”What is the point of all those push-ups if you can’t even lift a bloody log?”
– Alfred Pennyworth, Batman Begins
I had some spare time and fell into the trap of watching a handful of YouTube videos on what it would take to become Batman. There are the back stories and information referenced in the various comic book incarnations, which serve as the primary sources for these videos, along with Paul Zehr’s book, Becoming Batman. The book basically breaks down what gets referenced in the comics and points out just how long it would take someone to get to that level of proficiency and conditioning, followed by how short the career would be.
To summarize Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman: he inherits, due to the murder of his parents at a young age, a remarkable family fortune. Due to a corrupt city and such an injustice and tragedy, he is so driven by hate and revenge and the overriding desire to prevent such a thing ever happening again to someone else, that he transforms himself into the ultimate crimefighter. In doing so, he studied virtually every Martial Art known to exist. At age 14, he goes to Europe, where he studies at every major university in every applicable course he can, running the gamut from chemistry to electrical engineering and a whole host of subjects in between. He never sleeps, which is partly why he can do so much. He has an unworldly high IQ, world-class genetics, and a training regimen every day that makes gymnasts and top competitive bodybuilders seem lazy, all the while solving the case and beating up the Joker and his hired goons.
Even though he is not a “superhero” in the sense of having “super powers” like Spiderman or the Flash, what they did was create a character with the superhuman ability to train, study, and learn. He may not be a superhero, but he is in the 1% of human potential and capability in all aspects of abilities. Not that it would be impossible for such a human superhero vigilante to exist, but it is somewhat implausible… (yes, I realize I am saying this where in such a comic universe there are aliens in blue suits flying around, shooting laser beams out of their eyes). But what if we flipped it on its head for a second, and rather than see Batman/Bruce Wayne as this remarkable genetic phenomenon with an amazingly unrealistic training and study regimen, we used an “80/20” approach, and examined his lifestyle from a Tim Ferriss perspective? What would Batman’s existence look like then?
As a kid having such a tragedy happen to him, I think we can agree that – superhuman or not – his parents’ death creates the motivation to cultivate the discipline required to be such a crimefighter. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying, “We over-estimate what we can do in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten.” If we also add (although misleading at times depending on the activity) Malcolm Gladwell’s use of the 10,000 hours to mastery, along with the 10-year rule for accomplishing high proficiency in sports, his initial training and beginning is not so out of the realm of possibility. Learning how to learn would be his initial advantage. Teaching himself to speed-read would be massively advantageous. Using memory techniques such as the “Memory Palace” for remembering concepts and the Peg system for remembering large chunks of numbers would help immensely. Although the comics have him going to Europe to study anything and everything at all the major and famous institutions, with his inherited fortune (and thus, sufficient passive income), I would argue that his education would have been far less formal and far more personal and home-schooled, hiring tutors and experts in the various fields that would serve him most. Alfred would ensure he got enough of a well-rounded liberal arts/classical education possibly modeled on St. John’s University’s (Annapolis and Santé Fey Campuses) Curriculum, which tackles a lot of the great works from Plato’s Republic to Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica – but also in the subjects most conducive to aiding him in crimefighting, mainly criminology and forensics. It is here that I want to remind all the Batman fans that the comics started out with him as more detective and far less “superhero.”
But you can accomplish a lot in 10 years. He could have trained for several years in gymnastics, especially if receiving private instruction. He would not have cared about competitive scores out of 10 performances where his moves had to be “perfect,” but how to do it well enough to strengthen his body and to perform without getting hurt. This is totally doable. He also could have skipped it entirely and gone straight into parkour, but the gymnastics has been proven to be the best at being transferable across other sports. Plus, it would be easy to have a set of rings, bar, and tumbling mat placed in the Bat Cave to do the basic exercises on a semi-regular basis.
As it pertains to his education from, say, age 14-24, much of the comic books are not so far-fetched; we’ve just dialed in the focus and created a more accurate and systematic approach. Bruce Wayne would likely still have a high enough IQ in the 120s or 130s. He isn’t an outright outlier with an Oppenheimer IQ, but it would be high enough that he would be (if he so chose) a successful doctor, lawyer, or engineer. He would have an initial aptitude for solving difficult puzzles and cases, but would also spend a lot of time immersed in that kind of critical thinking and work.
Going back to his physical training: gymnastics, for sure. Strength-training and Martial Arts? This is where we get into the reason why I wanted to add my two cents and write this. The comic books have him studying every Martial Art and lifting all kinds of weights at incredible volumes and with, honestly, ridiculous amounts of weight. For being “normal,” the comics still have him as super strong. I think we could create a very realistic “non-superhuman” approach to his training that would still garner remarkable results and, once being Batman “fulltime” as an adult, still allow him to get in the training he would need, but at realistic volumes and within a realistic time frame.
My ideas would be that when it came to fighting hand-to-hand, he would likely have had a Bruce Lee mindset. During this hypothetical 10 years, I can imagine him having opportunities to take classes, such as boxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and Aikido, but he would then only incorporate what we found useful while discarding the rest. I imagine he would not care about belts and belt systems, so in his private lessons, he would be far less concerned with Katas and rituals of each respective Martial Art and, rather, only be interested in the most effective, applicable, and easy-to-learn techniques. He would not be concerned about style points, so I would infer his fighting would be modeled far more on Fairbairn and Sykes World War 2 combatives, or Krav Maga for surviving close-quarter fighting with the thugs. Once he was Batman full-time, he wouldn’t have to spend very much time, if any, having to constantly practice the fine motor skills and wide ranging, varied, and often not-so-effective techniques that do exist in most Martial Arts. Because he is not training for sport, he would only need a simple and straightforward toolbox of gross motor movements that have been tried and proven to get the job done.
Strength training would follow this same vein of logic; although he might initially start out making the same mistake that many of us make (training like a professional bodybuilder), I think he would ultimately settle on HIIT principles, adopting a Barry Ross, or Charlie Francis, approach to heavy strength training and, for improving endurance, using a HIIT approach as researched and prescribed by Dr. Gibala with the occasional strength and metabolic conditioning routine Arthur Jones – and more recently, Dorian Yates and Dr. McGuff – would design. These protocols/approaches are remarkably effective while not requiring huge amounts of time, in conjunction with minimum time on the rings or bar and mat to keep up the specific strength gymnastic movements require.
His job as Batman would take care of the rest. As pointed out by Dr. McGuff and John Little, “competition is training.” So, we can also allow for the reality that some nights, he will be getting into fights and having to use his parkour skills to get himself in and out of trouble. He would be spending many days not needing to train, but recover from the action of the previous night.
Throw in some meditation and an understanding of alpha and theta brainwaves, or “in-the-zone” states of consciousness and breathing exercises like those taught by Wim Hoff, and I think you could take a lot of what is described in the comics and create a weekly system that could still garner most, if not all, the results he would be seeking to attain and maintain without the ridiculous amounts of volume and time in training. I also think that this could all be done without going without sleep or adopting the “Uberman’s” sleeping protocol. He could do that, but I think simply being a night owl would still all work out just fine.
I am also going to go out on a limb on this and add that I don’t think Batman would be “out on patrol” saving Damsels in Distress (as fun as that is in the comics and movies). He would only be out in the city when he needed to break into the crime scene to do his own forensics, or be on a stakeout of his own, and/or breaking into suspects’ locations for his own reconnaissance. He could take some computer courses and learn the art of hacking to get into the Gotham City Police Department mainframe, or into any other computer system he believed necessary.
To recap what his daily and weekly schedule might look like: 2-3 times a week, for only about 20 minutes, he would spend time doing a Barry Ross protocol of two heavy sets of deadlifts for strength and neuromuscular development/maintenance. (He could be a 500-lbs deadlifter, which would mean he is more than strong enough to fight bad guys.) He would probably jump on the rings or high bar for 20 minutes or so every couple of days for maintaining his gymnastic abilities, helping keep him agile and flexible.
Every now and then, as Bruce Wayne, he might do a Martial Arts seminar, but likely would just need to use a heavy bag and punch and kick the snot out of it using Dr. Gibala’s protocols to knock out a 10-minute HIIT session. He also wouldn’t need to do that the days he used the rings or practiced other gymnastic movements, so he could be active and do something every day, but it would never leave him overtrained and/or overly sore. He could keep it to less than an hour, if not only 30 minutes a day, to build (and keep) his physical skills and conditioning up to snuff, while every couple of weeks throwing in a solid Arthur Jones/Dr. McGuff routine for good measure.
He would likely have a meditation and breathing practice, which he could do every day. He might even use a sauna to aid in recovery.
Then, it would be an hour or two to oversee his affairs with Wayne Enterprises. This is where his speed-reading would really pay off. Then, it would be getting to work on the latest case, because that is when he’d get the Bat Signal from Commissioner Gordon, who would apprise him of the latest unsolved case with all the clues and evidence they had gathered so far. At this point, he would get to work like any other detective, but with the deductive reasoning powers of a Sherlock Holmes as he worked on the case. He may spend some nights on stakeouts as he closed in on the next Gotham City villain. Then, just as he blew the case wide open, he would get captured, and we would have to “tune in next time! Same Bat time! Same Bat Channel!” He would then escape in time to catch the villain and goons, getting into and epic close-quarter combat situation using his gymnastic/parkour and hand-to-hand fighting skills to subdue said villain and goons. After all the fighting was over and the criminals arrested, he’d return to the Bat Cave for an ice bath and sauna, and go to bed. The next morning, he’d begin his day/week again with his morning rituals of meditation before hitting the weights for a couple sets, and because of the big fight the night before, he would take a couple more days off before hitting the rings or heavy bag again.
Having a passive income would allow him to, at any time he wanted or needed to, always be able to consult experts, whether that be in the realm of survival skills and combatives or seeking out former SWAT or Special Ops instructors. He’d be in the world of neuroscience and psychology, seeking out those doctors and professors to help him understand a villain’s pathology, setting time aside to study computer science or apprentice as a mechanic. He would be/is the walking embodiment of self-improvement; seeking out that which is useful to him and discarding the fluff and unnecessary. He would have developed a whole array of skills and skillsets because (1) he would not be wasting hours of his time strength-training or practicing Martial Arts, and (2) he would not waste his time watching some MTV program. Batman would be more like a “Navy Seal meets Sherlock Holmes meets MacGyver,” spending a little time each day honing these skills, little by little.