A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

7 People with Real-Life Superpowers

You won't believe the superpowered feats these real men and women have pulled off.

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Iaido is a Japanese martial art that emphasizes being aware and capable of quickly drawing the sword and responding to a sudden attack

 The samurai

With his amazing ability to move a sword with seemingly superhuman speed and accuracy, Japanese Iaido Master Isao Machii holds multiple world records, including the fastest 1,000 martial arts sword cuts and the fastest tennis ball cut by a sword. But to truly appreciate Machii’s superpower, check out this video, which shows him slicing and dicing a tiny plastic pellet fired at him at more than 200 mph. Humans aren’t the only ones, these animals have unusual superpowers, too.

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Malaysia Base Jump
Shamshahrin Shamsudin/EPA/Shutterstock

The woman who can fly

As a BASE jumper, Norweigan Karina Hollekim leaps off cliffs for a living. Wearing what’s known as a wingsuit, a full-length jumpsuit with additional fabric between the legs and under the arms, BASE jumpers “fly” for a couple of seconds before deploying a parachute to slow their fall. Hollekim has made more than 400 jumps, including from the Hand of Fatima in Mali.

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Lucas (R) with Brian Bushway (centre) and Daniel Kish from World Access for the Blind
Solent News/Shutterstock

The blind man who can see

Daniel Kish, 53, can’t see with his eyes—he had both of them removed during a childhood battle with retina cancer—but he has so finely tuned his hearing that he can navigate his bike through heavy traffic, climb trees, camp alone, and dance fluidly. His “power” is echolocation. To orient himself, Kish clicks his tongue and listens closely as the sound bounces off objects around him and returns to his ears at different volumes. Bats, dolphins and beluga whales use a similar technique, biosonar, to navigate the ocean. Kish is so adept at getting around using echolocation that other blind people hire him to help them get around. “That tongue click is everything to me,” says Kish.

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Artist Stephen Wiltshire sketching a panorama of London from memory
John Alex Maguire/Shutterstock

The man with the photographic memory

All it took for British artist Stephen Wiltshire to memorize and draw intricate details of the Tokyo, Rome, Hong Kong, Dubai, and New York City skylines was a brief helicopter ride over each city. Wiltshire, who is autistic and didn’t speak until age five (his first two words were “paper” and “pen”), has a highly-developed photographic memory—in his panoramic drawing of Rome, he recreated the exact number of columns of the Pantheon. These hidden talents of 24 U.S. presidents may be impressive, but they’ve got nothing on Wiltshire.

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Hong Kong Iceman, Hong Kong, Hkg Chn
Kin Cheung/AP/Shutterstock

The man who can withstand freezing temperatures

Using the Buddhist meditation technique Tummo, Dutch daredevil Wim Hof keeps his body temperature steady while enduring extremely cold conditions. Hof, whose feats have earned him the nickname Iceman, has completed several marathons and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in sub-freezing temperatures wearing only shorts. Hof holds twenty cold-endurance world records, including, at one hour, 13 minutes and 48 seconds, the record for the longest ice bath.

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Dean Karnazes photo shoot, London, UK

The man who doesn’t stop running

Dean Karnazes, named by Men’s Fitness as one of the fittest men on the planet, is the real-life version of The Flash—only with better stamina. As an endurance athlete, Karnazes has submitted himself to some of the most physically and mentally grueling athletic tests imaginable. Most notably, Karnazes has conquered a 350-mile run without stopping (even to sleep!), a sweltering sprint through the 120-degree-heat of Death Valley, and a marathon to the South Pole, where temperatures drop to negative 40-degrees-Fahrenheit.

Though Karnazes has already built quite the running resumé, he continues to search for new ways to challenge his mind and body. Recently, the super-runner completed 50 marathons—one in each state—over the course of 50 consecutive days. There is simply no stopping those legs!

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Spiderman, London, United Kingdom
Frank Augstein/AP/Shutterstock

The French Spider-Man

If you thought that the only way to harness the powers of Spider-Man was to endure a radioactive spider bite—think again. 54-year-old Alain Robert, also known as the “French Spider-Man,” is famous for his spine-chilling feats in urban climbing. Without any safety equipment to keep him from falling, Robert hoists himself hundreds of feet into the sky, scaling multistory buildings in broad daylight. Among his death-defying accents, Robert has climbed the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Canada Square tower, the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, and the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong.

Although urban climbing is not technically illegal, Robert has been arrested over 100 times for trespassing and causing public disturbances. Most recently, the thrill-seeker was arrested after successfully summiting a skyscraper in London, the 662-feet-tall, 46-story Heron Tower. Though Robert flirts with death each time that he mounts a slippery, sleek building, he takes comfort in the knowledge that he is pursuing his passion—and using his superpowers to do so. There might be a hidden superpower lurking in everyone: here’s how brain injuries can unleash extraordinary talents.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest