Man in Black: Then why are you smiling?
Inigo: Because I know something you don't know.
Man in Black: And what is that?
Inigo: I am not left-handed! [switches the sword to his right hand and starts driving him back]
When someone fights dirty by holding back, but now decides it's time to take it up a notch.
The situation varies from example to example. A common example is for a character to fight with their non-dominant hand, as in the trope-naming example, only to switch back to their dominant hand to gain an edge. Similar to this is pretending that they have a serious handicap, then deciding to stop the charade. It can also go so far as a character revealing that they have always had a superpower which they now decide to exploit, or a Dangerous Forbidden Technique which they now have no option but to utilize. They also may reveal they've been partaking in some Imposed Handicap Training and are ready to throw off their handicap. The most common subversions are for the other character to also be not left-handed, or for the character to remark, "Yes I am," after he switches hands. (Or if the writer is being subtle about doubling up on this trope, that the character is later revealed as ambidextrous a.k.a "both-handed".)
Villains can invoke this trope, as well. For more information on that, see our Analysis page.
Has a couple of sub-tropes:
May be preceded by a "No More Holding Back" Speech. Use of this trope, especially in sequence, can result in transfer of the Advantage Ball. See also: The Gloves Come Off, Restraining Bolt, Power Limiter, Willfully Weak, Just Toying with Them, Cherry Tapping, and Fake Weakness. Also compare Let's Get Dangerous!. Note that Forgot About His Powers is not this trope, as it has nothing to do with deliberately holding back for calculated reasons.
May contain unmarked spoilers.
- Ah! My Goddess:
- In combat, Lind wields a massive Lochaber axe against opponents. One such opponent, believing it to be her only method of attack due to not utilizing any other power, shattered it in an attempt to cripple her. A bystander snidely commented that the axe was Lind's way of being polite; commence massive kicking of bad guy butt.
- She also pulled this on Hild in an earlier arc. The latter thought that she couldn't fight since she no longer had her angel, Lind (and Keiichi's) reply can be summed up as I Am Not Single Angeled.
- Angelic Layer: During Hikaru's fight with Shirahime, Shirahime takes off her kimono, increasing her already-amazing speed and turning the tide of the battle.
- Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts: Parodied when Akihisa goes up against Miho Satou, an A class student, Akihisa declares himself to be left-handed, but winds up losing anyway, because it's a fight determined by test scores.
- Bakuten Shoot Beyblade: Michael of the All Starz is introduced as incredibly powerful, with a left-handed shot called Cannonball Attack that has knocked out all opponents thus far. When Max manages to overpower him in the second set of their match in S1E28, the All Starz reveal his left is his non-dominant hand, and the right hand is capable of instilling much more spin power.
- Berserk: When Casca first fights against Adon, she finds herself being driven back by him due to her having a period at the worst possible time. She is saved by Guts, and the next time she goes up against Adon afterward, she starts to drive him back, telling him that she just wasn't feeling well last time, much to Adon's surprise.
- Black Cat:
- In Volume 2, Train Heartnet reveals that he is not right-handed. As a matter of fact, he was originally left-handed, learned to wield his pistol ambidextrously, and switches to his dominant hand to increase his fighting potential (i.e., speed and accuracy).
- A similar example is Maki in Hayate × Blade, who had always held her sword in her right hand until it was severely injured by her opponent. Another character explains that she had not been fighting with her full power previously, because the manner in which she was gripping the sword was completely different.
- Bleach: Most battles have this and/or Heroic Second Wind. It's possible to predict who will win a close fight based on who powers up first.
- 11th squad Captain Kenpachi Zaraki puts a lot of effort into holding back. He wears a specially designed eyepatch made of power-sucking creatures that keeps his power level down, not to mention blocking the vision of a perfectly good eye. He also insists on using his sword one-handed to weaken the force of his blows. When he does finally use his sword two-handed (and with his eyepatch removed), the power that explodes from his cut is enormous. Even when Kenpachi stops physically holding back, he's still subconsciously holding back; this quirk is only resolved through Training from Hell. Prior to the Time Skip, he also braided bells into his hair so his enemies could hear him coming.
- Kenpachi's third seat, Ikkaku Madarame likes to be straightforward in battle. His skills, however, are anything but.
- He employs a predictable routine of attacking with his sword in his right hand and parrying with his scabbard in his left. Then, just as his opponent has become comfortable with this style, he'll switch his sword and scabbard in mid-strike, reversing his attacks and parries and thus revealing he's ambidextrous.
- His shikai manifests as a spear. Except it's not. It's really a three-section staff and it can slip between spear and staff at any stage, completely catching his opponents off-guard and making his attacks unpredictable.
- His greatest secret is that he also possesses bankai. He keeps this secret out of fear that he'd be forced to leave the 11th division and become a captain of another squad. He'll even throw a fight if he can't get away with using it in secret. Iba has hinted that Everybody Knew Already.
- Yumichika's zanpakutou initially transforms into a khopesh-shaped weapon. Then he reveals it can actually transform into a four-bladed sickle-sword, although it doesn't do anything more than give his opponents very nasty wounds. Finally, Yumichika reveals this is actually a fake shikai and his real shikai is arguably one of the most powerful zanpakutou in the entire manga, being able to absorb the life energy from anything it captures and then use that absorbed energy to heal Yumichika's wounds. The only two times he's used it, he's one-shotted both opponents. The only reason he doesn't thrash people right and left with it is that it's a kidou-type zanpakutou, which is taboo in the 11th squad. He'd therefore rather die than have his squad learn the truth.
- Aizen deprives Yamamoto of his zanpakutou because of its reputation for being the most powerful offensive zanpakutou ever. Yamamoto promptly reveals Aizen's error by unleashing hell with his bare fists and some of the story's most powerful kidou attacks.
- Nnoitra's released form reveals four arms, which even Kenpachi struggles to fight against. And then Nnoitra reveals he doesn't have four arms, after all. He has six. Naturally, this is the fight that forces Kenpachi to use two hands on his sword.
- Kyōraku subverts this. His shikai is a tricky set of weaponized children's games that trap both him and his opponent in the rules of the game until one or the other is dead. The three games become something of a pattern for him, one that Starrk gets used to. Then he reveals he had a fourth game all along, one that allows him to ambush strike through shadows.
- When Uryuu and Mayuri fight, Mayuri believes he's resolved the fight quite quickly by paralyzing Uryuu's body with poison. Uryuu reveals he possesses a Quincy technique that allows him to fight normally even when his limbs are otherwise completely paralyzed.
- When fighting against Gantenbainne, Sado reveals the enormously powerful right arm he's been fighting with throughout the manga is actually a defensive, shielding power. His real attack force is located in his left arm and is much more powerful than his right arm.
- When Soifon and Yoruichi fight, Soifon thinks she has the upper hand and proudly displays her ultimate technique which she's only just invented and mastered and hasn't even had time to name yet... then Yoruichi reveals that she knows all about the technique. She had developed, mastered, and named the technique decades ago and Soifon has in fact still got a long way to go before she comes even close to genuinely mastering the technique.
- Gin Ichimaru's bankai extends his sword to 13 kilometers length, and he demonstrates its power by slicing buildings in half with one long circular swing. But he then reveals that the true strength of the weapon is not its length, but how fast it can extend and retract (roughly 500 times the speed of sound), essentially acting as a sword-shaped railgun/machine gun. And then, at a critical moment, he reveals it's not quite that long or fast. The true danger in the blade is that when it extends and retracts, it dissolves into a metallic powder that is left behind in the wounds it causes. The powder dissolves into a deadly, fast-acting, cell-destroying toxin.
- When Ulquiorra and Ichigo have their final battle, the former finally decides the latter is strong enough to warrant activating his release, which he uses to completely curb-stomp our hero. Then, when Ichigo refuses to give up despite the clear power gap, he decides to show him his greatest secret: He has not one, but two releases, something no other Arrancar possesses. He then proceeds to open an even greater can of whoopass on Ichigo.
- Breakshot: When main character Chinmi narrowly defeats the antagonistic billiards player Ryoji in an exhibition match, it's immediately revealed that Ryoji, who had been using his right hand against Chinmi, is actually left-handed and was going easy on him. When they meet again in the finals of the tournament, Ryoji reveals that he was deceiving Chinmi further; he didn't just hold back, he outright threw the match.
- A Certain Scientific Railgun: Mikoto Misaka has the Railgun attack, where she magnetizes a coin and launches it at Mach speeds, but it has a range of about 50 meters because the coin burns up from friction. In her fight with Therestina Lifeline, Therestina makes sure to stay out of her range and mocks her, saying there is no way Mikoto can hit her. Mikoto then reveals she can use the Railgun attack with any piece of metal, even a huge mech's severed hand, and a bigger piece of metal travels farther before it burns up. She just prefers using coins because they are convenient to carry.
- Chrono Crusade: Duke Daffau badly beats Aion when Daffau attacks Aion's base, Eden. For a moment, it looks like Aion's beaten within an inch of his life—until he reveals that he was holding back the entire time and springs a trap that weakens Daffau and his troops while activating a secret property in his sword that allows him to heal incredibly quickly.
- Teresa of the Faint Smile easily defeats the #2, #3, #4, and #5 without releasing any of her power. When the #2, Priscilla, unleashes 80% of her power and starts giving her trouble, Teresa simply releases 10% and easily defeats her again.
- Cassandra often fights with her right hand, just in case she ever met an opponent she needed to surprise. Only one opponent has ever forced her to use her dominant arm, and that's the aforementioned Teresa.
- Dragon Ball Z: Whether hero or villain, the characters tend to do this very frequently.
- In their first match, Tien outmatched Goku, easily able to keep up with his speed. After taking a beating, Goku decides to fight seriously. Apparently, he has been holding back during the entire tournament so he won't kill anyone, but decides it's okay to use his full power against Tien since he's very strong. The fight continues with them being more evenly matched with Goku having the advantage.
- During the second Goku/Tien Shinhan match, both are about evenly matched until Goku stops and asks if he can take some of his clothes off. Tien obliges (it's apparently rather hot outside), and thinks nothing of it until Goku's undershirt lands on the floor with a heavy-sounding thud. Cue the weighted-clothing revelation and Tien's subsequent humiliation. Even funnier, Goku was still holding back.
- Having reluctantly teamed up with Goku to stop Raditz, Piccolo gets ready for the fight by taking off his cape, revealing that it's actually weighted training gear. Goku gets a kick out of this — and takes off his weighted clothing.
- Goku tries this against Nappa, refusing to use the Kaio-ken and handily beats him. Then Nappa tries to kill Gohan and Krillin, forcing Goku's hand.
- Frieza is the franchise's absolute worst offender: One of our heroes finally has Frieza's measure? He just transforms to a stronger form. Three times. Later on, Goku is seemingly matching Frieza's strongest form - until Frieza reveals he's still not even using half his power. Goku assumes he's bluffing until Frieza goes up to 50% and starts kicking his ass all over again. Even after Goku turns Super Saiyan, Frieza has one more lengthy power-up sequence left as he goes all the way to 100%.
- In Frieza's case, it's explained that he has difficulty controlling his true power and the transformations keep his power within manageable levels. This shows in Frieza rapidly burning out when he reaches 100% of his power.
- Of course, at one point in the fight (after assuming his final form) Frieza intentionally gives himself a handicap, offering to fight Goku without using his hands, and he actually does for a while. He was likely just showing off, and stops doing it when Goku seems to be fighting better.
- And he does it again in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F. It ends up Frieza never properly trained because he was such a natural prodigy, and by training for four months he can surpass Goku in raw power.
- After Frieza comes back to life, again, for the Tournament of Power he reveals to Goku that, during his time trapped in Hell, he has been focused on mental training. As such not only can he access his Golden Frieza form without burning himself out he can maintain his power at a much stronger rate then before.
- After taking a hard hit from second-form Frieza, Piccolo ditches his weighted cape and powers up to a higher level. This gives him the advantage until Frieza one-ups him by going to his third form.
- Frieza's minion Zarbon likewise keeps a transformation in reserve. In his case, it's because his stronger form is ugly and Zarbon is vain.
- Goku vs Majin Vegeta becomes this in hindsight. Vegeta sells his soul to Babidi in order to get himself a power boost and when he fights Goku, it effectively ends in a draw. After Vegeta performs a Heroic Sacrifice to try to kill Majin Buu, it's revealed later on that Goku had unlocked Super Saiyan 3 and had been holding back against Majin Vegeta all along. When Vegeta finds out about this later, he doesn't take it well, seeing it as an insult that Goku didn't consider him worth using full power against.
- Played with in the fight between Gotenks and Super Buu. Piccolo assumes Gotenks really is outmatched, panics, and traps them all in a pocket dimension. Gotenks then reveals that he was only pretending to be losing, and that he could secretly go Super Saiyan 3 all along. He was hiding it because he thought it would be more entertaining. He uses his withheld Super Saiyan 3 transformation to rip the fabric of space-time, escape said pocket dimension, and kick Super Buu's ass for five minutes anyway.
- Beerus in his battle with Goku stated that Goku in his Super Saiyan God form matched 60% of his full power. Super later shows this is a huge lie, and Beerus was holding back so hard the whole Universe 7 could feel it if he went to full power. Just ask the main timeline's Zamasu. Oh yeah, you can't, he was deleted from existence with Beerus doing so much as extending his palm and saying "Destroy". That's right, Beerus can simply wish people out of existence, and the same can be said of all other eleven Gods of Destruction.
- Invoked in Dragon Ball Super when Goku ends up in a tournament alongside Frost, an alternate version of Frieza from a parallel universe. When Frost claims his third form is his strongest, Goku doesn't buy it and accuses him of keeping a transformation in reserve for later matches. Not only does he know what Frost's true form would look like, he's doing the same thing himself.
- The tendency to fight this way gives Goku and Pan serious trouble against Haze Shenron. Pan has no problem kicking around this pathetically weak opponent but it turns out that his pollution aura has been sapping their strength, thereby giving him the upper hand. After escaping his area of influence and regaining their strength the pair are able to return and easily destroy him with an energy blast. They should have just done that in the first place.
- Eyeshield 21 football teams tend to do this by not allowing certain players to play until needed, as to make the enemy underestimate them.
- Fairy Tail: In Chapter 240, Ultear reveals that she can use Ice Maker Magic like her mother Ur when Gray finds a way to counter her Time Arc magic.
- Fate/Zero: Lancer fights using a long and short spear. During his first duel with Saber, his Master orders him to get serious, so he puts the short spear on the ground, giving the impression that it is an ordinary weapon. Eventually, Saber gets overconfident, parries his long spear, and lunges. At this point, Lancer suddenly kicks his short spear into his hand and stabs her. Turns out it was special after all, as it gives a Wound That Will Not Heal.
- Fire Force: Played with: during a fight, Arthur wonders why he can't do anything ~ until he notices he is using his sword in his left hand although he is right-handed.
- Fist of the North Star: Kenshiro tends to do this quite frequently to a worthy opponent.
- Fullmetal Alchemist:
- While fighting Wrath in the manga, Scar reveals that during the three-month break he has tattooed his right arm with his brother's reconstruction transmutation circle getting rid of his weakness that he could only deconstruct using alchemy.
- Much earlier, Edward fought Slicer/Number 48 a Boxed Crook turned Animated Armor who displays his blood seal on the back of his helmet during the fight. Ed then knocks the head off, knowing he couldn't control a body he wasn't connected to, but then it turns out "Slicer" was actually two Serial Killers (brothers), the other of which was put in the same armor, but the seal was on the torso. This is then Lampshaded after Ed beats him as well and he pokes the armor cautiously while asking if there was a third one. The older Slicer brother resignedly says no, it's just the two.
- When Ed fights Kimblee, he manages to screw up one of the half transmutations circles on Kimblee's hands and knock the Philosopher's Stone out of his hand to prevent Kimblee from using any alchemy without wasting time drawing another circle, but Kimblee had another stone hidden in his mouth (and had for literally years). Explosions ensue.
- It turns out Sloth hasn't been fighting with all his abilities because he's too lazy. When he gets badly pummeled by the Armstrong siblings, he remarks it's time to "go full throttle":
Sloth: I am the fastest Homunculus.
- In an extra chapter in the manga "The Military Festival" Ed and Mustang battle it out (or rather, Mustang shoots flames at Ed as Ed runs around dodging). Ed suckers Mustang close enough to rip off the transmutation circle on his glove when Mustang reveals that his left hand (which was in his pocket the whole time) also has a transmuting glove on it. So it's more like I Am Not Right-Handed. Later, during Mustang's fight with Envy, it turns out to not be a gag when we see Mustang consistently using his left hand for pinpoint burning and his right hand for big explosions.
- Happens as early as the second episode in Fullmetal Alchemist (2003). Ed opts to allow Cornello to think that it's the State Alchemist watch that lets him perform alchemy without a transmutation circle. Then, when the time comes to show otherwise, he bluntly tells Cornello "My skills don't come from a pocket watch!"
- Getter Robo Go: Gou handicaps himself during a shot put event by only using his right hand. When he uses his left hand, he can throw the weight like a baseball.
- Kagura pulls this on Abuto. They seemed a pretty equal match until he has her pinned to the floor and helpless, but it turns out she wasn't fighting with her full power; she then goes full-on Yato on him and proceeds to give him a thorough thrashing.
- Not a conscious reveal so much as a Superpowered Evil Side triggered in response to Shinpachi almost being killed by Abuto. Shinpachi actually has to stop Kagura from killing Abuto, knowing that in her right mind she wouldn't want to.
- Hajime no Ippo: Akira Shigeta's boxing style inverts this. He uses a left-handed boxing stance while being actually right-handed, so his jabs pack more power than his opponents expect. This works to his advantage since most people believe him a southpaw, so using his strong arm from the beginning allows him to deal strong punches and gain an early lead in his fights.
- Hikaru no Go: In one episode, the proprietor of a Go salon calls in a guy named Dake-san to teach a lesson to a kid who's been cheating. He pretends to be a weak player at first, among other things by holding the stones poorly - with his right hand. His moment is when he reveals that he IS left-handed.
- Hunter × Hunter:
- Played with in the Greed Island arc, where Killua and Gon train with Biscuit Krüger who looks like their age, but isn't. Not only that but when she fights against an opponent while Killua and Gon aren't around, she turns into a huge muscley beast that is her "real form" and utterly obliterates the opposition. She's quite strong before this, so it isn't so much hiding her strength as it is she thinks the form is really ugly and doesn't want people to see it.
- There is also Netero in the hunter exam, where he challenges the boys to a game where they have to snatch a ball from him before sunrise. Netero spends most of the challenge using only his left hand and right leg, in the end they try and succeed in forcing Netero to use the rest of his limbs after they knew for sure that they could chase him for a year and not catch that ball.
- A particularly crazy example that spoils an awesome twist: Despite being physically weak and ill, Nanami starts the series able to easily defeat her brother, who defeated the official Greatest Swordsman in Japan. Turns out, she can also copy any skill she sees, including super-strength, spontaneous claw growth, and walking on water. Then it turns out that she has inhuman resilience and can't die no matter how sick or poisoned she becomes. Then it turns out she's acquired one of the Deviant Blades, which cures her weakness and low energy. After all that, she still counts as Willfully Weak! She uses others' skills because her own instinctive combat skills are utterly perfect.
- Also Shichika in the final episode, once he doesn't need to worry about breaking the Deviant Swords or getting hurt anymore, unleashes his full power on the new wielders and effortlessly curb-stomps them.
- Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: In one of the Early rounds of the DoD tournament, Takeda claims he can handle an opponent by himself. Cue him getting whupped. He then states loudly that he's going to have to take this seriously, whereupon he takes off his shirt, revealing that he was wearing a full body spring retainer thing. This being a tournament where people have been known to die, everyone, including the announcer, declares him insane.
- Konosuba: Megumin reveals she secretly learned how to cast her Explosion spell non-verbally, but does the chant anyway to make people think she is still dependent on it.
- The Law of Ueki: Ueki thinks he's figured out how to beat Myojin, then Myojin reveals that unlike every other power user, he was given two special powers instead of just one.
- Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS: Nanoha, Fate, and Hayate voluntarily put limiters on their powers in order to continue working together, officially because of the office politics of having too high a concentration of power in one unit, but actually to disguise the true power available to Section Six, the reactions when the villains found out just how well this worked were priceless. Nanoha (who coincidentally is left handed) also inverts this when powering down her weapon and using her weak hand to blast Teana into unconsciousness as part of a lesson.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Played with: Tieria is in control of Gundam Virtue, which is capable of transforming into Gundam Nadleeh. Whether Nadleeh is actually more powerful or not is a tricky question: Virtue definitely has the more powerful weapons attached to it, but Nadleeh possesses the TRIAL System, which allows it to completely shut down any Mobile Suit connected to VEDA instantly. Most of the most powerful Mobile Suits are connected to VEDA. Against normal opponents, Nadleeh is weaker than Virtue, but against any VEDA-enhanced machine, it's an "I Win" button. Their successor units, the Seravee and Seraphim act the same way.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing has the reverse. During their duel where Wufei is struggling to match him, Trieze points out that Wufei could have torn him in half with his extendable dragon arms minutes ago and called it a day. Wufei says he wants to defeat Treize blade to blade (which is odd since Wufei is using a double-ended spear at least twice as long as Trieze's sword giving him a massive reach advantage anyway). Trieze has to end up throwing the fight for Wufei to win, pissing Wufei off, and causing mental anguish that he didn't really beat him to haunt him for the next year.
- Mr. Fullswing: Similar to Ryoji in Breakshot, ace pitcher Inukai claims to have been a softball player for most of his time in middle school and throws underhanded pitches with his right hand... until the final batter of the tryout game comes up, and he switches to his natural left-handed, baseball pitching style.
- My Hero Academia: In the final fight against All For One, All Might is on the last dregs of his power, and seemingly uses the last of it to deflect All For One's attack. When All For One unleashes another attack, All Might reveals he still had some power leftbut that was just a feint to get past All For One's defenses with the real final attack.
- When Jiraiya fights Pain, Jiraiya thinks he's won by defeating Pain's three bodies then it turns out Pain has three more, and one of them can repair the others. Fittingly, he reveals this by ripping off Jiraiya's left arm.
- When Pain fights Naruto, he believes that Naruto has used sage mode long enough, and it will expire shortly. It does, but Naruto has got a couple more sage modes stocked up elsewhere. He also generates more sage mode during the battle, while Pain is busy lecturing him.
- A, the Raikage, thinks he is still stronger than Bee when the latter challenges him to a Lariat strike. However, Bee reveals he has surpassed him, and completely overpowers him without his Hachibi Cloak.
- Early in the series, most of the time Kakashi raises his headband to reveal his Sharingan, he's saying Let's Get Dangerous!.
- Also Rock Lee's fight with Gaara. At first, even with his speed, Lee can't get past Gaara's sand defenses. Guy tells Lee that it's time to pull out all the stops, and Lee starts taking off the weights on his legs. No one else thinks this would make much difference, and Gaara's siblings find it outright laughable... and then the weights shake the whole arena and form significant craters when they hit the floor. It turns out they were very heavy. Lee then resumes his attack, even faster than before and able to hit Gaara so fast his sand shield can't move fast enough to block him. Is then revealed that Gaara has a sand armor beside his sand shield and Lee attacks have not done any significant damage. Lee proceeds to introduce him to his Eight Gates Technique.
- Naruto in Boruto, pretends to get badly beaten by Delta, in the hopes of she revealing more information about her. Delta however sees right through it and demands him to cut the charade and get serious with her.
- Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
- The entire Negi/Kotaro vs. Rakan/Kage consists of the opponents one-upping each other ludicrous levels. Negi does it five times in a single chapter.
- Rakan later combines it with Screw Destiny. When disarmed, dislegged, told he's a puppet, and shown that the Princess has been hypnotized. He responds by putting on magical armor arms and legs and getting up for round 2.
- Rakan in general is this trope. After he was finally defeated by Fate and dissolved by the Code of the Lifemaker, he re-materializes when Fate taunts Negi and then gives Fate a final epic punch and tells Negi to kick his ass before dissolving for real.
- Happens also in the final fight of the Mahora Festival Arc. After destroying the main secret weapon of his opponent (and his own equivalent weapon gets destroyed in the meantime as well), Negi declares that now he has an advantage because he can use magic and his opponent cannot. Then suddenly his opponent reveals that she is pretty good at using magic in battle too. Of course, he should have expected this, since she is his descendant from the future.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- The Evangelions have large electrical plugs attached to their back, but when Eva-01 goes berserk during the Zeruel battle it doesn't need power at all. They also have armor which doesn't protect them as much as it restrains them, even being referred to as "binders". After the berserk Eva-01 mutilates and "awakens" after eating Zeruel it pops off its binders by flexing its muscles, which scares Nerv enough to put it under quarantine.
- In general, when the Evas go berserk, they tend to do things that didn't seem within their capabilities beforehand (regenerating arms, taking damage that would have destroyed them earlier, and in Rebuild, shooting eye beams and triggering new impacts by themselves!).
- Mari invokes this in the second Rebuild of Evangelion film, where she activates Unit-02's "Beast Mode". The Eva's restraints are deactivated, causing it to mutate into a monster that can move faster and strike harder than before.
- Asuka does in the third Rebuild films, using a "Beast Mode" similar to what Mari used, and in the final film releasing a limiter from within her eyepatch, causing the remnants of the Ninth Angel still within her to awaken and transforming Asuka and Unit 02 together into a new Angel.
- One Piece:
- During his battle with Blueno, Luffy realizes that he won't able to win as he's fighting currently, so he kicks in Second Gear. Blueno is immediately Curb-Stomped.
- The same thing happens later when Luffy fights Boa Sandersonia and Boa Marigold, whose Haki gives them the ability to predict his attacks and the strength to guard against them. Then Luffy kicks in Gear Second. Their strength is no longer adequate to guard against his attacks, and while they can still predict his movements, he's too fast for them to keep up with them.
- Same thing happens with Gear Fourth in Luffy's fight with Doflamingo - however, after spending some time getting punched across the town, Doflamingo activates his awakening power, equalizing chances.
- A literal example with Kanjuro. Turns out, he does not suck at drawing; he's actually drawing with his left hand around his allies (when he's really right-handed) as part of his cover as The Mole. When drawing normally, he is very skilled and can mix that skill with his Devil Fruit to create living drawings indistinguishable from the real thing. The heroes only realize the full extent of his power when Kin'emon tries to slash him, only for "Kanjuro" to crumple like paper and disappear, revealing they were talking to a clone while the real Kanjuro was elsewhere.
- PandoraHearts: Vincent pulls the reveal that the Doormouse is not his only chain.
- Perfect XXX: After pitching a few perfect games with his left hand, an opposing hitter actually hits a home run off of one of Kenshiro's pitches in the first inning, so then in the next inning Kenshiro surprises everyone (well everyone on the other team and Ayato) by pitching with his right hand. Apparently the whole reason Kenshiro even used his left hand for everything (eating, writing, etc.) was to try to score points with Ayato, because Ayato said "Lefties are cool".
- The Prince of Tennis:
- Ryoma plays his first match in canon with his right hand. He manages to upstage his opponent in this state, but eventually decides to reveal that he is not right handed, and completely crushes the terrified opponent. Ryoma is fond of confusing his opponents this way throughout the series.
- This is probably the most prevalent in Ryoma's showdown against Yukimura in the finale of the OVA, where Ryoma almost gets out-dueled by the much-feared Yukimura, and falls to the ground exhausted, but suddenly wakes up in a Deus ex Machina and out-duels Yukimura in reverse.
- Also, Inui purposely handicaps himself with ankle weights, which he later removes to the shock of his opponent. He's not the only one who does so, either; the non-regular Arai also uses weights. As does every other character in the series in at least one match.
- Tezuka, as a first-year, was already better than his senpais, so he hid the fact that he was better, to not insult them. When Tezuka's cover was blown, one of the senpais lost it and hit him in the arm with his racket, this being the source of his infamous injury.
- Pulled off spectacularly by Shusuke Fuji, who upon finding out that Hajime Mizuki had taught his younger brother Yuuta a very dangerous move that could potentially cripple him, allowed him to win five games in a row based on the data he'd gathered about Fuji. He then proceeds to trash Mizuki for a 7-5 win, showing why he's considered a prodigy among his peers.
- This also happens in the second movie, Battle of the British City, where after Ryoma's reveal of being left-handed, Keith also switches to his dominant left hand having been using his right hand for most of the match.
- Actually, this happens quite often, notable examples being in the manga.
- During Kikumaru and Oishi's match against Rikkai's Niou and Yagyuu, it's revealed halfway through the match that Niou and Yagyuu have been imitating each other, and when they finally switched back to being themselves, their moves' power increase (helped by the fact that since Niou's dominant hand is his left, they've both been using their weaker hand up until the reveal).
- Also with Shiraishi in the New Prince of Tennis, where it's revealed during a match that the reason his left hand was wrapped in bandages was because underneath he was wearing a golden gauntlet. With that taken off, the power and speed of his shots become impossibly high.
- Pumpkin Scissors: Alice L. Malvin pulls this bit in the final duel of the series when she switches hands mid-fight.
- At the climax of Puppet Princess, the Big Bad states that he doesn't fear the titular princess, because no matter how skilled she is at puppetry, she can only use one at a time, and the puppet he stole from her father is more powerful than any of hers. Then she pulls out four simultaneously. Then it turns out that three of the puppets and the princess herself were illusions created by her ninja companion to distract him so she could get close enough to sucker punch him while disguised as a puppet after he dispelled the first three illusory puppets, causing him to ignore her under the assumption that the fourth puppet was also an illusion.
- Reborn! (2004): Justified: Ryohei only uses his left arm in his fight with Lussuria until he needs to. This is because he was saving the energy in his right arm so he could use his Maximum Canon.
"Haha, too bad. I've only shown eighty percent of my power so far." "I've only shown half."
- Rosario + Vampire:
- During the Newspaper Club's initial fight with Kuyou in his initial monster form, they manage to do quite well against him... until he breaks out his Ultimate Battle Form and hands them their asses.
- After battling Moka and Tsukune for some time, Hokuto reveals he was wearing a Power Limiter, takes it off, and goes One-Winged Angel on their asses.
- Rurouni Kenshin: Played for drama by Hiko Seijuro, who wears "a white cloak set with springs opposing the muscles and 10 kan (80 lbs) of shoulder-weights. It's been used by those who hold the name of Hiko Seijuro to restrain the inheritor of the Hiten Mitsurugi's power in times of peace." He takes the cloak off in preparation to attack with the lethal and exacting Kuzu Ryu Sen, forcing Kenshin to master the succession technique or die trying.
- Saint Seiya: Happens multiple times during the Twelve Temples Arc and the lead-up. Most of the times is the Gold Saints that, for a reason or the other, are holding back, but the final (and most magnificent) it's Shun who reveals he had been on the level of the Gold Saints since the start of the series (and indeed, the moment he goes all-out he kills one after all his previous blows having caused little damage out of an attempt of simply force his surrender), he just didn't want to kill his opponents unless he had toShun actually uses his Andromeda Cloth as a voluntary Power Limiterbut break that and force him to go bare-handed, and you learn he can literally Blow You Away.
- S Cry Ed: Ryuho, when pressed by Kazuma, reveals that his Alter, Zetsui, has a level of power previously unknown even to his closest allies. It seems to be more of a justified Power Limiter as their energy is drained a lot faster when using it. Also, his allies knew about it, but it was stated that he hadn't used it for the last two years.
- Shamo: Villain Protagonist Ryo Narushima spent most of all 5 rounds struggling to fight the heavyweight karate genius before a straight punch literally knocked some sense-inducing flashbacks into him, to which he switches to a southpaw stance, completely shocking the entire crowd. It is also used as an explanation of why Ryo turned out the way he is. Yes, folks - he's evil 'cause he's left-handed.
- Star Driver episode 3 features a mecha sword fight. At first, Takuto's opponent is kicking his ass...until he pulls out a second sword. Eventually, we learn that Takuto has been doing this the entire time. What looks like New Powers as the Plot Demands is actually nothing of the sort. He's been trained to be a Driver since birth, and knew nearly everything his mech was capable of. Since he needed every advantage he could get, he fought his opponents using the minimum amount of skill and abilities, and whenever they reached the point where he was in trouble, he revealed his next trick. And then comes another I Am Not Left-Handed moment after the fight itself: "How does it feel to use a cybercasket despite having a mark?"
- Tiger & Bunny: In the first Drama CD — set back in Kotetsu's high school days — Kotetsu gets into a match with Antonio (who has Nigh-Invulnerability as his NEXT power) and manages to fight him to a standstill... While entirely unpowered. When he ditches the fight to save someone trapped in a burning factory and activates his own NEXT abilities, Antonio is surprised to say the least.
- Toriko: Frequent.
- In his first battle with Starjun, Toriko powered up mid-battle and wiped the floor with his robotic avatar. Whoever, it turned out that Starjun was immensely stronger than Toriko and lost only because his super-powered robot body was slowing him down.
- Later in the story, Toriko pulled one on Starjun. After he used all his strongest attacks on him, which barely did any damage, it looked like he didn't have a chance, until he revealed a new battle technique that basically allowed him to turn all his attacks into one-hit kills and make up new moves as battle go. It looked like Starjun didn't stand a chance, until he managed to learn this technique, just by watching him.
- In one of the earlier fights, Coco and Toriko got into a really difficult fight with the Devil Serpent - a particularly nasty giant snake. After the battle was over, Toriko complained that he wouldn't be able to eat it, since Coco poisoned it. Coco replied that he knew that Toriko would want to eat it and purposely used a weaker poison that dissolves when exposed to heat, and if he had used an actually strong poison, the battle would be much easier.
- Sunny used this twice - in the fight with Cedre, he pretended to run out of stamina in order to get him in the range of attack, and in the fight with Tommyrod he struggled to remotely control strands of his hair, which were previously cut off by Tommyrod's bugs, accidentally giving the impression that he can't control his Satan hair, while in reality he already had full control over it.
- Tommyrod himself looks like he constantly wears bracelets which prevents his muscles from expanding, considerably weakening him and making him look frail (especially by Toriko standards). If he deems his enemy " worthy ", he takes them off, revealing his real strength and his enormous muscles.
- Both Jirou and Mansam have special seals which prevent them from using their full power because they considered to dangerous. They take off their seals and use they full power only in the most dire situations.
- Monkey king Bambina is the embodiment of this trope. Not only he never fights seriously (he is just trying to dance, but due to his immense strength and speed, his partners end up ripped to shreds), but his is body constantly covered in tight layer of skin and fur that restrains and weakens him, and his true power gets unleashed only after he breaks out of it.
- Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: Fai/Fay begins the series with an elaborate phoenix tattoo which Yuuko demands as his payment for the fulfillment of his wish. Much later, it's revealed that the tattoo was designed to prevent his magic from growing in power each and every time he uses it, as it would otherwise naturally do. The reason is he's cursed to kill the first person he meets whose magic exceeds his own. Suppressing his magic only makes it more likely he'll run across someone stronger. And just as a reminder, without that limiter, Fay's magic can destroy an entire world/dimension/at least country when he has a Super-Power Meltdown.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Psychic duelist Akiza (Aki Izayoi in the original) has a hair braid that supposedly suppresses her powers (which is basically to make Duel Monsters and magic real); however, this may just be a Magic Feather.
- You're Under Arrest!: Averted and Played for Laughs in an episode featuring the local Vigilante Man Strike Man. When he's cornered by the Bokuto officers, he tries to intimidate them by claiming he's gonna remove his arm guards, claiming they charge him of energy and weight over 80 kilos each. They break like glass upon hitting the ground, and a stray dog picks up some of the pieces with ease.
- YuYu Hakusho:
- Karasu pretends that his power is to make anything he touches explode. Kurama tries to counter by fighting at a distance. But Karasu reveals that his real power is to make invisible bombs that he can move with his mind. BOOM.
- Younger Toguro gives us this gem after he's already powered up and begun dominating the fight with Yusuke.
Toguro: What I've been telling you is a hundred percent is really more like eighty-five. (powers up even more)
- Zombie Powder: In Chapter 6, we find out that Gamma purposely handicaps himself when he fights against women and children. At the time, Gamma was fighting an old man with the appearance of a child, and when he realized this, he began to fight seriously. And beat the mickey out of his opponent.
- DC Comics icon Superman is prominently known for holding back all the time to avoid one-shotting his opponents' heads off as well as general collateral damage. When the gloves are off, however, fights tend to end quickly. Issue 669 explores this in depth (a flashback to his rookie years, when he had to be extra careful because humans are squishy). For what happens when Superman stops holding back, see "No More Holding Back" Speech.
- When he first encountered Manchester Black and The Elite (a group of "heroes" that believe supers should be Judge, Jury, and Executioner), he pulled off a Batman Gambit to show them (and the world) just how scary he'd be if he ever really cut loose. But despite unleashing enough power to deliver them a Curb-Stomp Battle, he's still holding back, making sure not to kill them and to avoid excessive collateral damage.
- Final Crisis: Mr. Tawky Tawny fights the New God Kalibak, presently reborn as a tigerman. Kalibak learns the hard way that while he may look like a wimp in his tweed business suit and bowtie, he is still a mighty tiger!
- When DC brought Kara Zor-El back after her death in Crisis on Infinite Earths, it was rumoured that she was more powerful than Superman. Then Superman proved that his cousin was not more powerful. She seemed more powerful because she hadn't learned yet how to hold back, unlike him, who is always holding back.
- In Red Daughter of Krypton, it takes a dozen Green and Red Lanterns to restrain a mad Supergirl. Afterwards, Kara reveals that she was holding back because she was scared of killing them all if she let loose. Guy believes her.
- Spidey, competitor Marvel's flagship character, does something similar to Superman, too, albeit at a much lower level; after all, Spidey collars ordinary crooks almost as often as he clashes with super-villains (and several of them still have only human-level toughness), and using his full strength to punch out a non-superpowered bank robber would end up rather messy. Often, he avoids this simply by webbing up normal guys rather than fighting them directly. A rare example of his actually taking the kid-gloves off occurred In One More Day when he was goaded by The Kingpin, someone who had always been considered a worthy match for him before — but not now. With nothing left to lose, Spidey wiped the floor with him, letting every witness (and there were plenty) know he could have done that any time he had wanted. A What If? story showed he was still holding back: had he really wanted to, he could have punched a hole straight through Kingpin's chest without much effort.
- This is also further hit on by Doctor Octopus when his mind took over Spider-Man's body, as he noted in shock that he was surprised how much Parker had been holding back and pulling his punches all those years that they fought.
- Iron Man's fight with the Black Knight in Marvel Adventures: The Avengers is cut short when the latter reveals his lance doubles as a Wave-Motion Gun.
- In the "What If?" Civil War special, Henry Gyrich creates an army of Thor clones to enforce registration. Reed Richards notes that Thor once told him that no matter how powerful a mortal is, he will only ever use a third of his strength for fear of killing them. The clones, of course, have no such restraint.
- When the real Thor comes back after Civil War, he confronts Tony Stark over what he did - with his hammer. When the lightning bolts start flying, Tony blasts him - to no effect. He tries the "old school" approach, and Thor sends him flying and near-cripples his armor with one hit. He says that Thor must have been working out, in shock at how hard he was hit. Thor replies that the only difference this time is that he isn't holding back.
- In Vol. 4: Emp confronts Fleshmaster, a former hero who'd turned his powers against everyone at Capes' award banquet. Emp's suit had been shredded down to gloves, rendering her naked and powerless. Fleshmaster gives her a quick Not So Different speech (They were both considered the Butt Monkeys of the hero community) and offers to spare Ninjette and Thug Boy... if Emp will give him a blow job. Emp goes "Shut Up, Hannibal!"... before revealing that she could turn her suit invisible at will. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle.
- Syndablokk also does this earlier, when he and Emp were getting thoroughly thrashed by a villain, he shows that he has the ability to manipulate concrete, masonry, and pavement, but doesn't use it much because it could cause a lot of collateral damage and the aftereffects tend to linger.
- Near the end run of Birds of Prey, the team moves their headquarters from Metropolis to Platinum Flats, which just happens to be the next town over from where former member Black Canary is now living. Of course, it ultimately results in a Let's You and Him Fight between Black Canary and current Bird of Prey member Manhunter. As they battle Manhunter prattles about her recent fights against other superheroes, explaining the successes she has had in sparring matches against the likes of Wonder Woman and is happy to finally have a chance to see how she compares against such a famed martial artist as the Canary. Eventually, she asks why Canary has not used her signature Canary Cry sonic attack. Canary says she "is trying really hard not to put [the Manhunter] in the hospital." Canary wins the fight.
- In the Flash: Rebirth series (pictured), Superman is chasing after Barry Allen, when Superman begins talking about the races they've done in the past. Barry responds with "Those were for charity, Clark," and immediately speeds off, leaving Superman dumbfounded and far, far behind. note
- X-Men: Cyclops's glasses / goggles don't just let him control his powers, they also limit them. If he's willing to take his visor off for even a few seconds, you're in trouble.
- In Astonishing X-Men, the team are confronted by a Sentinel. They line up and talk tactics but Cyclops is in no mood for such things — he removes his glasses, and utterly eradicates the Sentinel from existence — as well as about a mile of forest around. Later in the same run, he had his powers psychically de-activated by Emma Frost and had been captured and tortured by an alien warlord. When he finally tells the warlord that the X-Men's secret weapon "Leviathan", was completely fictional (thus throwing out any reason to keep him alive), he starts laughing. The warlord attacks him, demanding to know what else he's been lying about. Then with the villain right up in his face,◊ Cyclops reactivates his eyebeams and blasts the villain, leaving a massive hole in the building.◊
- Another instance of this is in the first volume of Ultimate X-Men. Cyclops is being restrained by a Sentinel because it has figured out that he operates his optic blasts by pressing a button on the side of his visor. Scott then reveals that he can also do it by snapping his fingers.
- In the finale of X of Swords, Cyclops warns the X-Men gathered to save those in Otherworld to not hold back, that dying there means being Killed Off for Real.
- One issue of The Mighty Thor had Hercules telling a pompous tale about a fight with Thor. He was just getting to the point in his story of beating the daylights out of the thunder god when he learned that one of the young listeners was a serious Thor fan. So Hercules abruptly changed the ending to reveal that Thor had been holding back all along, and punched Hercules across the sky. "I landed in a place the gods forgot: New Jersey!"
- The last fight in Doctor Strange: The Oath is a fistfight between Strange and Nicodemus West, who also knows magic but has deployed some anti-magic phlebotinum, expecting he can take Strange in a fair fight. Doc lets West pummel him for a minute or two (and waste his energy) before breaking out the Kung-Fu Wizard skills.
- Played with in issue four of Loki: Agent of Asgard.
Sigurd: ...I've got a confession to make. I'm actually left-handed. [switches his sword to the other hand]
Loki: Oh? Then I, too, have a confession to make — [switches HIS sword to the other hand] I've seen that same movie—eep!
[Sigurd slices off a little of Loki's hair and kicks him out of a window]
Sigurd: Ha! Made you look—
- During Age of Apocalypse, Wolverine, here called Weapon X, lost his left hand to Cyclops and it seemed that he had also lost his claws on that hand, too. However, during the final confrontation with Donald Pierce, Weapon X revealed that he had actually retracted his claws before he lost his hand, and promptly gutted Pierce with them.
- During one Mickey Mouse Comic Universe story set in the middle ages Mickey and Pete are having a sword fight, and seeing himself on the verge of losing Pete actually quotes the Trope Namer and switches hands, saying he had been fighting left-handed for years because otherwise, it would have been too easy. Then Mickey completes the quote and switches hand too, before winning the duel.
- In Detective Comics (Rebirth), Batman confronts Lady Shiva and points out that he's beaten her before (due to her status as an Adaptational Wimp post-Flashpoint). She responds that she had been simply playing a role, and no longer has a reason to pretend to be weak. She then proceeds to wipe the floor with him.
- The climax of New Avengers (2015) sees Sunspot up against the Maker, an evil alternate version of Reed Richards. Sunspot has kept himself out of the action up until that point due to a disease that got rid of his mutant power to convert sunlight into strength. Except, as he reveals to the Maker, he didn't lose his power; on the contrary, it got a Deadly Upgrade, and he's been keeping it close to his chest just in case. He then effortlessly pummels the Maker.
- Quite infamously in Fatal Attractions by Magneto. After Wolverine badly wounds him, Magneto had reached his breaking point and decided to stop pussyfooting around, casually ripping the adamantium out of Wolverine's body through his pores.
- In one Garfield strip, Garfield harasses a leashed dog.
- Ages of Shadow:
- At one point, Maximus Domino conjures up Jade in a way that reduces her to a quarter of her regular strength. At first, this looks like it's allowing him the edge to actually hurt her, only for her to reveal that she's so powerful that even her reduced strength is far beyond his. She just faked her injuries as a sick joke.
- During the Final Battle, Jade also reveals that the Exact Words of the rules for the Yade Khan game allow her to interfere and declare the winner. She just never has before because Victory Is Boring.
- Alternate Tail Series: Like in canon, Lyon Vastia starts out in the series using one hand to perform ice magic. But instead of this habit forming from an arrogant and incorrect belief that one-hand style is superior, this was a means to disconnect from his tragic memories of Ur and Gray. Once he starts using two hands, he gets the upper-hand against Gray.
- In the Italian remake of Battle Fantasia Project turns out Sailor Venus had been consciously holding back for the whole anime out of fear of being rejected by the other Sailor Senshi (as her friends in middle school had done when she had started dedicating herself to her duty as Sailor Venus). She explains it after her reaction to returning to life after Galaxia surrender and redemption and, before learning what had happened, decided to stop holding back and nearly killed Galaxia (in fact the only reason she doesn't is that Artemis tells her what happened right before she can snap Galaxia's neck).
- Breath of the Inferno: When Daphne responds to Harry's insistence she would've been dead weight against Voldemort, she reminds Harry he never won a duel against her. Harry promptly Flash Steps in front of her, holding her by the throat. He then reiterates that he never won a duel; they've never actually fought. If Harry didn't limit himself to casting spells, their duels would be pointless as he'd crush her easily. However he needs to be better with magic, and he wants her to get better, period. Harry proves his point during the summer by having a five-on-one match with his friends and beating all of them.
- In Crush, Xander pretends to have powers over magnetism to make people underestimate him since he's actually a Gravity Master. This becomes important later when he's captured by a government agency with a Tailor-Made Prison.
- In the Harry Potter fanfic "Burnt", Harry used his crippled appearance to his full advantage when he was on the street, and a bit when he's at Hogwarts. He is more than capable of defending himself and could take on any student in his year.
- Child of the Storm:
- Thor gets thoroughly sick of the HYDRA distraction du jour — a necromantically reanimated Kraken said to dwarf a Chitauri Leviathan which has been shrugging off everything the Avengers have been throwing at it, even Loki turning into a serpent the size of an apartment building — and draws in so much power from Earth's magnetosphere that it prompts Magneto to briefly investigate, before vaporizing it in a single shot.
- In a variation on this trope and 11th-Hour Superpower, in chapter 75 of the first book, Jean Grey is pointedly informed by Doctor Strange just how powerful she really is.
- In the sequel, Harry's having trouble in his fight with 'the Beast' a.k.a. the Blob a.k.a. Dudley Dursley after several years of relative time under the influence of Sinister and the Red Room, in large part because he's initially holding back (though having his Psychic Powers blocked, and the psychological impact his opponent's identity and Nigh-Invulnerability, didn't help). After he gets pummelled a bit, he demonstrates just how dangerous he really is.
- In a much more dangerous example, Harry spends most of the Forever Red arc hinting that he's holding back. When he's finally pushed over the edge by a phenomenally brutal Trauma Conga Line, he shows just what he meant by unleashing the Dark Phoenix. Since calling this a Dangerous Forbidden Technique would be an epic understatement, it is both a statement on how far gone he was that he used it, and a very good thing that he doesn't do so again.
- Fates Collide: Oda Nobunaga starts her fight with Weiss Schnee with just her sword. When Weiss disarms her and thinks she's won, Nobunaga summons her multitude of guns.
- Rise of the Gray Jedi: A variant. Des and Rhylla's first fight goes in her favor until he ignites his second lightsaber.
- The Keys Stand Alone: Applies to all of the four, really, but especially to Paul (who, ironically, is left-handed in Real Life) and George, both of whom have many more abilities than anyone could possibly guesseven themselves!and who are entirely unwilling to tell outsiders about them until it becomes necessary to actually use them.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfics:
- The Bridge: A dark magic-enhanced Starlight Glimmer, who is far stronger than a normal unicorn, thinks she has more than enough magical strength to overpower an unawares Godzilla Junior, as he was outside of his kaiju form and reduced to a unicorn. What she didn't know was he retained much of his original power and was on par with Princess Luna, and her method of goading him into a confrontation left him enraged. Cue him shrugging off her magic and handing out a Curb-Stomp Battle.
- The Elements of Friendship: In Book II, when Discord first escapes his prison, Celestia confronts him directly, ditching the regalia that worked to keep her magic in check, as she naturally gives off the same amount of solar radiation as a star; for this fight, she actively channels it.
- Paradise: In chapter 21, Celestia and Luna have an Oh Crap moment when the dragon they are fighting turns out to be a magic-user.
- Rainbooms and Royalty A textbook example happens when Twilight tries to stop Blackened Armor (her brother who's been corrupted by Nightmare Moon). He mocks her, saying that he remembers everything from his old self and knows that he always won whenever they duelled in the past. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't know that Twilight has been holding back ever since the traumatic day she gained her cutie mark and her power awakened, deliberately keeping her strength down for fear of hurting others. He also doesn't know that she's recently been having an inspirational talk with Rainbow Dash and Applejack, convincing her to trust her magic power and not fear it. She even cites Superman's "world of cardboard speech" before letting loose on the villain.
- Pony POV Series:
- Thunderchild hides the fact that unlike a regular Pegasus, he doesn't need a cloud to fire lightning due to being a Gifted Pegasus.
- The Princesses are constantly doing this, as their true cosmic power would be rather destructive if fully unleashed. For reference: Celestia is fully capable of using a solar flare to wipe out a planet if she wanted to.
- In To Dethrone a Princess, it turns out Celestia is doing this. The story implies her regalia is actually a Power Limiter, and without it her physical strength is so immense she leaves craters in the ground by walking. She only takes it off when a rebellion cuts her off from her magic and proceeds to deliver a Curb-Stomp Battle.
- Kyril Sutherland from The Night Unfurls typically fights like an end-game level Bloodborne hunter, highly offensive and all. He can heal up quickly, and he cannot die. How much stronger can this guy get? Aside from his Beast Blood Pellet power-up, it turns out that his human vessel is just a mask for his nature as a great one, which, like any horror found in a Cosmic Horror Story, is the harbinger of many horrible things. Thankfully, he manages to avert the Blue-and-Orange Morality that comes with it, but that would mean that he fears the consequences of going all out. The one time Kyril slips off his mortal mask just a tiny bit is when his two apprentices get injured from fighting One-Winged Angel Shamuhaza. The fight ends immediately because he gets mind raped by glimpsing what is behind Kyril's mask. There is a reason why he has yet to show off his full power or true form in the series. Never has holding back and then taking one's power up a notch this exaggerated before.
- Persona: The Sougawa Files: There are two major villainous examples.
- At first, Shadow Tamiko seems like a relatively easy fight, taken down in even less time than Shadow Hikaru. However, she then reveals she was just using a decoy to fight the party, and then starts attacking at full force - she's much harder then.
- Nobuyuki Itou is, impressively, able to keep up with the Freedom Fighters despite not having any superpowers, but they still manage to beat him until he reveals his own Persona, a flaming butterfly called Humbaba, and proves himself to be a capable fighter.
- Rikuto in Pokéumans admits to Brandon that if he had used his full power, he would probably have killed him. So in this case, he should be grateful he pretended to be left-handed.
- The Queen's Bride, a Persona 5 fic: Parodied where Haru (who is playing Inigo Montoya for a Princess Bride performance for Ryuji and Ann's rambunctious son) attempts this line while in a wiffle-bat duel with Ren... only for the bat to fly out of her hand because she is left-handed.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: In chapters 41 and 42, the gang (minus Tsukune) is doing relatively well against Kuyou, and Rason and Ahakon remark that the fight is relatively easy and that Kuyou is a joke; however, Kurumu and Moka, who have faced Kuyou before, quickly inform them that the only reason they've been doing so well in the fight thus far is because Kuyou hasn't even been trying. Sure enough, Kuyou goes One-Winged Angel soon after Moka says this and makes short work of everyone... until Tsukune reenters the fray and annihilates him.
- Shinobi of the High Seas: During the fight at Enies Lobby, Naruto reveals that his headband is a Power Limiter, complete with a "No More Holding Back" Speech. He then removes it and proceeds to kick the crap out of one of the CP9, destroy two-thirds of the Buster Call fleet, one-shot a Vice Admiral (who was using Armament Haki), and fight Admiral Aokiji to a stalemate.
- This Bites!:
- In Chapter 49, the Duel to the Death between Ryuma the zombie and Zoro barely begins before the former pulls this. Apparently, after too much property damage just from practicing, Hogback embalmed him with liquid lead. Undoing a knot at his neck will make it all ooze out, but he has strict orders in that regard:
Ryuma: I'm only ever allowed to truly let loose when I have need, and for once... I have it...
Zoro: [with a Slasher Smile] Interesting.
- While in Impel Down, Luffy and Gladino realize that Buggy, while normally an East Blue pirate, knows Observation Haki when dodging bullets a smidge too quickly for normal reaction. Buggy tells them that he's been hiding his strength because he was tired of the craziness of the New World and wanted to stick with the weaker East Blue. And then during Marineford, Sengoku reveals that Buggy was one of Gol D. Roger's cabin boys. Enraged that his plans of an easy life was foiled, Buggy goes on a rampage that leads him to fighting Mihawk to a standstill.
- In Chapter 49, the Duel to the Death between Ryuma the zombie and Zoro barely begins before the former pulls this. Apparently, after too much property damage just from practicing, Hogback embalmed him with liquid lead. Undoing a knot at his neck will make it all ooze out, but he has strict orders in that regard:
- Vow of the King:
- Ichigo's bankai has an alternate form called Eikō no Yari (Spear of Glory) which sacrifices his armor for offensive power, which he uses in his fight against Unohana.
- When Ichigo's hollow possesses him during their fight, Unohana manipulates the pool of blood her bankai summons to start raining down upon them, both hindering his vision and massively boosting her Healing Factor.
- While fighting Soifon, Yoruichi shows just how far her student has to go by activating the second level of Shunko, allowing her to perform a Speed Blitz on the younger woman.
- The World's End: Xander (who's gained Trunks's abilities) and Superman exchange these. While Xander handles Wonder Woman without much trouble, Superman forces him to go first Super Saiyan then Super Saiyan 2 while each of Xander's transformations cause Superman to hold back less. Once Xander hits Super Saiyan 2, Superman stops holding back entirely. Then Xander manages to awaken the Triforce of Power, which both unlocks Super Saiyan 3 and gives Xander a magic sword (which Superman isn't immune to).
- In Back to the Future Part III, a gun salesman is trying to teach Marty how to shoot, to demonstrate the Colt Peacemaker, and laughs at Marty's terrible shot. However, it turns out Marty is not left-handed as he switches to his good hand... It might be worth noting that the salesman seems to deliberately thrust the gun into Marty's left hand. Marty does try to switch hands, but the salesman stops him. As noted on other pages concerning this, revolvers were shot in the left hand during those days. This was because you needed your right hand to hold the reins of the horse.
- In Beerfest, the heroes pretend to be drunker than they really are to trick the Germans into making a steep bet. Todd, however, really is that drunk, having been forced to use his "drunken recall" earlier.
- Inverted in Blazing Saddles: When Jim, The Waco Kid, is explaining his backstory (and downfall) to Bart:
Jim: See this hand? [holds out his right hand]
Bart: Steady as a rock!
Jim: Yeah, but I shoot with this hand. [holds out his left hand, which shakes violently]
- In Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Sundance is auditioning for a position guarding a gold shipment. He asks if he can move and starts to draw. The client tells him not to bother with all that nonsense. He misses badly, and the client dismissively shakes his head. Sundance calls him back, performs a quick-draw and blasts the target. He tells the open-mouthed client "I do better when I move."
- There is an homage/send-up of a similar scene from Danny Kaye's The Court Jester, where Kaye goes from stumblebum to master swordsman with the sound of a finger-snap while fighting Basil Rathbone.
- I, Robot features a fight between Will Smith's character, Del Spooner, and an NS-5 robot that's actually trying to kill him (as opposed to the fight with Sonny, earlier in the movie). Spooner hits the robot with a metal pipe once or twice, which the robot shrugs off, and it acquires possession of the weapon. After successfully dodging the robot's first swing, the robot's second and third swings are blocked by Spooner's left arm — and on the second impact, we see part of the inside of the arm exposed, revealing that Spooner's left arm is, in fact, mechanical. (Which — when the robot looks surprised, or as surprised as a robot can be — he acknowledges with an almost-apologetic "Yeah.") He connects with a hard punch and a leg sweep using that arm, and tries to punch the robot while it's on the ground — only to miss, and have his fist go through the asphalt.
- A sort of meta example in Jurassic World; after a panicked Pteranodon grabs Katie McGrath's character and flies off with her, she manages to escape her captor by falling into the lagoon at the center of the park. The film seems to take a brief sigh of relief for her, leaving the audience to assume that all she has to worry about now is the Mosasaurus...and then three Pteranodons promptly torpedo gannet-style into the water after her, showing that they're just as competent at swimming as they are at flying (which is believed to have been Truth in Television).
- In A League of Their Own, the "ugly" girl, Marla Hooch, has a moment like this during her batting demonstration for Ernie Capadino (Jon Lovitz). After several good hits, Marla's father says, "Okay, Marla, now hit lefty," which causes all the guys in the field to groan in anticipation. She had been batting right-handed but was a switch-hitting natural left-hander. She hits a towering home run and gets signed for the new league.
- Occurs twice in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when Thor is fighting Loki. Thor is initially holding back, not wanting to hurt his little brother, but then Loki pushes him too far. Both times Thor stops holding back and promptly defeats Loki.
- In Thor, Loki actually does this on purpose wanting Thor to fight at full force. He makes a comment about "paying Jane a visit" to enrage Thor, which didn't work out for him.
- In The Avengers Thor is desperately trying to talk Loki down. He seems to consider it, and then stabs Thor sneering at the "sentiment". Thor promptly grabs Loki, lifts him into the air, before slamming him onto the ground. Director Joss Whedon even described this point as Thor "finally having enough of Loki's shit."
- Thor pretty much lampshades it in Thor: The Dark World, telling Loki that all the previous times they'd fought, Thor held the hope that the brother he loved remained somewhere, and that hope no longer exists to protect Loki from Thor's wrath.
- This is discussed in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Spidey is trying to convince Iron Man he's ready to join the Avengers and points out how well he fought against Captain America in Berlin as an example. Iron Man points out that Cap was holding back because he didn't want to harm him. If Cap went all out, Spidey would've been beaten badly.
- Civil War also features War Machine, who mostly sticks to melee and repulsors (which have variable impact). Right up until Ant-Man goes huge and tries to swing a jet bridge at WM. So War Machine - who was already a tad frustrated - unloads all his other guns. The jet bridge basically evaporates. There's a reason it's called the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit.
- In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela chokes him on the throne room balcony, and teases Thor for having lost his hammer, asking "What were you the god of again?". Cue the lightning bolts. Which stun her and break Thor free, but don't actually stop her. Thor even admits he's not strong enough.
- In Avengers: Infinity War, it seems that Hulk might actually beat Thanos on the Asgardian ship until Ebony Maw tells his siblings to let Thanos have his fun. With the advantage of surprise gone, it becomes a Curb-Stomp Battle to show Thanos's sheer physical strength with just one Infinity Stone. Which he doesn't even need to beat Hulk. Lampshaded and subverted later in the battle in Wakanda. As Bruce fights Cull Obsidian, he begs Hulk to come out, saying that he always did like coming in at the last minute. Hulk refuses, so Bruce stops thinking like a guy in a big suit of armor and starts thinking like a genius scientist with an advanced and versatile piece of technology. It works.
- In Mystery Men, Mr. Furious repeatedly claims how powerful he is, fueled by his endless rage. Like most of the characters in this movie, his powers are undercut by reality. It is even revealed that the urban legend of him lifting a city bus was more accurately described as him giving it a push...while it was in motion. He goes head to head in the final act against Casanova Frankenstein, but is quickly knocked aside by the flamboyant villain. Down and out and off-screen, we hear...Mr. Furious say "rage, taking over" - a line that he had said several times before but without much effect. Frankenstein dismisses him saying, "yah yah yah, we have heard this before." Furious jumps up into frame, new resolve on his face, and declares, "no no no, rage REALLY taking over"...and then kicks some serious butt.
- Lt Col Alan Caldwell, in The Presidio:
Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell: Now, are you sure you want to have a fight? Because I'm only gonna use my thumb.
Bully in Bar: Thumb?
Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell: My right thumb. Left one's much too powerful for you.
- The Princess Bride: The same trope naming instance occurs in the film as in the book; a swordsman switching to his dominant hand to gain an advantage. Unfortunately for him, in both iterations, it then turns out that the Man in Black is not left-handed either and promptly regains the upper hand.
- A variation occurs in The Quick and the Dead. Ace Hanlon, the big bloater, claims to have two good shooting hands. In his match against Herod, first it turns out that at least some (probably all) of his war stories were fake, and Herod proceeds to shoot Ace in his right hand. Herod offers to take the next shot with his left hand, because unlike Ace, Herod really can aim well with both hands. Naturally, this story doesn't end well for Ace.
- A classic example from Quigley Down Under. Big Bad and Quick Draw specialist Marston finally captures Friendly Sniper Matthew Quigley, (who has refused a pistol every time one was offered to him in the movie, saying "I never had much use for them") and decides to kill Quigley in a Western-style shootout:
Marston: I seem to remember you're not too familiar with Colonel Colt's revolver, so this will be your first lesson.
[Marston continues to prattle smugly while setting up a Showdown at High Noon]
[Quigley shoots Marston and his two henchmen before they can react]
Quigley: I said I never had much use for one. Never said I didn't know how to use it.
- Seen in the climactic fight between Rama and the Assassin in The Raid 2: Berandal. They begin by fighting hand to hand, as a mark of respect and honour between the two fighters. However as the fight progresses and Rama gains the upper hand The Assassin pulls out a pair of Kerambits (curved knives) to try and finish the job
- Subverted in the Rocky series. Neither Rocky nor Stallone are left-handed, but throughout the movies, he fights south-paw by preference. In fact, a substantial part of his training for the rematch against Apollo Creed in Rocky II centered on Rocky learning to fight right-handed, and switching to using his left at a crucial point in the fight to devastating effect. Rocky "is not left-handed", but unlike these other examples, he is a distinctly superior fighter when favoring his off-hand.
- In Serenity, Captain Malcolm Reynolds is down-and-out, lying on the ground after having his butt handed to him by The Operative. The Operative employs a paralyzing technique that he had used earlier in the film, punching Mal in a nerve cluster in the lower back. It is revealed that Mal had been injured in a battle, had that nerve cluster moved, and his weakness becomes his strength as he gets up and catches the Operative by surprise, overpowering him and winning.
- They Made Me a Criminal: Johnny the boxer is left-handed, and also a fugitive from the police, having been unjustly accused of murder. He gets a bout out in the boonies of Arizona but fights right-handed so that no one will recognize him. He thus winds up taking a beating, until the cop who's tracked him down says not to bother as the cop already knows who he is. Johnny then starts fighting lefty and gives a much better account of himself.
- In TRON: Legacy, Sam fights his way to where his father's identity disc is being held. He gets cornered by Rinzler escorting a captive Quorra, who had previously trounced Sam using dual disc weapons. Rinzler doesn't account for the fact that Sam has two disks on his person now too when he and Sam square off. The surprise second disk careening at his head, combined with Quorra using that as a distraction to kickbox him (as her hands were bound), is too much for even Rinzler, and he's left hanging... literally.
- In Uncommon Valor, Scott has finally had enough of the much larger Sailor and says he thinks he can teach "an undisciplined brawler" like Sailor a lesson. The huge, lumbering Sailor rushes Scott a few times only to be knocked on his butt by Scott's martial arts skills. Tiring of this, Sailor says to Scott, "Usin' that Oriental martial bullshit on me's gonna get real expensive," assumes a real fighting stance, and uses his own kung fu skill, which turns out to be superior to Scott's, to treat Scott to "the whole can of whoop-ass."
- Zatoichi (the 2003 film) subverts this: as he is killing the last two Yakuza members, Zatōichi opens his eyes and the Yakuza boss assumes he can really see. In the very last scene of the movie, he trips over a rock and a voiceover says "Even with my eyes open, I still can't see a thing."
- In All for the Game by Nora Sakavic, exy star-player Kevin Day actually is and has always been left-handed. Before the beginning of the story, his left-had was broken on a ski accident (later revealed to be code-word for his adoptive brother Riko Moriyamas's jealousy fit). During the whole trilogy, he's seen training to learn how to use his right hand and, although he's still an excellent player, his skill has definitely taken a blow. By the end of the King's Men the Foxes play the final match against the Ravens, and starting the second half Kevin enters the pitch with his racquet on the left hand. That's when we know shit's about to go down.
- Cats Have No Lord by Will Shetterly deliberately echoes The Princess Bride trope, up until the "I'm not left-handed either," which is not true, but a ruse to distract the opponent so that sand can be thrown in his eyes.
- The trope name and the page quote come from The Princess Bride. Inigo Montoya is so good that he fights with his left hand just to keep things somewhat challenging, but when faced with the Man in Black, he realizes he's being outmatched and switches the sword back to his right hand to gain the upper hand again. Too bad the Man in Black was also fighting with his off-hand, presumably for the same reason. In the film, if you look closely, you'll notice when the Man in Black first starts to draw his sword, he is drawing it with his right hand until he notices that Inigo plans to fight with his left hand.
- In This Book is Not Good for You from the Secret Series by P. Bosch, Señor Hugo goes along as a blind man but eventually reveals he still has one good eye.
- Appears a couple of times in Star Wars Legends novels.
- Starfighters of Adumar has a scene where Wes Janson faces a foe in a sword fight and uses his weapon in his left hand. This is actually a feint, as he immediately uses his free right hand to disarm his overconfident opponent. After that, the fight becomes a brutal display of how his extremely skilled opponent never bothered to train for situations where he would not actually have a weapon.
- In Drew Karpyshyn's Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Bane eventually has to fight Kas'im, the Blademaster from the Sith Lord academy where he had trained, who uses a two-bladed lightsaber. Though Kas'im is the foremost Master Swordsman of the Sith, Bane is stronger in the Force and, after training with Kas'im privately for countless hours, already knows all his moves. The pupil is at first beating the master... until Kas'im detaches his saber-staff into two separate sabers, revealing that the real reason he has been telling his students Dual Wielding is useless is so that no-one else would learn it, or how to defend against it, which Bane indeed now can't.
- In "Dynasty of Evil", one of the reasons Zannah is hesitant to fight Bane and take the mantle of Sith Lord for herself as the Rule of Two dictates is she's concerned he might be holding something back. He is. Still doesn't save him.
- In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Count Dooku is disappointed at how easily he's defeating Obi-Wan and Anakin, until it is revealed that they have been disguising how good they've gotten at their favored fighting styles by using lightsaber forms they are less familiar with, and have just been screwing around to throw him off. Once they start fighting for real, Dooku realizes how badly outmatched he is and begins to panic.
- Iorek Byrnison pulls one of these in his fight against Iofur Raknison during The Golden Compass by pretending his left arm is too badly hurt to be used in the fight. Bonus points considering that in Real Life most polar bears have a stronger left forepaw.
- Daniel in The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson. It's not that he discovers a new power, but more like he discovers a new combination of attacks to defeat the villain.
- Happens literally in the second installment of the Toldi Trilogy, written by János Arany. The titular hero participates in a tournament for the sake of fighting but is not interested in claiming the prize (marrying the daughter of the host), so he agrees with a left-handed knight (who is in love with the girl in question) to impersonate him. During the final duel, he almost gives himself away when he switches hands because he can't handle his opponent while holding the sword in his left hand. The trope is inverted when he's eventually challenged by the same left-handed knight he impersonated, over a matter of honor and Toldi is unable to get an edge over him because he's not used to fighting left-handed opponents. He eventually defeats his rival using his left hand.
- Brian Daley's The Starfollowers of Coramonde has a character named Brodur who uses his right hand in fencing while setting up a hustle bet, and insults his opponent by saying, more or less, "I could beat you, even left-handed." Brodur is left-handed, and once the bet is for big money, he shows it.
- In the fifth Skulduggery Pleasant book (Mortal Coil), Skulduggery and China corner an expert swordsman by the name of Burgundy Dalrymple and ask him to surrender. He appears to be thoroughly beaten and remarks on how the heroes seem to have bested him when he suddenly swaps his sword to his left hand and proclaims, "I am not right-handed!" The exchange leading up to that moment is an almost word-for-word parody of The Princess Bride.
- The Royal Manticoran Navy of the Honor Harrington series required their newly-built pod-laying Superdreadnoughts to do this in the run-up to their all-out offensive, in order to conceal the existence of the ship type and their revolutionary abilities from the enemy. The result was SD(P)'s performing at a fraction of their capability...and still annihilating enemy squadrons all by themselves.
- War of Honor shows what happens when you reveal this too early: The Manticorans are forced back onto their heels by the Havenites unexpectedly pulling this, thanks to Admiral Shannon Foraker being a very busy girl during the Cease Fire. They reveal some devastatingly powerful new superweapons, but they are not ready to deploy them to the entire fleet yet. Realizing this, the Havenites send what is, at that point, the largest battle fleet in history in an all-or-nothing bid to crush the Manticoran homeworlds' defenses and force a surrender. They fail, but not before over a million people on both side die in the battle.
- This was also policy later when they found themselves in skirmishes against the Solarian League, to run the starship impeller drives at lower acceleration and fire from ranges that would only need two drives of their Multi-Drive Missiles rather than the range offered by the full three. This was, in significant part, to prevent the much larger Solarian League from realizing how badly outmatched they were in case the Manticorans couldn't prevent an all-out war.
- Unfortunately for the Manticorans, this was also the case for the Mesan Alignment Navy, who managed to conceal their entire existence behind the front of the comically inept and corrupt Mesan Navy. Their first move against the Manties? Oyster Bay.
- Bohun pulls this literally in the first installment of Sienkiewicz Trilogy, by throwing his saber from one hand to another (movie version makes it look very epic). It's useless against Volodyjowski, who takes him down right after that. Although this was a one-off surprise attack (described as a trick only the best duelists could pull off), good against an average opponent but not so useful against the professional knowing all tricks of the trade.
- Jaime Lannister averts this trope in A Song of Ice and Fire in the most heartbreaking way after the Bloody Mummers cut off his right hand. He tells people jokingly that he only let them do it because he wanted to make swordfighting more interesting. In reality, however, he's not remotely competent with his left hand - he can't even hit a bear with a thrown bone.
- At the beginning of Knife of Dreams in The Wheel of Time series, Galad deliberately holds back for most of his fight with Eamon Valda, attacking and parrying a bit more slowly than he could have. Then, at the end of the fight, he goes all out.
- Legacy of the Dragokin: Ravage has a Super Mode that makes him bigger and stronger and tougher; he uses it when Finn gains the upper hand in their fight.
- Alanna does this in the second book of Song of the Lioness. She's chosen to duel for Tortall's honor when a knight from Tusaine's delegation insults them; when he wound her in the right arm and presses for the kill, she switches her sword to her left hand and defeats him. This is a Chekhov's Skill from the first book when she was shown learning to fight left-handed after breaking her right.
- In Joel Rosenberg's Not Exactly The Three Musketeers, the main characters meet an elderly wizard who challenges them to an arm wrestling match to prove how powerful the illusions he's selling are. He seems to transform into a young, muscular man and beats them easily; it takes them a while to see through his con: he actually is young and brawny, but using an illusion to make himself look old.
- John Carter, the "Greatest Swordsman of Two Worlds", deliberately sandbags a couple of times over the course of the series, usually because he has a secret plan and he's stalling for time while it comes to fruition. He fights just barely well enough to keep from getting killed and takes the offensive just enough to keep his opponent from getting suspicious until he finally sees whatever it is he's been waiting for, at which point the fight is generally over within seconds.
- In Worm the Endbringers are always holding back when fighting. Every time they're sufficiently injured or hindered they'll bring out a new ability to mix things up. We finally see them go all-out against Scion, who is the one and only being on Earth that far outclasses them all in power and ability.
- In the third book of Counselors and Kings, heroine Tzigone has a Wizard Duel against the Smug Snake archmage Procopio Septus. Because Tzigone has Anti-Magic powers as well as wizard magic, she initially has the upper hand, since none of Procopio's spells can hurt her directly. But once she sufficiently injures Procopio's pride (among other things) he decides to start fighting seriously and it turns out that a pompous blowhard of an archmage is still an archmage, and there are plenty of things a sufficiently powerful wizard can do to kill you that don't involve directly hitting you with a spell. Only some very quick thinking saves Tzigone's life.
- In One of Us is Lying, Cooper is left-handed but writes with his right hand, because his father has told him not to waste his left on "Crap that don't matter," meaning anything but baseball. Counts as a Establishing Character Moment as it tells us how important baseball is to Cooper as well as his "Well Done, Son" Guy tendencies.
- Daylen Namaran in Shadow of the Conqueror possesses a ton of useful powers, but as a Master Swordsman who thrives on competition and combat, he holds back on using them for most of his fight with Captain Blackheart simply because he enjoys fighting someone who can give him a real challenge.
- In Pale Avery usually fights as part of a group, wearing a deer mask and striking from the sidelines using her Tricked-Out Shoes and the black rope. When she dons the wolf mask after declaring "Wolf Hour," she's far more direct and antagonistic, often fighting alone or as the primary attacker while others support her.
- We know almost from the start that Eithan of the Cradle Series is hiding his true power (it's mentioned, for example, that his ranking among the Underlords of the Blackflame Empire is due to personal choice, not actual skill), but it's not until the climax of Reaper that we find out his true power: he's Ozriel, Eighth Judge of the Abidan, and the most powerful being in the multiverse in a straight-up fight.
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In season 2, brain-damaged Gadgeteer Genius Fitz is sent on his first post-recovery mission and is told he will have to reassemble and install a transceiver in under six minutes, despite only having one fully functioning hand. He's shown practicing the procedure one-handed and growing frustrated at his inability to work quickly enough. Come mission time, he's gotten his time down to just over seven minutes, which Coulson points out is still much too slow. Fitz then elaborates: that's his time using only his bad hand. Using both, he'll be fine.
- Angel does this on a regular basis, usually revealing that he's a vampire about halfway through the fight. Vampires, for example, do not breathe, which Angel noted way back in Buffy when a character needed mouth-to-mouth.
"Right now I'm crushing your windpipe."
"Guess what I'm doing now? Not using my windpipe."
- Babylon 5:
- Done to tragic effect in the backstory: during the early phases of the Earth-Minbari War the Minbari inflicted a small series of Curb-Stomp Battles against EarthForce until Sheridan managed to nuke the Minbari flagship during a raid in the Sol System, prompting the Minbari to pull back for a while and then come out more unstoppable than ever, as the raid in the Sol System was a scouting manouver to prepare a decapitation strike because they didn't want to fully mobilize their standing force. After that loss, however, the Minbari got serious and, even without mobilizing their reserves, they methodically occupied the whole Earth Alliance and destroyed EarthForce as they slowly but inexorably came for Earth to start the complete destruction of Mankind.
- Done by EarthForce during the conflict against the Ch'lonas, the Koulani, and Drazi raiders. It was not by choice, as the conflict happened at the same time as the Earth-Minbari War and what they used to hold the line was what they could spare from the desperate attempts to slow the Minbari down while they tried to evacuate the Sol System and the Inner Colonies. Once the Minbari suddenly surrendered, however, the remnants of EarthForce, augmented by the ships that had been put into production in the previous months and didn't need to be sent against the Minbari (whose numbers included the augmented variants of the Hyperion that had been sent against the Minbari and the brand-new Omega-class destroyers), went after the Ch'lonas, the Koulani and Drazi raiders, and showed them the difference between what Earth could spare to fight jackals while also dealing with a Hopeless War and a battle-hardened force equipped with state-of-the-art weapons.
- In Band of Brothers this trope appears in such perfect form it almost looks like it was the Trope Namer. In the 4th episode ("Replacements"), Buck Compton plays darts against one of the new guys — Heffron — and loses saying, "It's a good thing we weren't gambling." Heffron suggests they bet on the next game and Buck "reluctantly" agrees. Before Buck takes his shot, he switches to his right hand and wins easily. Heffron has just enough time to realize he's been conned.
George Luz: Lieutenant, are you going to shoot lefty all night?
Joe Toye: Hey, c'mon.
George Luz: I'm just curious cause he's right-handed.
'Buck' Compton: [switches hands] George, what would I do without George Luz?
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
- "The Freshman": A vampire has busted Buffy's left arm up, and she's spent most of the episode conspicuously not using it and fighting one-handed. Then...
Buffy: When you look back at this, in the three seconds it'll take you to turn to dust, I think you'll find the mistake was touching my stuff.
Sunday: What about breaking your arm? How'd that feel?
Buffy: Let me answer that with a head butt. And for the record... The arm is hurt, not broken. [punches Sunday halfway across the room with her left hand]
- Later at the end of Season 4, Buffy manages to break the skewer (which had been Adam's primary weapon). Her triumph is short-lived. Bonus points for the skewer coming out of Adam's left arm.
- "The Freshman": A vampire has busted Buffy's left arm up, and she's spent most of the episode conspicuously not using it and fighting one-handed. Then...
- Jack Deveraux does this while fencing Lawrence Alamain in Days of Our Lives. Rather than reveal he's not right-handed during the fight, he waits until he's already defeated Alamain, to twist the knife in even more.
- Doctor Who: In "The Christmas Invasion", the bad guy has the Doctor at a disadvantage in their challenge sword duel, and slices off his right hand. The Doctor, however, grows a new one instantly due to previously-unknown Applied Phlebotinum, dubs it a "fightin' hand", and proceeds to soundly defeat the bad guy.
- In Entourage, Ari attempts to trick a studio executive into betting Vince into a movie during a golf game - he purposely loses the first nine holes before making the bet, and then his game miraculously improves. The exec accuses Ari of trying to trick him - then reveals that he plays much better left-handed, and goes on to defeat Ari.
- Everybody Loves Raymond: After Ray loses a ping-pong match with his father, his father reminds him that "it's a good thing he wasn't using his good hand" and switches his paddle to the other hand.
- Joss Whedon scores a hat trick here; in the pilot of Firefly, the titular vessel Serenity is fleeing a Reavers vessel hot on her heels and bearing down upon her — turns out that her thrusters rotate all the way around, allowing her to pull a Crazy Ivan and escape.
Wash: Here's something you can't do.
- In The Flash (2014), after Cisco learns to reliably produce Vibe blasts from his hands, he doesn't use them much. When he needs to take down Killer Frost, he is reluctant and holds back for fear of hurting her. When Julian finally convinces him not to hold back, he rather easily wins a Beam-O-War with her and then blasts her into unconsciousness. It's no wonder the Killer Frost and Deathstorm of Earth 2 were afraid of his double Reverb, who told Vibe that he had no idea how powerful he could become.
- In the seventh season of Game of Thrones, this trope comes up on a strategic scale. Daenerys Targaryen invades Westeros with both a vast army and three dragons, which are for all intents and purposes Game-Changing Fantastic Nukes. Right off the bat, she's in the position to take the capital by force, but doesn't - she has no intention of becoming "queen of the ashes", so she settles for more conventional warfare using her Unsullied legion and Westerosi allies. This allows enemy commanders Jaime Lannister and Euron Greyjoy to outmaneuver her, dealing her several stinging defeats. At that point, she decides she's had enough playing around and attacks the rear end of the Lannister army with both the Dothraki hordes and one of her three dragons, utterly curb-stomping them and making it abundantly clear what will happen if she decides to stop holding back.
- Kamen Rider Build: In the final duel of Touto vs. Seito match, Sento gets pounded for hours by Gentoku because Seito's team figures out how to counter Sento's newest form, RabbitRabbit, thanks to data from Sawa, who cooperates because they hold the Nabeshima family hostage. Once Kazumi takes care of the hostage problem though, Sento immediately uses the TankTank form that he and Sawa have been hiding and defeats Gentoku in mere minutes.
- In "The Tap-Out Job", Sophie panics when she realizes that the mark, not trusting Eliot's promise to throw an MMA bout, has drugged his water... and thus taken away his ability to hold himself back. It turns out it's all part of the con and Eliot didn't actually drink the drugged water, but other dialogue during the episode suggests that Sophie's description is not inaccurate.
Sophie: [Eliot] fights to survive, that's his training. It takes all his control not to kill somebody! You've just made him more dangerous! You've taken the safety off the gun!
- Eliot does it again in "The Big Bang Job". After three seasons of insisting he doesn't like guns and handling them only to dismantle and toss them away, he finally picks up a pair of handguns in order to face off with a good dozen mooks working for the season's Big Bad. The absolute carnage that follows hits just about every gunplay trope in the book.
Chapman: You said you didn't like guns.
Eliot: I don't. [unloads four rounds rapid-fire into Chapman's chest] Never said I couldn't use them.
- In "The Tap-Out Job", Sophie panics when she realizes that the mark, not trusting Eliot's promise to throw an MMA bout, has drugged his water... and thus taken away his ability to hold himself back. It turns out it's all part of the con and Eliot didn't actually drink the drugged water, but other dialogue during the episode suggests that Sophie's description is not inaccurate.
- In an episode of the MADtv (1995) recurring skit "Average Asian", a man challenges said Asian to a game of ping pong. After losing, the Asian says "Let me put the paddle in my OTHER hand" needless to say, "He's an expert Asian! When it comes to ping pong!"
- In one episode of Mission: Impossible, Willy has to compete in a judo competition, and it's all he can do to keep from losing long enough for the rest of the team to do what they need to do while he is distracting the audience with the match (despite Willy's considerable strength, he has never trained in judo before the start of the mission). At the end of the episode, he ends up fighting the villain's judo champion again, and since it's not a formal match, Willy switches to jujitsu, a martial art he has trained in, and mops the floor with him.
- The very first episode of Power Rangers had Zordon tell them that they should never use their Zords, except after attempting all lesser attacks, as a code of honor. This is also a handwave for Holding Back the Phlebotinum.
- Played with in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man. Steve Austin has to go undercover on an American Indian reservation, and there's a section of the reservation he needs to get to, but the problem is that only members of the tribe are allowed to go there. If he can pass several physical tests, he can become an honorary member of the tribe. His bionically-augmented body lets him pass the tests easily, but the last test is to arm-wrestle the strongest men in the tribe. While his bionic right arm lets him beat all the challengers, the medicine man for the tribe won't accept his victory unless Steve beats him as well. The medicine man then insists his right hand is "for medicine only" and says he will only arm-wrestle Steve left-handed. It quickly becomes apparent that the medicine man is one hell of a lot stronger than he looks. Steve narrowly wins, but it's very close and it's clear that it took all the strength Steve had in order to win, and his face shows it.
- In Spin City, it is a rule that when you play racquetball against the mayor, you lose (intentionally). But then Charley is stressed out because of his work and the mayor taunts him one too many times. Charley switches his racket from his left to his right and gruesomely beats the mayor.
Mayor: I thought you were left-handed?
Charley: Not anymore.
- Starsky & Hutch: In the tag of "Starsky's Brother", Nick Starsky plays pool right-handed, losing to Hutch and Huggy Bear. He tricks Hutch into betting twenty dollars against him, then announces that he's actually left-handed.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Q-Pid" plays with the Robin Hood legend, featuring this exchange:
Sir Guy of Gisbourne: I am the best swordsman in Nottingham.
Picard: [as Robin] I am not from Nottingham!
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Take Me Out to the Holodeck," actor Max Grodénchik, who played Quarks's brother Rom, intentionally batted left-handed. Max play semi-pro baseball prior to becoming an actor, and was too good right-handed to be convincingly inept as Rom.
- Ted Lasso, after agreeing to a high-stakes game of darts.
Rupert: Oh, I forgot I had these on me. *Pulls out a case containing his personal set of darts*
Ted: Oh, wait a second. I forgot I'm left handed. *Switches hands and casually tosses a bullseye*
- Tetangga Masa Gitu: Adi get the upper hand early in a pingpong match against Angel's ex-boyfriend Ruly Ernando. Once Angel arrives, Ruly decides to start playing seriously and utterly demolishes Adi.
- Xena: Warrior Princess: Joxer pulls this, in an almost word-for-word send-up of the famous scene from The Princess Bride, while fighting under a spell cast by Aphrodite that turns him from The Scrappy to The Lancer at the ring of a bell.
- In the 1957 Disney Zorro TV series, Don Diego de la Vega is a master swordsman, with many awards for his swordplay in Spain. When he decides to become a sword-fighting vigilante, one of the first things he does is to dispose of his awards so as to better pass himself off as a clumsy Idle Rich to his new neighbors in California. One episode's plot naturally revolves around Don Diego being challenged to a duel and having to somehow win while still fighting left-handed (figuratively speaking) so as to avoid blowing his cover. Interestingly enough, it doesn't fool the Capitán. If anything, it more or less confirms for him that Don Diego is Zorro.
- In Embers in the Dusk, the Gods of Chaos launch a massive attack on Avernus, a surviving lab world of the Old Ones, upon learning that Isha is reviving a Slann there, meaning the planet will soon be able to remove the ancient restrictions placed upon it sixty million years ago. However, it turns out all these years, the planet was letting everyone think these restrictions were considerably more strict than the actual case...
- Whenever some boss, such as the champion, evil team leader, etc. sends out their last Pokémon as a last resort, as a general rule, it's usually the most powerful. Taken even further in generation six and onward, with the introduction of Mega Evolution; NPC trainers with a Pokémon capable of Mega Evolution will always send out that Pokémon last, and most players will try to do the same unless their Mega-capable Pokémon is forced out by an opponent's attacks.
- This is always the case in your first fight with a Gym Leader. Their job is to test new trainers, not utterly crush them, so their initial team is scaled to where the player is expected to be, despite being explicitly the most powerful trainers in a region who aren't the Elite Four or the Champion.note In games allowing rematches, they go all out in the rematch, using Pokémon of a much higher level and often Pokémon they didn't use in the initial battle.
- In many shooting videogames, players are often limited to usually using a pistol or shotgun, due to lack of ammo for more powerful weapons. This often leads to them saving the BFG for Demonic Spiders or That One Boss. Which is usually built into the game's expected strategy. A good example is Time Crisis 3. The first stage gives you a grenade launcher with two rounds near the end. Experienced players will save it where the final boss, a giant tank turret, can be eliminated with just those two rounds. Less savvy players will use them in the trenches to clear out corners filled with enemies and have only the pistol left for the boss.
- Same with Role Playing Games, where players will just keep on using regular attacks on the regular mooks they encounter to save up items and MP, only to open the whole can of whoop-ass on stronger enemies.
- Played with in Super Robot Wars. Sanger Zonvolt is best known for piloting a mech whose only weapon is the Type-3 Zankantou and which uses a custom operating system that turns it into a Motion-Capture Mecha. In OG Gaiden, a villain tries to take advantage of this by disabling the Zankantou, only for Sanger to switch back to the default OS and kick his ass with the onboard weapon systems. The catch is that these weapons had never made any kind of in-game appearance before and had only been referred to via concept art in the artbooks for SRW Alpha 2 (where Daizengar made its first appearance). So it's less "I Am Not Left-Handed" and more "I AM Left-Handed, But I Can Kick Your Ass With My Right Hand Too".
- Nero does a form of this in his fight with Dante in Devil May Cry 4: he's been keeping his Devil Bringer hidden under the pretense that his arm is broken and he must carry it in a sling. He fights Dante for the majority of their first contact with his right arm hidden in the sling, and just when Dante has the upper hand and is about to run Nero through, he suddenly throws the sling off and blocks Dante's sword with his cursed arm, stopping Dante in his tracks.
- Dante himself pulls this in the same game. The fight mentioned above works as the game's tutorial because Dante's not putting a whole lot of effort into it.note The next time he and Nero clash, the kid gloves are gone and it's considered by many to be the most difficult fight in the game.
- Vergil also does this in 3. In the first fight against him, he stays in human form all the while. By the second fight, he pulls out the Devil Trigger after you damage him enough. In the third and final fight, he gets to use an even more powerful Super Mode on top of the previous one with deadly Secret A.I. Moves.
- It should be noted about the Devil Trigger, that before 3 it is played up like Dante has never been able to access it, so after Vergil kicks his ass in a cutscene after the boss fight that it awakens Dante's own abilities. Sort of giving Dante his own "I Am Not Left-Handed". In fact, in all the games save for 2 and 4 Devil Trigger isn't attained until a certain point so it's always been a hidden Super Mode technically.
- In the first game, the default sword Force Edge is it's own "I Am Not Left-Handed", in the fact it doesn't have a Devil Trigger form for Dante, and not until the right moment releases its true power to become the sword Sparda, which lets Dante Devil Trigger into his father's Demon Form.
- Sometime after his death in Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Greil is revealed to have crippled his sword arm because Lehran's medallion caused him to go Ax-Crazy and kill his wife. When the Black Knight finds out he didn't fight the true Greil because of this, he holds back in his final fight in PoR so that Ike will become stronger and show him what Greil was truly capable of. And the person that reveals this to the player also counts.Volke is actually an assassin hired by Greil to kill him just in case he goes berserk again. After the revelation, Volke gets his promotion from thief to assassin. And then makes the same deal with Ike.
- Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn: The Commando unit created the "That was left-handed!" phrase, which is well known and referenced throughout the series.
- In Tales of Symphonia Regal Bryant fights only using kicks, keeping his hands shackled. Late in the game, you find out firsthand that when he fought using his hands, he was as or more powerful then, than the team is currently, and that was without the Exspheres that allow them to be powerful.
- Joshua of The World Ends with You at first appears to be a Pretty Boy who fights with a psychic cell phone. He can't jump, and his ground combos only deal damage after the last button is pressed (Shiki and Beat can deal damage with every press). However, when Joshua and Neku are confronted by a Taboo Noise, and all hope seems lost, Joshua suddenly reveals he can levitate and proceeds to vaporize the Noise with a Jesus Beam. Afterwards, the reaper, Koki Kariya, confronts Joshua and notes that such power can only come from someone who is still alive while playing the game, and he tells Joshua that he will let it pass as long as Joshua doesn't pull the same stunt again, because the reapers themselves were having trouble with the Taboo Noise. He later goes all the way up to a Physical God when he reveals that he is Shibuya's Composer, The Man Behind the Man.
- Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals: After the first boss fight with Gades, if you manage to defeat him, he toasts your party anyway in a cutscene.
- Chrono Trigger: Slash, one of Magus' generals, is as famed as a legendary swordsman as his comrades are for their control over magic. When confronted, he puts up a respectable fight, but something just seems to be missing... until halfway through, when he acknowledges the team's prowess and takes his sword off the wall. Uh-oh.
Slash: You're more powerful than I thought! I better use all of my strength as well. [pulls sword off of wall] And you, without Cyrus... [unsheathes sword in slashing motion] You've no hope!
- Some gamers still have a soft spot for his old battle cry. "Yes, indeed!" heralded pain.
- In Guild Wars, one of the NPC henchmen, Lukas, will occasionally shout "I am not right-handed!" as one of his combat dialogue lines. (he wields his sword in his right hand, of course)
- Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception has the mission Time Limit, where an unstable neutralising agent forces Gryphus One to fly slowly and with reduced maneuvering. Two Leasath pilots proceed to trash talk about how he's not what the rumours make him out to be and stalk him in this near-defenceless state. When Gryphus One finally gets to discard the neutralising agent and dogfight properly, the two are taken aback by his real prowess and don't last long.
- Street Fighter:
- Akuma does this deliberately. The form everybody sees him in is Akuma using only part of his power. Shin Akuma, however, is when Akuma stops holding back and goes full-force at whomever he's fighting. Considering every version of this form that a player can fight doubles as a SNK Boss, it's lucky he doesn't do it more often.
- Oro from the Street Fighter III series keeps his arm bound in his gi sleeve so he doesn't accidentally kill his opponents. He gets to use both his arms in powered-up versions of his supers in Third Strike.
- Applies to Cody as well, who intentionally wears his prison handcuffs to make his fights more exciting.
- Shadow's story in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) seems to be setting up a Bolivian Army Ending, with Team Shadow surrounded by an evil army of magic clones. Then Shadow removes the Power Limiter rings on his gloves and proceeds to wipe the floor with them. Which is an idea that was first implemented in Sonic X where he removes the ring to better use the Chaos Emerald's powers, though weakening him in the process. This is noted mainly during the final battle of the Sonic Adventure 2 Story Arc of the show when he goes Super with Sonic and stops the ARK from falling on Earth by removing the rings again to give him enough juice.
- Sonic himself pulls this in Sonic Battle as well as a Let's Get Dangerous!, when he has to fight Emerl. Surprisingly, this is one of the few (if not the only) instances of Sonic not playing around with his opponent or in general. He goes from an adrenaline-pumped and cocky Kid Hero to (disturbingly) a deathly serious and utterly Pragmatic Hero. Then again, when you have 30 seconds on the clock (the previous 30 seconds spent trying to negate the Chaos Emeralds with the Master Emerald and FAILING) before the Final Boss (who happens to be a Physical God) blows your home planet to nothing with A STAR SYSTEM BUSTER and the only way to do stop them is to KILL them (and it's someone you really care about) why would he play around? Sonic just proved why he is the fastest hedgehog alive and that he's got some serious brass ones. He's been holding back a lot more than what we believed he did.
- Ragna the Bloodedge from BlazBlue holds great power in the Azure Grimoire copy/fake that makes up his right arm, but refuses to use it for much of the game. When he does, stuff starts hitting the fan very quickly. Big Bad Hazama/Terumi does this too as he created the Azure Grimoire.
- Zeno Clash's second Hunter battle begins with the titular boss keeping one hand behind his back as he fights you. (This is in addition to the fact that he's blind.) Whittle his health down enough and he brings both arms into play - and beats the living hell out of you.
- In a cutscene in the Final Fantasy VII prequel Crisis Core, Sephiroth and his then-friends Genesis and Angeal are having a 'play fight' on the Junon Cannon. However, when Genesis gets carried away and goes overboard, Sephiroth reveals just how much he was holding back earlier. Cue Curb-Stomp Battle, complete with a kickass version of One-Winged Angel. Even better, Word of God says he still hasn't been seen at his full power. Also played upon, as he is using his right hand in most scenes, but he is actually LEFT-HANDED.
- World of Warcraft:
- The Lich King manages to pull this in the final fight in Wrath when he stops messing around and slays your entire party with one attack.
- Most raid bosses have a berserk timer; when they hit it, they gain an additional attack that will let them wipe the floor with the raid. Makes you wonder why they didn't just lead off with that attack.
- Resident Evil 4 often requires this to be able to survive the tougher enemies. One can buy a rocket launcher and make quick work of what was originally to be a boss that could easily kill you. The fully upgraded Broken Butterfly will also get the job done.
- El Gigantes are most notable examples. Instead of having to shoot them multiple times, then attack their parasites, you just need to shoot them once with a rocket.
- Shoot Salazar's "Right Hand" with the upgraded Broken Butterfly or a rocket launcher after freezing it the first time and it will shatter.
- The Fallout games allow you to specialise in many different weapon types. You can be really good at using ordinary ballistic firearms but choose to use energy weapons even if your skill with them is weaker but you like the pew-pew effects. But when it comes down to fighting a particularly tough enemy, you can always put the laser rifle away and switch to a high-powered Anti-Materiel rifle with explosive ammunition and turn a deathclaw into bloody chunks.
- Unfortunately your NPCs in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are never left-handed and will nearly always use the biggest weapon you have given them. Players using their companions as pack mules must take care to never give one both the weapon and the ammunition to carry at the same time, lest they find their sidekick firing your carefully hoarded and expensive missiles against molerats.
- Fallout New Vegas when playing with the GRA DLC installed active encourages the player to be left-handed. Part of this DLC adds a series of Challenges that often require the player to kill powerful enemies with horribly unsuitable weaponry, i.e. killing 5 adult Deathclaws using the absolute weakest weapons in the game, or killing 10 of the extremely quick and erratic Cazadores using explosives that have a long fuse timer before detonating. While the savvy player will realize that only the killing blow needs to be delivered with the required weapon, and hence soften up the target with something more sensible first, most of these Challenges are still excellent ways to discover when the player last made an autosave.
- In Jedi Academy it's possible to switch lightsaber styles (there are five in the game; depending on your choice of lightsaber you can get at most three of them), and Kyle even recommends you do it for this trope's sake. The extreme effectiveness of doing this was carried over from the previous game, Jedi Outcast. The Strong style is actually only useful for this in lightsaber fights, ending a battle or knocking the enemy's lightsaber out of their hands (or both).
- In Asura's Wrath, half-way through the fight with Augus, he relishes the fact that Asura is putting up a decent challenge and takes out his sword Wailing Dark, proclaiming that not even the finest wine or the fairest maiden excites him as much as using his blade. The game then cuts to Yasha and Deus, who senses this and notes that Augus has only ever used his sword once before, and that was with Deus himself.
- This trope is very common in the Trails Series with bosses pulling off this trope.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky FC has a Heads I Win, Tails You Lose situation against Lorence Belgar where he's an optional boss but if you "win" against him in battle, he apologizes for holding back and one-shots the party in the next cutscene with his sword skills.
- Wazy from The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure, leader of "Testament" gang, is constantly at odds with leader of a rival gang "Saber Vipers", Wald, to determine which of the two gangs hold authority in Crosbell's downtown. In Ao prologue when Wazy joins SSS, Wald challenges Wazy for another match only to be easily defeated, showing that he has been holding back in their previous duels. Near the end of the game, it's revealed that the reason Wazy was that strong is that he's one of Dominion, twelve strongest fighters in Septian Church's Gralsritter with the nickname "Blue Testament".
- Rean in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II pulls this off during the Divertissment chapter against Lloyd and Rixia where after he and Altina stalemate the two of them, decides to first use his Super Mode, only for that to get interrupted by the machine Lloyd brought with him. Then Rean decides to summon his Super Robot and destroy the server and tells Lloyd that they'll split the losses for now on his terms.
- In the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Stephen is always shown in a wheelchair, provides necessary exposition, developed essential tools for combating demons such as the Demon Summoning Program, and can heal the player's party. Beyond that, he doesn't do much. In Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, not only does he reveal himself to be capable of offensive abilities in combat, but, as part of a Secret Test of Character to Nanashi and the protagonists of the previous four mainline SMT games, he can also stand up just fine and become the hardest Bonus Boss in the game at level 128, putting him at an even higher level than YHVH (100), the game's Final Boss; in other words, Stephen is more powerful than God Himself.
- In a reversed version of the literal trope, in Persona 5, Goro Akechi decides to play pool against Joker in a right handed fashion. Despite the fact that Akechi wins, Joker notices that Akechi isn't playing with his dominant arm. Akechi admits that yes, he gave himself a handicap by playing right handed as he is actually left handed. This is also foreshadowing of another aspect of his character, but that's another story.
- Throughout The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, Majora's Moon is slowly falling towards Termina over the course of three days, threatening to destroy it. When you reach the end of the game and confront Majora, they just drop the moon, which begins falling at top speed and can only be stopped by the Four Giants. That whole lengthy fall from the sky? Completely unnecessary. Majora was just dragging out Termina's destruction so it could revel in the fear of its inhabitants before they died.
- In Super Metroid, Mother Brain doesn't whip out her mechanical body until Samus has seemingly won, and has trapped herself in an inescapable room.
- Almost every boss in Dark Souls has a second phase that begins when they've lost about half their hitpoints. While most of them take on new One-Winged Angel forms, Champion Gundyr from the third game notably does not change at all, his attacks simply hitting harder and faster. The implication may be that he wasn't taking you seriously as a threat until now. Since his eyes start glowing at this point, there's a joke among the fanbase that he actually just opened his eyes.
- Gilgamesh of Fate/stay night is easily capable of defeating any of the Servants simply by raining an endless number of Noble Phantasms down on them. However, he does not subscribe to overkill theory; even though he uses overwhelming force in battle, he could easily use even more, but chooses not to. Most notable is his refusal to bring out Ea, a sword capable of destroying worlds, unless very impressed or in significant danger. Even then he never uses more than a small fraction of Ea's true power, since destroying the planet he's standing on would be a very stupid thing to do.
- In Sharin no Kuni when Kenichi fights Houzuki, he finds out that Houzuki's leg is actually completely fine, and promptly loses the fight as a result.
- Eleonore von Wittenburg, one of Reinhards three commanders, from Dies Irae almost never fights to her fullest extent. Due to her pride she views it as a waste to use anything more than her most basic attacks against an opponent that she doesn't view worthy or that hasn't angered her enough for things such as honor to no longer matter. When Beatrice fights Eleonore in Kei's route, she makes the assumption that she knows of everything that Eleonore can do and that she is unable to use her full strength in the current situation. Eleonore immediately shuts her down by revealing that she had never seen her full might, but that now she is irritated enough with Beatrice that she will actually unleash it. Muspellsheim Lævateinn. An endless, hellish inferno that offers no hope of escape.
- RWBY: Vernal is the Spring Maiden, one of the most powerful entities in the world, capable of summoning incredible Elemental Powers that no one but another Maiden can hope to match. Before her fight with Weiss, her boss Raven tells her not to bother using her powers; Weiss isn't worth it. Vernal wins, but it later turns out this was a Red Herring. Vernal is just a decoy, and Raven the real Spring Maiden; Raven made sure to give that order where everyone could hear it so that they wouldn't question why Vernal wasn't using her powers.
- In DEATH BATTLE!, since these fights are duels to the death, character limitations such as Thou Shalt Not Kill and Willfully Weak are thrown out the window to determine who would win. By doing this, one character's potential could easily skyrocket to surpass their opponents.
- In Dragon Mango, the elf Eclair wears a heavy iron armor breastplate. Iron usually causes them massive pain; Eclair turns out to be wearing it purely for the weight and pain handicaps.
- In El Goonish Shive, when Elliot fights Tara, the best he can do is to keep one step ahead of her so she can't land a killing blow. Later, when it's revealed that an Immortal has been manipulating her all along, she tells it take a hike by showing off a bit of her true power. At that moment Elliot realized she was holding back a lot during their fight.
- Experimental Comic Kotone: Another inverted example with Konstantin, who is left-handed and holds back by using their right.
- Nyarai from Furry Fight Chronicles fights the first half of the Masato Match using traditional wrestling with her own personal spin. However, she's actually a Kick Chick who's a lot stronger when she pulverizes her opponents with her legs.
- In Girl Genius pulled by Tarvek. First Violetta notices that he indeed was paying attention at the martial arts training. Later...
- The God of High School: Jin Mo-Ri's power level is estimated at level six when he first enters the tournament. That is, until he actually uses his legs to attack, which more than doubles his power level to 13. Furthermore, the judges revealed to be holding back by not using their special abilities.
- Gunnerkrigg Court has a training example, in sparring between Parley (who is a good fencer) and S13. They dance a little, then Parley tells to stop holding back... to a robot going extreme parkour merely to move around quickly. She also chose a much heavier blade. The next round ends before it starts and even when she's ready it doesn't take long. Of course, then Parley uses her talents fully, and she isn't constrained by the sword's inertia much when blinking around.
- In Juathuur, Rowasu considers his sword a handicap. Notice that two opponents tried to disarm him. More specifically, once the sword is no longer in his hand, the hand itself becomes a weapon.
- Invoked in Leif & Thorn when a trainee beats Thorn in a sword fight, and an instructor uses this to deflate his ego. As Thorn says later, though, ever since his dominant arm was severely injured, he actually fights better with the sword in his non-dominant hand.
- In No Rest for the Wicked, Ricardo tells the princess it would have been over much more quickly if he had use of his right hand -- though, unusually, he doesn't show it, because his right arm's in a sling.
- One-Punch Man: Saitama takes this trope leaps and bounds beyond most. Most of the time, every threat he finds, he can trounce without putting an ounce of effort. And then the really powerful villains show up, start thrashing the entire league of superheroes, and he decides he'll get slightly serious about it. And that is when the near-apocalyptic punches start coming out. Woe betide anyone he actually has to punch twice.
- This female frost giant in The Order of the Stick stops holding back once her male companion is dead.
- In Tower of God, during the Workshop Battle, Rak goes around being shrunk to a small size until he meets someone in need of real beating up and returns to his normal three metres. (Only then is it even explained how he got shrunk again — it's something people who are too tall to fit indoors can get a permission to magically do.)
- Airstrike of Wake of the Clash, is seen struggling during the Chapter 1 heist against her rival, The Hourglass, who has no known superpowers. It has been mentioned by the author that Airstrike will often pull her punches against Hourglass to make their escapades more entertaining to onlookers.
- Weak Hero:
- Gerard struggles in his fight against Seongmok until he pulls out a card he's been keeping close to his chest; he doesn't fight with his feet because it's his specialty, but because he made a promise not to use his fists for a year. With that year expired, he effortlessly pummels Seongmok into unconsciousness.
- Alex is an unintentional example, as even he didn't realise that he's left-handed until a kindly stranger at the gym points it out to him. When he changes his stance to adjust for it, he realises how much more natural it feels.
- Atop the Fourth Wall: On the subject of Linkara's magic gun a.k.a. Margaret, she has been holding back her full strength most of the time. There are a couple of sneak peeks of it in the Silent Hill: Dead/Alive and Silent Hill: The Grinning Man reviews, but we don't really properly see the gun cut loose until Star Wars 3D #1.
- The New Adventures of Captain S: In the final showdown between Captain S and the Game Genie, Captain S seems to have the Genie's number before the Genie proclaimed "We're not *snort* left-handed." and proceeded to transform into his true form.
- In Noob, Gaea is a notable hoarder of both money and precious items and a Dirty Coward when it comes to combat. However, if she's cornered into combat and has her mind set on winning, she does NOT consider her most powerful items to be Too Awesome to Use.
- Suburban Knights: After failing to do any damage to Malachite using their costumed weapons (which makes sense since they were mostly just props) everyone abandons their "characters" (Lupa stops acting princessy, Linkara starts using his magic gun, Angry Joe gets out his weapon arsenal, etc.) It still doesn't work though since Malachite is a dark mage while everyone else is mostly un-powered nerds.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Zuko does this when fighting an earthbender and realizing that holding back his firebending to conceal his identity is no longer an option. This backfires on him, when the very people he was protecting and risking his life for treat him like dirt afterwards and run him out of town, albeit understandably, seeing as Zuko's father is leading the army that's been oppressing them and aside from his one stray good deed they've only ever been mistreated by the Fire Nation before.
- Later it's reversed when Zuko's staying undercover in Ba Sing Se, capital of the Earth Kingdom, and he's attacked by Jet who's trying to unmask him as a firebender. Jet assumed he could force Zuko to defend himself with his firebending, but instead Zuko shows he's a skilled swordsman, and doesn't need bending to win a fight.
- The Legend of Korra:
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Ben 10: Omniverse: Later on in the series, Ben gains complete control over Alien X, meaning he can use all of the transformation's reality, space, and time-warping powers on command without having to deliberate with its other two personalities first. However, Ben still doesn't feel comfortable wielding all that power arbitrarily so he still avoids using Alien X unless it's absolutely necessary. When facing the brainwashed Plumbers' Helpers, who he wanted to incapacitate without hurting, he turns into Alien X and effortlessly pins them to the wall.
- In The Backyardigans: International Super Spy, their James Bond homage, this sort of exchange is used when Pablo reveals to the Lady in Pink that he's not ticklish, and thus her Tickle Torture device won't work on him.
- DC Animated Universe:
- Justice League:
- The moment when Flash surpasses any speed ever achieved by a human being in order to whup Brainiac-Luthor's ass in the Unlimited episode "Divided We Fall". The episode practically gave the character an immediate boost from the goofy, comic relief of the League to an absolute badass in a few seconds. And to show how serious he was, we learn that going that deep into the Speed Force runs the risk of not coming back.
- At various times it is made very clear that The Flash, much like Superman, can cause a lot of collateral damage if he isn't careful. As for the above example, it's implied that he was approaching the speed of light and you can see cars flipping and distant windows shattering just from how fast he is moving. He outright doesn't use his ability to phase through solid material, because it can cause explosions or instant destruction.
- Superman lets himself get beaten up a lot because of this; he will fight using all of his powers, and he's beaten many times, but either because somebody broke out the kryptonite or because he's holding back early on and for some reason can't go back to being right-handed. Case in point: when he unknowingly fights Wonder Woman, he has to stop fighting, period, once he realizes it's her and is badly beaten up because of that. However, he frequently talks about the reasons he does this. At one point, he says that every hit he takes is one less hit his teammates has to. This especially comes to proof when Superman fights Darkseid in the series finale. After getting beat down, Superman gives a "No More Holding Back" Speech:
Superman: I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard. Always taking constant care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die. But you can take it, can'tcha, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am.
- He then turns the tables and lets loose on Darkseid, knowing that he won't be killed right off, and easily kicks Darkseid's ass, sending him flying through several buildings to the other side of the city and then bashing him back down to the ground. Unfortunately, Darkseid then does this as well. Realizing he's outmatched physically, he switches to his technological superiority and instantly defeats Superman.
- In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Knight Time", while Superman poses as Batman after Bruce Wayne disappears, he's forced to hold back as he fights Bane, but after Bane is led to think he's won, Superman stops holding back. It's both hilarious and awesome at the same time.
- Justice League:
- In Doug, Doug is playing baseball but plays horrible until Patty notices he favors his left hand and realizes he's a lefty. Once Doug swings left-handed, he actually plays competently. This is ironically the opposite of the name of this article.
- Grojband quotes this trope almost word for word when Corey dukes it out with a pirate captain in "The Pirate Lounge For Me".
- The Powerpuff Girls individually compete in a series of tests in order to join a league of male superheroes (episode "Members Only"). Bubbles competes in a speed race against E-Male. As she keeps pace with him:
Bubbles: Um, am I supposed to keep up or is one of us supposed to win?
E-Male: Well, one of us should definitely win, Cherie.
Bubbles: Oh, okay. 'Bye! (turns on the afterburners and zooms way ahead, eventually winning)
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: In "Ties That Bind", Catra tricks Glimmer into using up her magical energy, leaving her powerless when other members of the Evil Horde arrive. However, Glimmer, having realised what Catra was up to, reveals she was exaggerating how drained she was, taking Catra by surprise and using her magic to rescue Bow and give Catra a well-deserved sucker punch.
- The Simpsons: Marge Simpson, of all people, invokes this trope in the Vancouver Olympics episode. Her arm is sprained in the second-last match and is about to give up. Then, Homer notices her skill with her other arm, which Marge remembers is actually her dominant one. (This is also a literal inversion of the trope name: Marge is left-handed, but has been using her right hand all her life in order to fit in.)
- SpongeBob SquarePants has an example where he gets a splinter in his thumb while working and is trying to hide it in order to avoid being sent home for injury on the job. When he sees it's hindering his ability to flip Krabby Patties, SpongeBob switches the spatula to his other hand and reveals that he's ambidextrous (able to use both his right and left hand).
- Star Trek: Lower Decks: "Mugato, Gumato": At the beginning, Boimler and Rutherford are confident of faring better than usual in their anbo-jytsu match with Mariner, as they've been training hard since the last match, and snarkily tell her to "take off the kid gloves". It turns out that she's been going easy on them but is now excited to get in "a real workout", and proceeds to wipe the floor with both of them.
- Star Wars: Clone Warsnote : General Grievous at the end. You thought he was tough with two arms? Well, turns out he has four.
- Justice League vs. Teen Titans: A darker version occurs. Damian Wayne and Blue Beetle get into a fight and Damian asks who's fighting, him or the Scarab. Beetle replies that he hopes it's him. This wasn't a boast, though — it's a warning as he's restraining the Scarab from taking any kill-shots. Indeed, the moment control was lost, the Scarab takes over and flash-fries part of Damian's face.
- Larry Bird loved to hit his first ten points using his left hand, scoring easily. Then, he would start using his right hand.
- Rafael Nadal, a 20-time Grand Slam champion in tennis, is right-handed, but he learned to play left-handed for purely strategic reasons; there are not too many lefties in tennis so opponents can find it difficult to adjust to playing against. In particular, it helped him become the only player to consistently beat Roger Federer (arguably the greatest player of all time) because Federer's one-handed backhand is vulnerable to Nadal's lefty forehand.
- In a boxing match on November 4, 1947, left-handed fighter Mike Collins emerged from his corner in a right-handed stance and then shifted into a left-handed stance, flooring his opponent and winning the match in four seconds.
- It's common knowledge that professional wrestling is largely a staged fight but what isn't common knowledge is that a large part of the training is learning how to hold back so as to not seriously injure the opponent, and for the wrestlers to willingly cooperate in order to reduce injury. In essence, every match has the wrestlers fighting "left-handed". While professional wrestling moves are meant more for show than for actual practical application, often telegraphing most severely, it's safe to say that if some of those moves were performed in earnest, they would hurt. A lot. To further illustrate this point, a lot of old school wrestlers-turned-trainers (such as Stu Hart) were legit amateur wrestlers and made a point of training their students to really wrestle and grapple fight.
- Billiards and particularly snooker players sometimes switch hands to avoid awkward stretching across the table; some even actively train to become near-ambidextrous. However, only superstar Ronnie O'Sullivan will sometimes play entire frames left-handed just to mess with his opponent's head. Opinions differ on whether this is pure awesome or just jerkassery. O'Sullivan once received a formal complaint about being disrespectful after playing left-handed. In response, he claimed that he could play left-handed better than his opponent could play right-handed. He wasn't disciplined because he proceeded to play three games in a row against a professional, left-handed, and won all three.
- Many left-handed people will have found themselves in situations where the opposite applies. For whatever reason you will be forced to do something with your right hand and because of this will generally be pretty bad at it, but then when you get the chance to use your left hand you will surprise everyone at how much better you are. A common example is using something designed for right-handed people, then switching to something that can be used by either hand.
- A famous example is the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between heavyweight boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman which took place in Zaire on October 30, 1974. While everyone knows the story now, back then, people had no idea Ali was intentionally holding back and letting Foreman pound him on the ropes. He told everybody who would listen that he was going to dance and make Foreman look silly, but he was bluffing. He knew Foreman was too powerful to stick and move because all it would take was one good shot by the big man to seriously hurt him. So he laid on the ropes until Foreman punched himself into exhaustion, then he knocked him out. Ali, afterwards, called the tactic the "rope-a-dope".
- On November 5, 1994, twenty years after his loss to Ali, and older and wiser George Foreman used this trick to help him defeat heavyweight champion Michael Moorer and regain his title. Foreman was now an old man by boxing standards at 45 years old, and the 26 year-old Moorer thought that it would be an easy win against a washed-up old legend. When Foreman learned that there would be no three-knockdown stoppage rule, he decided that he couldn't afford to unleash his full power from the beginning, for fear that Moorer might survive some early knockdowns and spend the rest of the fight evading and sniping to beat him on points. Instead Foreman held back his true speed and punching power for nine whole rounds, tricking Moorer into thinking he could beat Foreman in a toe-to-toe fight, and baiting him into trading blows so that he could sneak a lot of cumulative damage in on Moorer without him noticing. Finally in the 10th round Foreman shocked everybody by going all-out against Moorer: the end came when he landed a right against Moorer's jaw that knocked him flat, and because of the damage that Moorer had accumulated over the entire fight he couldn't rise before the count of 10, leaving Foreman victorious.
- Justified in the case of Károly Takács, an Olympic pistol shooter. He was already a world-class marksman when he suffered injuries to his right hand whilst handling a faulty grenade, whilst serving in the Hungarian Army. Determined to continue his shooting career, however, he trained using his left hand and eventually went on to win two gold medals in the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games.
- A similar case to this is the pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who lost his right arm in World War I, but continued his pianist career by commissioning works for the left hand alone by many prominent composers of the day, most notably Maurice Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.
- Also this talent show performance.
- Common when nations with a superior technologically advanced military attack a nation with an inferior and primitive military to keep civilian casualties low or avoid total destruction of the country's limited infrastructure. Sometimes an objective becomes so important to neutralize that they unleash their full might to achieve it (innocent bystanders and collateral damage be damned), showing they could actually annihilate everything if they really wanted to. Moreover, they never seriously consider using a Nuke 'em to just end the conflict in 15 minutes.
- Used in Cricket. While a batsman's handedness is usually known to everyone by the time they get to top level, sufficiently nimble ones can switch stances while the bowler is in mid-bowl (mid-pitch). Since players on the field in cricket are positioned asymmetrically, this completely throws off the attempted formation.
- Golf, a sport in which left-handed play is pretty rare at the top level, has some illustrations of this trope.
- Played straight by Phil Mickelson, probably the most successful left-handed player in history; in golf circles, if you make a reference to "Lefty", everyone knows you're talking about him. Mickelson does everything else right-handed — he learned to play golf as a child by mirroring what his father did while facing him; his father played right-handed.
- An inversion: All-time great Ben Hogan was actually left-handed, but played right-handed.
- Both played straight and averted by 2003 Masters champion Mike Weir. Like Mickelson, he's a natural righty but learned to play golf as a lefty. In Weir's case, it was largely because he was a left-handed shot in his first sport of (ice) hockey (he's Canadian).note While he enjoyed considerable junior golf success as a lefty, he had people telling him that he might be an even better player if he switched to right-handed play. He decided to write a letter to a pretty well-known golfer whom he had met at an exhibition when he was 11... none other than Jack Nicklaus. The Golden Bear quickly wrote back, telling Weir that if he felt comfortable playing left-handed, he should stick with it. Weir plays left-handed to this day.
- As part of a prank, a nerdy girl asked two new Muay Thai trainers at a gym to spar with her. She goes a few rounds letting them think she's an unskilled newbie before proceeding to school them since that nerdy girl is actually Germaine Yeap, a professional Muay Thai fighter.
- Michael Vick, considered one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, and one of the biggest What Could Have Beens, throws left-handed, despite being right-handed. He was so good as a child, the neighborhood kids made him throw with his left hand, and it stuck.
- This is a common strategy used by chess hustlers. They'll play a few games with someone with no money at stake, and play deliberately poorly to make the opponent think they're weak. Then they'll get them to make a bet on the next game, and start playing for real.
- In a broader sense, few military powers respond with the full strength of their arsenal to threats anymore, least of all the nuclear ones. The reason is that doing so would result in a lot of neutral civilian casualties. Perhaps one of the greatest illustrations of this trope comes from Fallujah when over a hundred insurgents barricaded themselves in a booby-trapped three-story apartment building. The US Army's response was to simply blow the whole thing up using a single tank since there was no risk to civilians. In less than an hour, all the insurgents were dead with no other casualties.
- This is also the case because should one country start using nuclear weapons, the rest will probably do so also, and, well, good night, world.
- Another reason for a military to hold back is to prevent other militaries from learning the full extent of their capability until it's absolutely necessary. This has included the Allies refusing to act on intelligence from captured German and Japanese transmissions because they didn't want the enemy to know they'd broken their codes, instead waiting for a sufficiently valuable opportunity to present itself.
Inigo: Tell me!
Man in Black: I'm not left-handed either. [switches the sword to his right hand]