Martial arts

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The Martial arts skill is used when attacking or kicking enemies while wielding nothing. Monks and samurai possess this skill, superior to the bare hands skill. The base damage for a martial arts attack is d4. Only 75% of all hits get the damage bonus from this skill.[1]

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

The martial arts damage bonus is now applied to all hits, though hits that roll a 1 on their d4 will still not train skill. Most of the numbers on this page need to be updated.

In 3.4.3, there was no to-hit bonus for this skill at all,[2] but there is a bonus in 3.6.0. In both versions, a bare handed monk without body armor gets an additional bonus of XL/3+2.

When attacking using martial arts without a shield, there is a chance of dealing a staggering blow, knocking the enemy backwards.[3]


The samurai has recourse to much better attacks than martial arts, but the extra damage compared to bare hands can come in handy against acid blobs and other weapon-damaging monsters. Carrying some form of ranged attack will greatly reduce your need to resort to unarmed combat, and even a monk can benefit from having projectiles at his disposal.

Attacking with martial arts causes silver damage if you are wearing a silver ring and no gloves, similar to any wielded silver object. Blessed gloves or boots (when kicking) cause +d4 blessed damage against demons and the undead. A ring of increase damage is a worthwhile possession for a monk who loses out on benefits of weapon enchantment, and these can be eaten if appropriately polymorphed and the ring is of the appropriate type (metal for metallivores, wooden for a gelatinous cube). The skill level for martial arts can reach Grand Master with large bonuses eventually accumulating.

Martial arts attacks do not break the never hit with a wielded weapon conduct, but neither do attacks from wielded non-weapon items, or ranged attacks.

Average damage

Since the damage bonus is only applied to 75% of hits, the average damage is not 2.5 + bonus, but 2.5 + 0.75*bonus. This makes the +9 bonus for Grand Master skill slightly less formidable than it might seem, but still very respectable.

  Bare-hand Martial
Skill Level +Hit +Dam Avg. +Hit +Dam Avg.
Unskilled +1 0 1.5 +2 +1 3.25
Basic +1 +1 2 +3 +3 4.75
Skilled +2 +1 2 +4 +4 5.5
Expert +2 +2 2.5 +5 +6 7
Master +3 +2 2.5 +6 +7 7.75
Grand Master +3 +3 3 +7 +9 9.25

Note that both roles capable of martial arts start with Basic skill, and no roles can advance to Grand Master in bare hands, so two entries in the table are not actually possible.

Martial arts skill

Martial arts
Max Role
Grand Master



SporkHack grants a to-hit bonus if you advance the skill.


Martial arts have been buffed in FIQHack. Glove enchantment is used when calculating damage, and martial arts attacks no longer do only 1 damage 25% of the time.


  1. Bare-hands or martial arts skill only grant their damage bonus if the d2 or d4 base damage is at least 2. See uhitm.c, line 438 and uhitm.c, line 904
  2. The bonus would be added by weapon_hit_bonus in weapon.c, but this is never called because uhitm.c, line 283 or uhitm.c, line 1957 checks if you're wielding something.
  3. uhitm.c in NetHack 3.4.3, line 972

This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.4.3. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-343}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.