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School of Hard Knocks

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"I am a fully rounded human being, with a degree from the university of life, a diploma from the school of hard knocks, and three gold stars from the kindergarten of getting the shit kicked out of me."
Captain Edmund Blackadder

School violence tends to not be accepted, but in a School of Hard Knocks, students are not only allowed to settle their differences with their fists but actually encouraged, complete with official rules. If these brawls get too out of hand, one can expect the faculty to step in themselves to kick some ass.

In order to qualify, the entire school needs to be in on and tolerant of the action - an isolated incident or individual does not count.

The school may be a variation on a Military School where students are trained to become fighters, or it may be just a blend of Kids Are Cruel and Adults Are Useless.

The Bully and the Sadist Teacher may appear. Compare and contrast Boarding School of Horrors, Juvenile Hell, Academy of Evil, and Orphanage of Fear.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The school in Blazing Transfer Student allowed students to challenge each other to official boxing matches as a means to resolving their arguments.
  • Boarding School Juliet takes place in Dahlia Academy, a school in a contested region whose students come from both sides of the border. Fighting is encouraged as long as it stays within honorable boundaries and is directed at the opposing side- it's basically a way of reminding the enemy that they haven't given up their claim to the island.
  • Tenjho Tenge had a high school founded by martial arts masters, and as a result even the teachers will fight against their pupils if things get too rowdy. Every year they host a huge battle royale in their school between all of their martial arts clubs.
  • Shibusen Acadamy in Soul Eater specifically states that all fights between students on campus must be moderated by a member of the faculty.
  • Various schools in Ikki Tousen are in open war Because Destiny Says So.
  • Real Bout High School. School-sponsored K-Fights are used to solve every possible dispute, including "too many K-Fights". Eventually, it's made so that students don't even have to be on campus or fighting a schoolmate for it to be an official K-Fight, with play-by-play and color commentary from the principal himself.
  • Kanokon, somewhat. Fights between Youkai aren't encouraged, but the teachers don't seem to have a problem with these fights and they do observe/referee the matches. Fights between regular students aren't mentioned.
  • The school in Veritas, is one such example. They even have an area just for fighting and training.
  • The Tenchi Gakuen in Hayate × Blade not only encourages fighting, actually all students are part of an in-school kendo championship with great monetary prizes for the winning teams.
  • One of the main plotlines in AIKI is students attending one School of Hard Knocks trying to become skilled enough to earn admission at a University of Hard Knocks when they graduate.
  • Pokémon: The Original Series has a school called The Pokémon Technical Institute where a pecking order of top students bully other students with learning courses such as answering questions while running on a treadmill. The school only appeared in episode 9 titled The School of Hard Knocks.
  • Freezing. Apparently the staff doesn't care if their students beat each other nearly to death or even sexually molest the losers. Unless it's the heroine doing the curb stomping. Oh, then they step in.
  • Yakuza Girl. The school is divided in various Clans that spends their time killing each other, either with weapons or with supernatural powers, and a poor Naïve Newcomer gets trapped in that war to gain the love of a girl.
  • Maken-ki!: All matters at Tenbi Academy are settled by duelling. Challenges are issued and conducted formally: both sides declare their terms with the loser being obligated to comply to the winner's demands. That includes everything from earning the right to date the female students, to deciding on Co-Ed swim classes.

    Comic Books 
  • In Five Weapons, the titular assassin school has its students specialize in a weapon and permits students to challenge one another. Shainline defies the school by choosing no weapon. The faculty highly disapproves and seeks to correct his delinquency.

  • The Swedish nmovie Evil (Ondskan) has a very serious version of this, as a private boarding school essentially allows students to fight each other to settle disputes.
    • This is sadly a real life example taken from a memoir by a former student. The boarding school, Solbacka, was closed down because of the violence that went on there. The fighting was not actually encouraged in order to solve disputes, but to maintain a hierarchy among the students. It was supposed to 'harden' the boys. It did, after a fashion
  • My Schoolmate The Barbarian has a place where students brawl in an elaborate ringout fight.

  • Dresden Files: Harry Dresden sarcastically claims to have been through this ... as he's getting beaten up.
    • Then there's the methods used to teach apprentices how to cast a quick and effective shield spell. Harry teaches his apprentice by pelting her with snowballs. When said apprentice's mother asks if he was taught that way, he states that his teacher used baseballs instead. Donald Morgan claims that his teacher (who, at this point is a recurring and seemingly kind and reasonable woman) used rocks. And when Harry's fairy godmother temporarily takes over his teaching duties, she uses fireballs.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, students at Dudley's new school, Smeltings, are given "knobbly sticks used for hitting each other while the teachers weren't looking. This was supposed to be good training for later life."
  • Various Discworld examples including, but not limited to:
    • The Assassins' Guild School. It is first referenced in Wyrd Sisters as a place which less fortunate scholars at the Fools' Guild School next door look at in helpless envy and longing. The Fools are tormented by the happy piping voices of young people at a school they love drifting over the dividing wall. However, as the Assassins value competitive examination, the number of happy piping voices grows considerably fewer towards the end of each term.
      • The Assassins' School is expanded upon in the opening quarter or so of Pyramids. Terry Pratchett noted that to create the school, all he had to do was to take a typical British boarding (fee-paying) school with a long pedigree, and turn all the knobs up past eleven. "Especially the one marked "violence".
    • By the time of Thud!, the Assassins' School has gone co-educational. As the female of the species is, if not more deadly than the male, then at least nastier, the new generation of women teachers, such as Miss Alice Band, are capable of sending students out on potentially kamikaze assignments, such as targeting Commander Sam Vimes. A student called Jocasta Wiggs learns to her cost and the loss of personal dignity that Sam is well-protected.
    • In The Truth we learn of a more conventional boys' school, Hugglestone Academy, a dour grey granite edifice out on the bleak moorlands where boys are sent to be turned into men. This process is accepted to entail a certain degree of wastage, among the fat, lame, lazy and effeminate.
    • The Quirm Academy for Young Ladies, which appears in Soul Music, might be its female equivalent. It employs a sports mistress nicknamed Iron Ronnie, who is as tough and uncompromising as any male equivalent in Gym Class Hell. Sybil Ramkin was a pupil here and ruefully remembers that a closed community of girls can be as unsympathetic and prone to bullying as a male school. Only the weapons used are not physical. Oh no, nothing so trivial. Women are nastier.
    • The Unseen University, from the various Wizard books, also leans towards the hard knocks style of education, particularly in teaching the difference between Monkeys and Apes and the handling of dangerous spells (students have been known to be returned to their parents in buckets when they screw up the latter).
  • Eustace's school from The Chronicles of Narnia (appears most prominently in The Silver Chair). It's discussed that the school follows a progressive philosophy that lets the students do what they like; unfortunately what a lot of the students like best is bullying the others. After a particularly ludicrous incident in which a few of the bullies swear they had been attacked with swords and that there was also a lion involved, the school is investigated; the principal is fired from her job and several students end up expelled.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Majisuka Gakuen, the girls fight regularly, with the most powerful club (in this case, the Rappapa Wind Instrument Club) becoming the aces of the school.
  • You're Skitting Me has Viking High School. Technically, the staff there were attempting to prevent the students from settling their differences with lethal weapons, but without much success.


  • Our Miss Brooks: In The Grudge Match, Walter Denton challenges star athlete Stretch Snodgrass to a fight when he discovers that Harriet Conklin had sat next to Stretch at the movie theatre. Much to Miss Brooks' consternation, Mr. Boynton decides that it would be best to have the fight in the gymnasium in front of the whole school. Principal Conklin not only goes along with it, but referees it, as he wants to see Walter Denton "clobbered."

    Video Games 
  • The plot of Rival Schools involves teams of students visiting other campuses and fighting their representatives in order to uncover clues about a string of mysterious disappearances. The characters include a language teacher, a school nurse, school principal and a Hot-Blooded PE instructor.
  • Bully. Set in the prestigious baording school Bullworth Academy, a modern-day Boarding School of Horrors, the kids are encouraged to abuse the hell out of each other as a symbol of "school spirit". Most of the students are also separated into cliques which have divided the school amongst themselves: The Nerds, the Preps, the Greasers and the Jocks, with the Jocks being the toughest and most popular group. There's also a fifth, more unofficial group, the Bullies, which include the thugs who dont fit into any of the other ones.
  • The Kunio-kun series of games always involved fights with other schools, to the point that even in sports, there will always be fisticuffs and beatdowns involved. With the most blatant example coming from River City Girls; the main characters are causing trouble in detention. The solution? The principal makes an announcement and pretty much tells all other students in the school to beat them up. Kyoko actually lampshades this at one point with flavor dialog, asking Misako if she thinks it's strange that everybody in River City seems to go around beating each other up. Misako doesn't seem to consider it unusual behavior, suggesting that River City itself is a City of Hard Knocks!
  • Troublemaker revolves around protagonist Budi, a delinquent, enrolling into Sekolah Menengah Cipta Wiyata, the strictest institution in Jakarta, only to find out the Absurdly Powerful Student Council dominates the institution's authority, eclipsing even the principal, and they actively encourage large-scale gang fights which the protagonist have to battle his way to the top. It's an Indonesian quasi-remake of Bully by the way.
  • World of Warcraft has Children's Week, a week long event where players temporarily adopt an orphan (or three) and take them out into the world. While the orphans don't do any fighting themselves, the players demonstrate how to beat the crap out of each other in PvP to earn one of the event's achievements, appropriately called "School of Hard Knocks".

    Visual Novels 
  • Majikoi! Love Me Seriously! is largely set in Kawakami High School, where official duels are sanctioned and all manners of replica weaponry are kept in every classroom for such occasions. Duels scale from simple betting to the Kawakami War, which involves the school with some extra hired troops, divided into two armies.


    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe has several variants of this. The Combat Final is required and students can take part in simulations or arena duels. Given the treatment of mutants in the setting learning how to fight is a very important real world skill.

    Western Animation 
  • The Foremost World-Renowned International School of Lucha in ¡Mucha Lucha!, naturally, seeing as everyone in the show is a Masked Luchador and the entire point of the school is to train their students in lucha libre. There's also a nearby rival school where students are taught American-style pro wrestling.
  • While it isnt implemented, for obvious reasons, an episode of Gravity Falls has Grunkle Stan running for mayor and when asked about his ideas for education, wanted a system where children are released on a deserted island to fight amongst themselves. You know, "to teach them about life". He also wanted schools to teach kids to swear.
  • Played with in and exaggerated in The Owl House. When pupils at Hexside start exchanging punches, the teachers not only let them, they gather around and encourage them. Apparently "Kid Fights" are a regular source of entertainment. The Boiling Isles is shown to run on social darwinism in general, and the schools are where kids learn this firsthand. Hexside used to be a different school whose campus was conquered under the lead of a student that would become Principal Bump. Glandus High is more overtly worse, as Might Makes Right there and students are all hungry for power to dominate their peers, at least to keep from being dominated themselves.

    Real Life 
  • Sadly, all too often badly or ineptly led schools, especially single gender schools, tend to be this way. Violence is not only tolerated but actually encouraged. Occasionally given some sort of formal sanction in the days when boxing was still considered a suitable Phys. Ed activity and much less was understood about its potential risks. Two students with a particularly nasty feud to settle would be provided with gloves and a referee and allowed to settle their differences and work out their aggression in a way that minimised the risk of lasting injury. By some accounts it was actually a good way to clear the air.
  • In ancient Sparta this was part of The Spartan Way.