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Imposed Handicap Training

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How do you think Goku got that powerful anyways?

Tien: Goku this thing weighs a ton! Have you been wearing it for the entire tournament?
Goku: Yup! Kami told me to. It was part of my training. It's not much different than Master Roshi's style. He wore a big turtle shell to gain strength. It's pretty much the same principle here.
Goku explains his weighted clothes, Dragon Ball

Sometimes, it's not enough to just practice in a "fair" or typical way. Getting really good at something implies the ability to do it even when there are factors impeding the person doing it. This trope is an intentional invocation of this, by having the trainee devote themselves to what would otherwise be a routine training session with additional restrictions.

This is not necessarily a Sub-Trope of Training from Hell, but they do frequently overlap. In order to be an example of this, the training should involve tasks or conditions which wouldn't be present when the person is doing the thing they trained for "for real". Training for a difficult task by subjecting yourself to that task is just standard practice. This is training for a less difficult task by subjecting yourself to a more difficult one. If the trainee (or a trusted partner) can't remove the handicap at will, then it's not an example of this trope.


Examples include:

  • Attempting to use normal abilities while under the effects of a Power Limiter
  • Conversely, attempting to perform a difficult task without the aid of a Super Mode or other powered-up state that they would normally have readily available
  • Doing a strenuous activity with additional weights bound to the trainee
  • Asymmetric sparring... the trainer has a distinct martial advantage over the trainee, such as longer reach, padded armor, or is simply bigger and stronger
  • Attempting something that requires deep concentration while there are distractions, ranging from obnoxious noises to a whole other facet of training to deal with
  • Attempting common tasks in a manner the trainee is not familiar with, such as fighting while leading with their other hand or wayfinding in foreign territory

The reasons for doing this can vary. Maybe the trainee is already excellent in his field and this is the only conceivable way to get better still. Or maybe this is the best use of an otherwise modest budget. Regardless, the effect is usually that the trainee quickly finds ways to work through or around the limitations and becomes more formidable as a result.


It's possible to invoke this trope using handicaps that are completely and totally unrelated to the task actually being performed, such as practicing for combat with the added stipulation that you have to sing while you fight. Unless you can perform Magic Music, those kinds of handicaps aren't likely to help you get better.

When such handicaps are used for fun/glory instead of training, it's a Self-Imposed Challenge. If done in a particularly dangerous fashion, this overlaps with Training from Hell. See Charles Atlas Superpower for the eventual result. When they reveal this sort of thing in the middle of "the real deal", like a combat situation, that's I Am Not Left-Handed. Also related is Boxing Lessons for Superman, inasmuch as it's a similar means of expanding a character's repertoire by bolstering their superpowered abilities with beneficial skills that are mundane by comparison. See also Wax On, Wax Off for when exercise is disguised as a mundane task.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In AirGear: Ikki is forced to invoke this by his big sister figure, Rika, in part to make him stronger but with the benefit of forcing him to be unable to go as high normally since she's worried about him falling and dying. Ikki ends up taking advantage of the weights as improvised armor, allowing him to tank blows he normally wouldn't.
  • Berserk:
    • Accidentally invoked by Guts, who was reared in a mercenary band and thus started training with swords meant for adults. As an adult, his swords are still longer than he is tall.
  • In Captain Tsubasa, Hyuga's coach trains his soccer team by ordering them to dribble and kick the balls on shore tides. Hyuga himself takes this further by using a heavier ball.
  • Dragon Ball: one of the most common methods of training is making one's body heavier, which increases both their strength and speed. They came in two styles: weighted clothing and higher gravity. While Goku and co. attain various transformations that increase their power enormously, they often choose to train under these circumstances because the forms multiply their base power, which is easier to put under more effort.
    • The earliest example dates right back to the very first training Goku undertook, where he and Krillin wear weighted turtle shells while performing manual labour, which pushes their abilities beyond human (this is what Goku refers to in the page quote). Those training with Kami also wear a weighted shirt, boots and armbands, with Kami's evil counterpart Piccolo always wearing a weighted turban and shoulderpads. A character deciding to take their weights off meant things were getting serious, and next to "I'm not fighting at full power", discarding what are revealed to be weighted clothes was one of the most common mid-fight reveals. Weights would appear again while Goku was in Other World (as shown in the page image), with their colossal weights accomplished through magic.
    • Starting with the Dragon Ball Z stories, weighted clothing would be switched out with higher gravity. Goku first encountered this when visiting Kaio's world, which has 10x the gravity of Earth (and as Kaio points out, Goku's opponents came from a world with the same, so he had a lot of catching up to do). For the journey to Namek Goku had Bulma's father allow his spaceship to apply 100x gravity, which paired well with the "Zenkai" boost, and Vegeta would later demand the same. Higher gravity is also present in the Room of Spirit and Time past the central living area.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood, Jonathan's first real fight after learning Hamon is against Jack the Ripper, who has been turned into a zombie by Dio. His Hamon mentor, William Zeppeli, imposes a restriction on him to prove the results of his training: he must defeat Jack while holding a glass of wine, and without spilling a single drop. The wine ends up actually giving him an advantage, as he can use it to find Jack's location in the dark by channeling Hamon through it.
    • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency, Lisa Lisa forces Joseph to wear a special Hamon breathing mask during his Training from Hell. This mask only allows him to breathe if he performs the Hamon breath technique. By wearing it nearly 24/7 for a month, only taking it off when eating and brushing his teeth, Hamon breathing becomes second nature to him.
  • Naruto: Rock Lee wears ludicrously heavy training weights on his legs most of the time, which make a pair of craters when he drops them. This makes him extremely fast once they are removed.
  • In Pokémon Journeys: The Series, Goh trained his Magikarp for a jumping competition, and during the final round, it was revealed he was always wearing weights so heavy, two Machamp could not lift them. With the weights off, it leads to the Magikarp jumping so high, he goes out into space. Because Magikarp was not able to complete his jump, his jump is not counted and he loses.
  • Rebuild World: Akira accepts the task of Training the Peaceful Villagers to turn the slum gang he’s supporting alongside Sheryl into a Hunter Gang, after a brutal attempted robbery of the relic shop at their headquarters served as a Misfit Mobilization Moment for them. He gives them Augmented Reality goggles, with his Virtual Sidekick Alpha using them to simulate the gun shots and provide tutorials, bullet trajectories, etc to the trainees. In order to balance Akira’s mock battles against the whole group alone, he fights with the power settings for his Powered Armor set lower than normal, and his Everything Sensor limited to simulate enemy jamming.

    Comic Books 
  • Nightwing: Dick takes Tim Drake for training that involves riding train tops around Bludhaven while blindfolded and doing various balancing exercises. Tim is not amused when they get ambushed while doing so.
  • Wolverine once trained under a master samurai to learn how to properly wield a katana. The training regimen included this, where he would regularly spar with that master using a wooden practice blade broken to half length, while the master was Dual Wielding.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Women training in hopes of becoming Amazons have to go through quite a few obstacles while their hands and/or feet are bound and while blindfolded.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Fire Birds, Nicholas Cage's character (who's been assigned to train to fly the new-fangled Apache combat helicopters) is unable to fly straight because he has cross-dominant eyesight (he's right-handed but he aims with his left) and the Apache's HUD monocle is designed to be placed above the right eye. The solution by the main instructor: blindfold Cage's character and tie a periscope around his right eye (with panties) and have him drive a Jeep around the base so he'll get used to it.
  • Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends: Ultraman Leo trains Zero this way, placing a restrictive suit on him while sparring in order to help develop his skills and strength without relying on his powers.
  • Redbelt: The main character drills his students in self-defense techniques with randomly assigned handicaps, such as binding one hand behind their back. This inspires some promotors to take this practice into Mixed Martial Arts bouts, something that could never happen in real life.
  • In Star Wars, Jedi learn to block blaster bolts with their vision blocked so they use the Force rather than trying to react to what they're seeing. We first see it in A New Hope with Obi-Wan and Luke, then several young Jedi running similar drills under Yoda in Attack of the Clones.

  • The Bridge of Clay: Clay's a sprinter and his training routine is running up the stairs of an apartment block. With his younger brother Tommy on his back. And with his older brother Henry shouting abuse at him.
  • The Dresden Files: After gaining the Winter Mantle, Harry wears a weighted vest weighing several hundred pounds during his daily jogs just to make them worthwhile.
  • In the Homer Price stories, Grandpa Hercules trained to make a big leap while wearing additional weights on his clothes. If the muscles are used to moving with the added weight, they'll let him jump large distances once the weight is gone. This works.
  • In The Inheritance Cycle, towards the end of the series, Eragon and Arya are sparring to keep their edge in time to fight Galbatorix. Arya pulls out every distracting trick she can think of, including making Eragon Distracted by the Sexy, so as to toughen his mentality in case Galbatorix starts to use illusion magic, he will be able to remain focused on his goal.
  • In The Kingkiller Chronicle students learning Sympathy at the University often practice using less than ideal links, such as trying to set a hair on fire by burning a straw.
  • In the book version of The Princess Bride, one of Inigo's sword teachers emphasized this to the point of disdaining all else. He would rant about how fights to the death are rarely, if ever, going to be held under ideal conditions and thus you have to be ready for every possible bad scenario, such as what if you're trying to fight while severely injured, if you're in the midst of terrible weather, etc. This master ridiculed other famous master teachers for teaching as though bouts would take place in a ballroom, and when Inigo is badly wounded by Count Rugen, it's this training and experience he calls on to see himself through it.
  • In Protector of the Small, Joren gets a weighted practice lance and secretly gives it to Keladry when handing out training lances to the new pages. When she realizes this, she keeps using it, partly to avoid looking like a complainer and partly because she hoped that practicing with extra weight would help develop her strength and endurance. As a result, jousting became one of her specialties and she proved her worth to several experienced knights who challenged her. She also wound up switching to all weighted training weapons so that she wouldn't lose the benefit of the extra strength training when practicing another kind of combat.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Fitz needs to be able to put together a transceiver in under 6 minutes. Unfortunately, he suffered brain damage in the previous season and has lost most of the function in one hand. Coulson tells him to practice doing it one-handed, and throughout the episode we see him doing so. By mission time, he tells Coulson that despite all his practice, he could only get his time down to just a little over 7 minutes. Coulson tells him that's too slow, to which Fitz replies that the one hand he'd been practicing with was his bad hand. With both hands, he'll be fine.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks." Worf, who teaches a Klingon martial arts class aboard Enterprise, blindfolds and spars with one of his students; telling her that this is what's happening. What he's actually doing is trying to teach her to be more assertive. After Worf knocks her on her butt a few times, she finally stands up to him and protests the blatantly unfair contest; which is exactly what Worf wanted her to do.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Lintilla has a pseudofracture (all the pain, discomfort, and swelling of a broken arm without the trouble of it actually being broken) and a 'crisis inducer' which place her under extreme pressure and thus push her to work harder/faster.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Many Space Marine Chapters have their initiates fight against full Space Marines before, during, and after their surgical enhancements as part of their grueling Training from Hell, as well as getting them used to fighting enemies bigger than them (which the galaxy has no shortage of).

  • My Fair Lady, Higgins makes Eliza read a poem while holding marbles in her mouth, reasoning that if she can speak clearly with a mouthful of marbles she can easily manage the same without them.


    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls, weapon skills level up based on the number of times you hit an enemy, not the power of the weaponnote , so it is advisable to use the weakest weapon possible if you want to grind effectively.
  • Final Fantasy II: Can be Invoked by the player in combat. Your party members are fully capable of attacking or casting offensive spells on each other, which can be used to increase their stats as per the game's Stat Grinding system. In short, your party gains experience by switching the fight from "kill the goblins" to "kill the goblins while the party's fighter takes swings at you and the mage steals away your mana".
  • In the Pokémon games, The Macho Brace and Power items boost the effects of leveling up, but halve the speed of any Pokémon holding them.

    Web Comics 
  • In Looking for Group, Cale is trained to fight unarmed against multiple armed opponents, whilst blindfolded.
  • During Season 3 of Tower of God, Baam is forbidden from using the Thorn or the power of the Black March while training under Evankhell in order to hone his basic abilities.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Mao Mao: Heroes of Pure Heart episode "All By Mao Self" Mao Mao decides that he's not facing challenges befitting a legendary hero so he gives himself leg weights to making fighting more challenging. When he still thinks it's too easy he also blindfolds himself and holds scorpions in his hands to increase the handicap.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: Rabbit unintentionally tricks Tigger into doing this in the episode "Tigger's Shoes." Sick of being bounced on by Tigger, Rabbit decides to prank him by telling him a lie about a relative of his called "Awesome Bunny of Upsidasium" who could bounce up a huge cliff in his sleep and then giving him a pair of weighted shoes that he claims will help him bounce like his relative. His intent was to wreck Tigger's confidence in his bouncing abilities by making it impossible for Tigger to bounce up the cliff, but Tigger stubbornly keeps practicing with the shoes and ends up actually jumping over the cliff in his sleep when he isn't wearing the shoes, leading him to think that this trope was Rabbit's intent all along.
  • Samurai Jack: In "Jack Learns to Jump Good", a monkey tribe teach Jack to "jump good" by tying heavy rocks to his wrists and ankles, and a boulder to his back.
  • Spoofed on the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "You're Fired, Mrs. Puff", when the new boating teacher makes SpongeBob run the obstacle course blindfolded. It works, only now SpongeBob can only drive while blindfolded.

    Real Life 
  • Many athletes at the professional or Olympic level take part in what's known as altitude training, which involves training at high elevations where the air is thinner. This conditions the body to make better use of what little oxygen is available, resulting in greater endurance when competing in areas closer to sea level.
  • Martial Arts training, at a certain level, will typically include training with handicaps (e.g. "practice this blindfolded" or "practice this form while we try to pull you off balance by your arms"). The intent is to acclimate one to real fighting, where unexpected things and dirty techniques come into play. It also is intended to perfect technique (one should not need to see where their limbs are in order to strike correctly). Naturally, the intensity of this must be attuned to a trainees levels of skill and strength. Not to mention, technique training is traditionally done after physical training. And as with several other examples here, one can add weights on the wrists and ankles for some extra resistance when training speedy strikes.
  • Swimmers will sometimes train while wearing extra clothing, like leggings, to give them more "drag" in the water. Once they get good at this, in theory, when they swim in a regular suit they'll be faster, because it's easier by comparison.
  • If a runner is training for speed invoking this is mandatory. Running unhindered for long durations will only train you to run for long durations. Speed can only be improved with added intensity, achieved by doing something that isn't running, or by adding weights while running.
  • Baseball players train with weighted bats so that swinging a game bat is effortless. Training with a game bat would cause the muscles to experience a plateau.
  • Aircraft pilots who want to be rated for IFR (instrument flight rules) flying train wearing a "hood" or visor that obscures their view outside the cockpit and forces them to rely solely on their instrument panel for guidance.
  • Ancient Roman gladiators would train using heavy swords, then were given the actual, lighter weaponry when fighting in the Colosseum, proving this trope Older Than Feudalism.