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Time to Unlock More True Potential
In the endless rounds of My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours, there will eventually come a time when one's self-directed training (or lack thereof) will no longer prove sufficient to the task. The character must then find a mentor who will help him tap into his inner strength and develop new and more powerful attacks. This invariably requires multiple rounds of Training from Hell, or a difficult quest (which is the same thing disguised as a trip).

This is the usual manner in which a character will learn how to perform Ki Attacks.

Sometimes done in a flashback to surprise the viewer.

Compare So Last Season and Super Empowering. See also Full Potential Upgrade when a character's weapons or tools have to be powered-up along with the character. For their first fight afterwards see Look What I Can Do Now

For information on why this trope so often appears in Japanese media, please read our Analysis page.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Both Ranma and Ryoga in Ranma ˝ turn to the Chinese Amazon matriarch Cologne for advanced training.
    • It was only two times for Ranma in the entire manga that he actually get some useful martial arts training from Cologne. Ryoga only got one training from her and the rest was often self-taught and from fighting with other and against Ranma. Ryoga stated that he was surprise with his vastly increased speed and declared that it was due to him sparring with Ranma. He then replicated Ranma's speed, though it fell short because Ranma progressed even further.
  • Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z take this to dizzying levels; anyone more than a century old and not evil will either impart new techniques or glow eerily, increasing the main characters' strength either way. Gohan sorta embodies this trope in the Dragon Ball world since he is the one with the most "hidden powers."
    • It should be noted that Gohan's "true potential" was unlocked twice (once by Guru, once by Old Kai), making him a very literal example of this trope. Three times, if you count him becoming a Super Saiyan 2.
  • Bleach is made of this trope — Ichigo turning to the Vizard for training as well as Orihime training with Rukia and Chad training with Urahara and Renji are the most standard examples. You could also say that when a Shingami achieves Ban-Kai by training with the spirit of their swords it is a variation of this trope as the sword teaches them how to unlock their true power. Then to defeat Aizen, Ichigo unlocks even more true power by training to learn the Final Getsuga Tensho. Ichigo has abused this trope. As of writing he has been a oridinary shinnigami, bankai level shinigami, Vizard, Vasto lord shinigami, more powerful shinigami, Fullbringer, more more powerful shinigami, and a Quincy this is all one character by the way.
  • Rurouni Kenshin's Kyoto Arc features Kenshin returning to the Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū master he ran away from years ago, in order to learn the succession technique that will help him defeat the main villain of the arc. This training also features psychological Training from Hell: Kenshin, a pacifist, must kill his master in order to learn the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki. He doesn't (kill him, that is; though that's only due to his reverse-bladed sword, which did much less lethal injury than if he had used a sharp-edged one, as all his predecessors' did. Even then, the only reason his master didn't die is because one of the stay-pins in the sword's hilt was so loose that the blade was on the verge of falling out).
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Negi's Training from Hell with Vampire Evangeline, complete with a Year Inside, Hour Outside bottle containing an enchanted resort. This is hardly the only instance, either. He does it again with Jack Rakan, learning Black Magic. And he's going through this again with Pseudo-Eva, to get the Black Magic under control.
  • Naruto has this happen often for the main character, especially in Shippuuden. After he returns from a three-year-long training trip, does some more training, after which he gets to do some extra special training — and that's when the ''real'' training starts.
    • And each previous unlocking of his true potential is proven ultimately ineffective against the current threat before he defeats them with The Rasengan, which requires him to unlock more true potential that will likewise prove to be ultimately ineffective against THAT current threat.
    • Eventually they just ditch the vanity of training altogether and just hand him new power-ups as the situation arises.
  • Soul Eater: Black Star does this by going to Japan to train after a series of defeats. It works wonders. Maka and Soul, by contrast, have always taken the more direct approach, whereas Kid got his forcibly and briefly unlocked because no time was available.
  • In the anime adaptation for Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, the Vongola are sent back to the present twice to go through some trials.
  • Inverted in Kojirō Hyūga's case during the World Youth arc of Captain Tsubasa: until then, he unlocked more potential thanks to his mentor Kozo Kira's help, but in this arc Kira told him he had nothing more Hyūga could learn from him, and that he needed to hone his skills by himself. Cue Hyūga going hermit in the mountains for a Training from Hell session, in which he gained his new destructive Raiju Shoot.
  • Luffy and Zoro of One Piece went off to do this during the two-year Time Skip after the Marineford arc. Luffy went off to train his Haki with Silvers Raleigh and Zoro went to train with Dracule Mihawk. The other characters went off to either Take Levels of Badass in their own way or on other escapades.
  • Magical Girl example: In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, Tsubomi and friends had to do this twice. The first was after the Desert Generals gained their Deadly Upgrade, and the second was after the Big Bad Dune curbstomped them in a battle.
  • Samurai Deeper Kyo. Oh my God. SO made of it, that they don't even try to make it logic. The protagonist is trapped into the body of his worst enemy, that they both share (long history, read the manga), but he's still strong as hell. Then he is surpassed and taken down... and suddenly he gets up, shouts something like "I remembered how this body fights!" and proceeds to kick his foe's ass. After some point, EVERY fight has this. Every character, sometimes more than once during the same battle if it's a long one, gets another upgrade by The Power of Love, The Power of Friendship, the awakening of their hidden power, the pursue of their true convictions (even when they know that their acts are evil)... Man, even the bad guys get their upgrades this way, during the very same battle that the good guys!
  • Used in Fairy Tail to quickly explain away how the core cast managed to catch up to everyone who's had seven more years than them to hone their magic abilities. Whether or not this will happen frequently remains yet to be seen. It doesn't help that no one is ever shown actually training.
  • Deconstructed in Muteki Kanban Musume, an hilarious parody of the Fighting Series:
    • Subverted with Kankuro, who goes into a The Quest not for better Training from Hell, but after using underhanded methods to beat a rival (Kankuro is the Idiot Hero) to become a better person.
    • Deconstructed when Miki and Megumi are Kanban Musumes (poster girls) for a Ramen Restaurant and a Bakery respectively. They only use their great fighting skills to fight between themselves. But they are so good fighting that two true martial artists (who played Pink Ranger and the Classic Villain Hell Bunny, an expy of Sailor Moon at the Show Within a Show Star Rangers), come to their city only to see them fight and help them with Pink Star’s confidence. In other words, the protagonists are The Quest.
    Pink Ranger: (in civilian clothes) Amazing! I never thought I would see such skills outside such a small neighborhood store.
    Hell's Bunny: (in civilian clothes) What do you think? Aren't you glad we came?
  • In S-CRY-ed, Kazuma, Ryuho, Cougar, and Mujo all get more powerful versions of their Alter powers after passing into the "Alter world" and back.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: Luke Skywalker never had more than two straight weeks of Jedi training; rather, he seems to have obtained all of his power from this trope.
    • There are hints that he self-taught during the gap between Episode 5 and 6, coming back with much more powerful force techniques, and declaring himself a Jedi Master.
  • This happens entirely offscreen in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of The Last Dragon.
  • Glaring example at the end of Kung Fu Hustle. Possibly the most absurd number of badass levels gained ever committed to film. Actually justified in that he should have been that powerful to start, but his chi paths were all messed up until the Beast broke his... Well, broke every single bit of him and the semi-mystical process of his healing not only fixed his bones and flesh but also his ability to be an insanely powerful martial artist. His potential was LITERALLY unlocked.

    Gamebooks 
  • Lone Wolf of the eponymous gamebook series. Whenever he reaches what is believed to the maximum Kai rank of any given series (Kai, Magnakai, and Kai Grand Master), he sets about mastering the new level's skills, as well as enhancing his repetoire with unrelated combat skills (Magi-Magic and Kai-alchemy, for instance). In normal play, this keeps the reader from merely skating through the books using all of the accrued skills from previous series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Juken Sentai Gekiranger has this in spades, with the three core Rangers finding three additional masters (one each) to unlock their new weapons and mecha, then three more masters to access their Super Mode. Even the villains get in on the act, with the Big Bad seeking out three of his own masters to train him in the ways of evil. Finally, when the ultimate mecha — SaiDaiOh — is found, it sprinkles everyone with Applied Phlebotinum to — and this is stated — "unlock their true potential".
    • Its American counterpart, Power Rangers Jungle Fury, kept much of this (the Rhino Steelzord didn't come with any True Potential Fairy Dust™, however, which is just as well - the Rangers didn't seem stronger in later episodes. However, after trying and failing to awaken it, Dai Shi, the bad guy, realized he could now perfectly wield the technique he'd been trying to learn for the past several episodes.)

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Print: The mythical Celtic hero Cúchulainn's training under the immortal warrior woman Scathach conforms pretty closely to this trope.
  • Ubiquitous in Chinese legends and folklores, to the point that some mythical figures have this as their entire story. The trainer were almost always humans who have transcended human limitations, or outright supernatural beings. Even the Monkey King (of whom Son Goku was loosely based on) had met his matches — and he used to lead an army that could match the legions of Heavens.

    Video Games 
  • Claus from Tales of Phantasia never gets any ability aside from making pacts with summons. By the halfway point of the game, you need to gather 4 elementals for him to progress in the game. Other summons in the future aside from Origin are totally optional.
  • Link from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link learns new magic and sword skills from wise men living in the hidden parts of towns. The Minish Cap also have Link meets multiple mentors that teaches him new sword techniques. And Twilight Princess has Link learn special attacks from the Hero's Shade.
  • Inverted in Inazuma Eleven, where some of the team members rely on finding new techniques from manuals early on too much that the rest has to remind them that they can also win if they try hard on their own.
  • This is what the player will spend a lot of time doing in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, from slaughtering dragons to eat their souls, and then finding Words of Power to apply the knowledge from aforementioned dragon souls into devastating Shouts. Unrelenting Force is given to the player for free, but everything else requires you to unlock it.

    Web Original 
  • Buttlord GT makes fun of Dragon Ball Z, and contains this gem of a line: "My true power is more true and more powerful than yours!"

    Western Animation 
  • In Teen Titans, Robin heads to a monastery to get some more martial arts training from "the True Master". But first, he undergoes a Secret Test of Character to see if he is worth training with the True Master. After fighting three or four Guardians and the Student Who Didn't Get It, he only then begins the actual training just as the episode fades to black. The test, which involved chasing after a MacGuffin, was just a lure to get him up the mountain.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Magic Duel", a minor antagonist called Trixie runs the protagonist Twilight Sparkle out of town by beating her with the help of an Amplifier Artifact of Doom, which enables her to perform magic normally available only to the highest level unicorns; Twilight is known to have immense magical potential, but it's shown here that she hasn't yet gotten the skill to perform the most advanced spells. Twilight seeks training with Zecora, who teaches her more about magic. Subverted: Whatever Twilight may have learnt, she doesn't use any new skills in the rematch, rather relying on trickery and help from her friends to give the appearance of doing impossible things with magic, ultimately part of a Batman Gambit to get Trixie to relinquish the artifact.

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