"To prove how aware/crazy/focused a movie character is, a friend will wake the sleeping character. The character will instantly, ferociously, leap up from a deep sleep and pull a knife/gun or kung-fu choke hold on his friend, before apologizing for almost killing him."Basically, a character wakes up violently, drawing any weapons or techniques in the process. Compare Ring... Ring... CRUNCH, Instant Waking Skills. For a similar reaction from someone who is awake, but taken by surprise, see Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That.
— Roger Ebert's Movie Glossary
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Anime & Manga
- Hunny in Ouran High School Host Club does this a few times.
- Happens in Gunsmith Cats, in the hospital: a mook is trying to plant a bomb under Rally's pillow (where she also kept her gun), Rally instantly snaps to alertness and shoots the mook. Mook runs off and jumps into his car. Rally notices the bomb and tosses it out the window... onto the mook's car. And we later learn through all this, she wasn't even fully awake.
- In Rurouni Kenshin Trust & Betrayal Tomoe drapes a sleeping Kenshin, who at this point in his life is an assassin who sleeps sitting up with his sword held to him, in a blanket. She gets a katana drawn and placed inches from her neck for her trouble, but as soon as Kenshin realizes who it actually is he immediately stops and shoves her away.
- Portgas D. Ace, of One Piece, in his early years of being a pirate, was trapped on Whitebeard's ship before he joined them. During this time he tried multiple times to kill Whitebeard. The only time onscreen we see him (as it's implied he tried this more than once) attack Whitebeard in his sleep, he is violently thrown through the wall. This is a subversion though, since Whitebeard didn't even wake up.
- According to The Unfinished Spelling Errors of Bolkien, this is so common in Rohan, the morning buglers have learned to just run away after playing a single note, lest they get hacked to bits by the troops they just woke up.
- When Cook wakes up Jason in Jason vs. Leatherface after the night when he is accepted into the Sawyer household, he instinctively grabs him by throat.
- In both the Marvel-616 and Ultimate Universes, Captain America goes on the offensive as soon as he's defrosted from the block of ice where he was discovered.
- In Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International San Diego, Harley falls asleep beside the hotel pool. When a waiter shakes her awake, she wakes up yelling "Hit! Hit! Hit!" and punches the poor guy.
- In Violine, when she wakes up her father, he immediately grabs his gun. Fortunately, nothing bad happens.
- At the bedroom's door of Wolverine, is a note that reads Trespassers shall be stabbed. Many times. So when Scott needs him to be wakened, he does the smart thing, and blast him out of bed without stepping in.
- A common trope in Naruto stories to show the titular character Took a Level in Badass is to have him attack Haku when the latter tries to wake him up during the Wave Mission. In at least one, he put Haku into a chokehold with his legs before even waking up.
- In Angry Marines Ruby Quest, the first thing Angry!Ruby does after waking up in a dark place is "start punching. Everywhere!"
- In Moratorium, Harry has a habit of Stunning the first person she sees when she wakes up. Just ask Karkaroff and Dolores Umbridge.
Films — Live-Action
- Gladiator: Maximus wakes up armed with a small dagger in his hand.
- Overlapping with Catapult Nightmare in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings. Upon being woken from a nightmare, Aragorn pulls out his dagger, disturbing the messenger who woke him up. Possibly justified—it might very well be a trained reflex given he spent a long time out in places where orcs were far from the most dangerous beasties around. Drawing a weapon instinctively on waking suddenly could be the difference between life and death.
- Happens in the closing scene of Dressed to Kill.
- Kyle Reese in The Terminator wakes up from a nightmare and reflexively grabs for his rifle.
- Lieutenant A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis) in Tears of the Sun is awakened by a subordinate while in the middle of a nightmare. He instantly grabs his pistol, take off the safety and point at his target, all in under a second.
- In Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man accidentally starts fighting Iron Man when he regains consciousness during the airport battle.
- In Alex Garland's novel The Beach, one character talks in a very pissed off manner about a time when another character was nodding off to sleep. There came a slight noise in the bushes, and he leapt up with his knife.
"He wanted me to see how fucking alert he was."
- In Harry Potter, Harry warns Ron against visiting Moody first thing in the morning, for fear that Moody will respond this way.
- In The Hunger Games, Haymitch often sleeps with a knife in his hand, due to his experiences in the Games.
- Tortall Universe
- Most characters react this way in the brief moment between waking up and being awake enough to think properly. In The Colour of Magic Hrun the Barbarian is apparently so used to people trying to kill him in his sleep that he reacts before he wakes up:
Hrun made a glubbing noise, turned over, and slept on.
With a careful movement, as though handling some instrument of rare delicacy, the woman drew a slim black dagger from her belt and stabbed downward.
Before it was halfway through its arc Hrun's right hand moved so fast that it appeared to travel between two points in space without at any time occupying the intervening air. It closed around the woman's wrist with a dull smack. His other hand groped feverishly for a sword that wasn't there ...
"Gngh?" he said, looking up at the woman with a puzzled frown.
- At least one of Redwall's Badger Lords has done this. One of his hares had come in to wake him, right as he reached the end of a nightmare about his sworn enemy. The result was a Catapult Nightmare complete with a battle cry and a sword hacked straight through a shield. The hare was unhurt, but shocked.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Between Planets the teenage protagonist demonstrates his development with his time with Venusian guerrillas by waking instantly with a knife in his hands when the company runner looking for him taps sharply on the support rope of his hammock.
- Played for Drama in The Children of Húrin, where the anti-hero Turin Turambar fails to stop in time and kills his friend this way.
- In Ben Elton's novel Time and Time Again the ex-SAS protagonist is almost choked to death by another character he is attempting to rescue from hospital. A character who has suffered a lifetime of deprivation, beatings and torture and was, until that moment, feverish and unconscious from a bullet wound.
- In a Wizards of Waverly Place Season 1 episode, Justin goes to wake up Alex for a late night flying lesson, only to get punched in the gut.
- In the Doctor Who story "Image of the Fendahl", the Doctor wakes his companion Leela and she pulls her knife on him. She wouldn't normally overreact that badly, but she'd been having nightmares because of the baleful influence of the Fendahl.
- 30 Rock:
- Parodied: Tracy warns Liz that he has Bad Dreams, but not to wake him or he will attack her.
- In another episode, the writers get Kenneth to prank a sleeping Lutz by waking him up while wearing a gorilla mask. They underestimate the violence of his reaction — his first reaction is to punch Ken hard in the face, and his second is to grab a nearby golf club — and by the time they (eventually) break them up, Lutz is throttling Kenneth with the shaft of the club.
- When alarmed, NCIS's Tony, Ziva, and Gibbs have all been shown to leap for a weapon/punch.
- A sitcom thirty or forty years ago had a commando veteran visit the main character's place on a date. Unfortunately, he'd just had to spend an unusually long time without sleep, so he kept dozing off just sitting there — and every time she tried to rouse him, he'd come awake frantically lashing out with karate and destroy another piece of furniture....
- In The Big Bang Theory episode "One Ring To Rule Them All", Sheldon tries to steal the One Ring movie prop that is around Penny's neck while she and Leonard are asleep. The minute he almost takes it, Penny wakes up screaming and punches Sheldon square in the nose.
Sheldon: [whimpering] YOU HIT ME! I'M BLEEDING!
Leonard: What the hell was that?
Penny: Sheldon tried to take the ring and I punched him.
Leonard: [hugs Penny] That's my girl.
- Happened to Duncan once in Highlander, "Forgive Us Our Trespasses". Duncan is having problems with an old enemy who see him as a mass killer for things that happened during the Scottish rebellions in the 18th century. Duncan has nightmares and woke up struggling and punching until Amanda calms him down.
- In one of the school episodes of El Chavo del ocho, Chavo falls asleep in class. Profesor Jirafales obviously gets angry and yells to wake him up, and he immediately proceeds to punch out Quico, who is sitting next to him. His excuse is that he was dreaming that he was fighting with Quico.
- This is the reason no one tries to wake up Bun-bun in Sluggy Freelance.
- In Commander Kitty, the first thing that Nin Wah's android clone does upon waking is punch CK in the face.
- The Adventures of Dr. McNinja:
- Sidekick Gordito is afraid of waking up Dr. McNinja for this very reason. The doctor himself admits he doesn't just wake up fighting, he defends himself in his sleep. VERY justified in this case: his parents did 'sneak attack' training sessions.
- Gordito himself is often subjected to literal rude awakenings; the Doc only seems to drop him off at his parents' house when he's asleep, leaving him to wake up startled in strange and often dangerous conditions.
- Richard Stallman in xkcd takes a pair of katanas from under his bed and fights off Microsoft's agents who try to kill him. After this comic came out, some fans bought him a Katana.
- In The Venture Bros., both Brock Samson and Molotov Cocktease do this, to Hank and Dr Venture respectively.
- From Avatar: The Last Airbender:
Sokka: [wakes up wielding weapons] Huh? Did we get captured again?
- In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree, after Twilight Sparkle's second nightmare causes her to wake up screaming, a half-asleep Sunset Shimmer leaps out of bed and strikes karate poses, her eyes still closed.