Follow TV Tropes


Incompletely Trained

Go To

"You're all talk, Hamill! You never even finished Jedi school!"

In many works that revolve around martial arts, magical skills, or other powers that can be passed along by training, those arts or skills are portrayed as vastly powerful. If any main characters gained these talents and powers, they'd be unstoppable. They would have all the special skills or abilities they need to learn in order to win the final battle or achieve a central goal. But instead of completing this training ahead of embarking on their quest or fighting their enemy, something causes them to head out before their training is finished. Perhaps the villain attacked early, maybe the mentor possessing the skill is incapacitated (or worse) before the training can conclude, or maybe the character is simply too arrogant or undisciplined to finish their training. Whatever the reason, the character lacks a power or talent they should have.

Inevitably, the fact that this training was incomplete will become a plot point. Sometimes, especially when they're The Hero, the character develops this power on their own when they really, truly need it or becomes self-taught through reflection and experimentation. Alternately, many heroes turn out to be naturals at the whole thing and don't really need any training, or they make a virtue of their indiscipline by adopting a form of Confusion Fu. Compared to people fully trained in the same technique, these guys are often Unskilled, but Strong.

Sometimes, the Extranormal Institute where the hero gets his training has expectations of its graduates that are too restrictive for his tastes. For example, the final step of the training may be to agree never to use his new power for his own ends. In these cases, the hero being half-trained means he has most of the skill of a fully trained practitioner, but none of the responsibilities — the Cowboy Cop foil to his colleagues' By-the-Book Cops.

On other occasions, the failure to finish training brings about a defeat. This is not always a Hero Trope: it's often part of the backstory for The Rival or the fate of the Deceptive Disciple. The master refused to teach them this last skill, either because of their evilness or they were otherwise "unworthy" and it's this skill that enables the hero to triumph.

Most often this trope is used to create suspense as heroic characters go off to fight battles for which they're ostensibly under-prepared. Sometimes the missing training becomes a kind of inversion of Chekhov's Skill, in which the fact that a particular skill is not available to a character comes back at a key moment in the plot. This is part of the hero's journey arc.

This trope frequently turns up in martial arts movies, in the Sword and Sorcery genre, and occasionally in science fiction narratives. Related to The Call Has Bad Reception, which is when a character misses out on critical information or powers because their training was garbled or entirely nonexistent.

See also A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil, when the training is interrupted by a Face–Heel Turn, and The Paragon Always Rebels. Often what happens with a Sabotutor. Contrast Well-Trained, but Inexperienced, a character that is well trained but still folds when faced with an actual combat situation.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • This happened with Ichigo twice. In the Soul Society arc, Urahara had a limited amount of time to train Ichigo in time for Rukia's rescue mission so he only knows the basics of his shinigami powers. In the Arrancar arc, he never completed his training with the Visoreds which meant he could only maintain his Hollow mask for a brief period of time.
    • This trope was invoked on Kenpachi Zaraki. His training in swordsmanship was cut short intentionally, as it was feared that if he'd ever been fully trained and decided to rebel, then he'd be unstoppable.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Zig-zagged in Dragon Ball. The whole point of Master Roshi participating in the World Martial Arts Tournament was to teach his students that even if he can't teach them anything else, for a martial artist, training is never completed. He tells them to always keep improving themselves as martial artists.
    • Dragon Ball Z:
      • This is a large part of why Gohan struggles in some of the later arcs. Due to Chi-Chi's overprotectiveness and Goku's absence, he's never fully trained himself in the use of his natural abilities.
      • Goku himself is able to get by despite leaving in the middle of his training more than once because he manages to learn everything on his own anyway.
      • This is one of the biggest reasons why Shin isn't as good a Supreme Kai as one would hope. He was actually a junior Kai before Majin Buu killed all his co-workers and slapped him with You Are in Command Now, and he doesn't know a lot of things a Supreme Kai should, though thankfully the Old Kai has recently taken up mentoring him. The other reason is that Beerus is a lazy ass and doesn't destroy people he really ought to (for example, he should have destroyed Majin Buu prior to said murdering of all the Supreme Kais but Shin, but he was asleep through the whole thing).
      • Oolong and Puar both went to a school to learn Voluntary Shapeshifting, but Oolong was expelled in kindergarten after he stole the teacher's panties. As a result, he never mastered the technique and can only shapeshift for five minutes at a time before he needs a break.
      • This is Frieza's biggest mistake post-resurrection. He went through Training from Hell in preparation for his revenge on Goku, even achieving a Golden Super Mode that actually lets him overpower Goku, but he rushes to Earth the moment he gets it and before he could fully master its power, thus leaving him with the same stamina issues that plagued his original 100% form and allowing Goku to win by attrition. To drive the point home, when he's Resurrected for a Job in the Universal Survival arc of Dragon Ball Super, he spent that time in hell finally fully mastering the form's power, learns how to use it without the stamina issues, and can fight evenly with Goku despite the latter getting even stronger in the time since Frieza's death.
  • The Dragon Slayers from Fairy Tail. Trained by dragons that mysteriously disappeared one day while they were children. While they know the basics of their magic, they're mostly Taught by Experience. The difference between them and a fully trained one is staggering: seven present-day Dragon Slayers (two of them artificial) struggled against seven Dragons, while one fully trained Dragon Slayer in the distant past slaughtered countless Dragons on his own, though quite a few of those kills came after he turned into one himself.
  • Jagi in Fist of the North Star is a villainous example, since only one person at a time gets the complete training anyway. He compensates for his limited skills compared to Kenshiro by cheating.
  • In Gundam Build Fighters Try, it's revealed that Sekai's sister Mirai was also trained in the Jigen Haou School of martial arts, but had to stop to help take care of herself and Sekai. There was also Sekai's old friend Junya, who left the school when it didn't fit his desire of growing stronger. His fight with Sekai ends up convincing him the idea of being stronger by taking other techniques wasn't worth it and he goes back to retrain.
  • In Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple many characters on both sides are still in training and considered Disciples, though a few are hit harder than most:
    • The title character is behind everyone else because he started late: all other fighters have started martial arts training as children, while Kenichi entered his school's Karate Club, and later joined Ryozanpaku, only in high school, thus he has to constantly play catch up. Thankfully the Masters at Ryozanpaku are as competent as they're insane, and in the final battle he actually surpasses any other Disciple-class fighter by achieving Ki no Shōaku, a Master-level skill.
    • Shinnosuke Tsuji is a particularly strong high school delinquent and mostly self-trained, and while he starts as a powerful opponent he eventually falls behind. Notably, the one time he did get lessons from a wandering Master he made a gigantic leap in combat abilities, enough to hold his own against Kenichi after he became much stronger than the time he defeated him and even knock him out with a secret technique.
    • Kisara, Thor and Ukita practice Taekwondo, Combat Sumo, and Judo, styles that don't have a Master that can teach them how to harness and use ki (Thor's style being even self-made from normal Sumo). Kisara manages to compensate through her sheer talent and by training and fighting with ki users and figuring out these skills on her own and Thor trains with a bojutsu (staff fighting) Master that can at least pass on him the ki-using skills, but Ukita trains normally and eventually falls behind.
    • Siegfried's style is completely self-made, so he doesn't have a Master. Being [[Cloudcuckoolander quite crazy]], he figured out a way to still improve himself by spinning in place for forty days straight imitating a Tibetan prayer wheel he had adopted as Master.
    • Berserker has no formal training, just insane talent and instinct for fighting. He later gets trained by Ogata, who teaches him to use ki and harness his existing skills to have him create his own fighting style.
  • In the original Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series, Fate Testarossa's combat mage training is revealed to have been rushed and, as a result, very fragmentary, which is why the absolute novice Nanoha is able to catch up with her so fast. Fate's training is only properly rounded up between the first and second seasons.
  • In the Pokémon anime, Lt. Surge's Raichu had access to powerful Electric-type moves that Ash's Pikachu lacked, but because Lt. Surge had evolved it prematurely, it never learned speed-based moves like Quick Attack and Agility, which gave Ash's Pikachu a decisive edge in their rematch.
  • Psycho-Pass: On Akane's first day on the job, the more experienced Inspector tells her that he can't treat her like a newcomer (since they are understaffed), so she must learn a lot on the job.
  • Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin left his training because he wanted to fight on the Meiji Revolution, and despite his incomplete training he was still a great warrior and even became the Legendary Hitokiri Battousai; however, fast forward to the Kyoto arc, and he needs to complete his training if he wants a chance to beat Shishio.

    Comic Books 
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Zayne Carrick left the Jedi before being knighted, and was the worst in his class, so he was probably nowhere near graduating anyway. Of course, given that he and his friends' masters turned out to be evil and killed them, he probably wouldn't have made it anyway.
  • This trope makes up the basic premise of Marvel Comics team titles The New Mutants and Avengers Academy, all of whom are young superhumans in training who end up in full-on super-battles anyway.
  • The Teen Titans also have this as a premise, fighting things like the demon lord Trigon or the assassin Deathstroke. The Titans are also somewhat notorious for having an incredibly high death rate, which has some Fridge Horror regarding the attitude of the elder superhero community.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf novel, when the Psyche Master ends up sending Empath out of Psychelia upon his 150th birthday, Empath says that his training is not complete. The Psyche Master says he would not continue to train a Psyche whose mind is clouded with emotions. Although whether Empath is truly this trope or not is something that remains to be seen throughout the rest of the series.
  • In The New Man: An Adam Smasher SI, the titular character knows only the most basic techniques of Panzerfaust (a martial art designed for Fullborgs), as no master is willing to make him even more deadly than he already is, but he has sharply refined what moves he does know and is able to deal greater damage than even most masters thanks to the sheer mass and force of his augments.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, Ash's first opponent in the Indigo League is a girl named Pava Gilbane, who relies mostly on her Dragonair as her main battle asset. This is mostly due to the fact that she had to cut short her Pokémon journey when her father had an accident at work, forcing her to go back home to help, leaving her unable to properly train a full Pokémon team for the league. Despite her Dragonair evolving mid-battle to Dragonite, she still loses to Ash.
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, as an alicorn, Cadance has a huge amount of magical power, but she barely knows any magic, so ends up much weaker in practice than either Sunset or Twilight.
  • In Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse, aspiring martial artist and swordsman Harumi Tsukuyomi was forced to train himself through a mixture of self-practice and spying on the lessons being given to accepted students. As a result, his techniques are noted to be full of holes that make him easy to counter, even though he has Super-Speed on par with Ranma Saotome, and he lacks any special techniques, instead relying simply on slashing or punching.

    Films — Animation 
  • Played with in Kung Fu Panda, where both The Hero and The Villain suffer from different versions of this trope. Tai Lung is one of the greatest martial artists ever trained, but has no emotional discipline. He's a brute and remains in a blind rage throughout the whole fight, but his superior skill lets him keep Po on his toes. On the other hand, Po is a novice fighter who has to motivate himself with thoughts of food, but has enough body fat to tank most of Tai Lung's attacks, is clever enough to use his surroundings in creative ways, and has the emotional stability to stay calm during the fight as Tai Lung is consumed with rage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Big Bad Feng of Balls of Fury is revealed to be a former student of Master Wong's ping-pong school. During the final (and deadly) ping-pong battle between Randy and Feng, Wong reminds the losing Randy that Feng only completed half of his training, causing Randy to realize that Feng can't do backhand shots. He uses that knowledge to put the ball in such a place where Feng can't get it with normal strikes.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy: Bruce has never completed his training with the League of Shadows that he started in Begins. When his current lesson was to execute a man, he chose to flee and develop his skills as Batman on his own.
  • Doctor Strange (2016) has the titular superhero save the world after only having a couple months of training at most, while his partners and the main villain had years of experience over him. After doing so, he immediately takes it upon himself to serve as the guardian of one of the two Sanctum Sanctorums left in the world while still undergoing self-taught training himself.
  • Kill Bill: This is how the Bride wins her battles with Elle Driver and Bill himself, defeating both of them with techniques she learned from Pai Mei which they didn't, having failed to complete their training with him successfully. In Elle's case, it's because she killed Pai Mei after he plucked her eye out.
  • Parodied in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist:
    "I must apologize for Wimp Lo. He is an idiot. We have purposely trained him wrong, as a joke."
  • The Matrix:
    • In the first film of the trilogy, Neo hasn't quite learned all the skills Morpheus was trying to teach him in most of his battles. Luckily, the Epiphany Comeback variation of this trope kicks in at the end before Agent Smith kills him, or technically... after Smith kills him.
    • Also in that series, a boy who idolizes Neo manages to save everyone using a suit of Powered Armor despite never completing the training program. Captain Mifune, the Zion defense force officer in charge of the entire corps of Powered Armor, spends his last breath admitting to that kid that he never finished it either.
  • This trope is part of the premise of Sky High (2005): The main cast have to take on their first villain before the end of their first year of training.
  • Used in SpaceCamp as the title's campers have to carry out a real space mission.
  • Star Trek (2009): It reboots the series with a plot that involves the original series characters piloting the Enterprise against a powerful foe that has decimated Starfleet while they are all still cadets.
  • Star Wars:

  • Lone Wolf was only a half-trained initiate when the Kai Monastery was destroyed. Unlike some of the other examples, not being fully-trained was a bad thing for Lone Wolf since the powers of a Kai Master are necessary to defeat the Darklords. A good chunk of the first two series involve him finding the material necessary to complete his training.

  • 100 Cupboards has Monmouth, a teenage Green Man who's been hiding his powers since they manifested and teaching himself in secret out of stolen books (attracting severe punishment whenever he was caught), and who tends to rely on Devious Daggers rather than his powers in a fight. It's implied he receives some training between the second and third books, learning to infuse green magic into his knives and gaining greater control over the growing aspects of his power.
  • Deryni: Morgan and Duncan have the ability to heal. Unfortunately there are no trained Healers in Gwynedd to teach them, and the Camberian Council refuses to allow them full training anyway since they're "half-breeds".
  • Discworld:
    • Rincewind had to drop out of the Unseen University because one of the Eight Spells of Creation lodged itself in his head and made it impossible to learn any other spells, for the same reason small fish don't hang around in a pike pool. An odd example, since he isn't that powerful and doesn't have any real goals beyond finding a nice warm barn to stay in for the night; he's just really good at running away.
    • We're told that this is frequently an Invoked Trope among students of the Assassins' Guild. Because it's considered the best all-round private school education on the Disc, wealthy families from all over send their children to study there, only to withdraw them just before the infamous "final exam" required to qualify as an Assassin.
  • The Dresden Files: While he didn't quite completely drop out, Harry Dresden had his mentorship cut short by his mentor turning out to be evil. This has left him Unskilled, but Strong (especially compared to other wizards) and not too popular with some of the other wizards (after resorting to Black Magic to protect himself from said mentor).
  • Used in the Harry Potter series, as Harry and his friends are perpetually clashing with much more experienced wizards and witches despite not having finished Wizarding School. It doesn't help that the training they do receive is rather spotty, especially in Defense Against the Dark Arts, where yutzes like Quirrell, Lockhart, and Umbridge don't even bother teaching them properly.
  • Inheritance Cycle:
    • Eragon, being an Expy of Luke Skywalker, falls victim to the same incomplete training as him. He is unable to complete his training with Brom before the latter dies, and then in the next book he goes to the land of the elves to train with the other surviving Dragon Rider, Oromis. He learns a lot there, plus learning from ancient dragon rider writings, but still leaves early, and in the next book, Oromis is killed as well.
    • Brom as well. Thanks to his dragon dying when Brom was young and the Riders being destroyed very soon afterwards, Brom never received or learned the full breadth of his abilities as a Rider.
  • Journey to Chaos: Eric fights an ordercrafter who did not complete his training due to personal arrogance and his impatience to start making money off it. He only had basic Anti-Magic and the ability to craft a Power Nullifier. Because of this, he is easily defeated by someone more knowledgeable. In fact, Nayr tells him that if he had completed his training then he wouldn't have lost.
  • The protagonist of The Legends of Ethshar novel With a Single Spell, whose teacher died after teaching him the single spell of the title.
  • The Ur-Example is Abhimanyu from the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata. The story goes that while Abhimanyu was just a fetus in his mother Subhadra’s womb, his father was explaining to her, the tactics involved in both penetrating and exfiltrating from a battle formation called the Chakravyuh or “wheel formation”. This talk actually bored Subhadra to the point where she fell asleep. Arjun noticed and stopped explaining. But unbeknownst to him, the fetus Abhimanyu was listening keenly. Unfortunately by the time Arjun stopped explaining, he had covered only the tactics required to penetrate the Chakravyuh. Abhimanyu grew up, knowing how to fight through a Chakravyuh but not how to escape from it. This results in his doom during the 12th day of the Kurukshetra war.
    • Ashwathama is another example. He knew how to invoke and fire the Brahmastra super weapon, but he did not know how to retract it after firing it. When he fires a Brahmastra at the Pandavas and Arjun fires one back in response, the entire universe will be destroyed unless both of them retract their Brahmastras. Arjun knows how to retract his Brahmastra and does so. Ashwathama cannot retract his - so he targets it at the fetus of Arjun’s grandson. He is cursed with A Fate Worse Than Death as a result.
  • Subverted in Mistborn: The Original Trilogy. Kelsier is killed near the end of the first book, and his protégé Vin, the trilogy's main character, thinks she's been left in this situation. However, this turns out to be largely down to her own, biased view of Kelsier as the greatest allomancer in the world, which isn't true - by midway through the second book, Vin has started to realize that not only has she now had her powers for longer than Kelsier had his, but she's figured out things about allomancy that even he never knew. By the third book, it's increasingly obvious that Vin is more powerful and skilled than Kelsier ever was.
  • Even if the protagonist of Sorcerer Stabber Orphen leaves the Tower of Fangs magic school before his education is finished, this doesn't appear to diminish his power; however, it is noteworthy that his spellcasting is very slow and verbose when compared with the elegant, efficient spellcasting of Childman and Hartia.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The Expanded Universe at times has Luke Skywalker desperately trying to get past this trope, searching for other Jedi or at least surviving documents about them. He's a natural at learning the Force, but that doesn't mean he knows how to pass on what he has learned. He does not find other trained Jedi for decades, but he does find a number of people who got around the same sketchy level of education that he did, and usually ends up filling in those gaps himself. Luke has to find a new way to train others in the ways of the Force, which is why Obi-Wan at one point said that Luke isn't the last of the old Jedi, but the first of the new.
    • In Jedi Quest, Anakin's fellow padawan Ferus Olin quits the Jedi at the end after one of their classmates is killed. This ends up saving his life during Order 66, and in The Last Of The Jedi, he helps save other Jedi.
    • In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda and Obi-Wan intentionally decided not to train Luke and Leia in the traditional ways of the Force. The old Jedi failed miserably against the Sith, which Yoda saw as proof that their ways were flawed. Yoda believed it was best to let the Force guide Luke and Leia down their own paths.
    • This hits Corran Horn during the fourth book of the X-Wing Series. In the previous book, Corran was confirmed to be Force-sensitive, explaining some of his past "hunches" and his subconscious ability to pull a Jedi Mind Trick. Luke Skywalker offers to train him as a Jedi Knight, but Corran declines in order to continue serving as a pilot, and Luke takes the rejection amiably and sends Corran as much Jedi-related reading material as possible to provide guidance and tempt him to change his mind. So a few months later, during an insertion into an enemy planet, Corran is confident enough to consciously attempt another Jedi Mind Trick... only to fail spectacularly, and when he ignites his lightsaber and charges some Stormtrooper, Corran's form with the weapon is so poor that he nearly gets himself killed. Afterward, he is very careful to not think of himself as a Jedi, relying more on the skills learned over his career in law enforcement and the military, and when he uses his lightsaber it's mostly as a cutting tool. At least until I, Jedi when he finally takes Luke up on his offer.
  • Tarzan taught himself to read English using his birth parents' books, but he didn't learn how to speak English until a British expedition stumbled upon his home, and even then it took several months before they figured out the wild man they were spotting occasionally was the same Tarzan making the signs they kept finding.
  • A source of tension in The Wheel of Time is that, while capable of most of the same feats, male magic use is different enough from female that Rand cannot be taught magic by a woman any more than a fish can teach a bird to fly, and because of the taint, no one has practiced male magic openly in thousands of years. He has to get by on instinct and trial-and-error until he finds and captures one of the male Forsaken and forces him to teach him, and even he admits that he's not much of a teacher by inclination. Near the end of the series when Rand fully integrates his memories of his past life in which he was a fully-trained magic-user, the reader sees what a difference real training makes when Rand levels armies with little effort.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Watchers' Council repeatedly tries to claim that Buffy hasn't finished her training, often using it as an excuse to deny her resources or cut her off entirely. As it turns out, the trope is subverted when Buffy realizes her on-the-job training means that she doesn't need them anywhere nearly as much as they need her as an active agent.
    • It's played straight with some of the potential Slayers in Season 7 because the senior scoobies can't give them a four year course before the Hellmouth ends the world.
  • Game of Thrones: During his absence in Season 5 and much of Season 6, Bran was being taught by the Three-Eyed-Raven how to control his visions and increase his warging abilities. However, after inadvertently revealing the location of the Raven's lair to the Night's King, the Raven is forced to upload all of his information into Bran's head, which causes him to experience visions even when he's not trying to induce them. Bran asks the Raven if he's ready for all of his power, to which the Raven replies with a "no" before doing it, anyways.
  • Legend of the Seeker: Richard inherits wizard powers from Zed but must train to be able to use them. However, training takes too long for various reasons and his world is about to be destroyed. He quits, giving up his wizard powers. There's also the fact that the place where he's undergoing his training is of the Year Outside, Hour Inside variety, making it not a very good learning environment for someone trying to save the world.
  • Power Rangers: In both Power Rangers Ninja Storm and Power Rangers Jungle Fury, the three main rangers have to start their ranger duties while still training in their respective martial arts under a master, with Casey (Jungle Fury Red) being a Rookie Red Ranger even by those standards. It is only in the final episode of both series that the Rangers become masters themselves.

    Theme Parks 
  • At Universal Studios:
    • In Men in Black: Alien Attack, guests are interrupted in the middle of their first time "training" due to a breakout of aliens happening in New York City, which Zed decides to send them out to fight in despite them just barely having trained.
    • The NEST orientation that's being given to guests in Transformers: The Ride is cut short when Megatron leads an all-out attack on Earth, and due to being short on staff, NEST decides to allow the new recruits to help the Autobot Evac evacuate the Allspark shard from the city.

    Video Games 
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, the player character has just joined the Grey Wardens when the Blight hits Ferelden. The only other Warden is Alistair, who is barely more than a recruit himself. Fortunately, it turns out that Wardens don't really get any special training, nor do they really need it since the Wardens only recruit people who are already badass. Their newcomer status only means that they don't know most of the Order's secrets, such as why only Wardens can slay Archdemons, the locations of the Old Gods, and the existence of the original Darkspawn Magisters such as Corypheus. Even some of the senior Wardens don't know much about that last one.
  • Master Arngeir of the Greybeards invokes this in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. He'd much prefer to train the Dragonborn properly in The Way of the Voice, but the dragons are causing trouble now, so he compromises; Instead of teaching the Dragonborn every Word of Power the Greybeards know, he teaches them the bare minimum to reach the next stage of training, and any other Words the Dragonborn wishes to learn, Arngeir simply points it out on the map and essentially says "go fetch". The thinking here is that the challenges you face in the course of finding a Word should prove sufficient practical training, while having to actually go out and earn the Words of Power will provide the discipline the Way of the Voice demands. The one exception is the Unrelenting Force Shout; He figures since you learned the first Word on your own, there's no harm in giving you the other two Words as rewards for completing tasks.
  • Miyamoto Iori of Fate/Samurai Remnant is this as his adoptive father and teacher, Miyamoto Musashi, died of lung cancer before his training could be completed. Despite this, he's still shown to be quite a capable swordsman in his own right, even able to hold his own (if briefly) against Servants. He later completes his training under the Servant version of his father and through the combat experience he gains in the Waxing Moon Ritual. He also studied under Sasaki Kojiro and achieved Kojiro's Tsubame Gaeshi during the events of the story.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Sabin's teacher was nearly killed when he was still training in Final Fantasy VI, halting his progess. Sabin can learn all of his teacher's Blitz techniques by levelling up and the final technique, "Phantom Rush", if you seek out his old teacher in the second half of the game. It will take until Level 70 if he does not, which is far higher than most players will get to in regular gameplay.
    • Cloud never made it to the full rank of SOLDIER in Final Fantasy VII. In the same game, Tifa was not bequeathed her final lesson from her teacher Zangan, who leaves her the note to complete her skills in the replica of her old piano.
  • Kingdom Hearts: In Kingdom Hearts, the 14-year old Sora (whose combat experience consists of sparring matches on the beach) is given a magic key-sword and told to save the universe. Fast-forward a few games and we learn that Keyblade wielders used to be The Chosen Many, with years of training before they even started world-hopping. Thanks to the Big Bad, all of them were incapacitated except King Mickey, who prefers to work from behind the scenes. The plot of 3D is kicked off by Yen Sid's decision to formally retrain Sora and Riku.
  • Rauss in Legaia II: Duel Saga left his master to practice a Dangerous Forbidden Technique, the Ultimate Fang, which corrupts the user. Lang, meanwhile, completes the "orthodox" training of the Sky Fang school and learns to use the Sleeping Dragon technique to defeat Rauss.
  • In Mass Effect, Kaidan Alenko and Jack both got their biotic training shut down before it could be completed. When Kaidan enlisted, the Alliance offered to pick up where BAat left off, but Kaidan had enough residual trauma that he turned them down in favor of training as a technician and a medic. Jack didn't have anyone who could have helped finish training her biotics, so she taught herself how to use weapons instead. Thus, despite being extremely powerful by human standards, neither is an Adept. Providing she survived the second game, Jack ends taking a job in Grissom Academy as a biotic teacher, perfecting her abilities in the process.
  • The above example from the Pokémon anime also applies to the games as well. While evolved Pokémon learn moves at later levels than their base forms, stone-evolved Pokémon such as Raichu typically stop learning moves at all, apart from those taught by TMs/HMs and tutors. Prematurely using an evolution stone on such a Pokémon can therefore permanently lock that Pokémon out of learning their most powerful moves.
  • The Hero of Quest for Glory in pretty much every instance: after completing a correspondence course on how to be a fighter/mage/thief, the Hero immediately travels to Spielburg Valley to answer their call of "Hero Wanted: No Experience Necessary". This gets upgraded for the Wizard in the second game: after passing the initiation test for the Wizard's Institute of Technocery, the Hero is required to turn down the offer to join the school, meaning they're never actually a full Wizard for the rest of the series, though it's acknowledged by the end of the series that the Hero is definitely a Wizard par excellence based on experience and deeds, if not actual title.
  • During a few early missions of the Weapon Master Mode of Soulcalibur II, you're attacked by bandits. Your mentor sighs and notes that few complete their training under him, going on to become bandits in the region surrounding his school during one.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: Cal Kestis was left on his own as a Jedi Padawan after Order 66. It shows that he only half remembers his training after cutting himself off from the force for so long. It takes about half the game for him to be at the place where he left off, much less improve to be called a Jedi Knight. That happens just before the final dungeon, as he is knighted by Cere Junda as she regains her connection to the force herself.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Dan Hibiki is a Joke Character variant of this: His master Gouken (i.e. Ryu and Ken's sensei) told him that he had nothing further to teach him after learning that his main motivation was to avenge his father, which Dan took to mean that his training was complete. He gets his ass kicked constantly by the others as a result of this.
    • Sean is a somewhat more serious example, being Ken's disciple and only a year into his training. It kinda shows, especially in Third Strike, where he's at least pretty close to Joke Character territory. He's got most of the basics down, but his overall moveset is visibly clumsy next to his master. For instance, compare Sean's reworked Dragon Smash to the Shoryuken that it's meant to be imitating. However... Sean's also the sole practitioner of the art to date who lacks a Hadoken or similar projectile as a special move, only being able to throw one out during his Hadou Burst Super Art.
    • In a completely serious example, Guile was never taught how to completely pull off the Sonic Boom and Flash Kick that were created by his friend Charlie Nash. While Guile has his military training to make up the difference, comparing the moves themselves show that Guile is much stiffer and Charlie can use his skills with more variety. Later games would pull away from this: Street Fighter IV sees Guile performing a Charlie-style Somersault Shell as part of his Flash Explosion Ultra Combo while Street Fighter V allows him to get more creative with his usual repertoire of moves (such as creating stationary Sonic Booms that can be used to enhance his regular ones, rapid-firing Sonic Booms in a manner similar to Charlie's Sonic Break, and firing projectiles with his Flash Kick). Though he still can't do everything Charlie can, and V reveals Charlie can use some of his thought-to-be-original techniques like the Sonic Hurricane, the gap in skill between them seems to have shortened by a significant margin.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate Series:
    • Fate/stay night: Shirou Emiya is an Ordinary High-School Student who was taught a smattering of Magecraft by his adopted father before he died. In the Nasuverse, where the indicator of a mage's power is determined by how many generations a bloodline has been dedicated to maniacally researching and enhancing their skills, "incompletely" trained doesn't even begin to describe a boy who's been practicing some half-assed pointers in his spare time. Depending on the route of the story, and the epilogue, Shirou becomes a legendarily powerful warrior, either way.
    • Something similar happens to the protagonist of Fate/Grand Order; they're stated to not have any training in Magecraft prior to being hired by Chaldea and stranded by the Incineration Of Humanity. It becomes a plot point after Part 1 — the Chaldea staff start suppressing your accomplishments to protect you because they know the Mages' Association won't take "The Power of Friendship" for an answer.

  • Fighter from 8-Bit Theater suffers from this... with the additional problem of hardly ever having listened to his teacher.
  • Sebastian Jalek in True Villains is a famous Fallen Hero and a highly accomplished alchemist, which leaves him unpleasantly surprised when a master alchemist shows him up.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dragon: Jake Long has a grandparent training him as the series goes along.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, this applies to most of the cast at various points.
    • Aang may be a master Airbender, but he struggles to master the other three elements, and even at the end of the series it's noted he still could use some work in Earth- and Firebending. Also, he has little to no control over the Avatar State, and while he does train with a guru to help him master it, he leaves before the final step is complete to go save his friends from Azula.
    • Katara is a talented Waterbender, but until she finds a master to teach her in the first season finale, she's only capable of basic bending. She gets to graduate as a master after Season 1. Though, even then her bending still has much room to improve as her bending evolves around Season 2. She's demonstrated as peaking at around the first episode of Season 3 where she uses her waterbending in a more tactical and grandiose fashion, such as summoning a wave to provide space, making a huge cloud of steam for cover, and freezing a huge hole in a hull to prevent a ship from sinking. By the time she masquerades as the Painted Lady, she's become so powerful that people confuse her for a spirit. This is not even taking into account the skill she learns from a certain old lady under the full moon.
    • Zuko is borderline example. Despite being a gifted and fully trained Firebender when the series begins, compared to the other three members of his family we see, he's practically a novice at that point. But throughout the first season he's shown to continue his training under his Uncle (a true Master of the art with decades of experience) and is constantly practicing and drilling himself. By the third season, Zuko has essentially completed his training and become a Master in his own right, especially after he meets and learns from the Sun Warriors and the "original" Firebenders.
    • Admiral Zhao is actually a better example. He never bothered to complete his firebending training, as he skipped the discipline part and relied on raw power and aggression. Aang, upon learning this from his former mentor, promptly uses this knowledge to bite Zhao in the ass during a fight.
    • Sokka has no bending, and while he's skilled in using his club and boomerang, he says he feels useless compared to his bending friends. When he does eventually get training from a true master of swordplay, its very much an abridged course. He learns the fundamentals and principles, then is sent out to hone his technique and instincts through practice.
    • The only real exception is Toph, who joins the group already a master Earthbender, and even invents a new form of bending down the line. (Though, comparing young Toph to the old TLoK Toph in her earthbending, and the Metalbenders in Korra, especially her children, it seems Toph still hasn't peaked.)
  • The Ben 10 series. Ben's training has been what his grandfather shows him, and figuring it out on the fly, even though other kids with Plumber-related abilities get to train properly at the Plumber Academy. This was eventually rectified in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien as Ben, Gwen, and Kevin ended up receiving proper Plumber training and passing the courses.
  • Kim Possible has Ron Stoppable not completing his training due to lack of self-confidence and a phobia (the style is Monkey Kung fu, and Ron has a fear of monkeys). This keeps him at the Bumbling Sidekick level until the Series Finale, at which point Ron gets it and steps up monkey style.
  • The Legend of Korra:
    • Korra is a prodigy even by Avatar standards who could bend three of the four elements as a mere child. Airbending gives her a lot of problems since it's the most spiritual element and she is not (at first) a very spiritual person. After this, she goes on to learn the ways and powers of the Spirit World.
    • Zaheer is a enthusiastic scholar of airbending lore and a badass warrior, but he only manages to pick up a extremely limited amount of formal training in airbending (even using moves that are forbidden by Air Nomad teachings). As a result, though he's extremely innovative and powerful, his one fight against a master Airbender has him painfully outclassed due to the lack of finesse in his style, and Zaheer only wins because it's three on one.
    • Apparently Lin and Suyin "never really got the hang of metalbending". Lin regularly uses her metalbending to emulate Spider-Man and catch criminals, while Suyin runs an entire city of Metalbenders and is the one who teaches the art to Korra. Of course, this is just according to their mother Toph, who is now so good at earthbending she no longer needs to use her hands to fight.
  • The Life and Times of Juniper Lee: Juniper Lee is in training with her grandmother. She has only recently become The Chosen One so the series goes through her on-the-job training.
  • It doesn't affect the plot to a large degree, but Word of God states that while Sunset Shimmer from the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls spin-offs is one of the powerful magic users in the show, her leaving her home dimension before completing her studies (and thus lacking a way to even use magic as a result) means that she's nowhere in the league of Twilight Sparkle.
  • Samurai Jack: The Daughters of Aku, despite their Training from Hell are actually this due to their insane mother keeping them sheltered for most of their lives. Thus they are unable to adapt to new enviroments and all but one are killed off.
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power: Shadow Weaver used to be the apprentice of the good wizard Norwyn alongside Castaspella. Shadow Weaver became disillusioned with Norwyn and jealous of Castaspella, so she joined the Horde and cut a deal with Hordak to give her a massive power boost. But since she never completed her training, skilled magic users like Norwyn and Castaspella can defeat her if they can get past her brute force applications of magic.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied and double-subverted in an episode where Bart leads his peers to Shelbyville to recover a stolen lemon tree. A subject he ignores during school early in the episode — Roman Numerals — becomes critical to freeing him from the tiger cage at the Shelbyville zoo. Despite complaining, "They never even tried to teach us this in school!", he ends up using his knowledge of the Rocky sequels' titles to deduce the answer anyway.
    • It's played straight in another episode when a newly-sober Barney, still training on a helicopter, is forced to fly with Homer to save Bart and Lisa from a forest fire.
  • Star Wars Rebels:
  • In the fifth season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), the Turtles are forcibly chosen to be students of the Ninja Tribunal. Just when they're finally hitting their stride in their mystic training, the Tribunal is allegedly destroyed by the Tengu Shredder's heralds. Despite their training being unfinished, they managed to manifest their dragon spirit avatars to fight the Shredder.
  • This is part of the characterization of Prowl in Transformers: Animated. As a Cyber Ninja, he starts the series with more combat skills than most of the team, but it later comes out that he never completed his training. Season three reveals why: his master was murdered by a former student.
  • Young Justice (2010): Aqualad never finished his training in using Hydrokinesis at the Atlantis Magic Academy before he was recruited to becomes Aquaman's Sidekick. note  This is noticeable in the Season 1 episode, "Downtime", when he visits Atlantis and reunites with his friends, Garth and Tula. Both of whom showcase better proficiency in Hydrokinesis than Kalder when the three of them have to help defend the city from an attack by Black Manta. Aqualad is able to makes up for his lack of training with other skills he has learned, such as tactical acumen and hand to hand combat expertise.