"Sans maîtrise, la puissance n'est rien."
(without mastery, power is nothing)
Some characters have it easy. They're a Born Winner
with The Gift
and a winning ticket for the Superpower Lottery
, have the Bigger Stick
or Sword of Plot Advancement
making them an Invincible Hero
or Karma Houdini
, and never have to train
because they're just that good. The Rival
will be frustrated and driven to ever more extreme Training from Hell
, but it doesn't help them beat the smug bastard.
Who should come along to challenge this powerhouse but a totally bland
, if not small
, unassuming opponent who seems no stronger than a typical Innocent Bystander
. The powerhouse laughs and says there's no way
they could ever
hope to beat him... but then they do!
This is a character who, despite being physically weaker than their opponent, is able to beat them because they are amazingly skilled. They'll prove Hard Work Hardly Works
is a false premise, and even exploit
the stronger opponents' sloppy technique and Pride
If the Weak But Skilled character is The Protagonist
, they will usually be an expert at Deadly Dodging
, a fast thinker, and generally win through cleverness and strategy
that involve Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty
and Geo Effects
to win. If they aren't the protagonist, then they're very like a Mentor
, The Rival
, or The Lancer
. They'll usually start out much stronger than the hero overall but won't keep up
once the hero starts gaining skill himself in the use of his powers. They'll occasionally bail out the protagonist but force them to finish their battles, and urge them to train their power to stop the bad guy, whom this character can't take out because the bad guy is both strong and
A character who grows old and weak
will often become this, having decades of experience to compensate for their lack of youth, though it becomes subverted if they grow Stronger with Age
and thus have nothing to compensate for. This is a common justification for how Badass Normals
can keep up with more powerful characters in a setting or inside an ensemble. Death of a Thousand Cuts
may also come into play.
It should be noted that "weak" (especially a Paper Tiger
class) can be a relative term. The protagonist might have a certain level of Super Strength
and Super Toughness
, but is completely outpowered by his opponent. In this case, the hero's own strength and toughness are what enable him to even hurt
the villain and avoid getting killed in a single shot, but he needs his brains and skill to ultimately win.
Compare with David Versus Goliath
, Combat Pragmatist
, Difficult but Awesome
and, metafictionally, Cherry Tapping
. Contrast Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training
. Willfully Weak
may be invoked to bring this about. One explanation behind the power of a Badass Bystander
. Despite their skill, may fall prey to I Don't Know Mortal Kombat
. The rare villainous examples may fall into Villainous Valor
, depending on their presentation. For characters with questionably useless powers
within the superhero community proving otherwise, see Heart Is an Awesome Power
Contrast Bigger Stick
and Unskilled, but Strong
, the latter being the inverse trope.
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Anime and Manga
- The main character from Anatolia Story herself, Yuri Suzuki. She's a complete weakling physically speaking and can't do a thing when she's being sexually assaulted, but being from the future has its advantages. She is revered as Ishtar because she rode a horse, something that's common nowadays, but in ancient Turkey was unheard of. She also recognized an iron sword (and used it against Zuwa), which is not so valuable today as it was back then.
- Similarly, Carol Reed from Ouke no Monshou has zero fighting skill, but her almost encyclopedic knowledge of Ancient Egypt comes off very handy when she needs to get the upper hand in the middle of constant power struggles in Pharaoh Memphis's court.
- Blood+: Both Saya and Haji are Vegetarian Vampires that refrain from drinking blood as much as possible, and are thus barely stronger than ordinary humans as a result. Nonetheless, they're both skilled fighters and can easily hold their own against more powerful opponents.
- Hyunckel from Dai no Daibouken. At the beginning of the series he is portrayed as relatively strong and extremely skilled, but in the last chapters he's actually one of the weakest characters in the main cast, power-wise (though his skill level remain above average). He even develops a special technique allowing him to use his life as a weapon, in order to compensate his lack of sheer power. It quickly becomes one of the strongest skills in the series.
- Also Aban, as near the end of the manga he's nowhere as strong as the other cast members, but still useful because of his skills.
- Gouta from Busou Renkin. His Arms Alchemy, Motor Gears, is a pair of tiny chakrams, but he utilizes them in creative ways. He was even able to defeat Shinobu Negoro, a senior alchemist, through Awesomeness by Analysis.
- Char Aznable of Mobile Suit Gundam. While Amuro has greater Psychic Powers, Char is a much more experienced pilot, so the two are evenly matched.
- Amuro's eponymous Gundam is also much stronger than Char's re-painted mook units, at least at first, but as Char receives more powerful mobile suits, Amuro's piloting skill increases proportionally. Eventually, Char receives a Gelgoog, which is an even match for the Gundam, and finally the Zeong, which ends up reversing their roles by being more powerful than the Gundam.
- When they return in Char's Counterattack, Amuro has had at least as much experience as Char had at the beginning of the original series and stronger Psychic Powers to boot. Once he answers Char's Sazabi with the Nu Gundam, The Red Comet Can't Catch Up.
- Amuro had significantly more experience in Char's Counterattack than Char had in the original series. Char was only 20 when he faced off against Amuro for the first time. Amuro was 29 in CCA.
- Hayato. He piloted the Guntank, a pretty sub-par Mobile Suit that had horrendous mobility, slow reaction time, and was useless in terms of close combat; yet he still managed to use it well, and survive the One Year War.
- A similar situation occurs in Gundam 00, early in the series there are a few veterans that can completely outmatch the Gundam pilots as far as skill is concerned, and best the Gundams in one on one combat. But the Gundams are so strong they can just shrug off the attacks.
- Gundam fans also ascribe this quality to 0080's Bernard "Bernie" Wiseman. By his own admission, he's only ever piloted once and he got shot down very quickly, but in the final episode he uses strategy, tactics, and traps to defeat a Gundam superior to Amuro Ray'snote . And he does all this in a Zaku II, which is the poster child for Mecha-Mooks.
- Ricardo Fellini and his Wing Gundam Fenice from Build Fighters. It's been pointed out that his gunpla is of an old make, one he's had since he was a kid, so his kit could be considered inferior from the outset, but he's introduced as the Italian Champion. As well, it has no Plavsky Particle manipulation gimmicks whatsoever, but that didn't stop him from fighting the Star Build Strike to a draw after the latter went Super Mode in episode 15, or trouncing them before then.
- To note, he's the first person we see to cause Team Nemesis to worry and overclock Aila's Embody System and, unlike Sei and Reiji with the Star Build Strike's RG Mode, he didn't have anything to help even the odds after that happened.
- Shimon Izuna of Gundam Build Fighters Try has a basic Destiny Gundam, built straight out of the box by his younger brother. Both Yuuto and Mr. Ral are convinced that it's going to lose, especially when his teammates' suits, equally built Murasame and Jet Windam, are taken out. Instead, Shimon's boxing skills end up making the suit a powerhouse, tearing apart a team based on the Crossbone Vanguard, but also fighting the Build Burning to a standstill.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: Creepy Child Chikage Kushinada (and her teacher, Mikumo) adheres to this trope. She's a grade school girl but is shown to be at least on par with the teenage characters because she has enough skill to fight and defeat normal adults. She is a fighter of 100% skill, 0% power, rather than split between the two. What is actually meant by this is that Chikage applies no force of her own during a fight, but uses the enemy's force against them, a tactic used in multiple martial arts. While most fighters are a combination of strength and skill (strength being striking power, skill being throwing power or technique-related ability) Chikage is all skill—she only throws her enemy in such a way as to use their own weight, momentum, etc., against them, rather than create an impact herself. As usual, this stems from the manga taking a martial arts concept to its absolute extreme.
- Also Miu, as pointed out to Kenichi at the beginning of his training.
- From Fist of the North Star: Toki is this, especially after contracting radiation poisoning during his efforts to save his brother Kenshiro and Ken's fiance Yuria during a nuclear attack. Though he isn't very strong compared to fellow Hokuto Shinken disciples/brothers Kenshiro and Raoh, he is far more adept at Hokuto Shinken than either of them. In fact, before the nuclear war, it was He, not Kenshiro, who was going to be the successor of Hokuto, and everyone agreed it was how it should have been.
- Kenta Kobashi from Hajime No Ippo. Compared to Ippo, he's a weakling, and he's got no badass knockout techniques. In fact, he's never scored a knockout in his career... and yet, Kobashi gives Ippo a run for his money by playing mind-games, making frequent use of clinches, and using a stance that allows him to easily reach with point-getting jabs, while sacrificing his ability to score heavy blows. Definitely not badass, and the audience hates him, but by playing with the rules, Kobashi manages to win most of his matches. He would've beaten Ippo too, if he hadn't tried to finish him with a knockout.
- Also Ichiro Miyata. His own physical strength is pathetic when compared to other boxers, and he has a Fatal Flaw in the form of a glass jaw... but he also has huge speed and does what he can to use counters to his benefit.
- Syuusuke Fuji of Prince of Tennis fame. He eschews physical fitness and outright strength in favor of counter techniques that require outrageous (impossible) amounts of skill to perform. He later gains some strength in a filler training camp in the anime, but this never happens in the manga. Either way, it stops being addressed as the series delves into further ludicrousness.
- This trope is pretty commonplace in Ranma ˝. Ranma defeated Prince Herb, who far outclassed him in every way possible, by using a technique to gather up all of the energy Herb was giving off and turning it against him. Happosai is a frail old man, but he can easily toss far stronger opponents through walls or over the horizon by redirecting their momentum with a pipe.
- Kenshin Himura of Rurouni Kenshin fits this trope. Kenshin is a short, skinny and relatively weak man, so much so that he eventually has to give up swordmanship because his kenjutsu style is meant to be used by stronger men and overusing it damaged his muscles. Despite this handicap, he is able to take down the most powerful warriors in the series (aside from his own master) because he's just that damn skilled.
- Well, technically, Kenshin is on the stronger side of "athletically fit," at the very least he's a wiry bastard. The downside is, as stated, the fact that his style of choice was designed for much larger, stronger, more durable men. Essentially he's a Fragile Speedster trying (and self-destructively succeeding) to be a Lightning Bruiser.
- Lyrical Nanoha:
- Chrono Harlaown is explicitly mentioned in the first season to be weaker in Power Level compared to Nanoha and Fate, a comparison he scoffs at, stating there's more to magic than that. He then proceeds to prove his point during the penultimate episode of the first season where he pulls a One-Man Army in Precia's Garden of Time while everyone else needed to charge in as a team, and again in the manga volume set immediately before the second season where he effortlessly defeated an improved Fate in record time when she had to battle him for her Mage Exam.
- An even better example is Nanoha and Fate's Old Master, the original Head Trainer Fern Corrado of the Time-Space Administration Bureau. Despite being a lowly AA-ranked mage using standard bureau equipment, the third season manga revealed that she managed to beat the AAA-ranked, Bigger Stick-equipped Nanoha and Fate at the same time when they entered the TSAB training school.
- Yuuno Scrya is quite possibly the weakest — or at least just definitely the least well-armed — combatant in the series. However, his mastery of binding and barrier magics make him the most Badass Non-Action Guy ever. He's also demonstrated the ability to force someone to be teleported against their will, which, when you think about it, is probably the single most lethal ability ever shown in the series. The unpleasant possibilities for it are endless, but sadly never explored.
- Shamal is in the same position as Yuuno, only she does have a powerful Device backing her up. She debateably has the most impressive record in the series at standoff combat, nearly paralyzing Nanoha from at least a half-mile away, and in every battle she's had a part in her opponents did not know she was there until attacked. Her skills with barrier, portal, and teleportation magic have endless tactical application that the series never explores, from making people run into instant magical walls at several times the speed of sound to portaling them off somewhere unpleasant. Yuuno would be capable of the same tricks if he had a copy of her Device.
- There is the part in the final battle of A's where she locates the defense program's core and, with the help of Yuuno and Arf, teleports it to outer space, where the Arc-En-Ciel can be fired at it without destroying much of Uminari city; scrying, binding and teleportation magic succeeds where Wave Motion Guns can't completely do the job.
- Teana in StrikerS often worries about her own worth as a mage, noting that she has no unique skills and not that much magical power compared to the other members of Section 6. However, she eventually learns how to put her illusion magic to good use in conjunction with her sharpshooting skills, and defeats three of the Numbers Cyborgs by use of perfectly timed attacks and some help from Vice. She is apparently Nanoha's best student, as she is the only canon character whom Nanoha taught her signature Starlight Breaker spell (well, Reinforce also used it but she merely copied Nanoha). There is a subtle meaning to this fact: Starlight Breaker's quirk is that it isn't powered by the caster's mana but rather, the magical energy dispersed in the environment. In other words, it is the ultimate achievement for a Weak, but Skilled mage, allowing her to unleash powers way over her head by skillfully managing the available resources.
- Veyron from Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. In the mostly Unskilled, but Strong Hückebein family, he's the only one who cannot React. Nevertheless he can hold his own against Riot Force 6's operators and actually defeats a Reacted enemy Eclipse infectee in direct combat.
- Shikamaru from Naruto fits it completely if not for that fact that actually doesn't put in much training and consistently facing opponents that are older and more experienced than him (one of his biggest enemies actually put this forward as his biggest advantage). As he is wonderfully described by some troper "Watching Shikamaru fight is like watching an acrobat work without a net."
- Itachi Uchiha is known to have been severely weakened by a terminal illness in the second Naruto series, yet still manages to completely obliterate his perfectly healthy genius brother in their proverbial duel of fate. Even before the diminished capacity derived from his illness is brought up, he is said to have less than average power/endurance, which his partner Kisame Hoshikagi hints at by reminding Itachi that he shouldn't use his exceptional ocular powers more than a few times a day, less he be completely drained. What Itachi lacks in quantitative power, he more than makes up for in qualitative.
- For that matter, Neji Hyuuga is one of the most dangerous of the Konoha 12 and the first to make Jonin, despite having relatively low physical strength. His mastery of the Gentle Fist and Heavenly Spin render him capable of crippling opponents far stronger than him. For instance, he was able to fight on equal terms with Naruto during the Chunin exams and was even favored to win that fight, even though Naruto completely outclassed him in terms of raw power.
- Rock Lee can also fall under this, as his only skill is in physical martial arts, being incapable of learning anything else.
- This is the explicit reason Evangeline McDowell was able to reach the quarterfinals during the first Tournament Arc of Mahou Sensei Negima! despite being Brought Down to Normal. Even a ten-year-old girl can do some damage when she has been practicing aikijutsu since before most of the competition's grandparents were born (she only had to break out the strings against Setsuna).
- It is heavily implied that she learned straight from either Morihei Ueshiba or Takeda Sokaku (respectively, the creators of Aikido and Aiki-Jujutsu.)
- Takahata is unable to cast spells but still manages to be Bad Ass within a society of mages with his Kanka (his title is "Death Glasses Takahata").
- The most straightforward example is probably Nodoka, who has very little actual combat experience or magical skill, but still does a number on a Reality Warper who had been erasing people from existence, simply by skillful use of her artifact. Her artifact is a diary that can read a person's surface thoughts if she knows their name. Not impressive, by itself, but handy. When she Takes A Level In Badass, she teams up with a group of artifact hunters and grabs two things: a ring that, when pointed at a person, reveals their true name, and a doohickey that lets her read books without opening them. The most major villains in the series have been defeated by "What are you planning?", "Where can I find X?", or "How do I escape from this situation?"
- Joseph Joestar, from Part 2 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, never fully masters the way of Hamon like his grandfather and Part 1 protagonist Jonathan. What he lacks in mastery over Hamon, he more than makes up for in creativity and guile, defeating his opponents by outwitting them rather than simply overpowering them.
- A Stand's strength is inversely proportional to how far away from its user it can operate, making this trope common among long-range Stand users. Despite lacking a lot of raw power, creative use of their abilities allow long-ranged Stand users to threaten the heroes every bit as effectively, if not more so, than short-ranged fighters who get up close and personal.
- Kekkaishi's Tokine builds her combat style on this trope. Comparatively speaking, the barriers she can create have nowhere near the explosive power as those made by Yoshimori, nor can she make them as big. The solution? Just use the barriers you have in really awesome ways...
- Usopp and Nami from One Piece are the crew's Lovable Coward and Chick respectively, and have little ability in physical combat. Word of God has even stated that Usopp will always be the weakest fighter of the crew. However, both are highly skilled in their specific fields of sharpshooting and navigation. Usopp, an amateur Gadgeteer Genius, has also built various weapons for himself and a Weather Control Machine for Nami with the specific intent of using their brains over their brawn to win battles. And he has proved that he's no pushover; when he goes all-out, he's capable of giving Luffy a run for his money while his entire body is injured and bandaged up. And as for Nami...well, the weather is her weapon.
- Robin would also qualify. While her physical strength is minuscule compared to the majority of foes that come her way, her extensive experience as an assassin as well as having two decades to work out the uses of her powers ensure that she's still very much a serious threat to most people. Furthermore, the nature of her powers allow her to apply what strength she has almost infinitely, limited only by the surface area of what she is grabbing. She has used this to twist a giant's arm behind its back with a giant arm made of other arms. Through smart use of her powers, she's one of the most dangerous Straw Hats and often lumped in with the far physically stronger 'monstrous trio.'
- For a villainous example, Foxy. He's not exactly "weak" per se, but he's a total joke compared to Luffy when it comes to raw power. He makes up for it with surprisingly clever use of his Devil Fruit power, as well as cheap tactics and low blows.
- Another villainous example is Ain from the twelfth movie One Piece Film: Z. She may be far from weak, but her physical strength still pales in comparison to her captain and several of her foes. To make up for it, she is very fast and uses her Devil Fruit powers in creative ways to gain or regain the upper hand in fights.
- Rebecca from the Dressrosa arc may very well be the physically weakest fighter in the Corrida tournament, but she still makes it to the finals because she is the master of a fighting style that lets her use her opponents' strength against them and knock them out of the ring, and because she is the only one whose Haki is good enough to anticipate Cavendish's/Hakuba's attack and dodge it. That said, she is very fast, so she's not entirely without physical skills.
- Vinland Saga: Thorfinn fights like this when he's got his head on straight. When he doesn't, he turns into a Screaming Warrior and proceeds to lose rather spectacularly. Askeladd fights like this as well, all the time, but with him there's a slight subversion. Despite the tactics he employs physically he's still one of the strongest characters in the series.
- Chiko, of The Daughter of Twenty Faces. Being just a pre-teen girl, she's physically weaker than everyone else she ever fights. However, she possesses impressive agility, quick wits, and clever resourcefulness, having been trained by a Gentleman Thief.
- Sagara Sousuke from Full Metal Panic!. Both when in hand to hand combat (with men who are a lot more muscled, no less), and when he's fighting in his AS (although this trope is more pronounced when he's in an inferior AS). There have been numerous times where he was piloting an old, worn down model of AS while fighting against new, far superior AS. And while everyone underestimates him and thinks he'll never win, he ends up taking down the opponents easily by using his skill and strategies. It also helps that he's a Combat Pragmatist. (On the other hand, in sister series Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu, his skills as applied to every day school life is clearly overkill.)
- Kaku Kaioh in the Baki the Grappler series. Was once very physically strong, until he came to believe that this was the superior way to fight, as his strength would fade with age, but skill would not.
- Sano from The Law of Ueki has two powers: to turn towels to steel and his Level 2 make the towel steel supermagnetic. From this, towel-boomerangs, towel-swords, towel-gags and at one point charging at extreme speeds using a towel MAGLEV TRAIN.
- Dragon Ball:
- In the original Dragon Ball, there's a bit where Goku goes back in time and meets Master Roshi's old teacher, Mutaitou. By this point Goku is far stronger than the Old Master, including having killed the monster that wiped out both the master and all of his dojo except Roshi and his Evil Counterpart rival, Tsuru. However, when they spar Goku's moves are so reckless and sloppy that Mutaitou manages to counter all his attacks with ease.
- This was also how his first meeting with Mr. Popo went.
- Compared to the Saiyans at the beginning of Z Goku was this. Since he was raise on Earth which had weak fighters compared to the rest of the universe, Goku lacked any real strength when Raditz came looking for him. However, Goku was able to sense energy, hide his power, and had great control of his ki, something that surprise Raditz when Goku bend his Kamehameha and rose his battle strength at various points.
- This trope is the bane of the human protagonists' existence. It's entirely possible that Krillin, Yamcha, and Chaozu might be able to keep pace with the Saiyans in terms of actual fighting skill, but the uber-powerful foes the protagonists face mean that the humans typically end up as benchwarmers, or are simply beat up as per The Worf Effect. Even if it's only anime filler, Tenshinhan, Yamcha, and Chaozu do get their own personal Crowning Moment of Awesome in Dragon Ball Z when they faced the Ginyu Force while being trained by King Kai. North Kai's training methods, which were so good they allowed Goku to utterly thrash Nappa when he returned to Earth, proved just as effective for the humans in that it allowed them to keep pace with Freeza's elite troops, and come out on top.
- The reason this rarely works in Dragonball is because generally powerful characters are simply incapable of being harmed by anything that isn't at least somewhat close to their power level. They will just laugh it off. Even if a weaker opponent has the skill to get around their defense and hit them 100 times before they can react it doesn't matter, because none of the those 100 blows will hurt them. Krillin struggled to hurt Vegeta when Vegeta was deliberately standing there wide open so Krillin could injure him so he'd require healing because Vegeta was that much stronger.
- Vegeta, of all people, gets this treatment in Battle of Gods . Despite being far weaker than SSJ 3 Goku, Gohan, and Gotenks. he has the best showing against Beerus because of his good fighting sense. Beerus even laments that he's "highly skilled, but lacks the power to match it."
- Yugi Mutou, from Yu-Gi-Oh!, seems an ineffectual wimp who, in spite of being a gutsy little mite, would be about as much use in a fistfight as a squashed watermelon. But in a universe where Card Games are Serious Business, Yugi reigns supreme. (Regular Yugi fits this trope better since the Other Yugi has Hard Work Hardly Works going for him, whereas Yugi slowly but surely develops his abilities to the point at which he can and does actually defeat the pharaoh.
- The Pharaoh is a prime example of this trope regarding the games. In Capsule Monster Chess, he defeated Mokuba's strong monsters with a single weakling. And in the card game Duel Monsters, he's so good that he defeated Obelisk the Tormentor with his three Magnet Warriors. And in the 10th Anniversary movie, his deck is actually very old and weak in comparison to his two partners Judai and Yusei and the opponent Paradox, yet he manages to destroy the Malefic Paradox Dragon (4000 ATK) with his freaking Dark Magician, who doesn't have even an effect.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Jun Manjoume conquers the North Academy with a mix of random weak cards. Later, his brothers challenged him to a duel where Manjoume must only use monsters with maximum 500 ATK. He wins anyway. Also, Manjoume's current deck has the Ojama trio as his core cards besides his Armed Dragons.
- Yusei Fudo from Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds has a deck full with weak monster cards. However, since his deck is built for Synchro Summoning and is prepared for almost every situation, he never lose on-screen.
- In Pokémon Special, Red and Blue's main Pokémon have levels that range from the 80s to 90s, while only Green's main powerhouse Pokémon has the level of 80 and everyone else is around 60-70 (her Granbull is only in its 20s). However, she rarely engages in direct combat as her victories are contributed to her skilled use of gambits.
- Yellow counts too, when she's not using her level-booster powers. By base level alone, she is by far the weakest of the Dex Holders. She can think up of a few sound strategies during battle to make up for her lack of strength (since overusing her powers rapidly exhausts her), but the flaws of this trope are pointed out to her when she works out a complicated scheme to get past Lance's primary defense but is unable to actually break through his secondary one due to simply not having enough power.
- Big Windup - Invoked - Momome points out that despite Tajima's exceptional speed and accuracy, he just doesn't have the build to be a power hitter in baseball. While he has been holding his own so far, there are signs that as the series goes on he will struggle to progress as a result of this handicap while the other players like Hanai overtake him in usefulness by virtue of their superior power and range.
- Clare from Claymore, despite being in theory the weakest of all the warriors, has learned every trick and tactic there is to kill Awakened Ones. Normally, she's cripplingly overspecialized, but as the series progresses, Awakened Beings start coming out of the woodwork. And then subverted horribly when she finally meets up with Priscilla after years of searching. Priscilla is by far the strongest character currently in the series and all the skill in the world can't put a scratch on her.
- Until he Took a Level in Badass, Yuki of Future Diary usually just let his Yandere Action Girlfriend do the fighting for him. However, he is the most skilled at utilizing the power of his Diary and anticipates moves in combat or finds very specific information from the future.
- Said girlfriend is the polar opposite of Yukki, but still manages to fit this trope. She is very strong and skilled, but her Diary is the weakest, only able to predict one persons actions and her own Dead End.
- Initial D gives us Takumi and his AE86 Trueno. Although his Trueno pales in comparison to more powerful cars like the RX-7s and Skylines, his skill with the Trueno is what allows him to, to the shock of those who haven't seen him in action yet, hold his own against such more powerful cars.
- Shaman King has Yoh's father, who tends to say "It matters not who has the most furyoku, but who uses it properly". He can defeat his overpowered son and friends with his technique alone, but then again, Yoh and friends don't seem to understand that in the anime.
- There's also the fight against Lee Bai Long. To stop him after he goes berserk once Jun's spell tag is destroyed, Anna summons the ghost of Bai Long's deceased master, who possesses Yoh in order to put the raging zombie down. Bai Long's master died a decrepit old man - and still kicks Bai Long's ass.
- Lelouch Vi Britannia of Code Geass uses his intelligence and tactics as counter his Ace Pilot rival, all while being an average pilot and outright pathetic ground-pounder himself.
- Any human in Beet the Vandel Buster capable of threatening a high star Vandel, including the main characters. Slade in particular fits this, he is small but quick, his special weapon is invisible rather than being an obvious representation of power like usual, and he is fond of advanced techniques involving intricate timing.
- Infinite Stratos: Maya Yamada, the assistant homeroom teacher, goes up against two students in Ace Customs, using a training IS... and effortlessly curbstomps them.
- In the same vein, Charles aka Charlotte Dunois. Having explicitly stated to pilot an outdated 2nd Generation IS Rafale Revive II (the same type that Yamada-sensei uses), albeit customized, she can and has gone toe-to-toe with more modern 3rd generation machines such as Blue Tears and Schwarzer Roegen.
- Kisiragi of Eyeshield 21 is a weak pretty-boy with little stamina and only average speed. Yet he manages to be Co-Dragons with Marco alongside the Unskilled, but Strong Gaou due to his ability to knock the ball out of a reciever's hand just after they get their hands on it. With only this skill, and his own stubbornness, Kisiragi shuts down Monta, the best Wide Reciever in-series, and helps his idol, Gaou, take down Hiruma, possibly the smartest Quarterback around.
- Compared with his junior teammates, who are very large and powerful, quarterback Osamu Kobanzame from the Kyoshin Poseidons is a pushover. He's short, he's not particularly fast or strong, and he's a coward. However, because he don't want to become a burden for his teammates, he strives to perform to the best he can. As result, he became quarterback with great short-pass precision, with no interceptions during the tournament thanks to his cautious playing. And despite his own misgivings, his junior teammates actually greatly valued him.
- The Devil Bats have Manabu Yukimitsu. He's only about as strong as Sena, and slightly faster than Kurita. What he does have is the brains to be a master of the option route with Hiruma as his quarterback, and the determination to pull it off.
- The Homunculus Wrath a.k.a. King Bradley in Fullmetal Alchemist. He cannot regenerate like the other Homunculi and he's also turning sixty, something he likes to remind us often, downplaying his combat performance as well as the effectiveness of his Ultimate Eye; a skill that lacks the sheer power of, say, Lust's Ultimate Lance or Greed's Ultimate Shield. Finally, he uses swords in a world where firearms and long range alchemic attacks are fairly common. All in all, he shouldn't pose a significant threat to our heroes, right?...W-R-O-N-G.
- Samurai Champloo: While Jin is definitely not physically weak, he's a lot more reliant on technical skill than his rival Mugen. This trope is most evident in the fight against Kariya; Jin's actually very close in skill with him, but outclassed in sheer power and Ki-Attacks.
- Kuroko of Kuroko no Basuke. He doesn't have the talent or the build for basketball, but because of his highly refined and practiced skill at misdirection, he was able to be considered the "Phantom Sixth Player" of the legendary Generation of Miracles, his middle school team which took the national championship three years in a row.
- In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Akemi Homura is eventually revealed to be a version of this. Her actual powers are fairly limited; her status as one of the most accomplished warriors in the series comes from her creative applications of them. As well as a lot of Dakka.
- Sniper from YuYu Hakusho more or less fits the trope. Physically, he's a normal human who could easily be knocked out from a mere tap by any of the main characters, yet he's dangerous enough of a psychic and marksman to give Genkai the chills. And sure enough, Yusuke stood no real chance against him during their "fight." Fortunately for Yusuke, Hiei was lurking about.
- Kamisama Kiss gives us Nanami, an ordinary human turned Physical God. She has plenty of divine power and she's both intelligent and cunning, but she is still only a human in terms of physical strength and endurance.
- Viral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It's a stated impossibility for him to create Spiral Energy, but he can still stand up to Kamina and Simon through sheer piloting skill and courage.
- Cao Cao in High School D×D is this trope. He's just a normal human who admittedly has the strongest spear (and weapon created in the entire series) that can kill a god, but all it takes is just one hit from any character in this series and he's down for the count since the protagonists are devils who are a lot more durable than he is. It should be easy to take him down, right? NOPE.
- Puppetmon from Digimon Adventure is one of the physically weakest Mega levels of all, but his special skills means he's able to keep pace with the physical powerhouse Wargreymon and even take control of him. Note, that he's only weak for his level, he'd beat most ultimates physically.
- Batman. He's a guy with a funny suit and a bunch of neat toys who runs around with people who can bench-press planets. And, whenever there's a conflict, he wins, because he's the most skilled. It helps he's Crazy-Prepared and keeps Kryptonite on his body at all times in the off chance Superman is a danger. Let alone his other plans...
- The Joker. He might be a normal, rather fragile human, but he can concoct poisons and create gadgets that regularly overcome metas on a routine basis. Add in the fact that he would sell his soul for a box of cigars and massacre a kindergarten class on a whim, and you've got a guy whom almost every other DC Supervillain fears.
- Tim Drake, the third Robin, shows off how much he's learned by employing the same tactics. In the last issue of his solo series, he's challenged to a duel to the death by Lady Shiva, the deadliest assassin in The DCU, who trained him in the first place. After what appears to be a Single-Stroke Battle, Tim is stumbling, with three broken ribs, while Shiva is standing confidently... until she falls to the ground, paralyzed. Tim spiked some hotel chocolates with a paralytic poison, activated by a heightened heart rate, before she even wrote the note challenging him. Standing over her, Tim then explains this trope: If he can't match someone with skill or strength, he'll beat them with his smarts.
- Squirrel Girl, who has the powers of talking to squirrels while having squirrel agility, takes down Marvel powerhouses, including the Cosmic Powered Thanos, by exploiting their one weakness, being just that good, or having Plot Armor.
- Rule of Funny is also a factor.
- This trope probably applies to the entire Great Lakes Avengers team. They get no respect from the other superheroes, and their powers are...weird. Yet they still save the day now and then.
- Averted in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin once attempted to use this on Moe the school bully — or at least explain its mechanics — only to be beaten as easily as usual.
- This is Karate Kid's (Legion of Super-Heroes) entire schtick: although he technically doesn't possess any super-powers, he can still hold his own against Superman thanks to his knowledge of every martial art in existence.
- Cassie from Hack/Slash is a Badass Normal always fighting against undead monsters many times stronger than her.
- Believe it or not, Spider-Man in relation to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Sure his powers are pretty impressive to a normal person, but he's a lightweight compared to the some of the guys he normally hangs out with. However, by using his brains, all his powers, and absolute refusal to give up he can, and often does, take down even literal Physical Gods.
- Doesn't hurt that his Unstoppable Rages are quite possibly the most legitimate in Marvel, next to the Hulk himself.
- Most of his rogues' gallery is stronger than him, and many of them can break his webbing, so Spider-man has to outthink all of his opponents. One of his favorite tricks is to hit an enemy with a strand of web, even though said villain is physically stronger and heavier so Spider-man cannot throw him. When the enemy tries to yank Spider-man towards them, he uses the momentum to deliver a nasty kick or punch.
- It also doesn't hurt his physical abilities are some of the most well balanced around. There are stronger, but they usually have no where near his speed and agility and those who are more agile and faster are nowhere near as strong.
- Interestingly enough, he has been written as Unskilled, but Strong in some story arcs. During the recent Big Time arc he was temporarily stripped of his Spider Sense, and his fighting ability took a hit as a result, as he tended to rely on the early warning of his Spider Sense to anticipate his opponent's attacks. To compensate for the loss of his Spider Sense, he accepted an offer to learn martial arts from Shang Chi, one of the top martial artists in the Marvel Universe. Once Shang Chi taught him the basics, they perfected a unique fighting style called The Way of the Spider, which exploited Spider-Man's physical strength, speed and agility to maximum effect.
- Jesse Custer from Preacher is this compared to Cassidy, and has kicked his ass. As Jesse puts it, "Fella taught me to fight was the same piece of shit shot my daddy dead in fronta my eyes. That'll tend to focus your concentration".
- One of Jesse and Cassidy's fights hilariously subverts this. Cassidy throws a punch in a rage, which Jesse blocks; Cassidy is cowed and leaves. Jesse immediately asks Tulip and Amy to drive him to the hospital, as the punch broke every bone in his hand.
- Tulip also fits this trope, being a talented gunfighter who routinely goes up against both normal humans several times her size/strength and supernatural creatures. In particular is the time she shoots Cassidy out of a window and into the sunlight. Bonus points for doing it with a hangover.
- This is the schtick of Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four. He's physically the weakest member, but his mind makes him the most dangerous by a long shot.
- John Constantine is, by his own admission, terrible at fighting. He will more often than not lose out in a straight-up fist fight and doesn't really use any magic outside of rituals, and then only when absolutely necessary. Regardless, anyone who decides to piss him off better watch their backs, because chances are that he will be arranging some spectacularly terrible fate for them somewhere down the line.
- On paper, Captain America isn't all that impressive. He's listed as the height of human potential, but a good chunk of his enemies are way beyond that. Unfortunately for most villains, he's more than skilled enough to make him one of the top A-list heroes in Marvel. On at least one occasion, he's actually beaten The Hulk.
- In one instance Captain America lost the strength and agility that was given to him by the Super Solider serum, turning him back into that skinny kid from Brooklyn. While being intimidated by some newly super-powered thugs, Cap tells them that while the serum gave him physical strength, his skills are the result of years of training and discipline. He then demonstrates.
- Empowered has shown signs of this. While her supersuit really is pretty powerful, it is easily damaged and rendered useless, making her an extreme Glass Cannon. However, unlike 99% of the other superheroes in her universe, she actually thinks, and this has allowed her to beat villains that others were not able to. She also notes that as cool as throwing a car looks, you'll do much more damage by just driving it into them.
- Doctor Strange (yes, really), when up against the caliber of threat that will get a Sorcerer Supreme involved, is almost always overpowered and outclassed. He still wins through a combination of luck, knowledge, and the clever use of what he has.
- Amy from Sonic the Comic She never gains the raw power of Sonic or Knuckles, but her smarts and ranged combat abilities allow her to be almost as effective under the right conditions.
- Hideko Takata was a member of the Hulkbusters in the late 1980s. She's a normal, overweight, middle-aged woman, who manged to throw the Hulk to the ground, by expert use of judo.
- X-23 is a short and slight teenage girl usually depicted as even smaller than Wolverine. She shares his mutation but only her claws are laced with adamantium, so though she heals faster she's less resistant to injury in the first place. She's still one of the most dangerous fighters in the Marvel Universe because of her extensive combat training (and not just hand-to-hand, either. Target X shows her sniping the pilot of a maneuvering helicopter with a perfect headshot). In fact she's such a dangerous fighter despite her physical shortcomings that Marvel: Avengers Alliance actually classifies her as a Bruiser.
- Grendel especially the Hunter Rose and Christine Spar versions. Hunter Rose was a slight man and not particularly tall, but he was a teenage fencing champion. And of course, he was intellectually brilliant. Christine Spar was a tall, thin woman who, however was said to practice kendo. She was good in tracking and spying but physically, she couldn't handle more than petty thugs or not so bright animal cops like Dominic Riley. Also, because she was the least malevolent Grendel, her body count was quite small compared to other Grendels as she didn't really seek to kill anyone except her son's kidnappers. The only heavyweights that Christine fought were Tujiro and Argent. However, Tujiro escaped and she died fighting Argent.
- There's a magic style built around this principle in Game Theory.
- Queen Of All Oni: When Jackie fights Blankman in the Vault of Endless Night, he notes that he has Hak Foo's level of skill, if not power.
- In Kage, Jade fits this, at least in comparison to her foes. She only has Casting a Shadow powers, enhanced physical abilities, and an unlimited amount of kunai and shuriken. Her main foes are the Guardians, who all have Elemental Powers. During the capture of Vathek, she is able to keep Irma and Hay Lin too busy dodging her attacks to be able to actually fight.
- Discussed in Swapping The Cage. When Sakura mentions that she has good chakra control and skill to compensate for her lack of power, Kuushou points out that there comes a point where all the skill in the world can't compensate for a significant gap in power. However he does agree with her that it's far better to have both skill and power than one or the other.
- Kirito and Asuna in Highschool SAO are the weakest members of Rias' Peerage, but due to their time fighting in SAO, they have the skill to fight almost all of Raiser's Peerage and come out victorious.
- In The 13th Warrior, one of the thirteen picks a fight with a younger, bigger, stronger mook and lets him beat him up for a while before hacking his head off to show that the thirteen are stronger than they seem.
- RoboCop (1987) combines this with Weaksauce Weakness: The eponymous cyborg defeats ED-209 by knowing how to climb stairs.
- In Forbidden City Cop, Ling Ling Fat inherited a position in the imperial bodyguards, but doesn't actually know any martial arts. Instead, he's a clever Renaissance Man who uses his wits and inventions to outfight his enemies.
- Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman. He's old, blind, feeble, and homeless. He practically hobbles up to his opponents, and then cuts them down.
- Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) of Kick-Ass is an 11-year old girl, but is capable of killing multiple adult opponents due to her superior training in martial arts, weapons and firearms (just go with it). Notably, in unarmed combat against an opponent who is an equally skilled martial artist, his significant advantage in terms of weight means that she actually has trouble keeping up with him.
- In Man of Steel, the Kryptonians haven't adapted to Earth like Superman has, so they're vulnerable to the same Power Incontinence he got over and have had less time to gain strength from Earth's sun. However, having been bred to be soldiers, they are better fighters and learn the basics of their new abilities extremely fast. By the end, Zod has learned to control both his flight and his heat vision.
- Rob Roy: Archibald Cunningham, the Fragile Speedster fencing master and foppish fashion enthusiast. His introduction scene has a burly Scottish swordsman mock Cunningham's puny physical frame before getting his ass handed to him in a sword fight. The even burlier Rob Roy manages to manhandle Cunningham on several occasions, but in a straight swordfight, the tables are turned.
- Big Bad Memnon from The Scorpion King is weaker and smaller than the hero but dual-wields his blades with incredible skill.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward's aunt Stala - relatively, as she's very strong and tall. She can beat Ward's father (who is a giant of a man) in everything, except wrestling, where raw strength is more important than skill. Unsurprisingly, Ward's siblings, who have been trained by Stala, are this too. When he tells his sister to stay away from combat as no amount of skill could make up for her lack in strength (she's a female teenager, and a bit of a late bloomer) ... she still hurts a man lethally. Ward himself is a Gentle Giant, and also a skilled fighter, so more or less everyone who beats him is this trope, in comparison to him, at least.
- Karrin Murphy of The Dresden Files. While not exactly physically weak, she's a tiny Badass Normal up against a lot of supernatural creatures who could in theory mop the floor with her. She's an expert martial artist and marksman, makes sure to remember and implement any weaknesses she learns, and is willing and able to improvise - at one point she takes down a chlorofiend (read: plant monster) with a chainsaw.
- Anastasia Luccio, the Captain of the Wardens, is this by necessity, due to a body swapping incident with a necromancer. Her new body just doesn't have the same magical talent her old one did, forcing her to constantly conserve her energy with her spells. That being said she can use the same fire spells as Harry as needle-thin beams of exteremely precise and intense heat and cast mass-concealing veils to hide people. Harry says that even with the decrease in power he wouldn't want to fight her.
- In Ghost Story Harry's apprentice Molly has gotten in on the act—again, she doesn't have nearly Harry's raw destructive power, but she's gained enormous skill in illusions that let her evade and fool multiple attackers at once, sometimes tricking them into killing each other.
- The Archive is a human receptacle for all human knowledge, and it is also hereditary, passing from mother to daughter at birth. This means that that tiny girl know more than any other individual in the world. And she puts that knowledge to good use, holding her own against several Denarians without much apparent effort.
- Although in normal conditions, Ivy has both skill and power; the Denarians trapped her in a circle that cut her off from using more than a tiny fraction of her magical power, and she still cleaned their clocks pretty thoroughly.
- Some of the Denarians. Their human hosts may not have as much magical potential as a full White Court wizard but given a few hundred years of practice and the backing of a Fallen Angel they can use the power they do have VERY effectively.
- According to Word of God this is how Professor Quirrell started out. As a kid (and a teacher) he was extremely intelligent but constantly picked on and teased. As an adult, his self confidence really low he sought out Lord Voldemort to try and defer him and earn some respect, only for it to backfire and for him to become possessed with the undying soul of the dark Lord, subsequently allowing Voldemort to gather in strength and allow for the next seven books to occur..., however, he is shown to be extremely skilled in magic, having been showed to be able to use wandless magic, a rare skill among wizards.
- The titular character's schtick in Enders Game. He wins a mock battle in Battle School in which the enemy has a 2:1 advantage, wins every battle in Command School aka the Third Invasion against even worse odds, and kills two older and larger boys with his bare hands when he feels his personal safety is threatened.
- Discworld has Cohen the Barbarian (and the rest of the Silver Horde). It says a lot about his skills that Cohen is in his eighties, has been a barbarian hero his entire life, and is still alive. Whenever you have five centuries of combat experience distributed among half a dozen guys, expect a lot of this.
- Always remember Rule 1: Do not act incautiously when confronting a little bald wrinkly smiling man.
- In "The Sea And Little Fishes" Mrs Earwig, saying Granny Weatherwax shouldn't enter the Witch Trials because she always wins, suggests Granny should be grateful for her natural talent. Nanny Ogg quickly replies, "I'm the one with natural talent, Esme just works bloody hard."
- Granny doesn't enter the Witch Trials. Of course, everyone else (except maybe Nanny Ogg) is so widdling-in-their-knickers scared by Granny acting nice that they can't manage to do their own tricks right, and at the end of the day it's just silently acknowledged by everyone that Esme won by using the most subtle Headology trick ever: not entering.
- In The Fifth Elephant Vimes takes on three werewolves, one with an axe, and two more, not more than minutes apart, with his bare hands, either of which could have easily killed him had it not been for his absolutely awesome brawling.
- One of the 'viewpoint' protagonists in the light novel series Fate/Zero, Emiya Kiritsugu, is presented as this. While he is an expert marksman, most of his successes come from exploiting his targets' weaknesses and generally fighting very methodically. Whenever he is in a direct confrontation, he will always be the one running away, while waiting for the best time to put his plans into action.
- The Wheel of Time:
- Mat Cauthon outfights two stronger and more practiced opponents at the same time, while recovering from a serious illness. He's really good with the quarterstaff.
- Another example from The Wheel of Time are some of the weaker channelers in the series. Although among the Aes Sedai, the strongest channelers are always given authority over those weaker, some of the weaker ones manage to make a name for themselves. Particularly notable are:
- The Wise One Sorilea who can just barely channel, but has such a sense of authority about her that when she says "jump" even other Wise Ones ask, "How High!"
- Androl, who's probably the weakest channeler in the Black Tower, but has an incredible talent for making gateways. When he learns to weaponize this in the last book, he's able to take out several very powerful enemy channelers using nothing but gateways and can hold his own in combat against anyone.
- For the bad guys, Be'lal doesn't appear to be a terribly impressive channeler, at least by Forsaken standards (and admittedly, that still makes him quite a bit stronger than anyone else), and one of his key traits is his envy of those stronger than him, most obviously Lews Therin Telamon but also the top-ranked Forsaken like Ishamael, Demandred, and Lanfear. He makes up for it by being a Master Swordsman, one of the Shadow's three top generals, and a politician savvy enough to earn the nickname "Netweaver". Unfortunately for him, it doesn't save him from being the first Forsaken to be Killed Off for Real.
- Jasmine from Deltora Quest is tiny, and has this as her fighting style throughout the series, even winning a fighting tournament with it in the fourth book. Lief also uses it to an extent, he's at least average in size and strength, but most opponents are still bigger and stronger.
- David from The Bible (in his fight against Goliath) is the quintessential weak but skilled character; one stone slung in the right place and the fight was over.
- Elric, until he acquires Stormbringer
- Downplayed in the Detective's Story in Dan Simmons' Hyperion, where the protagonist notes that while Weak, but Skilled is sometimes good enough, it can't stand up to Strong And Skilled.
- Hrathen from Elantris is hardly weak, being a Badass Preacher par excellence, but he's nowhere near as physically powerful as a magically-enhanced Dakhor Monk. He's still able to hold his own against them because he's an incredibly skilled swordsman, while their power has made them arrogant and sloppy.
- In Dark Rendezvous, Scout is a Jedi Padawan. The Force is weak with her; she makes up for it with determination, quick thinking, and endless training. She's got Heroic Resolve in spades and bloody-minded determination, and in a book full of concern about almost every other character maybe one day turning to the Dark Side, no one believes Scout will, not even herself, because she fights so hard to be the best Jedi she can be. Just to drive home the point of how good she was: she survived The Purge that killed most of the full Knights and Masters of the Jedi order. In her non-Dark Rendezvous appearance the author had other Jedi look down on her for having weak powers, but it only takes one line to see that that author was just not doing the research.
"Too few Jedi have I already. But even had I a crop of thousands, small one, I would not let you go without a fight. Spirit and determination you have. Between the stars, so much darkness there is. Why would I throw away one who burns so bright?
- In Duel Of Sorcery, Serroi succeeded as a meie by way of quick reflexes and sheer determination.
- In the Dale Brown novel Sky Masters a small Filipino group using outdated ships is able to trounce a larger, modern Chinese flotilla to the point that the Big Bad admiral in charge of said Chinese flotilla is pushed over the Godzilla Threshold.
- Deconstructed in Heroes Die. When Talann fights Berne, she initially holds out, but Berne has some mean skills of his own too, and her inability to close the power gap gets her killed.
- Lord Peter Wimsey is particularly this, when it comes to a test of strength he'll get taken out, but there's been several a villain who's been surprised that the short, thin, well-dressed man in spats has insanely fast reflexes and a considerable knowledge of martial arts that will make an opponent's bulk a disadvantage.
- Tavi from Codex Alera has no access to fury power, while everyone else in Aleran society does. It forces him to become very skilled at kicking people's butts all on his own power. The teacher even has him deliberately pretend to be horrible at it so he can serve as a counterexample for the other students in fight training. Then he starts developing his furycraft powers...
- In the Myth Adventures series, Skeeve is just an apprentice magician and his mentor Aahz has been completely Brought Down to Normal. Nevertheless, thanks to each being quite the Guile Hero, they regularly trounce or otherwise deal with vastly superior foes, leading to Skeeve enjoying a public reputation as a sorcerer with an almost godlike power level.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Benji inherits his mother's superpowers and the skill to use them but he doesn't have her stamina or her strength. He compensates with guile.
- In The Gone-Away World, Wu, the Master of the Voiceless Dragon, is "soft form" martial artist who does not rely on overwhelming physical strength. The narrator describes him as about 80 years old and with a limp, yet it's implied that he could easily defeat anyone. The narrator learns the same martial arts style. He's pretty miserable at "hard form" martial arts, yet becomes quite skilled at the Voiceless Dragon style.
- This is the entire premise of the Vorkosigan Saga: Miles is crippled, but consistently wins through brilliance and sheer force of personality.
- In the Gentleman Bastard series, Locke Lamora is supposed to be a really bad fighter. The end of the first book mitigates this since he is able to defend himself decently against Capa Raza, who is described as "deadly" with a sword. This is more than compensated by his considerable skills as a con artist, thief, smooth talker and gambit planner.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Features this trope regularly in a very plausible way. The series has loads characters who are too old (Barristan Selmy, Syrio Forell) or too thin (Loras Tyrell) to be considered "strong" but are extremely capable fighters, usually because they are both naturally skilled, very well trained, and unusually brave. This is realistic since there is no use being a bag of muscle if you are clumsy, untrained or just too weak-minded to hold yourself on a battlefield or in another life-or-death situation. In other words, being strong and resilient may make you a good soldier (since much of soldiering is enduring months of underfeeding, sleeping in camps, forced marches, exhausting work and generally horrible life conditions) but it does not automatically make you a good fighter. (The reverse is true: many a Knight in Shining Armor is a capable fighter but could never endure the life conditions of the rank and file.)
- Subverted, however, by Syrio Forel, who gives a very impressive account of himself when he is outnumbered six to one and armed with a wooden sword while his opponents have live steel. He defeats and possibly maims or kills five of them, but falls to the sixth, who has (as the Hound memorably puts it in the TV adaptation), "armor and a big fucking sword."
- Before his maiming, Jaime Lannister was the best swordsman in the world by virtue of this. He was by no means a weakling, considering that the list of people he can think of who are stronger than him is less than ten men and one woman, but he fought and beat Robert Baratheon (6' 6", muscled like a maiden's fantasy, and wielding a massive warhammer), Sandor Clegane (~6' 8" and muscled like a bull), men with the nicknames Strongboar (Said to be almost as strong as the Sandor) and The White Bull, and even Gregor Clegane, the Mountain That Rides (7' 10"!, with shoulders like a plow horse, a chest that would not have shamed an ox, arms and legs like small trees, and armor so thick that it rendered him virtually immune to conventional attack).
- In The Lord of the Isles the wizard Tenoctris has very little power, but has a huge understanding of how magic works. This is a world where several civilizations have been wiped out because their own wizards cast mighty spells without properly understanding what the effects would be. Her spells do what she wants, and she often knows exactly how a spell will backfire when the caster doesn't even know there will be side effects. She'd lose to almost anyone in a Wizard Duel, but as an adviser she's invaluable.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who The Doctor, aside from a handy screwdriver and a parlor trick regarding kinda-sorta-not-really dying, is for all intents and purposes, a mortal being no more powerful than any other sharp-witted human male. And yet, he has engineered the downfall of entire races by being merely smarter than them.
- MacGyver lived and breathed this trope. He generally loses straight-up fistfights with larger or stronger opponents. He always needed to attack from advantage, throw sand, or use some gadget to win. What keeps him from being a Combat Pragmatist is that he Doesn't Like Guns and never uses them.
- Ethan Rayne can't take Giles in a fight, but he has a flair for magic-induced chaos.
- As far as credible villains go, Angelus is not on the same scale as the ascended Mayor but he's a Master Vampire who has been in the game for over two hundred years and is powerful enough to stalemate Buffy, an unusually strong Slayer. His greatest asset, however, (aside from a meticulous brand of viciousness that would make The Joker proud) is his inside knowledge of the Scoobies, which he uses to full effect.
- Wesley is easily the physically weakest male member of Angel Investigations. Yet he managed to kill Skip, capture and cage up Justine and faced Vail in "Not Fade Away".
- While testing Ilyria's powers, Spike (who is usually no slouch in the strength department) gets knocked around the room constantly by her godlike strength, commenting that she hits "like a mack-truck". Over time he begins to adapt and dodge her blows and gets a few shots in. Ilyria disparages him as being weak for adapting and compromising, to which Spike retorts that it is a strength because he is learning.
- Kate knows that she isn't strong enough to fight vampires head-on, so she uses pragmatic tactics to gain the upper hand.
- Happens only rarely, but when Fred pulls a fast one, her ingenuity will leave you dizzy.
- Rey Mysterio is the smallest and physically weakest regular male competitor on the WWE roster, usually outweighed by a good 30-40 pounds even in the Cruiserweight division. Yet he competes almost exclusively in the Heavyweight division and he's won more titles than 90% of the other guys.
- Farscape - D'Argo is huge, strong, used to be a Luxan warrior, and has the ability to knock people out with his tongue. Aeryn Sun is slender, smaller, female, with a species weakness which means she starts dying whenever it gets too hot. But in any battle where D'Argo doesn't surprise her, guess who's tougher?!
- Rescue Me had strong, young firefighter Franco training as a boxer. His first sparring partner was a man with decades of experience, who was way over 70 years old. Guess who won?
- Ben Linus from LOST hardly looks dangerous, but he is fully capable of taking you down. He managed to destroy two Middle Eastern guys on horseback and armed with machine guns using only a telescoping baton and the element of surprise as weapons. There there's the fact that he's also a Chessmaster and a Magnificent Bastard and can play Gambit Roulette like few others...
- The Battlestar Galactica is a 50 year old bucket which was being turned into a museum when the Cylons hit, having been rendered obsolete by newer battlestars. Yet, thanks to its Commander, (eventually) hardened pilots and a True Companions mentality, they were able to survive the holocaust and the four years of ordeal. There is a reason why many fans believed Galactica could take out Pegasus despite the former being heavily outgunned by the latter.
- Harvey Korman, a patient in Scrubs, is obese, nonathletic, and a hypochondriac, but his tennis swing managed to send a doctor that promised to play a round with him flying into the fence behind him.
- A curious example of this pops up in the form of Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles. While she's far from the weakest member of the main cast, she's still much physically weaker than other machines, being very small and lightweight. In a straight slugging match, she tends to lose. However, Cameron is intelligent and adaptable, making use of her surroundings, Improvised Weapons, and outmaneuvering opponents to defeat them.
- Sherlock: Despite being very short, John and Mary are good shots, and John had killed TWO villains, threatened actual freaking DEATH on one of them, grabs on to Moriarty, while having a bomb vest strapped to him, and tells his friend to run. Oh, and Mary's the one who shot Sherlock.
- Despite being a "ninety pound girl" River Tam from Firefly is skilled enough to accomplish such feats as sharp-shooting mooks with her eyes closed, single-handedly beating to a pulp a bar's worth of low lives with nothing but her hands and feet, and, last but not least, massacring a contingent of Reavers with whatever she could find lying around.
- In the Supernatural episode "All Hell Breaks Loose, Part One" (S02, Ep21), Jake and Sam tower over Andy. Andy is not a fighter, but has Mind Control.
- Jushin Thunder Liger is not a large man, and in fact was refused by Japans dojos when he went looking for a place to train, forcing him to go to Mexico. Yet, once he actually got training he gradually became one of the most famous professional wrestlers in the world, because he was good at it and dedicated. He even lecture's Ring of Honor's locker room, insisting strong technique is more important than physical strength alone and decided to train the petite Cheeseburger to prove his point.
- In IWA Mid-South, this was the stated reasoning for moving Jimmy Jacobs from the light heavyweight division to the heavyweights, even though he was not very big. He was simply too much better than everyone else in that weight class and good enough to beat heavyweights...though another light heavyweight, Delirious, rose up the ranks not long after Jacobs did.
- While at first glance, it would seem absurd to like at the 196 cm 104 kg Chris Hero and call him "weak", his record in Pro Wrestling NOAH's Global Tag League has seen him fail to advance from the opening round for several years in a row. In his fourth year in, he and Colt Cabana were officially recognized as having the best technique of any participants, despite their low showing, suggesting that Chris Hero and his partners simply aren't strong enough or that they're lacking something else...
- Rogues in Dungeons & Dragons are practically the patron saints of this trope. Not only can they apply their dexterity to weapon skill instead of strength like most classes, but they also learn much more quickly than their counterparts. Even low intelligence rogues will have a healthy set of skills, while a high intelligence human rogue will quickly become the team's ninja historian animal taming demolitions expert.
- The rogue's signature sneak attack ability was also changed from a damage multiplier in 2.0 to deal consistent bonus regardless of the rogue's strength or size of his or her weapon in 3.0 so that rogues do not particularly suffer from low strength or lightweight weapons.
- A Rogue-friendly prestige class in v3.5 called Invisible Blade applies this trope more narrowly to combat. The rogue becomes incredibly skilled at fighting with daggers, and can now apply his Intelligence bonus to armor class as well as to skill points. As a trade-off, the Invisible Blade cannot wear any armor. To qualify for the prestige class the rogue must defeat a Worthy Opponent in single combat using nothing but a dagger.
- The Haos attribute from Bakugan absolutely thrives on having lower power levels by having cards that give the weaker Bakugan a tremendous advantage (The wider the margin, the better). Probably the only game where people get into arguments over who has the weakest of something.
- In Magic, Weak But Skilled tends to be an advantage. A creature having high power or toughness stats and no other special traits or abilities is utterly unremarkable (after all, the most common creature-removal spells simply kill or otherwise remove creatures without looking twice at their size). However, some of the most valuable creatures to have are small ones (in terms of power and toughness) with useful abilities like the ability to retrieve any Equipment from your deck, and put any Equipment in your hand into play for a low, fixed cost or the ability to give you extra mana just for putting more lands onto the battlefield, especially in formats where the ability to do so more often is commonplace.
- Mages count as this trope in the World of Darkness. Vampires have their Disciplines, which grant them supernatural strength and resilience, as well as blood pools that can be used to heal their wounds at a moment's notice. Werewolves have sheer strength on their side, being perfect killing machines created by Gaia, in addition to their spiritual gifts, feral Rage, supernatural resistances, a healing factor, and pack tactics. Mages are comparatively squishier, having to use Magick to replicate any of that—and even then, a Mage needs to be careful, in order to avoid gathering Paradox. However, Magick also allows Mages a degree of control over any facet of reality: it's possible for a well-prepared Mage to develop completely coincidental counter-measures that can neutralize any other Supernatural's abilities.
- To highlight this, one of the truly unique things a mage can do that no other splat can in the World of Darkness is to rewind time, allowing them effectively a few extra moments and some foreknowledge in combat. In the New World of Darkness, this is replaced by the ability to selectively rewrite his past, declaring that he spent the last ten years studying lock-picking and escape-driving instead of riflery and science, allowing him to retroactively have prepared mundane defenses and learned appropriate skills.
- The unofficial national sport of Mage players is negation of other supernaturals, seeing how few ranks in a magical discipline one needs to render a massively stronger opponent mortal, such as using a low-level mental power to prevent a werewolf's rage or remove the friction from the ground beneath a speed-based vampire.
- The second edition of the Champions/Hero System rulebook explicitly pointed out that in the game system as it existed at that time, DEX was the One Stat to Rule Them All, because DEX was used in calculating several other stats. People who exploited this tended to rely on the Weak, But Skilled paradigm.
- The John M. Ford-designed Klingons from FASA's Star Trek: The Role Playing Game aren't as physically powerful as Terrans, but their endurance, high-gravity-tuned reflexes, and lifelong combat training more than make up for this.
- In Traveller, characters take an old age roll at the end of each four-year career term starting with the one ending at age 34 when generating the character's backstory. Failing this roll (which gets increasingly likely as the character gets older and the penalties become increasingly severe) will drain physical attributes, but staying in a career for longer will, among other things, increase the character's skills.
- The player deliberately invokes this in any Low Level Run.
- Any game where you are a One-Hit-Point Wonder will require the player to be this.
- In Half-Life, the player character Gordon Freeman is a scientist who theoretically isn't cut out for the kind of mayhem caused by the resonance cascade. He has to make do without any firearms at first, and, given a skilled player controlling him, could be said to either take a quick, practical level in badass or just discover that he's naturally skilled as a fighter.
- The second game lampshades it with a speech by Breen to the troops:
"How could one man have slipped through your forces' fingers time and time again? How is it possible? This is not some agent provocateur or highly trained assassin we are discussing. Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who had barely earned the distinction of his Ph.D. at the time of the Black Mesa Incident. I have good reason to believe that in the intervening years, he was in a state that precluded further development of covert skills. The man you have consistently failed to slow, let alone capture is by all standards just that—an ordinary man. How could you have failed to apprehend him?"
- Metafictionally speaking, in games with leveling systems, early-to-middling bosses (particularly difficult ones) are Weak, but Skilled: They often have access to a variety of skills/spells/attacks/whatever and a complex AI script, however, in the big scheme of things their actual statistics are unimpressive and will probably be beaten out by the Random Encounters of the later game—which, in turn, tend to be Unskilled, but Strong.
- You, in Mabinogi: A good player with half-decent skill ranks can annihilate mighty bosses while taking only Scratch Damage, while an incompetent player with mighty stats will be curb-stomped in short order.
- The vast majority of Boss Battles will make the Player Character an example of this.
- Any top down/Bullet Hell Shoot 'em Up such as Ikaruga or Beat Hazard requires that the player be this.
- You, in NetHack. Your only hope of survival is good tactics, but with proper preparation you can survive the wrath of a GOD.
- You, in Deus Ex. Even when you get the laser sword, super speed and inhuman damage soaking. You'll still get taken down by most enemies if you don't think carefully.
- You are (or rather, will become) this in Dark Souls from the very beginning to the end. You can level up your abilities and adapt to stronger armor, but your opponents in terms of sheer strength and power will almost always outclass you. Fortunately, as you are an Undead, you basically learn from each death you suffer, and grow more knowledgeable on utilizing certain tactics to win against these foes.
- In Ōkami, Waka fights Amaterasu twice, and though he loses he urges her to get stronger. It's clear that he's far stronger than Ammy through most of the game's beginning and middle because he shows up to help in the very final fight, and manages to block a full strength blast from Yami long enough to deliver a Final Speech. It helps he's been awake and active for 100 years while Amaterasu was weakened Sealed Good in a Can, but he's still just a mortal and survives fighting gods.
- In the Mega Man games where he is playable, Proto Man is an example of this. Due to a defect in his power system, he is in constant pain, and ingame tends to take fewer hits because of it. Avoiding hits and fighting smart is his only option to take on enemies.
- Mega Man, himself, at least to begin within his games. His Mega Buster is vastly inferior in terms of power to his opponents. Only by the end of the game, when he's a walking arsenal of doom, does he go to the other side...and then still require skill, because he's still just a small robot facing huge massive weapons of destruction.
- Mega Man X fits even more than Mega Man, considering the fact that he's almost always smaller and less technically able than the opponents he faces, but he's goddamn unstoppable once he starts. Add the fact that every game still manages to have That One Boss even after he gets his 'Ultimate' armor.
- It's stated in canon that adherence to this trope is entirely voluntary for all incarnations of Mega Man. With their signature adaptability and intellect, any Mega Man could easily become powerful enough to wipe the floor with the rest of the cast combined and quite rightfully fear the corruption this could lead to. This doesn't explain Bass' tendancy to lose his copied weapons too despite that his sole purpose is to defeat Megaman and become the most powerful robot in existence. One would guess he wants to do it on his own merits instead of relying on other, "inferior" robot masters' weapons.
- Zero from the same franchise is also this, he doesn't have the same adaptability as X nor does he have armor upgrades to compensate for his less than great durability, thus making him a Glass Cannon, but his skill with a sword is second to none, even learning techniques to gain advantages for his weaknesses.
- Certain Ace Combat One Bosses display the ability to kick your ass despite using statistically weaker planes (such as Espada Team using a starting fighter and a "multirole" fighter-bomber in a pure air-to-air mission)... to an extent that might be considered the computer Cherry Tapping you.
- On the other side, you have, canonically at least, Mobius One in his Raptor against up to six Wyverns and Gryphus One against the Fenrirs, as well as Cipher and Talisman in (Strike) Eagles against Solo Wing Pixy's Morgan and Ilya's Nosferatu respectively. While neither the Raptor nor the Eagle are objectively "weak" in-game, they are statistically outclassed by these superfighters. Nevertheless, the protagonists still pull off wins. Then you get to the Cherry Tapping examples...
- In the first two Fallout games, it's possible to take an at-creation trait called Skilled, that makes your character into one of these. You gain perks (miscellaneous, but potent benefits) less often but get a bonus to all your skills (medicine, gun skills, etc). It's generally considered inferior to its counterpart trait since skills are easy to raise and specialize in, but perks come only with level gains.
- It makes a comeback in Fallout: New Vegas where it instead means that you get 10% less experience points, but instead gain 5 experience points in every skill. Here it becomes a trait to cherish, as while it takes more time level up, a low level character with Skilled can be more effective than a high level character.
- New Vegas actually has another example, in unarmed combat. since (excepting the ballistic fist) most unarmed weapons only require 2 strength to be used properly, a character can have only 2 strength (pitifully low) but still have vast unarmed combat abilities, capable of punching people across rooms. The learnable combat moves take this up to eleven, allowing enemies to be knocked down, disarmed, and countered without "strength" factoring into it at all. possibly averted in that unarmed combat is based off of "endurance", a measure of how resistant you are to attacks, which could be thought of as "strong"
- If Raul Tejada is inspired to be the Vaquero that he once was, he states that while he's an old man who's eyesight and body aren't what they used to be, his brains can make up for that and he's still quick with a gun. His Old Vaquero perk lets him fire revolvers and lever-action rifles 33% faster.
- Garrett from the Thief series is very much like this. He's reasonably athletic (he can run and mantle with the best of them, although he's no ninja), but in strength and combat is no match for the muscular bruiser guards or straight-out superhuman monsters he's regularly faced with. Instead, he relies on smarts and stealth to outmaneuver and outwit them all.
- Faith from the 3D platformer Mirror's Edge.
- Little Mac in Punch-Out!!, particularly in his NES incarnation. Pint-sized guy vs. title holders who are many times bigger and more muscular than him, anyone?
- His Star Punch is only acquired by hitting the opponent at a moment of opportunity, and tends to be less powerful than many later game opponents' punches, which clearly shows how much the players must rely on tactics and be more efficient than their opponents.
- In Neverwinter Nights 2 this is a fundamental part of the conflict between Sand and Qara. It is implied that Sand has no extraordinary aptitude for magic, and yet though training and dedication, he's an accomplished wizard when you meet him, knowing both the theory and practice of magic. As a sorceress, Qara comes by her power naturally, but doesn't bother to learn to do anything with it beyond the apparently all-purpose application of "Blow Stuff Up".
- In Metal Gear Solid 4, Solid Snake has aged considerably but is still able to fight effectively against physically and technologically superior opponents using his elite covert warfare skills.
- This is in fact a major theme of the first and fourth games: experience and skill trumps pure strength. Snake repeatedly triumphs against the Genome Soldiers of the first game, and the PMCs of the fourth game, because he knows what he is doing and has the confidence and ability to pull it off, while the other side is relatively unskilled but has a significant numerical and technological superiority.
- Luanne Lui from Backyard Sports, mostly due to her speed.
- A rare villianous example from Guild Wars - High level Charr are still not at a particularly high level compared to most enemies you face at maximum level, but still manage to be some of the hardest enemies in the game because they have better thought out combinations of skills than most enemies and being a lot more coordinated.
- Doctor Mordin Solus in Mass Effect 2 was a member of the Special forces of his Race. He's small, but can take out several mercenaries by himself.
Not always been a doctor, can handle myself. Advantage of being Salarian. Turians, Krogan, Vorcha all obvious threats... *sharp inhale
* Never see me coming.
- Most salarian soldiers do this. Salarian are not a strong race, so they use their heads to fight.
- Shepard in Mass Effect 1 was a regular, ordinary human, who still managed to take down Krogan, Thresher Maws and Reapers. Technically this makes them more badass than they are in the sequels, as the Lazarus Project meant they were now Made of Iron.
- Another pair from BioWare: Mission Vao and T3-M4. They have the lowest hit points in the party, but they're the best when it comes to disabling mines, hacking computers, picking locks, or turning the security systems against your enemies. Mission also has a nasty sneak attack ability while T3-M4 can be equipped with stun guns and flame-throwers in addition to blasters.
- You as Gene in God Hand. Sure, between the Unleash and the Reel/Roulette you do have a lot of power, but the other 80% of the time when you're building up to the former, even simple mooks can tear you a new breathing hole very fast. Dodging and knowing when and how to retaliate are very important. It's a Nintendo Hard game, folks.
- Team Fortress 2's Spy class is one of the weakest classes in a straightfoward fight, however, if you learn to play him to his stealth genre strengths in this otherwise FPS a Spy is the stuff of your opponent's worst nightmares, being a silent killer who's like a lethal version of Batman, instilling fear and terror into the enemy as they breath their last breaths.
- It can be argued that the Sniper is shades of this trope as well. While the Spy has invisibility and disguises to aid him, the Sniper has only his rifle, his wits, and his marksmanship to take down his opponents. And more often than not, he does.
- The Engineer is rather weak, but displays incredible skill around his machines.
- The Medic is also pitiful in offensive and defensive capabilities, but the entire game is said to revolve around his abilities.
- Arguably, the Scout.
- The Pyro. On his/her own, the Pyro isn't that remarkable, and are mostly valued for their ability to sniff out Spies. However, those who can master use of the airblast find themselves able to pull off ridiculous feats like rocket jumping off of enemy Soldiers/Demomen or headshotting those pesky Huntsman Snipers with their own arrows.
- The Swordmaster Class of the Fire Emblem series, at least in the games they appear, tend to be this, but the class that epitomizes the trope would be the even rarer class, Assassin. Swordmasters have high speed and skill with a relatively low strength cap, but also gain a boost anywhere from 15% to 30%, depending on game, to their critical chance. Assassins tend to have the lowest strength cap in any given game they're in for final class promotions, but also have the highest skill cap, and are the only class with a one hit kill move that deals death even if they'd normally not even do damage with a normal attack.
- This Trope is played very straight in the Shin Megami Tensei series. With a proper usage of status buffs, instant death spells and exploiting your opponent's weakness, you can easily trumph over a more powerful opponent. That, being Nintendo Hard, the same principle applies to your enemies.
- BlazBlue has two examples:
- Bang Shishigami is one of the few pure humans in the series (i.e. having no genetic or eldritch empowerment). He also lacks an empowered weapon with which to do battle with these beings, though he actually possesses a powerful Nox Nyctores, but has no idea how to use it and it has been in its dormant state. However, his long years of ninja training, which include various ninja skills (including the hidden technique "Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan" note ), and most importantly creative uses of them (especially the last one), enable him to survive against both members of the game's super-powered Big Bad Duumvirate, and with all those skills, he can handle himself just fine against various superpowered other characters in the game.
- Jin Kisaragi lacks most of the raw power that most characters have in their fighting styles, instead relying mainly on his skills as a swordsman in conjunction with his ice abilities. This is especially obvious when contrasted with the Unskilled, but Strong Ragna; Ragna attacks in a rather simple style of or vertical slashes as well as punches and kicks to overwhelm the opponent. Jin however has much more precision and speed as well as different horizontal attacks to fit different situations, and a more refined looking style compared to his brother. This also extends to gameplay as he's a Jack of All Stats.
- Old and ill and all, Gen of Street Fighter can still pack quite a punch against younger, healthier and physically stronger fighters than himself. If Akuma is to be believed (and why shouldn't he be?), Gen's age and illness are the only things that make it remotely fair (in-story) for him to fight any of the other characters.
- From Valkyria Chronicles, Engineers. In combat, they're Masters of None who lack the speed and movement range of Scouts, the toughness of Lancers and Stormtroopers and the long-range fire-power of Snipers. However, given the fact that they can repair the Edelweiss and Shamrock, rebuild sandbags, replenish ammunition and grenades, carry three grenades instead of one, defuse mines, and heal squad members at double efficiency, means that Engineers are some of the most versatile squad members in the game.
- In World of Tanks, the match making can place very low tiers in matches with the bigger, nastier high level tanks. A skilled pilot, however, will stay hidden, reveal the enemy to his artillery, manage to destroy the enemy artillery and capture once the dust has settled down. In fact, a pilot that is good at this will do more to help win than his strongest teammates without firing a single shot.
- In Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath, Stranger decidedly qualifies as a Badass, despite being "kinda shrimpy for a Steef".
- Abe as well. As the (very snarky) manual puts it, he's "the skinny guy with no weapons". You want to win, you need to be smart and not fight fair.
- Several Pokémon qualify as this. For example, Sableye is a Pokemon with a base stat total of merely 380. However, it has no weaknesses, and has the ability Prankster which gives priority to non-damaging moves, allowing Sableye to cripple your opponent's team with several very annoying moves.
- Sableye got some love from a Mega Evolution, making it much more bulky to compensate for it's fragility, and giving it Magic Bounce instead of Prankster, returning pesky traps and status effects back to sender.
- Whimsicott is seen as a better choice stats wise, but due to it's Grass/Fairy typing, it's vulnerable to many other types, however, it's high speed and Sableye's Prankster put it in Smogon's "Ubers" tier with good reason.
- Adol from Ys series can't take a lot of damage, especially if he is underleveled or if he's up against a boss, so the key to survive as him is to learn how to dodge and counter attack.
- Miles Kilo from Syndicate (2012) is a downplayed version. While has none of the truly super abilities of the other Agents, he's technically still a Super Soldier by normal human standards. Nevertheless, as his In-Universe dossier notes, he is unusually creative and independent, which enables him to come up on top against better-empowered foes. Indeed, he was specifically chosen for the DART 6 chip because he had sufficient skills and abilities to fully make use of it, but if the prototype failed, he was only a physiologically barely-above-average agent who could be easily replaced. His creative thinking and independence, however, make him a nightmare for Eurocorp when he turns on them.
- In Payday2, the Ghost class can be this. They have fewer damage dealing skills then their Enforcer or Technician allies, they will typically wear less armor in order to be faster and harder to see, and will also use smaller guns/silenced guns to increase their concealment. But a good Ghost can open every door, slip in and out undetected, and steal every single loot bag on the map without any guards knowing what the fuck is going on.
- The Fugitive class could arguably be considered this, as well- most of their skillset revolves around seemingly minor tricks, like a little extra concealment or extra movement speed, and at face value a pure, focused Fugitive doesn't seem like a good fit for the game. Then you pair the appropriate skills with other classes and you see how much better they are for it-
- Fugitive Medic Bags may not reset the Downed count, but it still heals to full health and he carries alot of them, allowing the Mastermind's Doctor Bags to be saved for real emergencies, and a fleet-footed Mastermind with the Inspire skill Aced can run around the field reviving the entire team and have the healing supplies to salvage a potentially doomed heist, while pairing the Fugitive's Akimbo Aced skill with the Mastermind's pistol perks will make him a dual-wielding force to be reckoned with.
- An Enforcer with the Fugitive's Thick Skin can make them tankier than they already are while giving them a much-needed movement boost, with healing options to help them last longer.
- A Ghost with Low Blow, Sneaky Bastard, Sixth Sense and silenced weapons with the right perks can solo some of the hardest stealth missions in the game quickly, and still be able to put up a good fight when things go south.
- A Technician can make use of the Fugitive's movement boost to set up turrets and mines quickly before an assault starts, and pairing with the Tech's sniper perks with the Fugitive's Run-and-Gun perk will make them an accurate yet fleet-footed marksman, with both the former and latter setups thinning out assaults before they get too close while allowing them to quickly reach and reactivate stalled drills, or reload empty turrets.
- Fate/stay night
- Lampshaded with the comment that fighting technique is used to compensate for weakness. The context, however, is an inversion, pointing out that Berserker, consumed with magical bloodlust, is so damn fast and strong that he doesn't need skill.
- Archer has one of the worst statistics of all the servants in the Grail War and has no divine blessings, super-powerful Limit Break weapon techniques, or anything like that. However, he is immortal, and has spent a lot of the time he has fighting and devising tactics that maximize his strengths. Consequently he's able to stand up to epic legends and demi-gods like Saber and Berserker. In spite of his Servant class designation, Archer is actually closer to being a Jack of All Stats than the Glass Cannon that would otherwise be implied. First off, Archer specifically says that he wasn't originally a warrior or a hero or anything like that; he's actually a mage, the most fragile class there is. Whereas other mages have all sorts of cool tricks or spells they can pull out for most everything, Archer only knows two types of spells, though what spells they are! Moreover, unlike virtually every other participant in the Grail War, Archer is not actually a traditional Heroic Spirit. This makes him virtually inscrutable since he has no notable weaknesses or famous Achilles' Heel for others to exploit.
- Assassin is fast but not very strong and is wielding an essentially normal sword. His magical energy is not only low, it only declines because it cannot be restored. However, he fights on more than equal terms with Saber herself and only loses because his sword is bent from blocking an attack of hers. Even Lancer, who thinks nothing of fighting several other Heroic Spirits at once so long as he is on the defensive, highly dislikes the idea of having to fight Assassin. Let's put it in perspective: Assassin's secret technique allows him to strike thrice in the same exact instant. This is NOT a Noble Phantasm, magic spell, or of divine origin; he simply trained a lot. Then reality itself gave up and gave him what he wanted... a form of Second Magic. Which should be impossible to replicate.
- This is the central idea of the Assassin class. In a direct confrontation it is unlikely Assassin could win against any of the other Heroic Spirits. However, their skill in assassination and their Presence Concealment ability make Assassins extremely adept at eliminating enemy Masters.
- Souichirou. He trained in a martial arts style so strange that when people fight him for the first time they have no idea what he's going to do next. Because of this he is able to to almost kill Saber (second strongest Servant in the Grail War) during their first encounter, unarmed with a strength-boosting enhancement given to him by Caster.
- The fight between Shirou and Gilgamesh is contest between Weak, but Skilled and Unskilled, but Strong. Both use the same weapons, but while Shirou's are weaker copies than Gilgamesh's, he has more skill wielding them. The result is that in a direct clash they are evenly matched with only the rate at which they can grab a new weapon making the difference, and in his Reality Marble Shirou can grab a sword instantly.
- The Nanaya Clan is revealed in Kagetsu Tohya to have next to no supernatural abilities at all nor superstrength or anything but pure assassin skills. The most badass of them all, Nanaya Kiri, only has the ability to sense the thoughts and emotions of others. Normally, they go up against horribly dangerous monsters at the likes of Vermillion Akiha or worse. Akiha's who actually know how to fight, that is. And they win. Just think if Shiki had actually grown up with them before they were wiped out and then gotten his Mystic Eyes. How much training can a six year old really have received anyway? Yet he still takes out Nero Chaos, Roa, Walachia, Satsuki and at least one more of the 27 top Dead Apostles before they even notice he's there.
- While Bun-Bun from Sluggy Freelance is hardly weak, he is still a mini-lop rabbit, and relies on this trope when taking on particularly tough opponents like Mecha Easter Bunny, evil Aylee, Alien Santa Claus, or the dread pirate Black Soul.
- Fooker while protecting Ki from Sam, who is a football player, as he apparently had been "moonlighting with the UGA" at the time and knew martial arts well enough to win. This also comes up when he fights his counterpart in the Nega-Verse; he doesn't fare quite as well in this case, but manages to gain the upper hand when his opponent gets distracted.
- Jason in the Walkyverse is exactly this. He once said he grew up a "mortal among gods"
- Inverloch gives us an uninintentional Crippling Overspecialization subversion. Raul is the smartest headmaster ever at the Wizarding Academy, but he has almost no magical strength.
- Gote, from the long-defunct webcomic Dominion, is an millenia-old immortal with no magical powers and more importanly no healing factor. How? In an email, the creator of said webcomic responded to that very question: "When somebody punches you multiple times, you learn to duck. They do it ENOUGH, you learn to hit back. Do this for a few thousand years, and you can do it damned near PERFECTLY. ;)" His nemesis Mack (the actual protagonist ironically enough) was by contrast a DBZ-grade superhuman.
- Keychain of Creation: Ten Winds (an air-aspect Terrestrial)is, in terms of raw power (or in Secret's case, potential power), the weakest of the Five-Man Band. But he's also a former member of what's essentially an Exalted Seal Team 6; an extremely skilled fighter, frequently shown taking on Exalted who should (in theory) be able to steamroll him.
- Nemen Yi (a Sidereal Exalted) mocks the Messenger Gods for their inability to fight, since "they don't even get perfect attacks". She is immediately knocked out cold by something they do get: Perfect Delivery... of a letter wrapped around a rock.
- The eponymous Nodwick has no magic, no fighting talent, and no special abilities that don't relate to carrying stuff. His companions are a warrior, mage and cleric of considerable power. But he's responsible for more of their victories than not. The dark god Baphuma'al wants vengeance on the three conventional adventurers, but he just wants to avoid Nodwick. Vengeance there isn't worth the risk.
- Quentyn of Tales of the Questor scored very low on everything he tried out, in particular those based on physical or magical strength. But because he tried and trained for practically everything he is practically a Jack-of-All-Trades, incidentally very useful for a Questor.
- Racconans in general are apparently this in comparison to human mages. Almost all Racconans are lux sensitive thus they have well-established schools of magic while the few humans who have the talent have little to no opportunity for formal training (thanks mainly to religious prohibitions) but all those that have appeared either can barely even see lux or have enough raw power to send Racconan mages running.
- Sensei Ito, the aikido instructor at Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. He is this trope. He's a little old man with NO superpowers who starts each term by demonstrating this point. By picking the most powerful mutant in the class and then beating the crap out of him in front of everyone.
- In Mother of Learning, Zorian's mana reserves are much smaller than those of combat mages like Taiven, but as the "Groundhog Day" Loop he is stuck in continues he picks up enough finesse and trickery to hold his own against a lot of very dangerous opponents.
- Noob sometimes puts high-level players in control of low-level avatars. Having to start over again after losing the high-level avatar is Arthéon's backstory and Fantöm's fate after the first Wham Episode. Ystos has a so far webseries-only second character that he once used during a tournament. Watching the replay of all the battles in which he took part in a row takes about thirty seconds.
- Bruce Wayne in Batman Beyond is like this considering that he's older and more physically frail.
- Terry too; The batsuit might enhance his strength compared to a normal human, but considering the sort of opponents he tends to go toe-to-toe with, he still is usually outmatched in terms of sheer physical force.
- Bugs Bunny. He managed to win a heavyweight wrestling match against the aptly named Crusher through sheer pluck.
- Aladdin generally falls into this trope in the various movies and TV series he appears in.
- Darkwing Duck: The title character is a master of the martial arts and beats other lightweights around with ease, but every time he tries to use his skills against a large, strong character, he might as well be punching a stone wall. Then he says Let's Get Dangerous.
- The title character of Sponge Bob Squarepants. The guy is so weak he can't even lift a barbell with stuffed toys, yet he is an expert in karate, and one training session with Sandy Cheeks had the park cut in half from the practice they had.
- Sokka of Avatar: The Last Airbender. In a World where most of the main characters can control the various elements he's still the most Normal of the Badass Normal characters. To deal with that, Sokka often uses strategies and his weapons to bring down his enemies. He's also very resourceful and a fast learner - see 'Sokka's Master' and how quickly he picks up swordsmanship having not been shown to have any prior experience in that particular weapon. He has, also, grown up in a tribe which relied on non-bending forms of combat for decades and picked up a lot on his own before being formally trained. That would have helped a lot when he met Piandao.
- Contrary to traditional, mostly-equal power levels, the Autobots of Transformers Animated are almost universally weaker than all but the lowliest Decepticon. They manage to get around this through a combination of team-based tactics and resource management that, while not entirely closing the gap, grant them some measure of advantage over their better-armed-but-less-organized counterparts.
- This applies not just to the main cast, but the Autobots on a larger scale as well: while the Autobots used the Omega Sentinels to actually win the Great War, the reason they got that far in the first place was because their logistics were vastly superior to the Decepticons thanks to their Space Bridges.
- Princess Sally in Season 1 of SatAM. She takes a level in badass somewhat in Season 2.
- Beck from TRON: Uprising definitely qualifies. He has spent a lifetime roof-hopping, dueling, and racing bikes - thus is an exceptionally agile and fast enough to hold his own in protracted battles with Paige and Tesler, who are trained combatants with a lot more power to throw around. Beck rarely wins any battles, but he always gets away. And this all before he officially begins his uprising or gets any form of training.
- Bioborg villain, Easel from Skysurfer Strike Force is the shortest, least imposing and most human looking of the borgs, but his Mad Art Attacker powers are invaluable to Cybron's plans.
- The Team in Young Justice. They aren't very strong on their own, but they are very good at working together, using the environment to their advantage, working out plans, and using their powers in diverse ways. The first season finale has them fight the mind-controlled Justice League, and win. Even if the League was limited by whoever was pulling their strings, it's still an impressive feat.
- Rook from Ben 10: Omniverse. He is one of the few aliens in the franchise to lack any ability that could qualify as a superpower, and his weapons, while extremely versatile, is pointed out to lack power. Yet, he is skilled enough to stand against much more powerful ennemies and defeat them. Predators And Prey even have him defeating one of the major antagonists in a hand-to-hand fight.
- Ben in general. Whenever he picks the wrong alien to turn into, gets stuck with one other than what he wanted, has to go without turning for a while, or is otherwise ends up in a disadvantage in raw power he uses his head to win.
- Potentially Trixie from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. She's a stage magician by trade, yet when her power was tested by an Ursa Minor it proved rather inadequate. Later her power output was boosted by an artifact to around Celestia or Luna's level, she was capable of using, with ease no less, spells which Twilight considered far outside her range. And she's just a performer.
- That same episode shows that Zecora, who can't even use magic since she isn't a unicorn, knows more about the subject than Twilight.
- Lucas from Cyber Six, since the enemies in the show are Super Soldiers and monsters created in a lab and he's just a muggle who can box. He holds his own against a Fixed Idea, a creature that can smash bricks with it's bare hands, simply because he's an experienced enough fighter to dodge it's telegraphed moves.
- Just about any feat of human physical strength can be exceeded through the proper application of skill. Scientists and engineers are like Batman: unbeatable, given sufficient preparation time.
- The Gracie family used this principle to win several of the early UFC and other NHB tournaments despite being generally smaller, lighter and weaker than many of their muscular powerhouse opponents through proper application of techniques with which the other fighters were unfamiliar, and in fact Royce Gracie was chosen to represent the family in the early UFC for this reason (as opposed to a larger relative). When the rest of the world became familiar with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu the advantage disappeared.
- Roger Gracie both subverts and plays this trope straight; while he is renowned for his skill and technique, some observers and opponents believe that his physical attributes — specifically a mix of his long limbs (he's 6-foot-4) and functional strength — play a substantive role in his ability to implement them. Also, only one of his losses in the 21st century was to a grappler in his own weight class; all of his other known losses were to lighter opponents.
- Increased efficiency is sort of the point of martial arts. They are full of stories of elderly, weak or physically slight people defeating larger, stronger opponents. Though they are often exaggerated, many of these stories are substantively true.
- This mentality is encouraged in many marital arts. Color belts are taught to always believe that their opponent is stronger, bigger, and faster than them, so they will master their skills to compensate for their opponent's superior physical ability.
- However, don't go around thinking those people can knock out bulls while they are too weak to tip over a glass of water. They don't have to be stronger than their opponent in order to defeat them, but certainly strong enough. Also if you ever get your hands on a tai-chi stone ball, a ten-foot pole or a bagua saber, you'll understand that those people are certainly NOT weak in the arm.
- This also applies to Wing Chun. It is easy to disparage as something you can "sting" all day with little effect, but those wooden practice dummies are tough, so you can imagine that the masters who can break them are no weaklings.
- Also applies to 'hard' martial arts like boxing, karate and so on, despite what one might think. Timing, endurance and footwork are more important than sheer physical strength in these arts, and a strike to the jaw is generally a knockout even without exceptional force behind it.
- Boxer Paulie Malignaggi has excellent handspeed, good skills, and a decent chin, but can't crack an egg with his punches and suffers from hand problems. He has 27 professional wins, but only five of them have been by knockout.
- Randy Couture, former UFC Heavyweight and light heavyweight champion, had a smashing comeback win in 2007, where he defeated then-heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. Despite Sylvia outweighed him by about 55lbs, Couture won by simply out timing him and picking apart his opponents weak striking technique. He's come back to the sport a second time and despite being in his 40's is doing quite well by relying on his skill and experience to out strike his opponents, although a noticeable drop in power means he's stopped fighting in the Heavyweight Division. This is all the more impressive when one realizes Couture was originally a wrestler.
- Wrestling is a large part of why Couture is still competitive at 47 years old in a sport filled with 20-somethings. His particular striking style (save for in the Sylvia fight) relies on "dirty boxing," using his Greco-Roman wrestling skills to control opponents in the clinch while freeing one arm or the other to strike with. This allows him to stifle the movement of faster, more explosive strikers with his grappling skill, and throw submission artists off their game by throwing power punches in a range of combat where hand strikes are usually less dangerous. Couture makes up for the limitations of speed and chin due to his age by bridging the gap between striking and clinch grappling with his skill in both areas.
- However, not having a strong enough punch can be a serious problem in boxing unless you're supremely skilled and masterful in technique, like a Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, Pernell Whitaker, or the great Willie Pep. Otherwise, you simply don't have the power to keep guys off of you, who'll otherwise walk through your punches. Against a guy that, stylistically, Malignaggi would have had a distinct advantage over in Ricky Hatton, Malignaggi was dominated.
- Having a greater variety of offensive weapons makes it easier to compensate for a lack of punching power in Mixed Martial Arts. Fighters like Michael Bisping, Frankie Edgar, Forrest Griffin, and Dominick Cruz have been title contenders, and even champions, despite having little punching power.
- In boxing, this type of fighter typically fights as an out-boxer, keeping his distance and wearing out his opponents with lots of jabs and straights. Or simply go the distance and win on points.
- This applies in non-fighting sports as well. For example, heavyweight and lightweight rowers on crew teams have fundamentally different rowing styles. The heavyweights rely more on power, while the lightweights focus more on technique and row at a higher rate of strokes per minute. Individual rowers within boats in both classes also fall into this, depending on where they're sitting. Rowers at either end of the boat are responsible for turning and pacing and tend not to be as strong as the rowers in the middle seats, who are the main power.
- A demonstration of this is frequently used for taking strong but inexperienced rowers down a few pegs. Once the 13 stone block of muscle has been beaten in an erg race by a 9 stone guy a foot shorter than him, he soon starts to take technique seriously.
- Two words: Roger Federer. Sure he's not super thin and wiry but he's not OVERLY tall like some in Tennis, nor is he massively built like other giants of the game like Nadal. He doesn't rely on massive serves, power volleys or other such tactics to win— just sheer skill.
- This also applies to a lot of female Tennis players like Maria Sharapova. However considering that the most successful female tennis players such as the Williams sisters, Stefi Graf, Martina Navratilova etc etc all have a more muscular built, you have to question the validity of this.
- In warfare, it is not enough to have overwhelming power both numerically and technologically. Tactics can and have allowed smaller, weaker forces to wreak havoc on apparently superior ones. In modern war, accuracy and tactics are every bit as important as weaponry and individual strength.
- Subverted more often than not. Battles in the Modern Age are decided by small forces with superior firepower that operate like scalpels instead of swords. Or just bombing the crap out of stuff.
- Both wars between Finland and USSR demonstrate this.
- Israel's military history is rich with examples. The six-day war was Israel versus Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The three latter states also received support from several other countries. The attack failed despite an overwhelming numerical advantage, and Israel actually gained territory.
- It is historically confirmed however those wars were actually one-sided as they were actually weak whenever facing an opponent... Whenever they lost it was actually when they had the advantage... So it's a bi-polar case. In any war they've been in, the war almost always had a weak army that won.
- Mouse wins epic boss battle against venomous snake with "barely a scratch on him".
- Wayne Gretzky. To quote the other wiki: "Gretzky's basic athletic abilities were not considered impressive. He was 6 ft (1.83 m) tall, weighing only 160 pounds (73 kg) as an 18-year-old NHL rookie in 1979, and 185 pounds (84 kg) at the end of his career in 1999. At the beginning of Gretzky's NHL career, many critics opined that Gretzky was "too small, too wiry, and too slow to be a force in the NHL". On the other hand, his intelligence and reading of the game were unrivaled, and he could consistently anticipate where the puck was going to be and execute the right move at the right time. It was said that he "seems to have eyes in the back of his head" and had a knack of "rolling with a check".
- Essentially the role of aggressor pilots in the US Navy and in Top Gun, during the Cold War. Flying outdated F-5 Tigers and A-4 Skyhawks, the more experienced aggressors regularly curbstomped pilots in the Navy's newest Cool Planes: The F-14 and F/A-18.
- This is due to the agility of the outdated aircraft note and the fact that these engagements always occur within visual range. The F-14 especially was designed to fight at extremely long distance with is advanced radar and long range missiles, in close it was too large and couldn't accelerate fast enough note . In the case of the F/A-18, it was purely due to pilot skill as the F/A-18 is also quite agile but is still slightly inferior. In addition the instructors are truly some of the best fighter pilots in the world.
- On the US Air Force side, there are plenty of stories of pilots in F-15s and F-16s getting shot down by Air National Guard pilots in outdated F-4Cs at Red Flag... because while the boys have the superior fighters, the old guys in crap planes have been flying those planes since Vietnam.
- Contrary to popular belief, Bruce Lee never embraced weak but skilled; rather, he built a training regime that made him ridiculously strong and fast, while limiting the development of bulky muscle. If anything he was a small, slender Lightning Bruiser.
- In Baseball, there are quite a few pitchers who can't throw above 85-86 mph (91-93 is considered normal) but have the ability to get hitters out consistently due either to perfect pitch placement or outstanding movement on their pitches. The so-called 'crafty lefties' like Jamie Moyer and Mark Buehrle are a good example of this; then there are knuckleball pitchers, who combine this trope (knuckleballs have very little velocity, hence take relatively little arm strength to throw, but take take absolute mastery to pitch consistently), with Lethal Joke Character (knuckleballs are notoriously unpredictable so a wild pitch is as likely as a strike), Badass Grandpa (the best known knuckleballers like the Niekro brothers, Charlie Hough, Tim Wakefield and R.A. Dickey didn't come into their own until their mid-thirties, when most pitchers hit the downward slope) and Glass Cannon (the pitch is dependent on the pitcher's fingernails to throw properly, so an injury that most other players wouldn't notice will wreck a knuckleballer).
- Greg Maddux was one of the best pitchers of his time, but had a comparatively weak (mid to high 80's) fastball compared to his contemporaries. He compensated for this with his impeccable ball control and trick pitches.
- The Italian Soccer team is traditionally this: its players, while well above average, are usually outclassed by the ones of high-end teams like Brazil, Germany, and Spain. As a team, however, it is one of the best in the world due excellent teamwork, tactics, and creative use of the basics, plus one or two exceptional players to force the other team to either counter the good tactics and let the champion free to roam or block the champion and let the rest of the team free to drive them crazy.
- Similarly, spin bowlers in Cricket. A spin bowler normally bowls at about half the speed of a good fast bowler, but uses a set of elaborate techniques to make the ball "swing" in the air and bounce in improbable ways instead.
- Steve Largent, a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, was small (under 6 feet tall and 180 lbs) and not particularly strong or fast. His strengths were his incredibly sure hands and his ability to read defensive coverage like a book. By the time he retired, he'd set almost every receiving record in the book. Unfortunately for him, Jerry Rice came along a few years later to break most of them.
- Fencing in general. With nowhere near the sheer impact of the broadswords and maces that preceded it, emphasis is placed on precision, speed, and evasion.
- In computer science, improving algorithms can cause a laptop being able to outperform a vast cluster of super-computers in certain applications. No matter how much power you have, no matter how much you optimize the code, a better algorithm will always outperform a brute force one.
- Humans in general. We aren't the fastest, strongest, biggest, or toughest creatures, but we're extremely versatile, can learn exceptionally quickly compared to other species, and in general are extremely intelligent and capable of making full use of our capabilities.