With the first full trailer for Marvel's Iron Fist debuting during New York Comic-Con, it became obvious that the show will be a bit different than the previous Marvel offerings on Netflix. While Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage all have powers, Iron Fist really sets himself apart from the other members of the Defenders both in how his powers operate and how he came to possess them in the first place.
So far in the Netflix corner of the MCU, we've seen characters who have received their powers through external means that they didn't initiate. Iron Fist is different. His powers come from within, and took several years to cultivate into what they are now. If you're not that familiar with the character or how his powers work, here's everything you need to know about the mystical power of the Iron Fist.
The Iron Fist
Surviving the death of his parents in the Himalayas during an expedition to the mystical city of K'un Lun, Danny Rand was taken in by the inhabitants of the city. He was apprenticed to Lei Kung the Thunderer and trained in martial arts so that he might seek revenge for his parents' deaths. Danny wound up being one of Lei Kung's most gifted students, and set about hardening his hands by plunging them into sand, gravel and even buckets of rock. He was eventually given the chance to earn the power of the Iron Fist, but had to fight a dragon named Shou-Lao the Undying to accomplish this.
True to its name, using the power of the Iron Fist makes Danny's fists hard like they're made of iron. He accomplishes this by focusing his chi into his hands, giving them the signature glow of the Iron Fist. He is also able to enhance his natural abilities during a fight, improving not only his senses but also his strength, agility, speed, stamina and durability. This is why he is such a dangerous opponent, because when he's using the power of the Iron Fist he's even stronger, faster and tougher than he would be under normal circumstances. That's saying a lot, given that he was trained for 10 years in a mystical city of monks.
There's more to Danny than just the ability to make his fists as hard as iron during a fight, though. He has the ability to focus his chi to heal himself, or to heal others by laying his hands on them. This ability can even be used offensively in some situations, as Iron Fist used it to heal the demon-possessed Daredevil during the "Shadowland" story arc and break the demon's control over Matt Murdock briefly. He can also use his abilities to link minds with another person, telepathically fusing his consciousness to theirs (similar to a Vulcan mind meld from Star Trek). The powers of the Iron Fist have also included things like hypnosis, the ability to absorb energy and being able to focus chi into energy projectiles at times as well.
It's unknown whether this part of Iron Fist's powers will feature prominently in the Netflix series, especially the telepathic portion of his powers. Healing abilities could be useful in the MCU, however, and would certainly fit in with the other mystical aspects of the character. We may not see much of these other abilities in the series, however, and if we do they'll likely save them for the second half of the season. Then again, we might not see them at all until The Defenders.
K'un Lun Martial Arts
While it's easy to focus on the more impressive powers that Danny Rand has, it's important to remember that he's also a highly-skilled martial artist and acrobat who's trained in a very rare form of combat. The Iron Fist is itself a very specialized martial arts technique, but it's not all that Danny learned in his years of training as the Thunderer's apprentice. On top of the secret martial arts of K'un-Lun, Danny is also proficient with several standard martial arts and can combine them to make himself even more formidable in combat.
According to reports on the Iron Fist footage that was screened at NYCC, Danny's martial arts abilities will be showcased in the series using camera tricks or other effects to make him appear more calm and focused in combat. The descriptions sound similar to the end of The Matrix, when Neo was fighting the Agents and seemed to be exerting no effort at all. Given that he's a master of martial arts from a mystical city, it seems fitting that there are few in New York who could stand toe-to-toe with Iron Fist.
Gaining the Power
As mentioned before, Danny gained his powers after he defeated a dragon named Shou-Lao the Undying. The dragon's molten heart had been removed, and it guarded a brazier that contained the heart. Danny had to fight the dragon to get to the brazier, plunging his fists into the heart once he reached it; it was the heart that granted him the power of the Iron Fist, which is a part of the dragon's essence. Danny made contact with the scar where the heart had been removed during the battle, and this is what burned his famous dragon tattoo into his chest.
Danny Rand was not the first person to have the power of the Iron Fist, however; after he gained the power of the Iron Fist it was revealed that he was only the latest in a long line of individuals who had proven themselves worthy to wield it. Danny is actually the 66th in line for the title, with the first being Quan Yaozu. Though he's often referred to as the "Immortal Iron Fist", the only one who's immortal is the heartless dragon that actually grants worthy warriors its essence so they can harness the power of the Iron Fist.
Iron Fist's Limitations
Just because Danny has the power of the Iron Fist doesn't mean that he's unstoppable. There are other martial artists and super-powered individuals who can hold their own in a fight against him, and there are mystical powers that are able to overcome those that he possesses. His Iron Fist powers were stolen by a super-powered martial artist named Junzo Muto at one point, though Danny eventually got them back. In Iron Fist: The Living Weapon (part of All-New Marvel Now!), we even see Danny getting his hands broken and his connection to his chi severed in a fight against an ancient adversary known as the Old One that came from K'un-Lun itself.
Perhaps more importantly, though, using his abilities can be very draining. Mystical healing in particular can take a lot out of Iron Fist, with it sometimes taking a day or more to recover after healing someone else. This is a major drawback to his power, and something that we may see come into play in the Netflix series; Danny can't use his powers indefinitely, and when facing powerful opponents such as The Hand it's possible that his endurance will run out before the number of enemies do. This is why Danny is a martial artist first and foremost; even without his mystical powers, he's still a very dangerous combatant.
Daredevil season 1 & 2, Jessica Jones season 1, and Luke Cage season 1 are now available on Netflix. Iron Fist season 1 arrives on March 17th, 2017. The Defenders and The Punisher arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2 and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.