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Taught by Experience
"A learning experience is one that tells you, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.'"
Some people learn by reading
. Some people learn by observation
. Some people learn off the telly.
Some people Know from Mortal Kombat.
And then there are those who just have
to grab the electric fence...
The human mind is an interesting thing. When we put our hand on a hot burner or put a penny in a lightsocket, what's left of us tends to not want to do that anymore. We learn from our mistakes.
Characters in a story usually begin their journey with little actual experience in the real world
. Somewhere along the way, they figure out how to manage. There is usually something either said or implied that being in a constant life or death situation has forced them to find some way to survive. By default, they usually become damn good at it.
When the time for action has come, the time for preparation has passed. Sometimes your Training from Hell
is not enough. Other times you have no training whatsoever. This is often how someone Took a Level in Badass
. Some are so good at this that they have Awesomeness by Analysis
, maybe to the point of being an Instant Expert
. Maybe, somewhere along the line, they learned Mortal Kombat.
This is a staple of MacGyvering
, the devices they make work because they have
to. The Crazy-Prepared
person is either this way because of past experience, or because they want to avoid the bruises associated with it. And this is implied with a person who has Seen It All
— they have experienced it personally.
Truth in Television
: want to learn German, live in Germany. Want to learn Japanese, go to Japan. Hard work is still needed to get to a well rounded skill level you need, because there's no guarantee that learning by experience will cover every critical area. Worse, because you learn what is "good enough" to get by and lack formal teaching that might spot overlooked errors, you may pick up bad habits that those with proper training are taught to avoid. And on the other side, the pure academic approach doesn't account for the "street smarts" and variations not found in the classroom. Let's just say there is a good reason why a leader needs to know what it is like at ground zero.
In Video Games
, especially RPGs, this is what they are trying to replicate with Experience Points
, especially in the more complicated leveling methods where performing an action repeatedly gives you more points to allocate to that skill area
See also the Sorting Algorithm of Evil
. Compare/contrast Hard Work Hardly Works
, The Only Way They Will Learn
, Sink-or-Swim Mentor
, Book Dumb
, and Wax On, Wax Off
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Mugen from Samurai Champloo has a bizarre fighting style. Jin (who is a classically trained samurai) even notes how his style is completely impractical, yet is one of the few men Jin could not kill easily. Mugen made mention that he grew up in very violent conditions, (living in a prison colony and being a prisoner himself) which forced him to figure out that style on his own. It works for him.
- In the final two-parter, the two two face off against Kariya. Mugen goes first and Kariya notes that while his movement make his swordplay unpredictable it leaves too many openings that a trained swordsman can easily get through. Adding that Mugen need to learn to adapt more in certain conditions. In the final battle he takes this to heart which allows him to off Umanosuke by using his scythe against him.
- A foundation of Dragon Ball Z. Doing some Training from Hell so that My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours often leads into a Determinator moment. As Goku once said to Gohan, "Power comes when there is a reason. Create your reason."
- Spirited Away uses this in the classic gentle Studio Ghibli way. Chihiro has to fend for herself. She has friends, but the story is about how she grows during the process.
- The first season of Lyrical Nanoha was a fairly ridiculous case: Nanoha became a mage when she was handed her Empathic Weapon and defeated the first Monster of the Week. She does this after school, and without any training, she's stronger than another talented mage that had been training for his entire life within a week. Then within a few weeks, she's an elite A rank mage firing a Wave Motion Gun from her staff. The manga actually provided a handwave that she used said weapon to go through Training from Hell at all hours of the day.
- In Pokémon, Ash doesn't get anything right in the first story arc (Indigo league), often getting his badges after losing the first gym battle and having to help out the gym in some fashion later on. As the series progresses, he gradually gets sharper and more creative with his methods, both in training and battling his Pokémon ("Use Pikachu" and "If that doesn't work, use more Pikachu" won't solve all of his problems).
- Ironic as he kept using Pikachu on Team Rocket, despite them using something that's shock proof (which they've done since, what, the fifth time he faced them?) As Meowth pointed out in one episode, "You'd think he'd learn by now".
- Vagabond is about how Miyamoto Musashi goes from a naturally gifted hothead to a true Badass after he gains experience, being humbled before overcoming the challenge; when he's going to fight all of the remaining Yoshioka, he actually thanks them (silently and by himself with a silent prayer) for giving him the past year to learn, develop and grow.
- Generally, most of the cast in Mahou Sensei Negima! opt for Training from Hell (with the occasional Awesome by Analysis). The former private soldier Mana Tatsumiya, on the other hand, thanks to a youth spent in combat, can boast the skills and instincts above what the rest of the warrior-heavy class have managed, befitting a mercenary of her ability. Evangeline also counts, having learned to use magic and her vampiric abilities at age ten, then going from there.
"Surviving for hundreds of years ain't just for show, you know."
- Jack Rakan. His general attitude tends to make people think that he's just naturally strong and talented, and has never had to really work for his wins. Nothing could be further from the truth: he was an ordinary boy who was just in near-constant combat for over forty years. Negi realizes there's really not a whole lot that could catch Jack off-guard; since the guy has seen pretty much every trick in the book.
- After Negi's and Rakan's match, some of the fans started quarreling about who was better. A fight broke out. Onlookers started betting on the outcome. The draw had the highest stake.
- Parodied in Ranma ˝, where Genma wanted to teach Ranma the legendary Cat Fu martial arts style. Being unfamiliar with its methods, he decided to wrap Ranma in bacon and sausage and throw him into a bin filled with starving cats. Ranma learned nothing (at least at first) and in fact gained a crippling phobia of cats because of it. It was later shown that he did learn Cat Fu, but has to go into a psychotic break-down from his cat phobia to reach it unconsciously.
- On a funny note, it didn't teach Genma anything, as he tried to "cure" Ranma's phobia by throwing him in the bin again (this time with sardines).
- Guts of Berserk has spent his entire life fighting from childhood on. While his training as a mercenary from childhood made him quite the badass against any human he met, the skills that he acquired in Demon Slaying were born out of pure experience, desperation and survival instinct, his first experience being with Zodd, then with Wyald after Griffith's rescue, and then with a whole mess of monsters from hell out to eat him alive during the Eclipse.
- In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, the entire point of setting up Shoichi Irie as the main enemy of the Future Arc, and having the Vongola storm Merone Base was so that they would gain more strength in order to defeat the true Big Bad, Byakuran.
- Yuu from Holyland does this most of the time fighting on the street. Sometimes he has to be manually taught by others, but mostly he figures it out by this. For example, he used what he learned fighting a judoka to know what to look out for against another grappler and started using more kicks after he found that he was damaging his hand from over-reliance on his fists.
- In Happy Yarou Wedding, Kazuki thinks he can wipe the floor with Yuuhi, but Yuuhi is quick to point out that he's never been in a real fist fight before. Yuuhi may not be trained in martial arts, but his experience gives him the edge over Kazuki.
- Due to the circumstances of the story, any training Ichigo Kurosaki of Bleach undergoes tends to be relatively short, from a few days to a month or two. Because of this, his real progress happens through the various life-or-death fights he finds himself taking part in. While he does get regular power ups, he also becomes gradually more skilled as the story goes on.
- The two sisters in Maoyuu Maou Yuusha, particularly the older one, understands about being poor with no food very well unlike those who haven't, such as the sons of the noblemen being taught by the Crimson Scholar. When one of them nonchalantly mentions how the nobles will take care of their people in times of trouble and famine, the older sister comments that they must have never starved before.
- In A Certain Magical Index, Touma Kamijou has never received any formal training, but has picked up street fighting skills from a lifetime of defending himself and others from bullies and street thugs. His various fights also help him pick up patterns and weaknesses in people's fighting styles and powers. However, he once got curb-stomped by Motoharu, who mocked him and said self-taught street fighting skills cannot complete with elite martial arts training.
- In some versions of Green Arrow's origin, he develops his incredible archery skills as a result of being stranded on a desert island and having to learn how to use a bow in order to survive.
- In the start of Pacific Rim, Raleigh almost gets killed because he assumed a Kaiju was dead when it wasn't. Later, He takes down another Kaiju and "[checks] for a pulse", which is to say that he disembowels it with his energy cannon.
- Cast Away is a great demonstration of this. A pudgy Tom Hanks struggled for a while figuring out how to hunt for food, gather water, and build a fire. After a large Time Skip, you see him slimmed down and very efficient at all of those, in addition to making his own rope.
- Iron Man had Stark forgo the thorough safety inspection on his Mark II suit because he wanted to use this trope. The lessons he learned from were used as a Chekhov's Gun later on.
- Whereas Stane can't hit the broad side of a barn once his targeting computers are... "disabled".
- Carried into The Avengers. After the electrical discharges from Whiplash's weapons were able to disable his suit in Iron Man II, Tony has upgraded his suit further to absorb excess electrical energy, which he can then channel into his repulsors. He uses this feature against Thor.
- Tony functions on this trope. Each of his suits are improvements on the previous one, correcting old flaws. It goes both ways because a good deal of the danger comes because Tony will often not think ahead and be unprepared for easily planned for scenarios - Tony's fight against Whiplash, for example would be much easier if he packed spare laser cartridges and most of in Iron Man 3 could have been avoided if he bothered to store some of his extra suits in Stark Tower.
- Platoon has Charlie Sheen's character develop from a shell shocked recruit fresh from basic training into a capable soldier...unfortunately.
- Star Wars: Luke Skywalker's advancement in The Force can be attributed to this. Without the classic training of the monk-like Jedi, he learned by improvisation and sometimes hard lessons.
- Batman Begins uses this entirely as its main story. Bruce went through the training, and when he came to forming the mantle of "Batman", it was from picking up his mistakes. After getting a military combat suit, he found that he needed something to soften a fall, which leads to the glider-cape. After getting gased by the Scarecrow, even though he was now innoculated against the effects, he was fully aware of what Crane was going to do. As Alfred used as a Call Back quote from Bruce's father, "Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."
- The Dark Knight continues with this, as Bruce found the original Batman suit not holding up to the demands he was putting into it. He commissioned a new suit that addressed various limitations he found, such as a limited range of motion including the inability to turn his head.
- Despite having "teaching machines" they could use, in Battlefield Earth the humans decided to just learn to fly jets through experience. And they do it well enough to actually pose a reasonable challenge to the Psyclos.
- The Elite Squad (aka Tropa de Elite) combined this with Training from Hell: The latter half of a room-clearing obstacle course is actually a part of a real slum with real assault-rifle-toting criminals.
- Implied in the movie Sahara. Dirk and Al Mac Gyver a boat to explode (Long Story), with a quick explanation that despite them calling it "The Panama Maneuver," they were actually in Nicaragua. After the boat explodes, an amazed side character asks the duo how they got it to work right the first time. Dirk sheepishly admits that it didn't work the first time...
- Discussed and played straight in Fearless. The former occurs when Huo Yuanjia and Tanaka are having tea and Tanaka asks Huo if he thinks there is a "Ultimate Fighting Style" that can't be defeated. Huo responds with a no saying that "It's more like there are people who are all at different skill levels and experience.". The played straight part starts from the beginning of the movie where we watch Huo go through years of training and SEVERAL fights building up his skill making him the Badass we see near the end of the movie.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden's magical (and regular) arsenal changes between books from his observations of what works and what doesn't. After getting his left hand burnt into uselessness because his shield spell stops matter and kinetic energy but not heat, he devises a new shield that stops just about everything (including heat, light, electricity, most sorts of magic, etc). After seeing Elaine's taser-chain trick in White Night, he comes up for his own version for when fire magic isn't such a good idea.
- Oh, and teaching his apprentice how to do magic gives him a LOT of ideas. And there's his upgraded 'knock people around' ring...
- He also stopped using his wind spell, ventas servitas, after the first few books. According to the author, this is because while wind is flashy and impressive, force magic (his forzare spell) is much more effective and versatile in almost any situation.
- One good example of this trope in action, that might be easy to miss: In the ninth book, the opponent turns off all the lights, so Harry does what any wizard would do: he calls up a supernatural light. However, this just makes him a target for the baddies, who immediately attack him, which was the the aim of the blackout in the first place. Two books later, another baddie tries the same tactic in a room full of White Council wizards, and Harry is one of the few wizards not to call up light and make himself a target.
- Arguably his rings count too. In the beginning he had a single ring which stored up force, and could unleash it in a single large blast of force. It turns out that having a 'free' sucker punch of force that can be unleashed immediately when magically exhausted is useful, so useful that Harry decided more is better. He started adding rings to each finger, then tripling the bans per ring. By Changes he has 3 bands of force on each finger, 30 times the power of his original ring. If something is proven to work you should double down on it!
- The advantage was demonstrated in Skin Games. Hannah is a powerful mage, who can work fire magic much better then Harry. However, in combat she turns out to be much weaker then Harry because despite raw magical talent. She doesn't know how to adjust her tactics on the fly, and she commits everything to offense without knowing how to defend herself. Harry clearly states that she isn't in his league as a fighter because she hasn't learned from fighting in real battles as he has.
- In the Eisenhorn books, after the title character binds Cherubael, he finds that it keeps running wild at the worst possible times. Eventually, he triple-binds it, deeming the subsequent loss in power acceptable for the greater docility forced on it.
- Scourge from Warrior Cats was thrown out onto the streets and learned this way. It led to him becoming a brutal killer with no remorse.
Live Action TV
Stand Up Comedy
- Any game based on strategy. You can read all the "How to Play Chess" books you want, but you'll never really understand the game until you actually play it and get your butt kicked repeatedly.
- Unknown Armies allows players to put a free point into a skill on a matched roll.
- Continuum's skill system is explicitly built on this, with points accruing each time the skill is rolled if players don't decide to take a short cut
- Sykers in Deadlands: Hell on Earth took years to train Before The End, with new Psychic Powers being added to a Super Soldier's repertoire once every year or so, on average. It's possible for Player Characters to become sykers much more quickly, to say nothing of adding new abilities. What's the difference? Experience. Keeping your melon intact while the horrors of the Apocalypse are breathing down your neck teaches you damn good. Or you die. Either way, you'll have learned something!
- When making a unit in Brik Wars, you have to find out what does and doesn't work. Your unit may have a Fatal Flaw that you didn't think about until someone exploits it (ie having a creature that can replicate itself every turn at the cost of defense, then getting set on fire and dying in the first round). It takes several games to really know how to utilize your Cost of Production points.
- It's an unofficial but often-suggested rule in The World of Darkness games that you can only spend experience points on skills or abilities you either used in the sessions that got you the points or put some foundation work in on (for new abilities), or which you have at least been using frequently. (Pretty much all games suggest either that or require you to burn time training between adventures — how often this is enforced varies from group to group though.)
- Happens a lot with experimental equipment in Paranoia. Just because you have security clearance to test the equipment doesn't mean you have security clearance to read the instructions, which pretty much just leaves repeatedly invoking "What Does This Button Do?" (and hoping the answer isn't "activate the Self-Destruct Mechanism").
- Every RPG ever. Full stop. In some point-buy systems you can get smarter by kicking ass.
- And conversely in some you can learn how to be kick-assier by reading books.
- Noticeably zig-zagged in Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning. Reading books, handing in quests and kicking ass makes you smarter. However, you absorb fate (you can Screw Destiny in a world where fate rules all) when you kick ass. In other words, killing an enemy makes you gain XP from combat and also absorb their fate (what they could become if you didn't kill them.) and can use that fate to increase your skills (from Alchemy to Stealth and also combat moves) giving a in-universe reason for the player learns through ass kicking.
- The Quest for Glory series both subverts and plays this one straight. In the first game, you get to define the abilities your character starts with, and each class has specific skills that can or cannot be used. The only way to increase skill in something is to use that skill (which makes sense: you get better at climbing by climbing stuff, better at swordplay by swinging your sword and so on). The subversion comes later in the series, starting with the third game, where the Thief character can be taught the acrobatics skill and immediately becomes proficient in it within seconds (though not necessarily good at it, that takes practice). In the fourth game, Fighter and Paladin characters can read a book and instantly learn how to climb. Mages subvert this from the first game: finding a magic scroll and reading it instantly imparts the spell to the mage, although it is at a low skill level. At least half of every game in the series (there are five) is spent just practicing your skills.
- The skill level system itself is very vague. Having 10 points in Weapon Use means you can use your weapon, but you'll miss a lot, whereas having 100 points ([[Level Cap in the first game,]] at least) means you'll rarely miss...but you'll still miss occasionally. Generally speaking, it's possible to complete the game with low skill levels (depending on the skill and the character, of course), but certainly not recommended. Getting that Last Lousy Point in a particular game can also be a frustrating experience, since skills level up slower as they reach the Level Cap. Quest For Glory 5 completely subverts the skill system, however: as long as you're the right class, you can do anything in which you have skill. The numerical values mean very little.
- In the first Devil May Cry (not so much the sequels), files are kept on every enemy encountered, and descriptions of their attacks as well. For every new attack you witness, another section is added, usually with an explanation on how to stop/avoid it. Oh, and by the way, there are files on BOSSES, too...well, except the last one. Shame...
- In Monster Hunter, there are no Experience Points to speak of... the experience belongs to the player. An experienced player with horrible newbie gear can and will be more successful than a newbie with great gear.
- Much like Monster Hunter above, Demon's Souls and Dark Souls drill the players not just how to fight, but remember enemy placement, trap placement, enemy aggression range, weapon moveset, etc. An experienced player can tell what another players' rough stats are from what he/she equips and then deduce what needs to be done to counter it, usually in order of seconds. There are more than enough anecdotes of seasoned players zipping through the game in a fraction of the time they required to do it the first time around.
- A case of a boss who does this in-game: Mr Freeze in Batman: Arkham City seems at first like a typical "impervious unless attacked in a certain way, but never learns to cover that weakness" sort of boss. Turns out he isn't; each sneaky trick Batman can use on him will only work once because he will alter his attack pattern to cover that particular weakness, forcing the player to do the same: "I can adapt my strategies, Batman. Can you?"
- In FTL: Faster Than Light, your crewmen directly become more able at the stations they're assigned too.
- In Assassins Creed III, Achilles directly refers to this when explaining to Connor why he was left behind in Boston in Sequence Five.
- In Mass Effect lore, getting the coveted N7 rank requires N6s to prove themselves in actual combat and not only survive but do so in "admirable and effective fashion".
- This can be an invoked trope on the part of the player, by rampant abuse of the Quick-save/Quick-load keys. Make a mistake during your last turn? Time travel to Set Right What Once Went Wrong!
- The Order of the Stick prequel book "On The Origin Of PCs" deconstructs this trope by showing what happens if you take it too literally. Vaarsuvius, the future party wizard, is lamenting how his ascent to power is taking too long. Her friend Haley, the future rogue, tells him that if she wants to get more powerful, he should just become an adventurer. V brushes this off, saying that killing monsters isn't going to teach her more about magic and the workings of the universe. Haley points out that she recently killed a bunch of kobolds during an adventure, and when she got back to town she was better at picking locks.
V: Next you'll tell me that cleaning your kitchen improved your Decipher Script ranking.
Haley: Hey, it might! You haven't seen some of the things growing in my kitchen; I wouldn't put language skills past them.
- Burk of Hero Oh Hero claims his only experience in fighting comes from wrestling with his brother and "defeating things". He's still capable of defeating enough wolves to have given someone with military training trouble.
- This is how Amical from morphE likes to teach his seedlings. On the first day of actual training a frustrated Asia chides him for not actually teaching them anything and just expecting them to do the impossible feats of magic because he'd shoot them otherwise.
- The Dimensional Guardians from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes are more or less bumbling fools when they first stumble upon their Guardian powers, but gradually learn to control them as they fight, to the point that they're able to take down a dark force that threatens their very dimension.
- In Demonic Symphony this is given as a reason for Derekâ€™s continued survival
- The whole point of Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe is to teach new mutants how to control and use their powers, and defend themselves, even if they don't want to be superheroes or supervillains. Even a mage as powerful as Fey has to learn control, and all those spells. And PK bricks like Lancer have to learn how not to wreck everything they touch.
- In Worm, Rachel Lindt — known as Bitch to her allies and Hellhound to the authorities — learned to fight by spending years dodging the superheroes trying to capture her.
- In Death Battle, this is Fox McCloud's edge over Bucky O'Hare when it comes to ending wars.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- The entire show covers a little under one year, yet Aang learned three other bending practices, Sokka became a
skilled passable swordsman, Zuko increases his firebending and Katara has become a virtual waterbending goddess. Sozin's comet gives them added incentive. On another note, this is the reason Toph learned metalbending - because she really wanted to get out of a metal box.
- Aang, however, is a special case of this trope. The Avatar gets reincarnated repeatedly but with a different element each time but the same skill (muscle AND mental memory). It's less Aang learning but REMEMBERING all the skill from his past lives. He's being taught by experience. His own. Over MULTIPLE lifetimes.
- The Batman: The Animated Series movie Mask of the Phantasm had Bruce perform his first night as a vigilante in black clothes and a ski mask, yelling out police commands. He had all the training and gadgetry, but didn't really understand Batman's foundation of fear and intimidation. This is what leads him to being the poster child of Crazy-Prepared. This aspect of the movie was a homage to Batman: Year One, which used essentially the same thing.
- Batman Beyond sees Bruce Wayne's then-protege Terry go through a long process to learn how to properly be Batman. Early on he is dependent on his batsuit to survive; later episodes sees him learning from the constant hazards to the point that he's perfectly capable without it(and even wins a fight against the suit when it gets taken over by a hostile AI at one point).
- In the first season of Danny Phantom the title character has little control of his powers and has trouble taking on the weakest of his enemies. After three sesions of fighting, he is able to hold his own against the ghost gods.
- Subverted by Ed in Ed, Edd n Eddy with his inability to grasp the concept of a fridge light despite a whole night of experiments:
- Ed: Hello light...Hello light...Hello light...
- Superman: The Animated Series had Superman learn to adapt to various situations, such as getting a suit that was proof against kryptonite and skin contact for when that was necessary, or come back at an electric-powered villain coated in rubber.
- Ben Tennyson throughout the various shows. One episode has him being forced to enter and pass the Plumbers Academy just so he could keep working for them. Needless to say, his experience in the field caused him to pass fairly easily and quickly.