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Sink or Swim Mentor

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This wasn't even the start of their training.
"Okay, Dave, I'm gonna teach you to swim. Now don't be a wussy! (throws Dave into the lake) That's it. One arm over the other. Uh... Crap! Christopher, go save your brother. (throws Christopher in)"
Ken Titus, Titus

The good news? There's no Training from Hell with this guy. The bad news? That's because there's no training at all with this guy, at least, not before you've already survived a pretty critical situation.

The Sink-or-Swim Mentor is a bit of a Social Darwinist: the strong survive, so it's best to cull the weak as quickly as possible. So instead of training a student for any length of time, this mentor throws them in at the deep end, where his own life — or that of others — depends on his success.

Well, maybe that's a bit extreme. This character can exist in any type of setting, and it's unlikely that an accountant or receptionist would have lives depending on them. They might walk in the door only to be thrown an important project though, and be warned that a major client is relying on its completion.

This mentor is definitely at his most dramatic when lives are on the line though. He hands the hero the tools of the trade, be it a sword, a scalpel, or a gun, and tells him to get on with it. Often this mentor is such a cool character that it isn't until Fridge Logic kicks in that the viewer thinks "Wait a minute...if the mentor's that good, why didn't he just save those people himself rather than sending a teenager to do it?"

Occasionally justified in that the main character needs to be able to cope in that kind of situation in order to progress with his vocation; a dragon slayer who needs constant instructions is going to be turned into a kebab before he can say "Now what?" Sometimes, though, it seems as if the mentor is just stroking his own ego, forcing his student to prove themselves "worthy" of their tuition. Generally, however, a benevolent mentor will remain close by during the test-crisis, ready to assist when the students get in over their heads (but not a second before). If they're really feeling generous, the mentor will craft their own realistic crisis simulation so that the students can be tested without any undue risk (naturally, the student will be unaware of that detail until the end).

Usually, after the initial crisis is resolved, the real training begins. If you're unlucky, this just consists of more of the same, but in ever-more-dangerous situations.

Sometimes overlaps with being a Trickster Mentor or a Fair-Weather Mentor. In the case of the latter, chances are that the poor student won't last long. He'll be tested so constantly that he's bound to fail at some point, in which case he'll be disowned. Their reliance on testing their student secretly means that a Stealth Mentor can easily be mistaken for one of these until they reveal that they haven't just been throwing them to the wolves. See Also, Die or Fly.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The teachers of the Team Summer A candidates in 7 Seeds. They teach them basic and intermediate survival skills, including randomly grabbing a student from behind, asking how they'll get themselves out of this mess. Things reach the peak during the Final Test when the teachers completely abandon the students and give them vague hints which may or may not help them survive, just so they can see which of the students will survive to be chosen to be sent to the future.
  • Bleach overlaps this with Training from Hell:
    • While Ichigo trains with Urahara, rather than having real enemies trying to kill him, Urahara and his associates attempt to do it themselves. First lesson: "defeat an opponent who will kill you if she manages to land a single punch." Second lesson: "we'll separate your soul from your body, chuck you in a hole, bind your arms, and make you climb out before you turn into a Hollow. By the way, if you fail, we have to kill you for safety reasons." Third lesson: "Knock my hat off with your sword. Of course, I'll be trying to kill you with my sword the whole time." Urahara's reasoning is apparently that if Ichigo fails here, he'd end up getting killed anyway, so he doesn't have anything to lose. However, they didn't have time for traditional training, having only two weeks to invade Soul Society single-handedly and rescue Rukia, so the more extreme "do or die" method of training was warranted. And Urahara's backfires a bit by causing Ichigo to actually become part-Hollow.
    • When Ichigo goes to the Visored in order to learn how to control his Hollowfication, Shinji agrees that, given Ichigo's track record, the more extreme approach is most effective with him, and puts him to sleep so he can fight his Inner Hollow directly within his Mental World while the Visored keep his Hollowfied body contained in the real world. As they take 10-minute turns to fight Ichigo, they agree that if he can't finish his fight within an hour they will have to kill him, since by then it will be clear that Ichigo is a lost cause. Luckily for him, Ichigo manages to win by the skin of his teeth, after which his Hollowfication comes undone as he wakes up and collapses on the ground exhausted.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs:
    • Dazai was this to Akutagawa. He would punch, kick, and even fire bullets at the boy when he failed to meet his expectations, just so Akutagawa would become strong enough to survive in the Mafia. Overlapped with Training from Hell.
    • The headmaster of the orphanage is implied to be this to Atsushi, although the mentee doesn't realize it until later. He purposely tortured the boy to ensure he would be ready to face the crueler outside world when he left the orphanage.
  • Eriol from Cardcaptor Sakura combines this with the Stealth Mentor trope.
  • In Chainsaw Man, World's Best Warrior Kishibe trains the Unskilled, but Strong Denji & Power by taking advantage of the duo's Resurrective Immortality to brutally kill them over and over until they learned to put up a decent fight.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Piccolo abandons Gohan in a dinosaur-filled desert for six months to toughen the kid up for the real training (although he keeps an eye on the kid, secretly giving him food at one point). That's actually a step up from Piccolo's first act as 'mentor' — namely, he threw the poor kid at a mountain to demonstrate that little Gohan had power.
  • Earth Maiden Arjuna: Rather than explaining to Juna precisely what she's supposed to be doing, or how she's meant to accomplish it, Chris typically chucks her into the action and tells her to figure it out herself, acting as though that's the only way she'll ever learn.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • Izumi Curtis' idea of survival training is to drop off two preteen boys to a deserted island but watching them from afar in the first anime and the manga and coming back in a month.
    • And as she points out in the manga, her master's idea of survival training was to dump her in the frozen tundra of Mt. Briggs for a month. She survived by breaking into a nearby fortress for supplies. Without alchemy. And said fortress, we later learn, is staffed by some of the biggest badasses in the series. Yeah, Izumi swam. Granted that said survival training didn't really have anything to do with alchemy, the one who sent Izumi out to do the same wasn't even realizing she wanted to be an alchemist.
    • In the first anime and the manga, when she threw Ed and Al on the island, she did leave someone with them to make sure they didn't starve to death. He also was under Izumi's orders wear a disguise and fight them at every possible opportunity, so yeah. In the manga, he even cooks them some fish when it looks like they're too tired to go on. All this before she even accepts them as students. Had they failed, she would've sent them home before they could even begin their training.
  • Gravitation: K and Tohma, while not really mentors in the strictest sense of the word, figure that the best way to promote Bad Luck and inspire Shuichi is to throw the band in front of television cameras at the first available opportunity. This continues well into Shuichi's career, with most of the jobs that K lines up for him being done on the spur of the moment. Perhaps justified (or at least lampshaded) by both K and Tohma's assertion that a true star should be able to cope with this kind of pressure all the time.
  • Biscuit from Hunter × Hunter. The first part of her training of Gon and Killua consists of having them fight for two weeks with a lunatic serial killer who is, by her own statement, stronger than either of them individually. If they don't manage to land a clean hit on him in those two weeks? She'll kill them herself.
  • Lisa Lisa from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Battle Tendency puts Joseph Joestar through a number of grueling exercises, including placing a "breathing correction" mask that forces him to either breathe in the proper manner required to use Hamon or suffocate and kicking him down a pit and forcing him to climb up an oil-drenched pillar. The pit wasn't her usual method for a student so new, but Joseph was going to die anyway if he couldn't defeat two of the Pillar Men in a month's time. Regardless, her other student insists on joining.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Todo challenges Yuji to perform a Black Flash against Hanami, telling him that if he can't pull it off Todo will simply stand aside and watch as Hanami kills him. After Yuji fails due to letting his anger make him lose focus, Todo slaps some sense into him and gives him another chance; only after Yuji successfully performs a Black Flash does he join in on the fight.
  • Kalos Eidos in Kaleido Star subjects Sora to extremely hard Training from Hell to get ready for her roles, and at one point he even fires her when she fails to meet his expectations. To be fair, the Stage's super star Layla was subjected to similar training, and at some point, she tells Sora that Kalos told her and Yuri Killian that they'd be fired if they didn't win the Circus Festival. And that was when Yuri and Layla had pretty much reached their peak of popularity and techniques, unlike Sora who still had a way to go.
  • Satsuki Kiryuin of Kill la Kill is a mixture of this a Stealth Mentor towards Ryuko. She has Ryuko fight all the elite in their school with the ambition of secretly testing her. Despite this, she is intentionally throwing Ryuko to the wolves to determine whether or not she'll prove to be a useful ally, and was more than willing to wash her hands of her if Ryuko fails.
  • In Kino's Journey, Kino's mentor sent her on a journey to the original Kino's homeland, telling her to visit a specific house and tell the occupant there the purpose of her journey. Turns out, said mentor had been asked for weeks to go shoot the insane serial killer living there, but ostensibly thought it would better serve to teach Kino to defend herself and kill if necessary. Kino didn't seem to mind all that much. The time spent with her master likely explains a lot about Kino's character.
  • Meta Knight in Kirby: Right Back at Ya! isn't afraid to defend himself, but very rarely intervenes much beyond exposition and small pieces of advice when Kirby is facing the Monster of the Week, leaving Kirby to copy an ability and get with the ass kicking, or Tiff to figure out the problem, or on occasion with other characters as well. Tiff frequently calls him out on this but eventually gives up.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (2005), Sahasrahla is willing to set Link against an Armos monster to test his worthiness as a hero.
  • In The Law of Ueki, the rules say that a god candidate (the mentor) can't help their student in battle. If they do, they get sent to Hell. The end result: A bunch of junior high school kids with relatively useless or restricted supernatural powers running around, who are essentially making things up as they go along. Kobayashi more so than the others. He didn't tell Ueki anything about the tournament until the poor kid had already gotten into a fight, and even then he only spilled because Mori and Ueki broke into his house. To be fair, though, Koba-sen did say he only participated in the first place to test Ueki's sense of justice, and energetically told Ueki to drop out of the tournament and live his own life the way he wanted to before suffering the Mentor Occupational Hazard.
  • In Made in Abyss, Ozen's idea of "wilderness training" involves abandoning Riko and Reg in a dark forest for ten days with minimal training and equipment. She reasons that if they can't survive that, it's pointless to try and train them further because the Abyss kills everyone who travels into it eventually.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Once Jack takes the Moriartys under his wing, he's happy to help them, but first they have to prove their ability and willingness to fight against actively trying to kill them. He views the situation that if the Moriarty kids as not being up to the task as better off dead.
  • In Naruto, this seems to be a common form of instruction. The main character learned water walking at the boiling hot springs, weapon training always seems to include real weapons, and after a long Training Montage fails to help him perfect his ninja Toad Summoning, his Trickster Mentor Jiraiya shoves him into a Bottomless Pit hoping that the fear of death will allow him to summon a toad big enough to straddle the pit. The weapon training at least was justified, with ninja as military forces. Traditional training methods tended to involve carefully choreographed full-contact kata with weapons which could at least cripple, the theory being that until you had experienced being on the wrong side of a lethal attack a few thousand times, you weren't emotionally prepared to handle a real battlefield.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi:
    • Evangeline foists this on Asuna to get her to use her Kanka ability correctly. She dumps Asuna in the Himalayas, essentially forcing her to figure out the technique or freeze to death. The scary part is that this was the admissions test. Asuna was left with a (presumably) enchanted bell with which to "tap out", and her refusal to do either that or die of exposure was what convinced Evangeline to start training Asuna for real. Evangeline stayed in the mountains for the entire time, just in case something went wrong (presumably something along the lines of Asuna passing out from cold before being able to ring the bell). However, Asuna did pass out from cold before ringing the bell. Twice. The first time her repressed memory of how to use Kanka saved her, but by all rights, she should never have woken up the second time. When she did wake up she was covered in ice, unable to move, barely able to think, almost too far gone to reactivate the kanka and save herself. Chachazero even said, "she was almost dead, too!" If Eva had actually been there to save Asuna, that would have been the point to pull her out.
    • Later on, Pseudo-Eva does this to Negi: either beat your Superpowered Evil Side into submission, or die trying. He actually does die, repeatedly, but thankfully this is in a mindspace where that kind of thing isn't permanent.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy's grandfather, Garp, followed this Trope pretty closely as he threw Luffy down a bottomless ravine, left him alone in a jungle at night, and tied him to balloons to send him up into the sky as a child, all to make him and his big brother (who it is hinted also went through similar ordeals) into "strong Marines". Needless to say, the minute he leaves them with a friend, they run off and become pirates when they hit their late teens! It should be noted that the age that both of them left their home to adopt a life of piracy was 17. Dangerous Seventeenth Birthday, much? It should also be noted said friend was a mountain bandit. He was asking for it, really.
    • Dracule "Hawk-Eye" Mihawk seems to have become one for Zoro, of all people. The results are shown post-Time Skip — Zoro has become a powerful enough swordsman to bisect ships and cut up mountain-sized golems, but the training cost him an eye in the process.
  • Ranma ½
    • Consider the ever-so-brilliant martial arts teacher, Genma Saotome. Genma's shown methods of training his son have included hurling a nest of agitated wasps at him and watching the poor bastard fend for himself, dragging him to a cursed training ground simply on the basis that it was dangerous and without finding out why it was considered dangerous, and reminiscing about how, when Ranma was a child, he routinely forced him to fight for every scrap of food he got, remorselessly eating Ranma's food if he couldn't defend it. He also admitted that he tried to "cure" Ranma's Neko-Ken induced cat phobia by throwing him into the pit of starving cats again. When told about some of this, even the borderline sociopathic Nabiki disapproves, proving that sometimes Even Evil Has Standards. Coupling this with his willingness to simply throw Ranma into his own trouble and expect him to sort things out, often with barely any idea what's going on or why it's happening, he could border on Fair-Weather Mentor. If it weren't for his moments of Idiot Savantdom, it would be the conclusion of most fans that not only was Ranma lucky to survive, he's gotten as good as he has despite Genma's training, not because of it. And as bad as Genma is, Happosai is worse; his nature as a Fair-Weather Mentor is an obvious fact.
    • Cologne is just as bad, even if she (sometimes) means well. The training for the Bakusai Tenketsu (swinging multi-ton boulders at the trainee until he can make them explode with a finger) and the Hiryu Shouten Ha (wrapping the person in "memory-metal" that will shrink, seize up, and lock down, turning him into a human pretzel if he sheds the slightest amount of heat) would be deadly if these people weren't Made of Iron, and if they end up knocked unconscious from the blows, or drowning in a hot spring, well, that's their fault. Only by learning the fundamentals of these techniques on their own can the trainee even withstand the training itself.
    • Interestingly, as Ranma's mentors are either this or a Fair-Weather Mentor, Ranma himself seems to take the Sink or Swim method. For example, in the Fine Dining arc, his needs to learn to jab accurately and quickly with his utensils, and his training plan involves setting up buckets and pots of hot and cold water so that if he fails, he turns back into a man in a very restrictive iron corset. Granted, the iron corset part wasn't voluntary, but the point still stands.
  • In Reborn! (2004), pretty much every single mentor Tsuna has had? It does tend to pay off, though — each time Tsuna goes through a life and death situation, he tends to come out with more badass weaponry.
  • Rurouni Kenshin had Hiko as a mentor, whose idea of training was "beat Kenshin senseless with the Technique of the Day, and then beat him senseless with the appropriate counter-technique when Kenshin attempts to duplicate the effect". He also acknowledges that he could defeat Shishio in the blink of an eye, but considers leaving the mountain where he lives as a hermit to be too much effort. (He does, however, pull a Big Damn Heroes moment to help save Yahiko from getting killed.)
  • Seems to be the only way to train someone in Twelve World Story... Of course, the main character is a Jerkass so it's alright.

    Comic Books 
  • When Batman was retraining himself after having his spine broken by Bane, Lady Shiva employed this form of training; namely, she murdered the Armless Master (a martial arts master who among other things, trained Catwoman), then framed Batman for it by wearing the same Tengu costume he was currently wearing as part of his training, forcing him to engage in constant life-or-death battles as the Master's students tracked him down for revenge.
  • Judge Dredd has this for ALL rookie Judges; every single point of their decades-long training is Sink Or Swim, and if you fail at any point, you're immediately dismissed from the Academy. The final test, a "ride-along" of sorts with an experienced Judge, is the hardest of all, and 4 out of 5 cadets fail the final test (the ones who don't die, anyway). Justified by the incredibly grueling job of being a Judge, which doesn't allow for any margin of error. The only exception is the Psi-Judges, who have a slightly more lenient training, as the rarity of psychics means the Academy can't afford to waste recruits.
  • Lady Death had a textbook example in form of Wargoth, a demon from the Blacklands who pledged to teach her how to use her powers, but that often involving her pitting against monsters and other mortal dangers without warning her about it, putting her at great risk. One particularly Jerkass moment had him arrange to sell Lady Death as a concubine to a local king in order to acquire his Infinity +1 Sword, placing her in a very degrading situation with an extreme likelihood of being raped and killed. After successfully taking the sword for her own and fighting off the attackers, it's revealed said king and Wargoth were friends and working together to test if she could pull this off. Needless to say, Lady Death was furious to learn this.
  • In Tales of the Jedi, Arca Jeth plunks his students Ulic, Cay, and Tott Doneeta on Onderon with instructions to resolve the ethnic conflict that's been going on for centuries. This would be difficult enough without the real reason they're there, which is to uncover and end the influence of the dark side on their royal family. They make a complete botch of it, unsurprisingly. When he turns up to chew them out, Ulic points out that he didn't even tell them about the dark side cult. Arca does admit he possibly did err in that.
  • The Umbrella Academy: Sir Reginald Hargreeves is a deconstruction of this. Due to his abusive demeanor and tactics, his lessons fail to register with his children and they all end up growing so maladjusted that they failed to stop The End of the World as We Know It he had tried to prepare them for. Twice. And worse is that, in fact, his abuse is the primary cause of the apocalypse.

    Fan Works 
  • Ageless: When Ryou proves how ineffective Korra's bending is against him and how she needs to learn how to defend herself without it, he does this by attacking her with a wooden sword, easily evading her attacks and hitting her upside the head. Katara then comments that his methods have not changed, implying that the first step he takes to train anyone is to deflate their egos by humiliating them first.
  • Downplayed in Amazing Fantasy. Peter walks Izuku through important tasks like learning how to build his own web-shooters and testing the limits of his new spider powers. But he isn't afraid to push Izuku off the deep end either, chucking kitchen appliances at him to test his strength and leaving dangerous objects lying around to train his Spider-Sense. He also forces Izuku to learn how to make his own web fluid formula, giving him three weeks to learn a semesters' worth of college-level material in physics, chemistry, and mechanical engineering.
  • In Androgyninja's A Drop of Poison, Kakashi combines this with Apathetic Teacher. He's more than happy to sit back and let Naruto and Sasuke squabble, forcing Sakura to meditate between them... then complains that she should be nicer about it and appease the boys more. He also taunts the boys whenever Sakura outperforms them, using good ol' sexism as a motivator, and shows no interest in providing Sakura the support she needs. At least, not until he notices a Commonality Connection between them in the wake of the Konoha Crush: namely, the fact that she lost her loved ones just like he did.
  • Be All My Sins: While Skeryn does provide Natalie with study materials and basic techniques for controlling her Psyker powers, she rarely directly teaches her anything, and tends to deliberately withhold information about the areas she's sending her to.
  • Child of the Storm has Doctor Strange fulfill this role — while he will step in if he absolutely needs to, his main objective for his students (and for those who don't even realise that he's technically teaching them, which is most of the heroic side of the cast) is to give them the tools and knowledge they need to survive and get the job done. Which is why he will sometimes do things like drop Harry straight into the middle of a pitched battle with vampires in the middle of the night.
  • Deku? I think he's some pro...: Mirko kicks off Katsuki's internship with her by having him "make her train him". Translation: she forces him to fight until he manages to impress her enough that she deigns to actually start teaching him anything.
  • In Lamarckian, Gang Orca throws Kanna into an aquarium, turns the lights off, and viciously attacks her in the dark until she manages to escape. All within seconds of the two meeting each other, ostensibly to gauge how quickly she's able to learn.
  • Let the Darkness Bring Us Into the Light: Playfully Discussed after Jounouchi agrees to teach Izuku how to street fight, as he suggests that his methods can involve things like throwing a vending machine on top of him, or tossing him into a snake pit. The two then discuss the dynamics and details of his Training from Hell methods.
  • The Night Unfurls has two:
    • Kyril notes that during his time in Yharnam, he had no formal instruction, for his mentor Gehrman believed that the best way to hunt beasts was through practical experience on the field of battle (i.e. to "git gud" by dying over and over again, just like in the game).
    • One of the assignments Kyril has given to his apprentice Kid Heroes Sanakan and Hugh is to hunt down a large hobgoblin, wipe out its band, and return with proof of the kills. The "sink" part is emphasised with Kyril internally stating that he has confidence in them, otherwise he'd "end up with two dead apprentices" and "that would be bad". The two succeed, but not without being bloodied and battered, their clothes torn up.
  • Peace's Apprentice brutally deconstructs this with Shota Aizawa, 1-A's homeroom teacher.
    • The main reason he expels Izuku from U.A. (apart from wanting to make space for his own personal student) is that his poor Quirk control would require actual guidance so he won't "sink" without permanently harming or killing himself and Aizawa just doesn't want to put in the effort. He claims that his job is to teach people that already know how to use their Quirks, not to act as a Quirk counselor, but it is made obvious that he is meant to act in that way.
    • He claims to believe that his job is actually to watch his students fail so they can learn from their own mistakes. As such, he does nothing to minimize the impact of errors he believes to be their fault, since it's implied he thinks suffering and lack of guidance will teach them well enough, either not considering or not caring about the emotional damage this obviously would inflict on a bunch of developing children put in his care specifically to receive guidance and allowed to fail without support time and again. This policy comes back to bite everyone when he doesn't check whether his students' support gear is actually safe, leading to over a dozen deaths, including another student's.
    • The lack of grace room to fail is why he gives them challenges he hasn't prepared them for, which causes them to panic. In an almost literal deconstruction, when the panicked stress response from both the USJ attack and Aizawa's threatening and confusing teaching style causes Kaminari to short out while submerged in water, Kaminari, far from adapting to the extreme circumstances, actually ends up accidentally killing all the villains in the water with him.
    • And, to add to the hypocrisy, it's made so obvious this teaching style isn't the best he could do for his students that this trope is shown to be just an excuse for Aizawa not to do his job. That he knows he could do better to actually teach them but just isn't willing is revealed by the effort he puts into his favorite student, Shinsou.
  • PMD: The Rogue Team: Tabor is this to Erin in Chapter 2. When an enemy ursaring furiously chases Erin, Tabor does nothing but encourage her to fight it on her own, only interfering when Erin proved herself unable to fight it properly.
  • In Girl Genius fanfiction Raised by Jägers, the professors at TPU largely view lab accidents as a way of weeding out the stupid. They are therefore rather annoyed that Agatha keeps saving people, but she also prevents expensive property damage, so they can't get too mad.
  • Three's A Crowd (Naruto): Kakashi proves to be absolutely horrid about this when Team Seven is formed. Both Sasuke and Uo insist on being Ineffectual Loners, acting superior and like they don't need to treat anyone with anything approaching respect, least of all their teammate Sakura. Rather than directly addressing these glaring issues, Kakashi stands back and expects Sakura to teach them the value of teamwork despite their blatant dismissal of her; in fact, the only one he's willing to pull aside and lecture about the importance of learning how to work together is her. Sakura repeatedly takes him to task for these blatant Double Standards, hitting a Rage Breaking Point when he dismisses the two ruining a D-rank assignment by setting their client's fence on fire by declaring that "Well, they are teenage boys. They're bound to be idiots."
  • Three Strikes has Emma tell her husband that if their daughter needs to crash and burn in order to learn, then he should just let it happen.
  • In To Undo it All, Ichigo is a downplayed example to Zaraki. While he'll explain what they're generally aiming for, the actual training is Ichigo and Unohana giving Zaraki a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown over and over until he removes his subconscious limiters.
  • Your Heart a Haven of Thorns (Naruto): Kakashi's status as such is attributed to his trauma — having lost so many of his loved ones, he's reluctant to risk getting too attached to the new Team Seven, which translates into not investing too much into their training. Kikyō makes clear that his Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse, pointing out that he's risking a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy by not teaching them the skills they need to survive in the shinobi world.

    Films — Animated 
  • Gobber in How to Train Your Dragon — he runs a training facility for dragon slayers, and has all the needed infrastructure — but the actual training consists of sparring with live dragons from day one, most of them powerful enough to instantly kill a careless trainee.
  • When Peter B Parker does decide to mentor Miles in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, part of his training includes shoving Miles off the roof of the villains' headquarters so that Miles can learn how to web-swing, while being shot at. Downplayed, though, since initially Parker planned on completing the mission himself while Miles kept watch outside. It took Miles following him inside for Parker to change his mind.
  • In The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf an early part of training prospective Witchers is to dump them in a monster-infested swamp, unarmed, with an amulet that vibrates when monsters are near (as in right there about to attack), and declare the ones who died unfit. This appears to be partially an excuse to kill off a bunch of trainees, as the number of potential Witchers is outpacing the supply of monsters they make their living hunting and they're expensive to train.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 300 showed some the mytho-historical Agoge, the brutal and harsh method of training Spartans to be warriors. The training started literally at birth, any infant who didn't measure up was thrown off a cliff and left to die. Children were harshly beaten on principle, not as punishment. When a teenager the child was exiled from the city to live on their own in the wild, IF they made it back they were accepted as a Spartan citizen. Though the movie gave a fictionalized account the Agoge was a real historical thing, though the exact accounts of how harsh it was vary from historian to historian (according to one account, part of the Agoge involved 11 boys being sent into a room and only 10 being let out alive: in other words, one of them HAD to die, and another account says that part of the Agoge was the student had to sneak out at night and kill a slave, the slaves would of course fight back, but one of them would die, this system also ensured that even their slaves were ass-whooping and could defend the city if it was invaded).
  • In Aquatic Wizards: Humorously implied to be the case in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version.
    Tom Servo: And the incentive to stay up is...crocodiles!
  • Henri Ducard/Ra's Al Ghul in Batman Begins. They duel with real swords and in one scene beats the hell out of Bruce Wayne while he's still exhausted from climbing a mountain.
    Ducard: Are you ready to begin?
    Wayne: I can... I can barely stand...
    Ducard: Death does not WAIT for you to be ready! (kicks him) Death is not considerate OR fair! (kicks him again) And make no mistake: here you face death! (goes to kick Bruce again — he catches Ducard's foot)
  • Diamond Jim in Deep in the Valley. After Lester and Carl are transported into the world of porn movies, he magically appears and tells them that they are on a quest and will not be able to leave until they have learned what it is they need to learn. However, he gives them no indication what it is they are supposed to discover, or how they are supposed to find it. And he can't even what what the one rule of Deep Valley is.
  • In Doctor Strange, the Ancient One takes Strange — who'd been learning the theory of magic very well, but just couldn't grasp the practise — to the top of Mount Everest and tells him he won't survive two minutes before leaving without him, with the only way to get back being to make a portal. Fortunately, he makes it back. Mordo's comment suggests that she does this fairly regularly.
  • A major part of Dredd is that of Dredd judging if rookie recruit Cassandra Anderson is suitable to become a Judge. Anderson has Psychic Powers that would be very useful to the Hall of Justice but has failed both the aptitude test and the Academy assessment. In a final effort to make her shape up or die in the attempt, the Chief Judge partners her with Dredd, specifically invoking this trope.
    Chief Judge: Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end.
    Judge Dredd: It's all the deep end.
  • Counsellor Stennis in Ernest Goes to Camp is apparently fond of this tactic, at least when he doesn't like the kids in question. He picks up the young Moose, who can't swim, throws him in the deep end, and stands by grinning while the kid nearly drowns and Ernest rushes in to save him. Naturally, the rest of the delinquent kids are having none of that and almost immediately retaliate by shoving Stennis into the water and watching him cry about his "injured leg" while floundering around in the lake.
    Stennis: You're gonna learn the Stennis way!
  • The Guardian (2006): Senior Chief Ben Randall is quite literally this. His first test for his class is to dress them in sweat clothes and throw them in a pool where they are to tread water. If they touch the side or the bottom they fail and flunk out. His theory is that if they can't handle being in a heated pool, they have no business trying to rescue people from the open sea.
  • Merlin from Kingsman: The Secret Service. As the one in charge of training the Kingsman candidates, his first test is flooding the room the Kingsman candidates are in while they're all sleeping and seeing how they handle the situation. One of the recruits drowns. Another test involves all of the candidates parachuting into a specific drop zone, without telling them one of them doesn't have a parachute until they're in freefall. He's eventually revealed to be a more benevolent example of this trope, as all the tests weren't as lethal as they'd been built up. The girl who seemingly drowned actually works for the Kingsmen and is alive and well, and he turned out to be lying about one of the candidates not having a parachute, just wanting to see how they'd react.
  • Robert De Niro's character in Men of Honor is quite literally a Sink Or Swim mentor, as he is the trainer at the Navy's Deep Sea Diving School. He sets out to purposefully make Carl Brashear's (played by Cuba Gooding) life miserable and force him to quit Diving School. This makes complete sense since he's a racist. Of course, this harsh brow-beating is what makes Carl refuse to quit until he becomes a master diver.
  • Nikita. To celebrate the successful completion of her training, Nikita's handler takes her to a fancy restaurant where she's suddenly given a Desert Eagle and her first assignment, to kill a man eating at another table. She's told the escape route is through the bathroom window, but it turns out to be bricked up, testing her ability to Indy Ploy.
  • Saw: The Jigsaw Killer's motivation. He wants to make people who take life for granted appreciate their lives using... controversial methods, to say the least, which he also secretly uses on his various apprentices to see if they're qualified to succeed him and carry his planned schemes afterwards.
  • Denzel Washington's corrupt cop Alonzo Harris in Training Day could've been the Trope Namer considering all the many times he left Jake Hoyt (played by Ethan Hawke) out to sink or swim or get shot. Subverted, as it becomes plain throughout the movie that Harris isn't training Hoyt, so much as forcing him into blackmail-able situations in order to ensure his loyalty.
  • In Wanted, Fox puts herself in front of a shooting target, forcing the protagonist to either bend his shot or shoot her, which is kinda an inversion. A straight example was earlier when she put a gun at Weasley's head and threatened to shoot unless he shoots wings off some flies.
  • During X-Men: First Class, Charles and Erik attempt to teach Banshee how to fly. At first, they let him jump out of a second-story window, into some bushes, and he forgets to scream. Their next attempt is to have him jump off of an enormous satellite dish. Charles assures him that he doesn't have to do anything he's not comfortable with... Erik disagrees. Justified in that he could, theoretically, control the metal of Banshee's uniform if anything really dangerous came along.

  • A Zen parable tells of a burglar who promised to teach the trade to his son. He takes the son to a rich and well-guarded house and shows him the way into the center of the house. Then the father excused himself, went outside, and promptly raised the alarm, alerting the entire house to the intruder — and sauntered on home. At dawn his son arrived, panting and exhausted but alone. "Why did you do that to me? I had to use all of my wits to get out of there!" The father said, "And that was our first lesson on burglary."

  • This is how learning works in the Leopard world of Akata Witch. All the teachers are this, but we see the most of Anatov.
  • Gall the moss man is this to Peter in The Child Thief by Brom. He rescues Peter from a wolf but leaves it to Peter to kill. Keep in mind that Peter is only a few weeks old at the time.
  • In Discworld:
    • Granny Weatherwax is often the benevolent version, especially with Tiffany Aching. According to Granny "witching school" (i.e. the world) gives you the exam first, and then you spend the rest of the time finding out whether you passed. And everything is a test. Early in A Hat Full of Sky, when Tiffany is engaged in wholly unjustified paranoia about the witch she's been sent to train with, she tries to tell herself that Granny Weatherwax and Ms Tick wouldn't have arranged it if it was dangerous... and then realises that they probably would, on the grounds that if she couldn't cope she'd have no business being a witch.
    • Also, Assassins' Guild tutor Alice Band, who punishes overconfidence in her students by sending them on missions to observe Sam Vimes. In Night Watch, Sam obliges her by ensuring that student Assassin Jocasta Wiggs ended up literally swimming or sinking — in the Ramkin family's cesspit.
  • The Winter Court fae in The Dresden Files are like this. When Harry is recovering from being dead, Mab's idea of helping him heal is to repeatedly try to kill him: if he survives, he gets stronger. If he dies, he wasn't strong enough to be the Winter Knight anyway.
  • In The Gods Are Bastards, Big Good Arachne Tellwyrn has a tendency of throwing her students into difficult situations of all stripes and just leaving them there while she goes off to do her own thing.
  • Severus Snape in Harry Potter gets a bumbling student (Neville Longbottom) to prepare a potion right by threatening to test it on his pet toad. He had to beg Hermione to help him and she whispered instructions to him, helping him to successfully brew the potion.
  • Haymitch Abernathy, from The Hunger Games, starts off as this but progresses to Cynical Mentor when he discovers that Katniss and Peeta may actually have a fighting chance, and ends up as something of a Team Dad.
  • Juffin Hally from Labyrinths of Echo does it all the time, in part because he's a great practitioner of magic, but not very good at theory, in part because his mentor did the same with a very impressive result, and in part because he tries to get Achievements in Ignorance from the apprentices, so he makes everything look trivial. His way to teach a lesson starts with an offhanded mention of "one more possible solution" to the current problem, continues with sending an apprentice into action with a very vague idea of how they're going to do the job and ends with "See? You can do it easily... and there are old and supposedly smart wizards who still for some reason think it's impossible".
  • Lensman:
    • The appropriately named Mentor of Arisia is an example of this trope. Though Mentor does relent and give the protagonist some training in psychic combat, he generally avoids directly aiding his students and criticizes them for asking him for help or advice when they don't really need it. And since he's effectively omniscient, he always knows whether or not they really need it. He "trains" Kinnison how to defend himself psychically by continuously psychically attacking him. The justification is that every mind is unique, so each person must develop his own method of defense. And the best way to develop callouses is to hit the tender part over and over. Though he does scale his attacks to Kinnison's ability to survive them.
    • The Arisians are this to the whole of Civilisation. They provide the Patrol with the Lens, but they very definitely refuse to provide any other assistance, of any kind whatsoever, either to the Patrol as a whole or to individual Lensmen (below Second Stage). They do not even provide any instruction on how to use the Lens — it is up to the Lensmen themselves to work out what it can do and how to use it. If Civilisation cannot defeat Boskone of its own resources with no more assistance from the Arisians than the provision of the Lens, then it is not yet ready to become a civilisation and Boskone will be allowed to defeat it and flourish until a more capable Civilisation can develop.
    • The Prequel Triplanetary reveals that the Arisians have tried this on numerous civilizations before the present one, almost invariably without success. One of them literally sank — it was Atlantis.
  • My Brother is a Superhero: In this case, the "mentor" is Luke, a comic book nerd, trying to teach his older brother, Zack, how to use his superpowers. To test his force field, Luke's idea is basically "throw bricks at him." Then Played for Drama in the climax: to activate Zack's final power, which Luke is convinced must be Flight, he lets go of the villain's Powered Armor mid-flight and lets himself plummet toward the Earth. Thankfully, it works.
  • The Nevernight Chronicle: Shaiid of Truths welcomes her new students by surreptitiously poisoning their mornmeal and seeing if they can figure out an antidote. It's the first of several poisoning attempts she conducts through the term, many resulting in death. And her end-of-year challenge: develop an antidote to a poison with the provision that the antidote must be tested on the person developing it.
  • In P.N. Elrod's Quincey Morris Vampire, Dracula is the epitome of the Sink Or Swim Mentor when Quincey wants to know how to turn into mist like Dracula does. The Vampire simply tossed Quin off the castle. When asked why, Dracula admits to the reader that's how his father taught him how to swim as well.
    Dracula: Well, I was remembering that when I was a child my father decided to teach me how to swim by grabbing me and throwing me into the river.
  • Reign of the Seven Spellblades: The general ethos of Kimberly Magic Academy teachers. Students are given instruction but are largely expected to resolve the consequences of their mistakes themselves or by helping each other, and as long as nobody actually dies in an incident in the labyrinth, the teachers will turn a blind eye to it. Even when students go missing in the labyrinth, the teachers are forbidden to get involved until eight days have gone by. We finally learn in volume 5 that this is largely because Kimberly is a training ground for an order of Military Mages called Gnostic Hunters that (theoretically) protect the world from Alien Invasions and cults, but even by that standard, some teachers take it to extremes: Vanessa Aldiss finds it amusing when students are injured in her classes, and Enrico Forghieri is Ax-Crazy and doesn't care. The two notable exceptions to the rule are the younger teachers, Luther Garland and his old friend Ted Williams, who pointedly try to provide better instruction and intervene in classroom incidents before they get out of hand.
  • In Sixth of the Dusk, Dusk ultimately decides that the island has been this, preparing them to not be taken in by the too easy way the Sky People offer as a subtle means of conquest.
  • Randyll Tarly of A Song of Ice and Fire was a particularly cruel version of this for his son, Samwell. Determined to mold him into the perfect heir for House Tarly, he made Sam sleep in chainmail, bathe in Auroch blood and even forced him to walk around in his mother's dress to shame him into shaping up. When his wife gave him a second son, he gave up on mentoring Sam and forced him to take the black on threat of a Hunting "Accident" so Dickon could inherit instead.
  • The Stormlight Archive: When the bridgemen find out about what Kaladin can do, Sigzil suggests training and experiments. Rock suggests throwing him off a cliff.
    Peet: What good will that do?
    Rock: If he has other abilities, this thing will make them come out, eh? Nothing like falling from cliff to make a man out of a boy!
  • The Traveler's Gate: Kai's idea of training Simon is to bring him into Valinhall, a place where every room holds traps and death, and tell him to "keep an eye out." Simon almost gets killed five times before the end of the hour. Later, when training under Indirial, Simon is very happy to have a teacher who actually tells him what he wants instead of just throwing him into a lethal situation and expecting him to learn.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky, the protagonist has one last class before he is able to become a pioneer and help colonize other planets. The final class is survival on their own on an unknown planet, with unknown conditions, for an unknown amount of time. The students are allowed to bring anything they want with them that they can carry, and a pet, and most spend much of their time preparing what gear and gadgets they will bring. The protagonist asks his teacher what he should bring, and his teacher tells him he shouldn't bring ANYTHING, although he admits when the protagonist complains and says his sister, a survival expert herself, that he should at least bring a knife, that it makes sense. The protagonist ends up following his mentor's advice, takes the knife along with a blowgun and darts with poison, and finds out why firsthand when he meets his first classmate; he's been torn apart along with his dog, despite having some serious firepower. His mentor was trying to tell him that the biggest part of survival was the ability to adapt and respect your surroundings, something nearly impossible to do when guns and other gear make you over-confident.
  • Lampshaded with some humour in the Vorkosigan Saga when Miles Vorkosigan graduates from being the Ninth Imperial Auditor (traditionally a temporary position, occupied by a designated expert appointed to solve one particular problem for The Emperor) to being a full-time member of the group. One of his colleagues remarks that while they don't typically work togethernote , they do compare notes and will be willing to offer advice — but that every single job is going to involve being thrown in the deep end, sink or swim. Miles has a brief vision of himself splashing about, on the verge of drowning, with all his new colleagues holding up judiciously awarded points for style as the water fills his nose. He takes the job anyway.
  • Tigerclaw in Warrior Cats is this to Ravenpaw. Bluestar gave Ravenpaw to Tigerclaw thinking that Tigerclaw would teach the timid young cat to be brave. Turns out that Tigerclaw doesn't care much for an apprentice that doesn't share his bloodthirsty attitude. He's especially hard on him to begin with, and after Ravenpaw saw Tigerclaw commit murder, Tigerclaw tried to have him killed by giving him deliberately difficult tasks, such as hunting at Snakerocks (named for the poisonous snakes that live there; cats avoid it during warm weather), and hunting in enemy territory.
  • The Witch of Knightcharm: Lauren Taverron, a top student at an evil Wizarding School, is like this to the new student Emily whom she's decided to mentor. Other mentors at the school give their students special training or magical items, but Lauren just throws Emily into challenging and dangerous situations so that Emily becomes stronger in the course of fighting her way past the enemies Lauren has set on her.
  • In The Worthing Saga, Doon traps Jason in a swamp with a small but very dangerous predator to find out of he has what it takes to survive against the odds. Because Jason has the power to read minds, he quickly discovers that Doon has no intention of saving him, and genuinely doesn't know if he's going to survive or not.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A flashback in The Americans shows Elizabeth — covert Russian spy — trying to teach her daughter to swim by pushing her into a pool.
  • Yao Fei in Arrow. Quite literally — at one point he kills Ollie, then revives him at the moment he drops him off a cliff into a waterfall. His general training technique is to put Ollie in a fucked-up situation and tell him: "Survive."
    • The Arrow becomes this briefly for The Flash in their crossover episodes, and Malcolm Merlyn is this for his daughter, Thea.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • The Chosen TV Series: In his first scene, Yanni takes his new student Shmuel to a rough part of town to build a following and practice his oratory skills by preaching to the crowds. Yanni then leaves after half-seriously commenting about how dangerous it is to be in the area alone.
  • The Doctor from Doctor Who treats their companions like this sometimes. Especially the First Doctor, played by William Hartnell. When the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi) tries it on his companion Clara, however, not only does she deliver upon him an epic "The Reason You Suck" Speech, she briefly breaks up with him.
  • Hell's Kitchen has Gordon Ramsay train chefs to be able to work in the most toxic, hostile work environments in the world, by making the competition as bad as he can while avoiding a lawsuit.
  • Claude, from Heroes, while trying to teach Peter Petrelli how to use his powers, pushed him off the roof of a skyscraper to try and activate his flight ability. It didn't work, but he got better.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Captain Pellew is hard on Horatio when the war starts and the young and inexperienced midshipman comes aboard the Indefatigable. Pellew doesn't approve that Hornblower challenged a fellow officer (a horrible and sadistic bully) to a Duel to the Death, and then let another officer fight the duel in his stead. Pellew naturally questions Hornblower's abilities. He assigns him as a division leader of a band of misfits, inherited from the very same bully Horatio challenged. Horatio, being The Hero, proves himself worthy, and Pellew shows he's a true Father to His Men who actually cares. Needless to say, no training was a Truth in Television for the Royal Navy of Regency England as Plucky Middies would be put aboard ships very young with no training. They simply had to learn as they went, though they had some classes on navigation and had to study for lieutenant examinations.
  • Dr. House has proven to be this sort of teacher in the fourth season, running a two-month "interview" that involves throwing the applicants at the nearest mystery disease and standing back until they solve it. Subverted in that this strategy got a patient killed.
  • This trope occurs several times on JAG, usually it's part of either an ongoing court case or a preliminary investigation, where an instructor may have pushed the envelope too far.
  • This used to be the policy in The Librarians 2014 for all new Librarians. The casualty rate was high. According to Jenkins, only the best survived. Finally, after Judson's departure and the Library's disappearance, Flynn realizes he won't have time to quell magical fires across the world and search for the Library at the same time. So he resolves to change the rules. He designates Jacob, Ezekiel, and Cassandra as "Librarians-in-Training" and has Eve protect and train them, pointing out that he's been fine without a Guardian for a decade. Jenkins isn't particularly happy about playing babysitter to a bunch of amateurs (especially since pretty much everyone looks that way to a 1000-year-old knight of the Round Table) and would much rather be left along with his research.
  • NCIS: Ziva's father, in a not-at-all-funny or even particularly heroic version. Apparently, he drove his children blindfolded into the middle of the forest and had them find their way out.
  • In the Lost episode "Hearts and Minds," Locke ties Boone up and leaves him in the woods with the monster approaching. (Of course, it's vague how much of this truly takes place and how much is a hallucination.)
  • Once Upon a Time: Regina describes Rumpelstiltskin's teaching method as this. She decides to take this approach herself when she starts training Emma in magic.
  • The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Haven" is set in a fully automated apartment building run by an AI concierge. The building goes haywire and becomes a massive Death Course. Four tenants journey to reach the concierge, George, and get an explanation. Turns out that after failing to save a dying tenant, George decided that humans were too dependent on technology and neglecting each other. His plan is to force humans to work together under pressure, then eliminate himself to let them regrow on their own.
  • In Psych, Henry often uses (or attempts to use) sink-or-swim methods on Shawn; justified in some ways, as Shawn is a huge slacker with a history of giving up when the going gets too tough, and this is sometimes the only way to get him to follow through on anything. Of course, it seems he's a slacker in the first place because the harshness of his dad's sink-or-swim teaching basically beat it into him that unless he's better than the best, the effort wasn't enough. Irony.
  • Reservation Dogs: When Bear is thrown into his job as a roofer without training and almost plummets off as a result, his Spirit Advisor isn't surprised.
    Bear: It's like, they don't even teach you anything, just expect you to know.
    William Knifeman: Yeah. That's the Native way of teaching. We have this, uh, traditional pedagogy of, uh: Just get out there and learn, fսckеr.
  • Scrubs:
    • Dr. Cox is mainly justified in this approach; he wants his interns to learn, as quickly as possible, that lives depend on them, and that eventually they must rely on their own skills rather than outside assistance. Despite his Dr. Jerk persona though, he's one of the more benevolent variations on this mentor. He's usually standing by, ready to help if absolutely necessary, rather than leaving the interns on their own to cope with the pressure. Though Cox's help would be partly motivated by the fact that he is legally responsible for the actions of his interns and early year residents.
    • In Seasons 8 and 9, JD has become this. It comes up explicitly in Season 9 that he picked it up from Cox.
  • Jor-El in Smallville isn't even content to wait and see if Clark sinks most of the time; more a Swim-Or-I-Release-The-Sharks Mentor.
  • Titus
    • Christopher Titus's Jerkass father holds to a philosophy that his kids will be tougher if he doesn't protect them from their mistakes in any way. As an example of how far he takes this philosophy, a flashback shows him refusing to prevent a kindergarten-aged Chris from playing with an electrical outlet. When Chris gets shocked, his father simply says, "Bet you're not gonna do that again." In another flashback, he is shown, quite literally, to be a Sink Or Swim Mentor. When the time comes to teach Dave to swim, he picks him up, tells him not to be a wuss, and tosses him in the water.
    • In Christopher Titus's stand-up comedy special Norman Rockwell is Bleeding, on which a lot of the TV show is based, Titus says that his father's philosophy to anything was "just go do it; you'll screw it up a few times, but you'll eventually get it right." As Titus notes, there are a few things that this mindset should not be applied to, like car repair.
  • In The West Wing, campaign staffer Donna Moss asks campaign manager Will Bailey for a promotion. Will responds by handing her a piece of paper with a short statement and introducing her to a crowd of reporters as the new campaign spokeswoman before walking off without another word.

  • The master Lyu-Ui in I Wish was this, especially towards K. He once actually took him to a cliff, asked him if he can swim and, when the answer was No, shoved him off the cliff and into the water. The purpose was to teach K the emotion of "getting a shock" but it actually is a Sink or Swim example.

  • Midst: the Consector warns Phineas that he's going to get kicked out of the company unless he can demonstrate more confidence and a greater willingness to take charge. He offers his sympathy but is explicitly banned from doing anything to help. Phineas does exactly what he's told, with disastrous enough results that even Spahr is appalled.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Pro wrestling camps in the United States Of America such as that of Dan "The Beast" Severn are known for making their students bleed the "hard way", repeated barehanded strikes to the same area, among other forms of "pain training". Former Ohio Valley Wrestling owner Jim Cornette has witnessed trainees pass out from his conditioning drills. Once one has proved they can handle these, they will then start to learn how to be a professional wrestler. It should be noted that these are not the marks of a Sadist Teacher. Making trainees bleed without purpose or intentionally working them till they pass out are heavily frowned on in US wrestling.note 
  • Rodney Mack and Jazz have been portrayed this way toward their Downsouth Championship Wrestling students. Really harsh but very rewarding to those who "make it".

  • In the musical Camelot, Merlyn is taken away from Arthur's fledgling throne very early in the play, leaving Arthur alone to sort out the founding of the Round Table, his impending marriage, and the general prosperity of the kingdom. As Merlyn is leaving with the nymph Nimue, he bemoans that he cannot even remember if he warned Arthur about Lancelot and Mordred.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: The Archangel David and his servitors tend to take this approach in their attempts to make others stronger. Mainly, they subject their "students" to tribulations meant to bring out their true selves — if you endure them and come out as a better person, good; if you can't and the trials break or overwhelm you, well, tough.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: More or less the modus operandi for the Gangrel clan. A Gangrel will usually embrace the target of their choice, then abandon them to survive their first winter without guidance. It's a weeding-out process really; siring a mortal is relatively low cost, but caring for a fledgling can be challenging, risky, and time-consuming. So only those that can survive that long deserve to be taught. Not that the sire is the one to teach them, though. Usually it's the responsibility of whichever Gangrel finds them first. All Gangrel greet each other by asking "How Many Winters?", a question a newbie Gangrel is bound to get wrong. In that case, whoever found the neonate is responsible for them. So it's a Sink or Swim Mentor system where the mentors who do the mentoring aren't necessarily the ones who put them there in the first place.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Pretty much the way every Space Marine chapter trains its recruits.
    • Once Space Wolf initiates have passed all of their preliminary trials, they are administered the Test of Morkai, where the initiate is given the first strand of the Canis Helix gene, and thrown out into the wilds outside the Fang. If they overcome the deadly side effects of their chapter's geneseed, and make it back to the Fang alive, they are accepted into the ranks of the Space Wolves with open arms, and the remaining procedures are undergone to turn the recruit into a full-fledged warrior of the Emperor ... fun fact, Fenris is an ice death world with giant wolves and kraken amongst its fauna. And the failed initiates? They're a part of the trial.
    • The Black Templars are shown to throw a successful Neophyte in a cell containing a failed Neophyte (now a mindless, Hulk-like monster).
    • The Reclaimers subvert the usual grimdark version by using failed candidates as chapter serfs, who are extra disciplined given that they don't want to be the ones to fail the Chapter again.

    Video Games 
  • Ubiquitous in the Atelier Series. If the player alchemist has a mentor at all, they'll inevitably just teach them the basics of how to do synthesis and then tell them to go adventure and learn recipes themselves. For example, in Plachta and Sophie's case, Plachta really can't do more than that because her memories are gone and she can't teach any recipes. Then when teaching Firis, Sophie will abandon Firis and head off on her own adventures right after the opening, so that Firis can find insights for herself instead of being taught recipes. It's how she was taught.
  • Played with in the case of the player character's former combat instructor Nama Yode from Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan, who acts as if she's abandoning Enzo just when his treacherous brother-in-law Ngarbe attempts a coup. She even claims she'd just taken down a squad of Ngarbe's mooks on her way out of the city because they were bothering her. She's actually manipulating him into going on without her so that she can singlehandedly guard the palace entrance while he's fighting inside.
  • In Dragon Ball Online, inspired by Piccolo's own childhood and his subsequent training of Gohan, Dende convinces the King of Earth to allow an alternative child-rearing method called "Troublemaker Education" in which parents would abandon their children in the wilderness to make them strong enough to fend for themselves with the Player Characters being the result of this.
  • Dwarf Fortress:
    • The player tends to be one in Fortress Mode since you can only learn something by doing it. Need some crucial task done, but have no qualified labourers? No problem — throw the unqualified labourers at it, until they learn, or get eaten by fish. This applies to all skills and professions, starting with mining (Here's a pick, get going.), through hunting (Chasing down prey and wrestling it to death? Sure.) to fighting. (No, the ultra-mighty champion wrestlers are under no compunction not to crush your throat in your first sparring session. Deal.)
    • Gods of bravery or valor will occasionally summon the legions of hell into the mortal realm, to provide opportunities for deeds of bravery and valor. They don't bother giving anyone any kind of assistance in performing those deeds, though.
    • Gameplay itself used to be this in the game's first couple of years, although there is a good tutorial on the wiki now plus an in-game one in the Steam version.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • This is a trait of Nocturnal, the Daedric Prince of Darkness and the Night, who is also associated with Thieves and Luck, in her relationship with the Nightingales and really, all thieves. For the Nightingales, she grants them immense power and freedom to do with it as they wish, on the condition that they always protect the Ebonmere, the conduit between her realm of Oblivion and Mundus, the mortal plane. Thieves in general benefit from her protective darkness and "scoundrel's luck", but she does not offer any sort of direct Divine Intervention to either group if they get in over their heads, and is quick to withdraw her blessings if she is displeased.
    • The Locked Room, an in-universe book found throughout the series, tells how Arthcamu, a tutor who teaches lockpicking to thieves, gets frustrated with one of his students who always spends too long experimenting with her practise locks. To teach her the value of speed when lockpicking under pressure, he locks her in a room with a dormant vampire, telling her it will wake up and kill her at sunset if she hasn't picked the lock on the room's door. The student gets revenge by designing a new type of lock, that specifically counters Arthcamu's techniques and can't be picked without relying on precision over speed, and using it to trap him in the vampire room. Amusingly, this book can often be found on skeletons stuck inside locked rooms. It also boosts the Player Character's Security/Lockpicking skill when read.
  • The Eidolons/Espers/Summons in Final Fantasy games in general have shades of this since most of them will only help you if you can defeat them in battle, and some demand that you fight the battle in question with various handicaps, on a strict time limit, or in the middle of a dangerous dungeon.
    • Final Fantasy XIII:
    • In Final Fantasy XIV, the Lancer class deals with Foulques of the Mist, a Lancer who believes that gaining the courage and resolve to be a Lancer means throwing yourself into near-suicidal traps and stacking the deck against you. Your guildmaster, Ywain Deepwell, deconstructs this after Foulques puts you through your first one:
    That a lancer's courage can only be forged in the midst of great danger is vainglorious tripe. A lancer's courage is the product of composure and resolve.
    • Doga and Unei in Final Fantasy III, two ancient sages of immense power. After assisting as Guest Star Party Members, Doga calls the Warriors of Light to his house, where he and Unei are waiting to transform into hideous monsters and attack them. They make very clear that it's a fight to the death and duel the party one after the other without a break, forcing the kids to kill or be killed. Doga and Unei's rationale is that if the Warriors can't handle them, there's no way they can survive the marathon level that is the final dungeon.
    • The Old Man in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. After guessing that the nearest kid with the sword is the knight of The Prophecy, he ditches him on a collapsing mountain and then pops up occasionally to tell him what to do... without giving him so much as a map direction, much less advice or weaponry, before flying off.
    Benjamin: What should I do first?
    Old Man: Go save the Earth Crystal. See you!
  • In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Mike Toreno "teaches" CJ to learn to fly by giving him a plane and ordering him to figure it out for himself.
  • Illaoi in League of Legends seeks to teach the lesson of her god: remain in motion and don't stagnate. How does she teach this lesson? By turning areas into horrible zones of eldritch tentacle death, of course!
    Illaoi: Pray I don't have to teach you again.
  • Lie of Caelum: Syou knows about Kyou's 6th Eye and intentionally leaks this information to Kenzo Vanguard, even though this information could endanger Kyou. He claims he's doing so to provide a challenge to Kyou, and it's implied that he wants to force Kyou to learn to control his powers, which Syou failed to do himself in the past.
  • The Gameboy Color adaptation of Perfect Dark is set as a prequel to the N64 game. Although Joanna Dark faces off against real threats in very real missions throughout, they are still considered part of her training by the Carrington Institute. Slightly subverted, as the game does begin with an actual training ground where her life is presumably not in jeopardy.
  • Star Wars:
  • In Shuyan Saga, Master Long isn't usually this, but he can be provoked into it. When Shuyan is late for class:
    Master Long: Students, attack Shuyan.
    Shuyan: Sure... uh... we're gonna go over the instructions first, right?
    Master Long: We went over them before you arrived. You will have to learn on the spot.
  • Sunset Overdrive: Your mentor initially screens you with live combat against mutants, mainly because the last batch of 'survivors' he tried to train were just plain incompetent.
  • Crossing over with Abusive Parents, Heihachi Mishima in the Tekken series tried to butch up his son, Kazuya, by throwing him off a cliff and tasking him with climbing back up if he did not wish to die. It worked too damn well.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright decides to take up this approach with his successor Apollo Justice in the fourth game. He actually respects the guy and knows he's got potential, but goes out of his way to offer no direct help so Apollo stays self-reliant. Which does make sense as in the first game, Phoenix did rely a bit too much on Mia for help. During the last case, Maya can't contact her spirit, leaving Phoenix to try to figure the solution himself.
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert once takes a hands-off approach to managing Amanda at the diner in response to her insistence that she’s more capable than he gives her credit for. She ends up making a rookie mistake.
  • In Double Homework, this is a distinct possibility with how Dennis’s dad “taught” him how to be a man. One wonders how Dennis turned out to be such an awkward nerd if his dad actually taught him how to anything concrete.
  • Fate/stay night:
    • "Super awesome training isn't going to help you any, Shirou. Instead, I'm just going to beat the piss out of you until you react quicker." — Saber, summary.
    • Kiritsugu didn't even teach Shirou he didn't need to create a new magic circuit (something that could have killed him every single time he did it) every time he wanted to use magic.
    • And from the Spin-Off, Fate/kaleid liner PRISMA☆ILLYA, although usually played for laughs. How should we teach Miyu how to fly? Throw her out of a helicopter and see if she can figure it out before impact!
  • Suzu-sensei, in Lifesigns, has a nasty habit of springing operations on the player character. As if that wasn't bad enough, she's also a Fair-Weather Mentor complete with Yandere traits...which raises the question of why she's still employed, never mind left in charge of other doctors.
  • In most routes of Villainous Nights, the heroine discovers that she has superpowers when she's attacked by Optimus security goons. In Renzei Feng's first season, he decides to help the process along... by throwing a knife at the heroine's heart, forcing her to manifest her power of telekinesis to deflect it or get skewered.

    Web Animation 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • The abridged series takes this, in regards to Piccolo's training methods vis-a-vis Gohan, up a notch with a Running Gag:
      Piccolo: DODGE!!!
    • In the abridged version of "The History of Trunks", Future Gohan does the same to Future Trunks.
      Future Trunks: His methods were... dodge-y.
    • After Gohan turns Super Saiyan 2 and starts annihilating the Cell Juniors (who are literally minutes old, having just been spawned by Cell to kill the other Z Fighters):
      Cell Jr: Daaaaaaaad!
      Cell: I ain't no helicopter papa. Sink or swim, bitch!
  • RWBY:
    • At Beacon Academy, the initiation for 1st Year students involves being launched from a cliff into a monster-infested forest below with the advice to fight or die, because the teachers won't be saving them. It's actually a Subversion, making the students believe their lives are in danger while the teaching staff observe them and determine their Team Assignments based on their performance. While the teaching staff would intervene if absolutely necessary, there's no denying that Professor Ozpin seems to get some enjoyment from the whole process of flinging students off cliffs.
    • In contrast, Shade Academy actually requires its students to prove their ability to survive. The initiation for new students involves abandoning them in the desert without supplies, forcing them to find their way back to civilization. Should something unfortunate happen to the prospective student(s), well... they wouldn't have survived long in Vacuo anyway.

  • Klaus Wulfenbach from Girl Genius shows aspects of this towards his son. It could be seen as Training from Hell, but the tests aren't training; they're a blatant attempt to kill Gilgamesh if he can't take the heat. And Badass Bookworm Gilgamesh is up to the challenge.
  • Jones of Gunnerkrigg Court plainly told her student she's going to instruct, but not spoon-feed ready solutions. Maybe this only means she doesn't feel it's her right to, but the detached precision is so much in her style that Annie suspected Jones is a robot and some fans suspect she's a goddess.
  • Homestuck: The ever-divisive Vriska Serket tried to be one for Tavros. Key word: tried. She had better luck with another boy, John, whose powers successfully appeared when he was pressed to the limit.
  • morphE features Amical, an experienced mage who is training 5 seedlings. He activates their abilities by making them fight to the death and has accelerated them to fighting spirits in dangerous conditions within 48 hours of the pupils discovering what magic is. He has also used his gun on more than one occasion to motivate the seedlings to step up their game.
  • Subverted in Alice and the Nightmare. At first, Dee and Dum look like this, pushing Alice down ten metres' drop on the first lesson, but it turns out it was completely safe.
  • In Panthera, you could argue that this is the relationship between Tigris and Onca. There's distinctly more "Sink Or Swim" than "mentor", though.
  • Penny Arcade did a strip comparing Mass Effect to this, or rather, Bioware as the mentor, and Mass Effect as a "vast, deep pool" where you're left to desperately try to avoid drowning because the game doesn't really introduce its features very well.
    Bioware: SWIM DAMN YOU!! Okay, now drown less.
    Player: HOW?!
    Bioware: Stop drowning!

    Web Original 
  • In Pyrrhic Joshua's mentor, Sister Grace, was this, especially when it came to training him as opposed to his other brothers for reasons yet unknown.

    Western Animation 
  • Jake the Dog in Adventure Time. Played quite literately too. In an attempt to help Finn with his hydrophobia, he brings Finn to the ocean to fight it head-on, even if it means putting him under the water.
  • Toph in Avatar: The Last Airbender attempts to teach Aang to earthbend by rolling boulders at him and expecting him to earthbend them away. When Katara questions the effectiveness of this method, Toph agrees... then decides to make Aang do it blindfolded to force him to sense the boulder's approach through the ground.
  • When not being a trolling Trickster Mentor, Princess Celestia in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic serves as this instead to Twilight and her friends, and sometimes even fulfills being both Sink or Swim and Trickster at the same time. She's very content with sending the Mane Six to be risking their lives in various missions, whether it be driving off a smoking dragon, saving an Empire from the dark essence of a fallen king, or even taming a mischievous-malicious Reality Warper, all without getting directly involved. The only time she ever gets involved, as seen in "Lesson Zero", is when Twilight really screws up.
  • Sonic is literally put through one in the Sonic Boom episode "I Can Sea Sonic's Fear From Here" when the rest of Team Sonic hire the aid of a teacher to get over his fear of water. Despite overcoming it enough to stop Dr. Eggman's latest plan, all it does is just reinforce Sonic's fear of water.
  • Star Wars Rebels, "Steps Into Shadow": The Bendu breaks the sensor marker and has Kanan, who was recently blinded, walk into a cluster of krykna to teach him how to sense things with the Force. He's nearly eaten before he catches on.
  • The Venture Bros.: Colonel Gathers was this kind of mentor in his early OSI days. When Brock complains that he can't swim well, Gathers "motivates" him by throwing live grenades into the swimming pool.
  • In one episode of Voltron: Legendary Defender, the paladins are trying (and failing) to form Voltron. The first time that they formed Voltron was during the heat of battle, and it just so happens that Allura needs to run a test of the castle's weapon system...
    • Kolivan is one. Keith can either get the job done or die trying.
  • Xavier: Renegade Angel, remembering his own youth, decides to alter his old childhood memories by imagining meeting his older self back then. He ends up being this to himself. It makes as little sense as it sounds.
  • In Yin Yang Yo!, Master Yo eventually fakes his death in order to force Yin and Yang to face Eradicus on their own. In this case, however, it's not his usual method, but because they weren't even trying to get stronger and were simply making him constantly save them, so he decided that they needed a reality check to get their heads back in the game.