Your Eyes Can Deceive You
Obi-Wan: This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.
Luke: With the blast shield down, I can't even see. How am I supposed to fight?
In an attempt to show the supernatural affinity of a character with the skill he is training, The Mentor
will cover the pupil's eyes with a piece of cloth
, and say some "Don't 'see' the enemy, 'feel' the enemy".
A really key part of this is that the student always
complains (either first thing or after getting their ass handed to them), and it rarely comes up again.
In Real Life
, this would only make sense if the skill itself involves an invisible element, or if the practitioner expected to perform the skill under low- or no-visibility conditions (thick smoke, underground, eyes gouged out
, etc.) Soldiers in a Training Montage
may field-strip their weapons, disarm bombs, or perform other precision tasks while blindfolded for this reason. Super Soldiers
do it instead of (or while) smoking, usually during the briefing sequence or the calm before the climactic battle scene. The goal of blindfolded training in martial arts is not to teach someone to fight blind, but merely to speed up reaction time so as to not get caught by surprise, blind or not.
For the "super blind man", see Disability Superpower
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Anime and Manga
- Played with a little in the Fables side story The Fencing Lessons, from 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Preparing for a potential war with the underground-dwelling Dwarves, the humans are shown training blindfolded to accustom themselves to fighting in the dark, as they would have to underground. Then we see the Dwarves doing the exact same thing, except that instead of wearing blindfolds they're training in a well-lit room (and complaining about it just as much).
- In Marshal Law, this is a huge part of Private Eye's origin: His Mad Scientist father bound a blindfolding mechanism to him and forced him to live without sight for months if not years, engendering in him an eerie affinity for the dark.
- Star Wars. Obi Wan makes Luke wear a helmet with the blast shield down (and Luke complains about being unable to see) before saying "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them." Luke proceeds to actually do really well against the training orb thing. ESP is so handy. Later in the movie, he puts this to use by turning off his targeting computer before firing the proton torpedo.
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, with Ricky's father training him in driving.
- In the Takeshi Kitano version of Zatoichi, Zatoichi says near the end of the film that he's been pretending to be blind so as to train himself to fight with his other senses. The last few seconds of the film reveal that he actually is blind.
- Neo in The Matrix Revolutions could see machines when Agent Smith, who had possessed the resistance fighter Bane, burned his eyes out of his head.
- The scene in the movie Blind Fury which the natives are training Rutger Hauer to fight blind is an all-time classic example of this trope.
- Subverted in Big Fish, when young Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor) is confronted by two Korean soldiers who demonstrate superior acrobatics and martial arts skills. He puts on a pair of anachronistically-small night-vision goggles and turns out the lights. When he turns them back on, he has successfully knocked the soldiers out.
- Patches O'Houlihan has Peter train blindfolded in Dodgeball.
- Peter wins the tiebreaker in the tournament final against White while blindfolded as well.
- In Dead Man Nobody pilfers William Blake's glasses while under the influence of peyote: "Perhaps you will see better without them", he says. "This weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it; and your poetry will be written in blood." Sure enough, the mortally wounded Blake becomes a deadly accurate gunslinger.
- Happened in the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport. This time, though, Van Damme's character also was forced to utilize it, when his final opponent tossed some kind of powder in his eyes.
- Yoshitsune, the bishounen Ginji boss in in Sukiyaki Western Django, has a sequence where he does this with a subordinate and Blade Catch, getting the guy killed after a Rousing Speech to the assembled gang and doing a super-dramatic demo himself. It is beautifully theatrical, and also completely unfair—he could catch the sword with his eyes closed, but he'd had extensive training. The guy who got his head split open never had a chance even if he'd been allowed to look.
- This scene is one of those that cements the fact that Yoshitsune is evil, and ridiculously awesome.
- In the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans, Io tries to train Perseus to fight with his eyes closed so he can have a chance against Medusa.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman tries to get an advantage over Bane by killing the lights. Bane laughs and says that he's been in a dark prison his whole life, easily locates Batman, and beats the crap out of him.
- In Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, after Rocky, Colt, and Tum Tum overconfidently pass an obstacle course, Grandpa makes them run through it again in the dark. They fail. Later, the bad guys destroy the lights and don Night Vision Goggles. This time, the three are able to concentrate and defeat them in the dark.
- The Pendragon Adventure, book six. Loor and Alder force Bobby to fight blindfolded as part of his training.
- Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold has a variant. Miles Vorkosigan reminisces about an informal stunt-flying competition he used to have with his cousin Ivan, in a mountain canyon. He won (and convinced Ivan never to do anything like that with him again) by teaching himself to fly the course with his eyes closed.
- This was part of Inigo's Training from Hell in the book version of The Princess Bride. It actually comes in useful as Inigo uses the training MacPherson gave him to kill a darkened roomful of bats using only his sword. MacPherson did make a point of giving a reason for the training (what if your opponent blinds you with acid?), but then he is described as "having a special feel for adversity".
- An exercise in the David Morrell novel The Fraternity Of The Stone has the assassin being trained via a dark room exercise — the lesson is to not blunder around looking for the enemy but remain perfectly still and wait for him to make a noise.
- The ninja assassin in Neuromancer gets blinded at one point. His mistress points out he already knows how to fight in pitch darkness.
Live Action TV
- Giles does this to Buffy, in one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has to throw a basketball at him blindfolded. She misses him and he starts to lecture her, but the ball makes several bounces and hits him.
- Buffy had to do this for the Watcher council, and earlier in the episode with the invisible girl.
- In a subversion, Buffy really sucks at fighting blind and doesn't get much better at it. It's especially ironic since her primary targets are nocturnal.
- Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Lower Decks", in which Worf challenges a martial arts mentee to a test involving fighting him blindfolded and unarmed when he's armed with a stick long enough to stop her reaching him. After he beats her up a few times, it's revealed that it was actually a Secret Test of Character, in keeping with Klingon culture, which you pass by showing that you have the assertiveness and self-confidence to tell your mentor to go do something painful and improbable. Worf admits that "No one can fight like that" and suggests that the next time someone treats her so unfairly, perhaps she won't take as long to complain. This sets her up to take on Picard's Secret Test of Character, making this training that prepares the character for something entirely unrelated to fighting.
- Bra'tac does exactly this to Teal'c in a flashback in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Threshold".
- Done to Cedric in the tourney episode of Covington Cross. Perfectly justified, as his opponent later manages to blind him by throwing sand in his eyes.
- In Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Gannicus is forced to fight a gladiator match blindfolded. He isn't hindered that much, especially because his opponent stank and made a lot of noise whenever he moved.
- In Power Rangers Megaforce, Troy practices blindfolded when the team is being beaten up by a Monster of the Week with Super Speed. Of course, being air-powered makes him and Emma the ones best at detecting his movements via air pressure, though the rest of the team does go through the same practice routine eventually.
- The andabatae in Ancient Rome were gladiators who were made to fight in full-faced helmets that had no eye holes and left them completely blind. Most sources suggest that these weren't super-skilled warriors, but condemned criminals who were made to fight that way for sadistic humour and so that they had no chance of surviving a combat.
- During their Jujitsu training in Japan, the hosts of the History Channel reality show Human Weapon were taught a samurai trick that lets them dodge an unseen (and unknown) attack from behind and counter in one, fluid stroke. How this would be useful to the samurai - besides possibly giving them a paranoid advantage over Ninja assassinations - is never fully explained, but it looks cool.
- This is also used in modern Taijutsu: One way of proving that you're worthy of the next belt is sitting down blindfolded and being able to avoid, block or counter your master's next attack.
- Blindfolded training is sometimes done in grappling systems like wrestling, sambo, judo and brazilian jiujitsu. Because the two fighters are already in physical contact, the aim is to get them to focus more on their senses of touch and balance to tell what an opponent is doing rather than just sight.
- Particularly justified in that sweat in the eyes is very common in grappling and blood in the eyes isn't rare in MMA.
- One of the most common form of "your eyes [in fact, your whole body] can deceive you,": being trained to fly by instruments in poor visibility conditions, where a pilot not only can't use visual references outside the cockpit, but also must ignore his own sense of balance. It is possible for a plane to be doing a roll while feeling like it is flying level (which type of roll? A Barrel Roll, of course.)
- From a more metaphysical point of view, this statement sums up Plato's (and other rationalist's) stance on epistemology: The senses are not only unreliable in obtaining knowledge, they only convey a limited image of the world. Greater understanding and higher knowledge must be achieved through reason alone. See the Allegory of the Cave and the Analogy of the Divided Line. See also René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, which seek to build a construct of absolute knowledge through extreme scepticism of all sensory information, i.e. assuming the possibility that all we believe to know about the world is false.
- Relatedly, this is why modern science relies so heavily on double blind experiments and independent reproduction of results. It's just so easy to see things that support your ideas whether they're there or not.
- Any performance that involves rapidly manipulating objects, such as juggling items or twirling a baton, flag, rifle, sword, staff, nunchucks, etc., lends itself to this. Tracking the object mentally and by feel is much more effective than watching it with the eyes. Besides, pulling off complicated maneuvers while keeping one's eyes straight ahead just makes it look all the more Badass. A more mundane example would be touch-typing on a keyboard while looking at a monitor.
- It might be implied that Dark Elves in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe learn this way, to take advantage of their innate darkness powers. Certainly Drizzt has demonstrated the ability to fight in complete darkness. They have the canonical power to see in even the complete absence of light, so to them there is no such thing as total darkness, but it's explicitly stated that they can't see through magical darkness. Since every dark elf can summon said darkness, blind-fighting is incredibly helpful.
- Some RPG games and RPG video games have a skill called "Blindfighting" which, once learned, allows the person to fight while blind or in darkness. They do receive a penalty, but less than that of characters without the skill.
- Kreia lives by this trope in Knights of the Old Republic II: She's technically blind, but only because she stopped using her eyes. She gives The Exile several lessons emphasizing other senses.
- In Disgaea, Mid-Boss tells this to Laharl word for word when Maderas is attempting to take advantage of his weakness to sexy bodies and optimistic phrases. It's part of a grand speech about how to activate his inner energy, Use The Force, and all these other things... Flonne tells him after he may have set the bar too high, so Mid-Boss simply says "Then just plug your ears and close your eyes." Even though Laharl promptly does this, this somehow doesn't seem to keep him from hearing all the relevant plot details in the ensuing conversation between Etna and Maderas, or fighting at full capacity.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender , with Toph (a "super blind girl") training Aang. The point of blindfolding Aang was to get him to learn to use tremorsense, which, as Toph has repeatedly demonstrated, is damn useful in earthbending.
- So useful, that it saved him from a sneak attack by Fire Lord Ozai in the finale.
- Master Piandao teaches Sokka a variation of this by showing him a beautiful landscape with a waterfall for about three seconds and then telling him to paint it without peeking. The goal of this was to be able to gather as much information as possible, as quickly as possible.note He demonstrates this later when Sokka throws sand in his face by not only disarming him, but sheathing his sword when his servant throws the scabbard through the air. Then he wipes off the sand.
- Also done in Samurai Jack, who learned this from the Shaolin (after complaining that "No one can fight like this") and actually had to use it to accomplish something. That almost never happens anywhere else.
- He didn't have to use it. He just realized that it would be much, much easier to fight his opponents on their level than to use any of his other training.
- Considering how his normal way of training was going to get him killed, forcing himself to focus and use quicker reaction time by relying on his senses rather than his eyes was the only option available at that momment. Too bad the Earlier Robot Army that tried to rush that tower the way he did, with like 1000 troops, couldn't consider relying on faster reflexes.
- Happened to that girl in the animated Conan series.
- In an episode of Teen Titans, Robin went to China to train with a great martial arts master. One of the trials along the road was to defeat a giant snake in battle. When Robin protested that he had an unfair advantage since the snake was blind, the snake blew out the only candle in the cave to even the score. Unlike some examples, this proved useful later when an opponent nicked Robin's smokebombs and used them on him.
- An episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants involved the titular sponge being coached by a new boating teacher (the undersea equivalent of Driver's Ed) that insisted on this trope when practicing. Subverted when SpongeBob is completely unable to pass the test unless he is prevented from seeing.
- Inverted on The Boondocks, in which Huey attempts to train Granddad to fight the blind Colonel Stinkmeaner by having him spar with a blindfolded Tom DuBois. Naturally, Tom can't do a damn thing when Granddad starts beating up on him, and he points out that this isn't a very effective way to train. It also foreshadows how Stinkmeaner didn't have Disability Superpowers, he was just lucky.
- Though not an example of the trope, Huey quotes the trope namer in the episode that introduces the White Shadow.
- In The Spectacular Spider-Man, when facing Mysterio's summons, some of which were illusory and some of which were robots or whatnot, Spidey made himself a web-blindfold so that he would only react to the real threats. It worked. Justified, as by blindfolding himself it made his spider-sense more acute, letting him see every danger in the area.
- In the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon Splinter taught them to fight blindfolded. It later proved useful when fighting invisible Foot Ninja.
- Done in Batman: The Animated Series, against an eyesight distorting enemy.
- In Star Wars: The Clone Wars a team of assassins injects sleeping Count Dooku with a poison that greatly affects his vision. Being trained as both Jedi and a Sith, he declares "I do not need my eyes to see" and dispatches the trio of assassins with relative ease.
- In an episode of Rocket Power, Otto decides he and his friends can improve their game by practicing playing street hockey blindfolded. They actually do well for about a minute, then they all crash and decide it was a stupid idea.
- Subverted in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In a flashback, Bruce Wayne is ordered to blindfold himself by his sensei to learn how to fight blind. The other students beat the shit out of Bruce, and the sensei mocks him for falling for it.