Surpassed the Teacher

"The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now, I am the master."

For most of the career of a student, The Mentor overshadows the student in terms of ability. This is certainly justified, since it is the intention of a student to become more skilled by learning from a more experienced mentor.

However, there often comes a time when the student surpasses the mentor in ability. It is at this point at which the student reaches his full ability and becomes a master of his trade. This may result in the mentor becoming an Obsolete Mentor. If the student is arrogant, when he proves he is superior, he often utters a Stock Phrase or some variation thereof from which the trope name originates: "The student has surpassed the teacher."

If the mentor is the nice type, he will often be highly proud of his student (though perhaps with a bit of ego-stroking about his own teaching skills). If the student has surpassed his mentor but hasn't reached his full potential, his old master may tell him to find a new master who will teach the student more.

If the mentor is the jealous type, he may be quite jealous and resentful of the student's ability, and in extreme cases, the mentor may become the student's enemy. When both the teacher and the student are evil, with the student learning the ways of evil from the teacher, the student often proves his superiority by killing the teacher.

Direct Sub-Trope of Superior Successor.


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     Anime And Manga  

  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Yuuno is technically Nanoha's teacher in magic. In practice, however, she learns everything he can teach her within three or four episodes of the original series.
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Chrono defeats Liesearia and Lieselotte, his combat magic instructors, and explicitly tells them that he has become stronger than both of them.
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vi Vid, Teana beats Nanoha herself in a mock duel using long range bombardment—with Nanoha's own Starlight Breaker, no less!
      • In this case, Nanoha was weakend and has less than half of her life points and Teana had still her full life. For your information, the said mock battle is 6 vs. 6.
      • However, the few panels of the next mock battle feature Nanoha getting her revenge and shoot the hell out of Teana.
  • As part of Jin's backstory in Samurai Champloo, Jin, prize student of the Mujuushin dojo, became a ronin after killing his teacher, Master Mariya, in self-defense. This technically makes him the 4th and final master of the school.
  • Fatal Fury: Tung Fu Rue reunites with Terry and Andy on the ten year anniversary of their father's death, during which, he tells them their skills have already surpassed Jeff's. However, only one could become his successor. Adding that the one he chooses would have to surpass his own ability. Guess which one pulls it off?
  • Played with at the beginning of Dragon Ball. Goku's mentor, Master Roshi, disguises himself to participate without getting known at a tournament. The viewer expects this trope to appear, as Goku manages to evade all of Roshi's tactics to defeat him. However, despite Goku having managed to succeed to all of Roshi's attempts, Goku lost to him after he was goaded into a final jump-kick, receiving the brunt of the injury. There's also the fact, because Goku didn't know he was fighting Roshi, he never knew how strong his master actually is. There were some hints that Roshi was much more skilled than lets on in the series, though it became clear that Goku surpassed him by the 22nd World Tournament. He later repeats this trope with Karin, Kami and King Kai. Played for Laughs with the Grand Kai since by the time he reaches him, he's already much stronger! In fact, he was already stronger than King Kai when they met, as well. But there were important skills that Kai could teach him, in addition to helping him grow even stronger.
  • Averted in Rurouni Kenshin, where the title character cannot ever surpass his mentor Hiko, because he simply does not possess the physique to fully use the Hiten Mitsurugi style. Doesn't stop him from being awesome, though.
    • Also, when a Muteki style fighter whose sensei was killed by Kenshin showed up wanting to kill Kenshin for that, it was not for vengeance but because killing Kenshin would prove he surpassed his master.
  • Naruto perfected Sage Mode, which Jiraiya wasn't able to do. And in a way he surpassed Kakashi, because Kakashi, like the Fourth Hokage, wasn't able to add element manipulation to the Rasengan (which is why Kakashi made Chidori and later Raikiri).note 
  • Domon Kasshu in Mobile Fighter G Gundam surpasses his teacher, Master Asia, in the final climactic battle of the 13th Gundam Fight.

     Comic Books  

  • Wally West was once the first Kid Flash, the Sidekick to the second Flash, Barry Allen. After Barry's death, Wally was depowered due to events during the Crisis on Infinite Earths, but he eventually surpassed Barry in terms of speed and accomplishments, becoming the first speedster to enter the Speed Force and come back. All the Flashes have said it, but Wally West truly is The Fastest Man Alive.
  • Many of Batman's protegés have surpassed him in some way. Nightwing surpasses him as an acrobat, a leader, and at maintaining relations with other superheroes, Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon) surpasses him in intel gathering, Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) surpasses him as a fighter, and Red Robin Tim Drake will eventually become a better detective than him.
  • Matt Fraction's Hawkeye series has suggested that Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers has surpassed Clint Barton as an archer, being able to fire five arrows at once (after which he outright calls her perfect in his mind).
  • Transformers Dark Cybertron: Shockwave, the prize student of Jhiaxus surpasses him in the present. Jhiaxus even acknowledges it seeing as how Shockwave is bound by only logic and no emotion, so Jhiaxus willingly follows him on his quest to control reality.

     Fan Works  

  • Arachne Webber, a very incidental character in Snuff, is expanded upon as a student at the Assassins' Guild School in There's Nothing Like A Fresh Pair of eyes, Is There. In which her mentor, Johanna Smith-Rhodes, notes with pride that her pupil's specialist knowledge of spiders vastly exceeds her own.

     Film - Live Action  

  • Darth Vader provides the quote in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when he meets and kills his old master, Obi-Wan. It's subverted, however, in that Obi-Wan intentionally lost in order to merge with the Force, and Vader is disappointed that he didn't put up a fight.
    • In Attack of the Clones, Dooku tries to pull this against his old master Yoda, but ends up retreating and distracting his former master to survive.
    • One of the last things Obi-Wan says to Anakin invokes this trope, but it's later proven to not be the case when he defeats Vader in combat. Matthew Stover doesn't refer to Obi-Wan as "the ultimate Jedi" for nothing.
    Obi-Wan: You are strong and wise, Anakin, and I am very proud of you. I have trained you since you were a small boy. I have taught you everything I know. And you have become a far greater Jedi than I could ever hope to be.
    • Star Wars in general has many cases of this. The entire Sith philoso phy of the Rule of Two is meant to lead into the apprentice betraying his master once he has learned everything that his master knows, ensuring the next Sith masters can only become stronger.
  • Highlander did this, the end of the Training Montage with Connor and Ramirez has Connor finally besting Ramirez and disarming him.
  • In Searching for Bobby Fischer, Josh's dad blasts his teacher for flippantly referring to his remarkable talent and interest in chess as "this chess thing":
    You want to know how good he is? I'll tell you how good he is. He's better at this than I have ever been at anything in my life. He's better at this than you'll ever be at anything. My son has a gift.


  • In Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl learns the sword from a man also named Tarl, whom he refers to as "the Older Tarl." At every sparring encounter the Older Tarl beats Tarl and says "You are dead." At one point Tarl finally gets through the Older Tarl's defense; the Older Tarl cries out with delight "I am dead!" and clutches Tarl to his bosom, "proud as a father who has taught his son chess and has been defeated for the first time." Speaking of which...
    • In Assassin of Gor, Tarl teaches a slave girl to play the Gorean equivalent of chess, which slaves are forbidden to learn. He finds that she's a natural, and stops giving her advice on her game in order to concentrate on not losing too badly.
  • Mentor in Lensman flat-out says the Children of the Lens (the five Kinnison children) have gone beyond the Arisians.
  • In Matilda, it is clear from very early in the book that Matilda has intellectual capabilities that are certainly beyond that of her teacher, Ms. Honey.
    • Heck, Matilda has surpassed her teachers so far, she gains psychic powers, due to the lack of challenge. Once she's moved to a higher class, they quickly vanish.
  • In the Discworld Witches series, it is hinted in Lords and Ladies that the one thing Granny Weatherwax fears is the emergence of a witch who is more powerful than she is, who will compete for supremacy - and win. In the Tiffany Aching trilogy, such a novice witch does arise. Granny realises this, and neatly aces the dilemma by taking on Tiffany's teaching herself. This makes the prospect of a fight between them absolutely unthinkeable, and Granny realises that while Tiffany will inevitably eclipse her, this is so far in the future as to resolve the problem: Granny will be dead or "retired" by then and the succession of Alpha Witch is assured without bloodshed or catastrophic destruction. In the meantime, Granny is free to express occasional seemly pride.
    • Granny Weatherwax herself claims that she got the local witch to take her as an apprentice by sheer determination and following her around until the old witch taught her everything she knew... which took about a week.
  • In Pact, Jeremy Meath, High Drunk of Dionysus, demonstrates that his understanding of his god's will surpasses that of his teacher by making a formal challenge to the Magical Society of Toronto to claim his personal demesne before he's likely ready, trusting in Dionysus' appreciation for madmen to see him through. As a result, most of his teacher's followers defect to Jeremy's side, since Dionysus now favors him more.

     Live Action TV  

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Giles worries about this from season four onwards, since Buffy's at college and he's no longer her Watcher officially or unofficially. He considers leaving Sunnydale entirely, but changes his mind when Buffy asks for more training. When he does leave in season six, it's for the opposite reason.
    • Played with in late season 7; Spike directly confronts Giles with words along these lines, saying that one of the reasons he turned on Buffy was jealousy that Buffy had surpassed him in her abilities.
  • JAG: In "JAG TV", Mac as trial counsel (prosecutor) in a televised murder case faces her old law professor Juanita Ressler as defense counsel. Ressler knows how use the media to her advantage, while Mac is utterly dismissive of interview requests and is overwhelmed and distracted by the sudden interest of the media in her as a mysterious sex object. Following words of wisdom from Admiral Chegwidden, Mac begins to spin-doctor the media to her advantage which brings forth new evidence from anonymous sources which helps to convict the defendant for murder.
  • The X-Files: Implied in the episode "Grotesque". Agent Bill Patterson is one of the top criminal profilers and forensic psychologists at the FBI. He has a strange but understandable attitude towards Mulder who was once a part of his team, but unlike other young agents he didn't worship him and didn't want to be like him. Patterson on the other hand feels that Mulder threw away his amazing talent and instead of profiling criminals he chose to chase aliens and the paranormal. Mulder thinks that Patterson never thought highly of him. However, Patterson is probably a bit envious of Mulder's abilities and according to his team, he starts telling "Mulder stories" about him being "some kind of crack genius" when he's drunk. Sadly, Patterson also ends up being a Broken Pedestal for all involved.

     Professional Wrestling  

  • On NXT Season 2, David Otunga claimed he had surpassed R-Truth and tried to prove it when given a chance to wrestle any pro of his choosing. Needles to say, R-Truth was superior and would remain so the rest of Otunga's WWE run.

     Religion, Mythology, & Folklore  

  • In Classical Mythology, the great inventor Daedalus had a nephew/apprentice named Perdix who was an even better inventor than he was (he invented the saw, among other things). Daedalus got jealous and plotted to kill Perdix and claim his inventions as his own. As it happens, one day the two were walking by a cliff when Perdix asked how Daedalus's son Icarus died. Daedalus responded by throwing a valuable object over the cliff, and Perdix, struggling to save it, fell to his death.
  • The Chinese phrase "青出于蓝" literally means to make green/blue out of the indigo plant, but it also metaphorically means to surpass a teacher, like how one can refine a green/blue dye to make it more vibrant than the source of it.
  • Confucius claimed this to be the mark of a good student; the ability to learn everything your master had to teach, and then add something of your own.

     Tabletop Games  

  • A rare but possible result in Dungeons & Dragons basic set's weapon proficiency. By default, there's a 1% chance of doing so if you train with a teacher as skilled as you are. It's possible to boost it to 11% by training with another teacher, but it's more efficient to find someone sufficiently skilled.

     Video Games  

  • In The Elder Scrolls, you can find trainers who can automatically increase your skills for money (rather than grinding). However, each skill has a trainer for each rank of experience in that skill and can only train you five times. If you ask for training when you're too high level, then they'll say something to the effect of this trope. Except Master level trainers, who tell you that beyond this level (90/100) you have to Figure It Out Yourself.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you can undergo a minigame involving sparring with your former instructor in the art of swordplay. If you get a score of 1000 points, he responds in this manner.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3, Naked Snake finally surpasses his former mentor The Boss in a final confrontation where he had ten minutes to defeat her or else the area would be napalmed. Amazingly Snake is able to actually defeat her despite earlier not even being able to harm her in hand to hand combat, for the first time in the game Snake can actually counter his mentor's CQC attacks and respond in kind showing a vast degree of improvement in his skills from earlier in the game when she handed his ass to him. For his efforts Snake is awarded the title of Big Boss, showing that in the U.S. military's eyes he had surpassed his mentor.
  • In the Street Fighter canon, Akuma killed his master, Goutetsu, in a fair fight to show that he [Akuma] had truly mastered the power of the Satsui no Hadou. Goutetsu was actually proud of his student for having defeated him in battle.
    • Akuma also is attempting to have Ryu do the same by unlocking his Killing Intent. By this, Ryu would become Evil Ryu and then slay Akuma with the incredible power he has.
  • You better hope this is the case in Massive Chalice as it's directly linked to the level progression of the game. Children sired from high level parents gain a few free levels and with further training a couple more; this in turn allows them to level up past their parents and teachers, meaning that eventually their children will start with a higher level than their parents, and so on.
  • In Fantasy Life, the player is mentored by a character with the rank of Master. There are however characters with the higher ranks of Hero or Legend, which the player can eventually reach also. The Downloadable Content adds yet an extra rank.
  • In War Of Omens Listrata's mentor, Regent Ashkar, attempts to her for her treatment of the Pheneketians. She beats him in the following battle and thanks him for the final lesson.


  • In this xkcd comic, Elaine the hacker prodigy trumps Donald Knuth, her mentor.

     Western Animation  

  • Invoked and subverted in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, when the Son, embodiment of The Dark Side of the Force, kidnapped and forcefully turned Ahsoka to the Dark Side, and made her fight her teacher, Anakin. After she momentarily knocked Anakin's lightsaber out of his hand, she exclaimed that "Now the student will kill the Master!". Anakin of course easily got back his lightsaber and blocked her attack, warned her that she was getting carried away, before easily disarming her.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Pinkie Pride", after The Reveal, it turns out that Cheese Sandwich has done this.

     Real Life  

  • Can be Truth in Television: Due to poor teaching standards in some countries, it's common for the children to be better than the teachers. There was an incident in West Wales in 2005 where a child was told that he had got the answer to a question wrong, and he then managed to prove using basic mathematics that the teacher was wrong and his answer was actually correct.