Follow TV Tropes


Surpassed the Teacher

Go To

"We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters."
Yoda to Luke Skywalker, Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi

For most of the career of a student, The Mentor overshadows the student in terms of ability. This is certainly justified, since it is the intention of a student to become more skilled by learning from a more experienced mentor.

However, there may come a time when the student surpasses the mentor in ability. It is at this point at which the student reaches his full ability and becomes a master of his trade. This may result in the mentor becoming an Obsolete Mentor. If the student is arrogant, when he proves he is superior, he often utters a Stock Phrase or some variation thereof from which the trope name originates: "The student has surpassed the teacher."

If the mentor is the nice type, he will often be highly proud of his student (though perhaps with a bit of ego-stroking about his own teaching skills). If the student has surpassed his mentor but hasn't reached his full potential, his old master may tell him to find a new master who will teach the student more.

If the mentor is the jealous type, he may become resentful of the student's ability, and in extreme cases, the mentor may become the student's enemy. When both the teacher and the student are evil, the student often proves his superiority by killing the teacher.

Direct Sub-Trope of Superior Successor.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Accel World, Scarlet Rain does this to her mentor and parent, Cherry Rook. He brings her onto Brain Burst, and she eventually becomes one of the Six Kings of Pure Color, replacing Red Rider. Unfortunately, Cherry starts feeling highly inadequate as a result, which, combined with the fact that he'll be adopted and move out of the orphanage soon, results in him being tricked into taking the Armor of Catastrophe.
  • Armed Girl's Machiavellism: When Tsukuyo Inaba starts training Fudo Nomura, she comments that since he's bigger and stronger than her, he should surpass her once he masters her fighting techniques.
  • In Devil May Cry: The Animated Series, Baul was a demon swordsman who was trained by Dante's father Sparda. Since Sparda is dead, Baul attacks Dante, both out of resentment for Sparda abandoning him, and because he believes defeating Dante will prove he had surpassed Sparda. He fails and Dante slays him.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Played With at the beginning of the series. Goku's mentor, Master Roshi, disguises himself to participate without getting known at a tournament. The viewer expects this trope to appear, as Goku manages to evade all of Roshi's tactics to defeat him. However, Goku loses to him after he's goaded into a final jump-kick, receiving the brunt of the injury. There's also the fact that because Goku didn't know he was fighting Roshi, he never knew how strong his master actually is. There are some hints that Roshi is much more skilled than he lets on in the series, though it becomes clear that Goku has surpassed him by the 22nd World Tournament. This is Played for Drama in the King Piccolo Saga. After losing to Piccolo, Goku goes to Korin and asks him to train him again. Korin can only tell Goku that the latter has already surpassed him and he can teach Goku nothing. By the end of the original Dragon Ball, Goku has surpassed all his teachers, including Kami. At the beginning of Dragon Ball Z, he needs to become stronger than King Kai just to have a remote chance against the Saiyans since they're stronger than him.
    • Played With in regard to Gohan as well. By the Cell Games, Gohan surpassed both Piccolo and his father, becoming the strongest characters in the series up to that point. After the seven year time skip, Goku surpasses Gohan since he slacked off and actually got weaker. After getting empowered by Old Kai, Gohan becomes the strongest hero in the series again. He slacks off, again, and Goku greatly surpasses him by a laughable degree by Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F'.
  • Fatal Fury: Tung Fu Rue reunites with Terry and Andy on the ten year anniversary of their father's death, during which, he tells them their skills have already surpassed Jeff's. However, only one could become his successor, adding that the one he chooses would have to surpass his own ability.
  • In Gate, Lelei reads textbooks on chemistry and physics and applies what she learned to her spellwork, which drastically improves it. Her magical teacher Cato is proud and admits she has exceeded his abilities.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Yuuno is technically Nanoha's teacher in magic. In practice, however, she learns everything he can teach her within three or four episodes of the original series. Hilariously, most people who know that he taught her but don't know him personally are unaware that this trope is in effect, resulting in him getting Mistaken for Badass.
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's, Chrono defeats Liesearia and Lieselotte, his combat magic instructors, and explicitly tells them that he has become stronger than both of them.
    • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, Teana beats Nanoha herself in a mock duel using long range bombardment—with Nanoha's own Starlight Breaker, no less! note 
  • Domon Kasshu in Mobile Fighter G Gundam surpasses his teacher, Master Asia, in the final climactic battle of the 13th Gundam Fight.
  • Naruto
  • In Pokémon the Series: XY, Ash owns and trains a Froakie, a ninja-frog Pokémon. Over the course of his journey through Kalos Ash meets up with Sanpei, who hails from a Ninja Village and trains a Frogadier, Froakie's evolved form. Sanpei and Frogadier (who later on becomes a Greninja) take on the role of mentor to Ash and Froakie and help them learn new moves such as Double Team. By the time Ash's Froakie reaches it's Greninja stage, however, Ash's Greninja becomes The Ace of the Kalos series as a whole and even gets a powerful Super Mode because of his close bond with Ash, while Sanpei and his Greninja fall victim to The Worf Effect.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: In the manga, Sanosuke Sagara upgrades Anji's finishing move, Futae no Kiwami or Mastery of Two Layers, which Anji had taught him, into Sanjou no Kiwami or Mastery of Three Layers and defeats him with it. This didn't make it into the anime, which turned their fight into a draw.
  • As part of Jin's backstory in Samurai Champloo, Jin, prize student of the Mujuushin dojo, became a ronin after killing his teacher, Master Mariya, in self-defense. This technically makes him the 4th and final master of the school.
  • Time Stop Hero: Swordmaster Leafa Colby surpassed her teacher, Swordmaster Magnus, when she was a small child. Unfortunately, this made her arrogance go off the charts.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul:Re, Haise Sasaki's task is to train an Investigator that will become a Superior Successor to the legendary Kishou Arima (his mentor). Eventually, a Gambit Pileup leads to student and mentor engaging in a battle to the death. This is all according to Arima's long-term plan to groom Kaneki into a person capable of not only killing him, but becoming the leader of La Résistance. However, Kaneki loves his surrogate father too much to finish him off, leading Arima to take matters into his own hands. He asks Kaneki to take credit for killing him, to complete the Klington Promotion aspect of his plan.
  • Throughout Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yami Yugi has acted as a protector/mentor to little Yugi — though while under Yami's protection, Yugi has been growing stronger as a duelist. This comes to a head when they duel each other to determine if Yugi can finally stand on his own and Yami can pass on to the afterlife; during the last play, Yami uses Monster Reborn to resurrect Slifer the Sky Dragon, only for Yugi to negate its effect as he saw it coming. Yami then accepts that his partner has become the stronger of the two.
    Yami: My partner...predicted my last card....You've...surpassed me...
    • Duke Devlin, creator of Dice Monsters (and at first was one of Yugi's enemies) revealed in his debut (Episode 46) that sometime after creating the game Pegasus played it and even beat him!
    • In the KC Grand Championship arc, Joey duels against Grandpa Muto, who taught him how to play Duel Monsters (and who's in disguise under the alias "Apdnarg Otum"). Ultimately, Joey wins.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Many of Batman's protegés have surpassed him in some way. Nightwing surpasses him as an acrobat, a leader, and at maintaining relations with other superheroes, Batgirl/Oracle (Barbara Gordon) surpasses him in intel gathering, Black Bat (Cassandra Cain) surpasses him as a fighter, and Red Robin Tim Drake will eventually become a better detective than him.
    • In Robin (1993), when Tim Drake meets one of the earliest martial arts instructors he'd had while training as Robin a year later and the man assaults him, Tim easily trounces him. Not only does this display his improvement, it demonstrates that his old instructor's ideology about fighting and martial arts is wrong, which he'd kind of wanted to call out since they first met but never tried while studying under him.
    • Poison Ivy is a meta-example. In-universe, Dr. Pamela Isley was a postdoctoral researcher whose mentor and lover was Dr. Jason Woodroe, the Floronic Man. He experimented on her, which led to her gaining her plant-based powers. As a character, Poison Ivy has become one of the best-known villains in the DC universe while the Floronic Man has been largely forgotten other than his connection to her.
  • The Flash: Wally West was once the first Kid Flash, the Sidekick to the second Flash, Barry Allen. After Barry's death, Wally lost much of his speed due to events during Crisis on Infinite Earths. However, when Wally became the Flash, he eventually surpassed Barry in terms of speed and accomplishments, becoming the first speedster to enter the Speed Force and come back. Not only that, but he learned powers that Barry never, and still hasn't, possessed, such as the ability to steal speed or generate basic constructs from the Speed Force. Even when Barry returned, it was never established that he was any better than Wally at being the Flash (in fact, it was lightly implied otherwise), and DC has since settled things a few times, showing Wally outpacing Barry in terms of speed alone. All the Flashes have said it, but Wally West truly is The Fastest Man Alive.
  • Hawkeye: Hawkeye (2012) has suggested that Kate Bishop has surpassed Clint Barton as an archer, being able to fire five arrows at once (after which he outright calls her perfect in his mind).
  • The Transformers: Dark Cybertron: Shockwave, the prize student of Jhiaxus, surpasses him in the present. Jhiaxus even acknowledges it seeing as how Shockwave is bound by only logic and no emotion, so Jhiaxus willingly follows him on his quest to control reality.

    Fan Works 
  • Arachne Webber, a very incidental character in Snuff, is expanded upon as a student at the Assassins' Guild School in A.A. Pessimal's Discworld fic There's Nothing Like A Fresh Pair of eyes, Is There. In which her mentor, Johanna Smith-Rhodes, notes with pride that her pupil's specialist knowledge of spiders vastly exceeds her own.
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, Twilight eventually surpasses Sunset at magical theory. Unusually, rather than dropping out of their mentor-student relationship at that point, they just switch, with Twilight starting to teach Sunset instead of the other way around.

    Films — Live Action 
  • In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, master criminal Jade Fox spent years Hiding in Plain Sight as the nanny to Governor Yu's daughter Jen, secretly teaching her martial arts as she got older. Fox is self-taught from the famed Wudang manuscript, but because she's illiterate, she could only study the diagrams. Jen's ability to read the text allowed her to gain a deeper understanding of the techniques, but she hid this knowledge from Fox. When Fox finds out Jen had been keeping this a secret from her, it drives a wedge between the two.
  • Highlander did this, the end of the Training Montage with Connor and Ramirez has Connor finally besting Ramirez and disarming him.
  • The classic martial arts comedy The Last Dragon is about this. After his Kung-Fu master refuses to train him further, Leeroy goes in search of another master to further his training, not realizing until the end that he already surpassed his teacher, and became a master himself.
  • Chess movie Queen of Katwe: The exact moment that Robert realizes this comes when he believes that Phiona has made a mistake and failed to respond to his attack. She proceeds to show him an eight-move sequence in which she forks with a bishop and takes Robert's rook. Robert is astonished that she can see eight moves deep.
  • Star Wars:
    • A New Hope: Darth Vader claims that "When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master" when he confronts and kills his former master Obi-Wan. Subverted in that Obi-Wan's death is a Thanatos Gambit to merge with the Force and distract Vader from his children Luke and Leia escaping in the background.
    • In Attack of the Clones, Dooku tries to pull this against his old master Yoda, but ends up retreating and distracting his former master to survive.
      Dooku: I've become more powerful than any Jedi, even you!
      (Yoda effortlessly blocks, absorbs, or deflects all of Dooku's Force attacks on him)
      Yoda: Much to learn you still have.
    • One of the last things Obi-Wan says to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith invokes this trope (and echoes what Obi-Wan's own master told him in The Phantom Menace), but it's later proven to not be the case when he defeats Vader in combat. Matt Stover doesn't refer to Obi-Wan as "the ultimate Jedi" for nothing.
      Obi-Wan: You are strong and wise, Anakin, and I am very proud of you. I have trained you since you were a small boy. I have taught you everything I know. And you have become a far greater Jedi than I could ever hope to be.
    • The Novelization includes a conversation between Yoda and the ghost of Qui-Gon Jinn in which Yoda acknowledges that Qui-Gon was always the superior Jedi:
      Yoda: A very great Jedi Master you have become, Qui-Gon Jinn. A very great Jedi Master you always were, but too blind I was to see it. (bows respectfully) Your apprentice, I gratefully become.
    • In The Last Jedi, Yoda (as a Force ghost) tells Luke that this is expected for all Jedi. (Specifically, he's speaking of Rey.)
      Yoda: Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.
  • Tyor surpasses Caedmon as a mage about a third of the way into Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2, although given that Caedmon was only chosen to be the mentor to begin with because he was the only one available, this did not take much effort. At the end, the Big Good decides to make it official and straight-up reverse the characters' positions.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), Queen Hippolyta specifically tells Antiope, the Amazons' greatest warrior, to train Diana to be better even than her for her own protection. It's debatable as to how successful she was; even after decades of training, Antiope quickly gains the upper hand against Diana when she is distracted...until Diana unleashes her previously untapped powers and immediately overpowers her, shocking everyone present (including Diana herself). By the film's end, Diana clearly surpasses any of the other Amazons in power being half-god probably has something to do with it, though sadly Antiope does not live to see how great a warrior her niece becomes.

  • In the Discworld novel Lords and Ladies Granny Weatherwax herself claims that she got the local witch to take her as an apprentice by sheer determination and following her around until the old witch taught her everything she knew... which took about a week ("And I had the afternoons free").
  • Gor:
    • In Tarnsman of Gor, Tarl learns the sword from a man also named Tarl, whom he refers to as "the Older Tarl." At every sparring encounter the Older Tarl beats Tarl and says "You are dead." At one point Tarl finally gets through the Older Tarl's defense; the Older Tarl cries out with delight "I am dead!" and clutches Tarl to his bosom, "proud as a father who has taught his son chess and has been defeated for the first time." Speaking of which...
    • In Assassin of Gor, Tarl teaches a slave girl to play the Gorean equivalent of chess, which slaves are forbidden to learn. He finds that she's a natural, and stops giving her advice on her game in order to concentrate on not losing too badly.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Strange starts as Norrell's pupil almost totally ignorant of magic, but his intuitive grasp of it and having creativity Norrell sorely lacks means he surpasses him in some areas almost immediately and in most quite quickly. While Norrell's knowledge of magical theory and history remains vastly greater, this is not as important as the scholarly Norrell would like, magic being both simpler and less categorizable than anything in his books. When Norrell misinterprets a comment of Strange's as calling Norrell the greater magician he admits he no longer considers himself as such - causing Strange to laugh, amused by the idea either of them might think that. In the closest thing to a direct confrontation between them Strange easily escapes Norrell's labyrinth, a magic with which he was previously unfamiliar, and promptly copies it with improvements to trap Norrell.
  • Journey to Chaos: In A Mage's Power, Eric is taught magecraft by Basilard Bladi and Dengel Tymh. Then he has a falling out with the later and spends Looming Shadow attempting to fulfill this trope so he can smear Dengel's fame. As his brush with the trope With Great Power Comes Great Insanity demonstrates, he still has a ways to go before he can say "I am a better mage than Dengel".
  • Mentor in Lensman flat-out says the Children of the Lens (the five Kinnison children) have gone beyond the Arisians.
  • In Matilda, it is clear from very early in the book that Matilda has intellectual capabilities that are certainly beyond that of her teacher, Ms. Honey.
  • In Pact, Jeremy Meath, High Drunk of Dionysus, demonstrates that his understanding of his god's will surpasses that of his teacher by making a formal challenge to the Magical Society of Toronto to claim his personal demesne before he's likely ready, trusting in Dionysus' appreciation for madmen to see him through. As a result, most of his teacher's followers defect to Jeremy's side, since Dionysus now favors him more.
  • Spy Classroom centers around a brilliant secret agent who has no idea how to teach trying to train up an elite spy unit. So he challenged his students to try to defeat him, hoping that they will learn from their mistakes and grow stronger with every attempt.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, Sith Order's philosophy of the Rule of Two is meant to lead into the apprentice betraying his master once he has learned everything that his master knows, ensuring the next Sith masters can only become stronger.
  • Valhalla features a scene in which the protagonist bests her drill instructor by breaking his arm during what was intended as a flinch test. He's quite proud, though she still goes to the brig.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: General Lefcourt taught Captain John Sheridan almost everything he knows about tactics and strategy. When they find each other on opposite sides near the end of the Earth Alliance Civil War, Sheridan manages to defeat virtually the entire fleet under Lefcourt's command without firing a shot.
  • In Season D of Blake's 7, we're introduced to Soolin, the newest member of this Ragtag Bunch of Misfits.
    Dorian: Soolin was taught by the best.
    Soolin: The second best actually.
    Dorian: (laughs) Oh, of course you killed him didn't you? He was one of the men responsible for the death of her family. She killed all the others too. She's a formidable enemy.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Giles worries about this from season four onwards, since Buffy's at college and he's no longer her Watcher officially or unofficially. He considers leaving Sunnydale entirely, but changes his mind when Buffy asks for more training. When he does leave in season six, it's for the opposite reason.
    • Played with in late season 7; Spike directly confronts Giles with words along these lines, saying that one of the reasons he turned on Buffy was jealousy that Buffy had surpassed him in her abilities.
  • JAG: In "JAG TV", Mac as trial counsel (prosecutor) in a televised murder case faces her old law professor Juanita Ressler as defense counsel. Ressler knows how use the media to her advantage, while Mac is utterly dismissive of interview requests and is overwhelmed and distracted by the sudden interest of the media in her as a mysterious sex object. Following words of wisdom from Admiral Chegwidden, Mac begins to spin-doctor the media to her advantage which brings forth new evidence from anonymous sources which helps to convict the defendant for murder.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race: Season 8 contestant Dax Exclamationpoint was the drag mother to Season 7 winner Violet Chatzki. Unfortunately, Dax fared much more poorly in her own season, as not only was she eliminated in the second episode, but she was part of the show's second-ever double elimination. Of all the mother-daughter pairs that have competed on the show, Dax is the only one to perform worse than her protégé.
  • On Sliders, Quinn Mallory surpassed Professor Arturo before the first episode by opening a vortex to another dimension. Quinn did it purely by accident (he was actually working on anti-gravity), and he doesn't fully understand what he's done even after some extensive study, but he still managed to do something that Arturo researched and was never able to do himself. Quinn even looked to his research when building the timer. The trope gets played in different ways. Arturo thinks of Quinn as his prized student and a surrogate son, so he is often quite proud of his accomplishments. On the other hand, the middle-aged professor holds back resentment over being outdone by someone who hasn't even graduated college yet, and it sometimes flares up. For his part, Quinn idolizes Arturo and always looks to him for guidance.
    Fortuneteller: [to Arturo] You are a man who feels slighted, yes? Because you were never fully appreciated in your chosen profession. These are the invisible chains which you bear. You resent the boy because it comes so easily to him. You are Salieri to his Mozart, yes?
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Crassus is introduced sparring with his swordfighting coach, a slave. Crassus knows that he'll never know his full potential unless his teacher fights to win, so he offers the man his freedom if he can kill him. The teacher accepts and tries to kill Crassus, but Crassus defeats him with a Bare-Handed Blade Block.
  • The X-Files: Implied in the episode "Grotesque". Agent Bill Patterson is one of the top criminal profilers and forensic psychologists at the FBI. He has a strange but understandable attitude towards Mulder who was once a part of his team, but unlike other young agents he didn't worship him and didn't want to be like him. Patterson on the other hand feels that Mulder threw away his amazing talent and instead of profiling criminals he chose to chase aliens and the paranormal. Mulder thinks that Patterson never thought highly of him. However, Patterson is probably a bit envious of Mulder's abilities and according to his team, he starts telling "Mulder stories" about him being "some kind of crack genius" when he's drunk. Sadly, Patterson also ends up being a Broken Pedestal for all involved.
  • Young Hercules: Cheiron doesn't talk a lot about his past, but all indications point to him having been quite a noteworthy hero before he started running the Academy of Adventure. He leads his own clan of Centaurs, served in war under Agamemnon, receives respect from royalty (despite Centaurs typically facing Fantastic Racism), and demonstrates a variety of skills and techniques in his lessons. Of course, one of his newest cadets is Hercules, who goes on to become Greece's greatest hero. This is even acknowledged in the series' timeframe, as Cheiron admits in "Battle Lines, Pt 2" that Hercules gave him a much needed reminder of a lesson in reason. An episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys noted that Cheiron expressed nothing but praise for his old student, while Hercules remembered him fondly as a Parental Substitute that was there for him when he was still finding his way.

  • The Police: "Wrapped Around Your Finger", where the singer initially depicts his affair with a (presumably older) married woman as his being a student or "apprentice" to her teaching, who seeks the knowledge of "things they would not teach me of in college" and says that he will "listen hard to [her] tuition"—and that he'll be "wrapped around [her] finger". But then foresees that he will eventually turn the tables:
    Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
    Vanish in the air you'll never find me
    I will turn your face to alabaster
    When you'll find your servant is your master
    You'll be wrapped around my finger

    Professional Wrestling 
  • On NXT Season 2, David Otunga claimed he had surpassed R-Truth and tried to prove it when given a chance to wrestle any pro of his choosing. Needless to say, R-Truth was superior and would remain for the rest of Otunga's WWE run.

  • Parodied in a John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme sketch, when the world's greatest musical instrument maker claims his apprentice has done this on his fifth attempt. The student claims that, if this is true, it's thanks to the careful tutelage he's been given over the past few minutes. They make triangles.

    Religion, Mythology, & Folklore 
  • In Classical Mythology, the great inventor Daedalus had a nephew/apprentice named Perdix who was an even better inventor than he was (he invented the saw, among other things). Daedalus got jealous and plotted to kill Perdix and claim his inventions as his own. As it happens, one day the two were walking by a cliff when Perdix asked how Daedalus's son Icarus died. Daedalus responded by throwing a valuable object over the cliff, and Perdix, struggling to save it, fell to his death.
  • The Chinese idiom-phrase "青出於藍/青出于蓝" literally means "to make green/blue out of the indigo plant", but it also metaphorically means to surpass a teacher, like how one can refine a green/blue dye to make it more vibrant than the source of it.note 
  • Confucius claimed this to be the mark of a good student; the ability to learn everything your master had to teach, and then add something of your own.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A rare but possible result in Dungeons & Dragons basic set's weapon proficiency. By default, there's a 1% chance of doing so if you train with a teacher as skilled as you are. It's possible to boost it to 11% by training with another teacher, but it's more efficient to find someone sufficiently skilled.

    Video Games 
  • Invoked directly in Assassin's Creed when Altair finally takes down Al Mualim. Al Mualim says the trope's name nearly word-for-word, and Altair simply replies with the titular creed.
  • This a major theme in several of the games of the Atelier Series franchise. Particularly in the latter games of the series, which are trilogies, it is not unusual for the star of the next game to have the previous game's lead character as their alchemy teacher. They will then go on to achieve feats that the teacher never even could have imagined.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Daggerfall introduces skill trainers to the series. They are associated with each guild (Fighters, Mages, Thieves, etc.), who offer training services in any skill associated with the Guild. The cost of this service is dependent on your character level, 100 gold per level to be precise. However, they can only train a skill to a maximum of 50%.
    • Morrowind has faction-associated trainers, but adds plenty of independent ones as well. Instead of all trainers training you to the same maximum, it varies depending on the trainer's level in that specific skill. Most max out in the 40s or 50s, while a few can train you to the 75-80 range. If you ask for training once your skill level has surpassed theirs, they will tell you that there is nothing more they can teach you in that skill. (Each skillnote  also has a Master trainer who can train you all the way to 100, but the vast majority are extremely difficult to find.)
    • Oblivion maintains Morrowind's system, but adds some additional restrictions. Now, each skill has a trainer for each rank of experience in that skill (Apprentice, Journeyman, etc.) and limits you to only being able to train you five times per level. If you ask for training when you're too high level, then they'll say something to the effect of this trope. Master level trainers still exist, but can only train you to 90 and will tell you that, beyond this level, you have to Figure It Out Yourself.
    • Skyrim drops the "one trainer per rank", bringing back multiple trainers for each skill with a cap based on their skill level, similar to Morrowind. However, the "limit 5 times per level" restriction is still in place, as is the cap skill level of 90 for Master trainers.
  • In Fantasy Life, the player is mentored by a character with the rank of Master. There are however characters with the higher ranks of Hero or Legend, which the player can eventually reach also. The Downloadable Content adds yet an extra rank.
  • Faraway Story allows Pia to challenge her teacher, Ellevark, to an optional Duel Boss battle. Winning will result in a non-canon alternate ending where Pia goes on to become the World's Best Warrior.
  • During the events of Fate/Samurai Remnant, Miyamoto Musashi takes her adopted son Iori under her wing to continue teaching him Niten Ichiryu after the passing of his master, that world's Musashi. Before she rayshifts again, she requests a duel to the death with him to prove his skills. After a hard-fought battle, he defeats her by combining Niten Ichiryu's two-sword style with Sasaki Kojiro's Tsubame Gaeshi. Musashi congratulates him on his victory, proudly declaring him unparalleled under the heavens.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, you can undergo a minigame involving sparring with your former instructor in the art of swordplay. If you get a score of 1000 points, he responds in this manner.
  • In Live A Live, the Imperial China chapter is focused on an aging martial arts seeking an heir to his school before he passes away. This is enforced gameplay wise by him being level-capped at 10, whereas whomever is chosen as his apprentice will eventually outlevel him.
  • Luminous Plume: Raven and the final Superboss discuss and deconstruct this trope. Victor feared that Raven's growth would surpass his own, so he sealed away Raven's memory to make the latter forget his more advanced training, which is something he admits is petty. Similarly, Raven fears that Valerie might one day use aura powers for evil and become too strong for him to stop.
  • Märchen Forest: Mylne and the Forest Gift: Catching the master of the forest, a Sylvanshark, can get this haiku from Mr. Pole:
    I admit defeat
    — indeed it seems the pupil,
    has beat the master.
  • You better hope this is the case in Massive Chalice as it's directly linked to the level progression of the game. Children sired from high level parents gain a few free levels and with further training a couple more; this in turn allows them to level up past their parents and teachers, meaning that eventually their children will start with a higher level than their parents, and so on.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Naked Snake finally surpasses his former mentor The Boss in a final confrontation where he had ten minutes to defeat her or else the area would be napalmed. Amazingly Snake is able to actually defeat her despite earlier not even being able to harm her in hand to hand combat, for the first time in the game Snake can actually counter his mentor's CQC attacks and respond in kind showing a vast degree of improvement in his skills from earlier in the game when she handed his ass to him. For his efforts Snake is awarded the title of Big Boss, showing that in the U.S. military's eyes he had surpassed his mentor.
  • Achieving a "cool" ranking in any level in the Parappa The Rapper series amounts to this, as it leads to the level's instructor informing you that they have nothing more to teach you and leaving you to your own devices. If you can sustain this until the level ends, said level is marked with a crown.
  • Resident Evil Village revealed that Ozwell E. Spencer, founder of the Umbrella Corporation and series Greater-Scope Villain, was student to the Big Bad of the 8th numbered title of the series, Mother Miranda. She rescued him and taught him much, but he left to follow his own path because he thought that her Mold research did not have the potential to change the world in the way that he wanted, not like viruses could. And in a way, he was right. Many millions died and cities burned around the world because of Spencer's ambitions and, in comparison, Miranda and her Mold are barely a blip on the radar.
  • Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: The Wolf has the opportunity to do this to a lot of teachers over the course of the game:
    • The first one of Wolf's teachers you may encounter and cut down is Lady Butterfly who, along with Wolf's foster father Owl, trained Wolf in his childhood. Upon being cut down she dedicates her last words to complimenting Wolf on how strong he's become.
    • Over the course of the game, Wolf gets two opportunities to do this to the Great Shinobi Owl: The first time is in the present and even has Wolf finishing the fight with the words "You taught me well" whereupon Owl replies with "That's... my boy..." However, Owl is past his prime in this battle and later on in the game you may get the opportunity to travel back to the past a few years via a memory charm and attempt to challenge and surpass Owl at his peak. Upon this second defeat, Owl instead mutters a bemused "Defeated by my own son? The feeling is not entirely unpleasant..."
    • The Sculptor also used to be a shinobi and bestows upon Wolf two scrolls containing various skills for you to master: One for shinobi techniques, and a second for techniques using the tools of the prosthetic arm that the Sculptor gifted you at the start of the game, thus making him another, more hands-off kind of teacher for Wolf. Towards the end of the game, the Sculptor is transformed into a demon by his lingering resentment, hatred and karmic debt, forcing Wolf to overcome and defeat him.
    • Finally there's Isshin Ashina, who bestows Wolf with the Ashina-style skill scroll and also acts as a mentor to Wolf, hoping to steer him clear of the path that resulted in the Sculptor's tragic fate. Regardless of which path you walk in the game, Isshin is the Final Boss, necessitating you to demonstrate that you've surpassed him one way or another: In the Bad Ending, Isshin is still old and sick, but fights with the skill and experience he's gained after a lifetime of battle. In all other endings, he perishes from his illness before you get to fight him but is brought back in his prime whereupon he demonstrates the prowess that earned him his reputation as the World's Best Warrior.
  • Street Fighter:
    • Akuma killed his master, Goutetsu, in a fair fight to show that he [Akuma] had truly mastered the power of the Satsui no Hadou. Goutetsu was actually proud of his student for having defeated him in battle.
    • Akuma also is attempting to have Ryu do the same by unlocking his Killing Intent. By this, Ryu would become Evil Ryu and then slay Akuma with the incredible power he has.
  • Theia - The Crimson Eclipse: Zigzagged with Seth and his teacher, Horus. In order to leave the Vanguards, Seth had to win a duel against Horus. However, he does so by slashing Horus's eye, implying he lacks the skill to win without injuring his opponent. In the present, Horus joins as a guest at a higher level, which is implied to be a combination of Horus training more and having Orihalcon cybernetics. At Halderos, Seth wins their duel by disarming Horus, playing this trope straight.
  • In War of Omens, Listrata's mentor, Regent Ashkar, attempts to fight her for her treatment of the Pheneketians. She beats him in the following battle and thanks him for the final lesson.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Amanda learns not only how the run the diner, but also how to save it. The protagonist only learned the former.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Team RWBY spends most of Volume 7 training under the Ace-Ops, the most elite team of Huntsmen. When the Ace-Ops attempt to arrest them after Ironwood goes off the deep end and declares martial law, Team RWBY proves just how much they learned and takes each of the Ace-Ops down one by one thanks to their superior teamwork.
    Harriet: You think you're going to stop us? [scoffs] We're the best Huntsmen in Atlas.
    Ruby: You were. Then you trained us.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry proves his worth as the new Batman when he does something the original Batman was never able to do: make the Joker the butt of a joke.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode, "Pinkie Pride", after The Reveal, it turns out that Cheese Sandwich has done this since Pinkie Pie was his inspiration for becoming a party pony, and the whole episode shows him able to trump Pinkie's antics.
  • In the Simpsons episode "Moaning Lisa", Homer (humorously) applies this to a parent-child dynamic:
    Homer: I think the saddest day of my life was the day I realized I could beat my dad at most things, and Bart experienced that at the age of four.
  • Amy spends the Sonic Boom episode "Fuzzy Puppy Buddies" teaching Dr. Eggman how to play the titular game. When he manages to best her, she declares this.
  • Invoked and subverted in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, when the Son, embodiment of The Dark Side of the Force, kidnapped and forcefully turned Ahsoka to the Dark Side, and made her fight her teacher, Anakin. After she momentarily knocked Anakin's lightsaber out of his hand, she exclaimed that "Now the student will kill the Master!". Anakin, of course, easily got back his lightsaber and blocked her attack, warned her that she was getting carried away, before easily disarming her.
  • The main point of conflict in the Steven Universe episode "Steven vs. Amethyst" is that Amethyst's already big inferiority complex gets bigger when newest Crystal Gem Steven starts surpassing her in ability on the battlefield.
  • Played for laughs several times in Tom and Jerry.
    • Jerry experiences this in Little School Mouse when his nephew manages to find ways to manipulate Tom into helping him achieve the directives set by Jerry. Finally, when the Nephew outright befriends Tom, Jerry resigns himself to being the fool while the nephew becomes the new teacher who promotes cats and mice being friends.
    • Similarly, Tom experiences this treatment in reverse in "Professor Tom". After failing to get his cousin to learn how to capture mice like Jerry properly, Jerry and Tom's protege eventually remove Tom of his status and Jerry becomes the new teacher of how to cats should interact with mice.
  • In X-Men: The Animated Series, Jean Grey mockingly invokes this to Professor X while in full-on "Dark Phoenix" mode.
    Dark Phoenix: You once told Jean Grey that the greatest joy a teacher has is to be surpassed by his own pupil. Enjoy!

    Real Life 
  • Can be Truth in Television: Due to poor teaching standards in some countries, it's common for the children to be better than the teachers. There was an incident in West Wales in 2005 where a child was told that he had got the answer to a question wrong, and he then managed to prove using basic mathematics that the teacher was wrong and his answer was actually correct.
  • Medieval Christian cathedrals borrowed heavily from the architecture of Rome and the Islamic empire, both civilizations far more advanced. Despite this, the cathedrals ended up making much of their inspiration look obsolete by comparison.
  • Mariah Carey started her career in the 80s as a backup singer for Brenda K. Starr, and Starr took on a mentor role to the young Carey. But while Carey went on to become an international juggernaut, Starr herself faded to obscurity after her third album flopped. She did find later success after retooling herself as a salsa artist and radio DJ, but Mariah Carey had surpassed her by far. Still, Carey hasn't forgotten where she came from, and her song "I Still Believe" is a cover of Starr's greatest hit and a tribute to her old mentor.
  • In the world of professional darts, Phil Taylor started out as a protege of five-times World Champion Eric Bristow. By the time Taylor retired in 2018, he'd won the World Championship a record 16 times, having won a total of 214 professional tournaments and been World Number One for a total of 13 years — far surpassing all of Bristow's achievements.
  • While Adolf Hitler has gone down in history as the face of fascism, it was Benito Mussolini who got the ball rolling, with Hitler idolizing and imitating him. By the time World War II started, however, Hitler was the one in control, ultimately turning Mussolini into the Puppet King of Northern Italy after the country as a whole had turned on him.


Video Example(s):


D.W.'s Ice Skating Lesson

D.W. tries to give James an ice skating lesson, but isn't a very good ice skater herself.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / FailuresOnIce

Media sources: