific skills aren't worth as much. My dojo has a completely separate practical self-defense curriculum, because if you get jumped in a bar a spinning hook kick isn't really an option, and body punches are probably worse than useless.

Most of our practical training is target identification. It's nice to be able to break three boards with a punch, but a finger in the eye takes much less work and will win you the fight quicker. You also won't necessarily get a chance to get the first hit, or choose your terrain/distance/style, or even be able to stand up the whole time. These aren't things that come up in sparring or tournaments - even MMA is a sport with rules, and the things that those guys have to avoid are the things that they'd need to be able to do without hesitation if their lives were at stake.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that the martial arts are built around some pretty fundamental assumptions and changing the species of the opponent undercuts most of them. Classical ballet training would be as good or better against a tiger.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

And cusack, I specifically disagree with you about holds. They're dependent on the anatomy of your opponent, and I'm pretty certain most of a chimp's joints are hinged differently than ours. It wouldn't take a huge difference to make a given hold useless.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2010

Grabbing info from a straightdope, a 165 pound male chimp delivered a one-handed pull of 847 pounds, and a 135-pound female chimp once delivered a measured pull of 1260 pounds, again one-handed, while "in a fit of passion."

I could imagine someone really big and mean being able to do it, if they could get in first. More Mike Tyson in his prime than Bruce Lee, or maybe Andre the Giant. Anyway, the only way I could imagine a human "winning the fight" would be to move in and immediately attempt to deliver incapacitating or killing blows -- try to break arms and legs and ribs and dislocate or otherwise fuck up joints, and so on, and hope you can inflict enough damage quickly enough that the chimp never gets a chance to deliver more than a bare few blows on you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:50 PM on February 24, 2010

Penn State biologist Alan Walker hypothesizes that humans are weaker as a result of neurological adaptations that provide fine motor control useful for manufacturing tools and such. He published an article about this, "The Strength of Great Apes and the Speed of Humans" last year.
posted by washburn at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

And cusack, I specifically disagree with you about holds. They're dependent on the anatomy of your opponent, and I'm pretty certain most of a chimp's joints are hinged differently than ours. It wouldn't take a huge difference to make a given hold useless.

Well, a choke hold would work just as well on a chimp. I'd nominate Brock Lesnar instead of Bruce Lee. But the chimps might nominate a freakishly large member of their own species, so who knows?
posted by Thoughtcrime at 4:04 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd read lately that the 3-6 times stronger than humans figure was exaggerated. I went looking for it and only found this Slate Article. About twice as strong as us, but able to be brought to bear on a wider range than our strength can. (so, presumably, if Bruce Lee had positioned himself where a person could not hit at full strength, he'd be in for a nasty shock!)

The larger figures were from an earlier study (in 1924). Retesting in the 40s and 60s (and later?) showed it to be much less).
posted by Wink Ricketts at 4:10 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, a choke hold would work just as well on a chimp.

Except for that crazy long reach with disproportionate strength ripping your face off while you attempt to subdue them.

And the no neck thing.

Did I mention how close you need to get for a choke hold to be put in place? And that primates have fuckoffcrazy long arms and are also really strong?
posted by geek anachronism at 4:22 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

The NYT followup article is very upsetting.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:28 PM on February 24, 2010

No. Unless you give Bruce Lee a loaded gun. Then he would at least stand a chance.
posted by chairface at 4:35 PM on February 24, 2010

Best answer: To answer your second question: Martial arts are generally focused on defending against human attacks, sure, and while the agility, strength, reflexes and endurance that they provide would help Bruce a little in your scenario, we're not talking about just a strong humanish thing attacking Bruce - we're talking about an animal exponentially stronger than a human, and not only far more willing to inflict grievous bodily harm or even death, but actively endeavoring to do so. What advantages martial arts training might afford young Bruce would be quickly overcome by the chimp's sheer willingness to maim, and the addition of it's oral ability to do so. I don't know of any martial arts that even broach the subject of bites with any regularity, and that would be one of the more frequently employed weapons in the chimps formidable arsenal.

Someone has suggested that an MMA expert might have a better chance at defeating a chimp than Bruce would, but I disagree. Most BJJ holds or grappling moves would put a person's genitals, eyes or ears well within reach of the chimps burly fingers; a situation sure to end poorly for the grappler, as we have all read how human's genitals, eyes and ears are hard done by a chimp attack. Even a timely and well-applied arm-bar would be easy for a chimp to get out of by crushing the assailant's foot or biting right through their shin bone. A choke hold might stand some semblance of a chance if it didn't require a person to put their head so close to the chimp's head.

Once again, the issue is not technique; it is brute strength, the ability to weather blows, and the willingness to grab whatever limb is thrust out and chew it off that weigh so heavily in the chimp's favor.

So, no, martial arts training would not be entirely useless outside of a human combat context, but the advantages they confer would have more to do with running away, knowing how to work doorknobs to escape, being able to absorb a few blows before going down, knowing how to effectively dodge attacks you can detect coming and flow with those you can not, that kind of thing. Bruce 1-on-1 in a closed room with an angry chimp would likely not last longer than a few minutes.

If I had to chose a person to fight a chimp, I'd choose Kimbo Slice (though Lesnar is a good choice, too). He's not only large and strong and used to getting hit, but he's just flat-out mean. He doesn't try fancy things in fights and just hammers away until his opponents go down. Still, even Kimbo would probably lose a limb, if he survived at all, and both he and Lesnar get winded pretty fast.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:39 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

The relevant Straight Dope article.
posted by Lieber Frau at 4:49 PM on February 24, 2010

If Bruce Lee is not going to have a weapon, he's giving up the big advantage that humans have over animals. Being able to swing something around probably saved our ancestors a great deal of grief when they were face to face with chimpanzees and other animals looking to do them harm.

I think that if Bruce Lee were walking through a wooded area where he knew there might be chimps attacking him, the first thing he would do would be to look for some sort of cudgel. Preferably a nice staff about as thick as his wrist about 6 foot long. I really like his odds with a staff like that.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:12 PM on February 24, 2010

Do you think that bruce lee had the strength to rip a womans face completely off?

Thats what he is up against.

Also, the article says that the chimp they shot was 200 lbs and had been living off human food, wine, and xanax, so it was probably not a prime example of how strong and fit a chimp can be. He was like the overweight plumber of the chimpanzee world.

And he still ripped her face off.
posted by outsider at 6:26 PM on February 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Regarding the "chimps are X times stronger than humans" comments:

A human weightlifting is 100% committed to what they are doing. They realize that they are performing an act of extreme brute strength, and it is one that they practice day in and day out to work on form, technique, ect.

The world record for a male deadlift (human) is 939 lbs (without a suit, straps ect.). Assume that this took YEARS and YEARS of training to achieve.

Compare that with the article that most male chimps could deadlift 600 lbs no problem. Assume a chimp is 1/2 the size of a human, that is like going up to anyone on the street and saying, hey lift that 1200 lb bar, and they say OK! and its done.

The chimp lifting 600 lbs is not practicing deadlifts for months working on his form and technique, he is just lifting that thing up in a brute display of strength. Also, what incentive does a random chimp have for doing a deadlift? he will get a treat or something?

the human weightlifter who has the world record knows that he will go down in history if he can pull off this one feat of strength, and gives it all of his attention.

the chimp? eh, lets see. oh I did it? sweet more xanax please!
posted by outsider at 6:34 PM on February 24, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks guys.

I think the Chimp would win.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 7:13 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know you're already convinced but read this Esquire story and you'll be left with even fewer doubts.

An excerpt:
In the melee, one of the chimps dug in his claws and ripped the skin off the right side of St. James's face, causing it to flop over and cover his left eye, temporarily blinding him. One of the primates sunk his teeth into St. James's skull. He then closed his jaws on St. James's mouth, ripping off his lips and most of his teeth. St. James tried to put one of his hands down the animal's throat, but the chimp just kept chewing on it and chewing on it, and he couldn't get it out.

St. James fell to the ground, no longer able to defend himself, and for at least five minutes, the mauling continued as he lay helpless. One of the chimps gnawed on his buttocks and bit off his genitals. They ravaged his left foot, leaving it shredded...
(Admittedly, it wasn't one-on-one as there were a couple of chimps involved. But the outcome seems pretty clear.)
posted by puffl at 9:57 PM on February 24, 2010

I'm going to take the other side and say it's not entirely impossible that it could happen. But it would take a massive federal initiative.

Chimps, in terms of raw power, make even the most amazing humans look like dead sacks of shit. I'd speculate there are very few humans (currently or even historically) that would even have the physical power to hurt a chimp if, say, they got a clean punch right to the chimp's face. Maybe a young Mike Tyson hitting a chimp as hard as he could directly in the face, or genitals. Maybe. But who knows how much comparative difficulty it takes to daze or knock out a chimp? How thick are their skulls? I have no idea.

Couple that with the fact that getting the opportunity to actually land a punch would be extremely hard -- Tyson in the previous example would probably just be shrugged off and chewed to bits within seconds. And god, I shudder to think of what MMA tactics would result in; like people have mentioned, MMA would probably be the last fucking thing you would want to do. It would be like trying to have a cuddle battle with a landmine.

However! Humans -- if we have one advantage -- are really smart. As much as I loathe the various branches of the various militaries in this world, groups like the SEALS and the various super-duper soldiers in the Spetsnaz are pretty goddamn good at killing things in virtually any situation.

What you would need to do, if I could hazard some almost-certainly-wrong guesses, would be to get some of these dudes and train them exclusively in how to fight a chimp. For like, a few years. You would need to develop and perfect an entire fighting system for chimps, because how to kill a dude wouldn't cut it.

My gut feeling is that the longer the fight lasted, the more the human's chance of winning would drop from .001% to .0000001%. (I'm assuming that all of this takes place in just some neutral arena where there is nothing to club the chimp with.) What the human would need to research, then, would be quick, surprising high-risk attacks that would daze, disorient, render unconscious, or severely cripple the chimp.

Chimps, despite their massive advantages, have similar problems to humans. They bleed, they can be blinded, they can be knocked out, they can snap ligaments and bones. Admittedly, they are much harder to deter with pain, but other chimps do it to them all the time.

I would try to research how chimps fight in the wild, then develop a way to fight them that they are not used to encountering. Do they just invariably go for the genitals and eyes? How quickly can they move laterally? Can they turn around just as fast? How much force is needed to break one of their small joints? How much to break an elbow? Can they be distracted or frightened? Where are their major veins and arteries? Could a human, with teeth sharpened to extremely fine points and a strengthen'd jaw, bite to and through these? How hard to you have to punch or kick to crush their trachea? To blind them? Would a clean kick to the testicles actually stun it, or just make it really angry?

I'd say that, if the federal government spent hundreds of millions on a special Chimp Fighting initiative, and they had their pick of a couple hundred of the very best recruits and a team of crack scientists, could develop a system for fighting chimps that, when applied by extremely trained, extremely dedicated and extremely fit soldiers on every possible type of steroid, resulted in said soldier being able to kill a normal chimp maybe 5% of the time.

"Not because they are easy, but because they are hard" - John F. Kennedy, 1962.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:04 PM on February 25, 2010 [12 favorites]

Funny how all the posts here have anecdotal evidence about the strength of chimps, and what a martial artist can or cannot do, but absolutely zero interest in what Bruce Lee could or could not do. This thread has inspired me to research (and by research, I mean go to that font of all wisdom - wikipedia) Bruce Lee and the dude was in the peak of physical condition, wicked fast, and from what I'm reading, not a bad fighter.

If a full grown Chimpanzee was to compete at London 2012 in which event would it do best?
Wrestling, they would tear apart any wrestler.

Chimps wouldn't do well in weight lifting however, they're strong yes but their muscle attachments are meant for pulling motions not lifting. They don't have the lower back and leg strength to actually stand up right and press that much weight. But if you have them pull the weight, then yes they would easily win.
Another unsubstantiated claim. What are the facts?

How Strong Is a Chimpanzee?
The bone-crushing power of the apes has been greatly exaggerated.

In 1943, Glen Finch of the Yale primate laboratory rigged an apparatus to test the arm strength of eight captive chimpanzees. An adult male chimp, he found, pulled about the same weight as an adult man. Once he'd corrected the measurement for their smaller body sizes, chimpanzees did turn out to be stronger than humans—but not by a factor of five [as previously claimed] or anything close to it.

Repeated tests in the 1960s confirmed this basic picture. A chimpanzee had, pound for pound, as much as twice the strength of a human when it came to pulling weights. The apes beat us in leg strength, too, despite our reliance on our legs for locomotion. A 2006 study found that bonobos can jump one-third higher than top-level human athletes, and bonobo legs generate as much force as humans nearly two times heavier.
Now what about Lee?

Physical fitness and nutrition of Bruce Lee
Joe Lewis, voted the greatest fighter in karate history[12] attaining the titles of "United States Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion", "World Heavyweight Karate Champion" and "United States National Black Belt Kata Champion", states "Bruce was incredibly strong for his size. He could take a 75lb barbell and from a standing position with the barbell held flush against his chest, he could slowly stick his arms out, lock them and hold the barbell there for 20 seconds, that's pretty damn tough for a guy who at the time only weighed 138 lb. I know 200lb pro weight lifters who can't do that.[13]"

An article of the S. China Post writes "When a doctor warned him not to inflict too much violence on his body, Bruce dismissed his words. 'the human brain can subjugate anything, even real pain' --Bruce Lee.[20]"

Hayward Nishioka, a former National AAU judo champion, experiences first hand with a pad on his chest Lee's one-inch punch and describes what follows: "When Bruce punched me, I was almost jolted out of my pants and I bounced off the wall. But I couldn't believe it, so I told Bruce to do it again. After the second punch I was completely convinced. I never thought anyone could be that strong[21]."

Chuck Norris states, "Lee, pound for pound, might well have been one of the strongest men in the world, and certainly one of the quickest."[7][8][9][10][11]
In Bruce's defense - and I'm a disinterested party here, just someone who did some research, the chimp would have no fight training & wouldn't block the various kicks & punches coming out of Lee (at a blazing speed) & Lee would have a lot of training dodging/blocking any kind attack the chimp would attempt.

The chimp would probably start with a display of aggression - arms raised above his head, beating his chest, etc. and Bruce would land a few punches and then get the fuck out of there if things looked grim. As people above have stated, humans are optimized for running, and
Lee trained from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., including stomach, flexibility, and running, and from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. he would weight train and cycle. A typical exercise for Lee would be to run a distance of two to six miles in 15 to 45 minutes, in which he would vary speed in 3–5 minute intervals. Lee would ride the equivalent of 10 miles (about 16 kilometers) in 45 minutes on a stationary bike.[5]

Lee would sometimes exercise with the jump rope and put in 800 jumps after cycling. Lee would also do exercises to toughen the skin on his fists, including thrusting his hands into buckets of harsh rocks and gravel. He would do over 500 repetitions of this on a given day.[6]
If forced to stick it out, I'd give Lee at least even odds. Sure he's optimized his fighting technique for humans, but that doesn't negate his speed, accuracy, training or strength.
[post above] Chimps, in terms of raw power, make even the most amazing humans look like dead sacks of shit. I'd speculate there are very few humans (currently or even historically) that would even have the physical power to hurt a chimp if, say, they got a clean punch right to the chimp's face. Maybe a young Mike Tyson hitting a chimp as hard as he could directly in the face, or genitals. Maybe. But who knows how much comparative difficulty it takes to daze or knock out a chimp? How thick are their skulls? I have no idea.
Not a lot of people get knocked out in one punch either. Also, if only there were a way to compare chimp skulls to human skulls (as if that were the factor here - do you really think you knock someone out by fracturing their skull?)
Chimpanzee Fight Question From El Diablo
The thickness of an animal's skull has relatively little to do with its proclivity to getting knocked out. When a person gets knocked unconscious it is because of an intense whipping force that causes their brain to bump against their skull. This is the reason that it is much more dangerous for a fighter to get punched in the chin than on the side of the head: it is the whiplash effect that causes someone to get knocked out. The thickness of one's skull is not variable in the equation. Having a really strong neck is actually the best defense against getting knocked out.
(incidentally, chimps do seem to have thick necks)

Ferocity of chimpanzee attack stuns medics, leaves questions
St. James Davis took the brunt of the attack, the ferocity of which left paramedics stunned. ''I had no idea a chimpanzee was capable of doing that to a human," said Kern County Fire Captain Curt Merrell, who was on the scene.

Davis, who remained in critical condition Friday, was badly disfigured. According to his wife, he lost all the fingers from both hands, an eye, part of his nose, cheek and lips, and part of his buttocks. His foot was mutilated and his heel bone was cracked.


Male chimps usually stand about 4 feet tall and weigh between 90 and 120 pounds, specialists say. They are strong and aggressive animals who routinely kill and devour much larger animals in the wild. Their upper body strength is said to be five to 10 times that of the average human.
(we already know that last statement is bogus & just a repeat of folklore.)

So what do chimps really have over Bruce Lee?

Bruce Lee:

+ training
+ speed


+ ferocity
+ teeth

What I'm not willing to concede to either:

= odd physiology (human physiology is equally strange to chimps), though humans, being larger, have their vulnerable bits a bit more exposed, chimps on the other hand are awkward on their feet.
= strength - I'm going to put them as roughly equal here unless anyone else can provide real evidence that chimps are THAT MUCH stronger than humans.

Also we should distinguish between a chimp who's been lazing around in a zoo & one who's been active in the wild, exercising & getting into fights.
posted by MesoFilter at 2:48 PM on February 25, 2010 [4 favorites]

Good point. Bruce Lee could probably beat up a chimp.
posted by Damn That Television at 10:50 PM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

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