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In the endless rounds of My Kung Fu Is Stronger Than Yours, there will eventually come a time when one's self-directed training (or lack thereof) will no longer prove sufficient to the task. The character must then find a mentor who will help him tap into his inner strength and develop new and more powerful attacks. This invariably requires multiple rounds of Training from Hell, or a difficult quest (which is the same thing disguised as a trip).


This is the usual manner in which a character will learn how to perform Ki Manipulation.

Sometimes done in a flashback to surprise the viewer.

Compare So Last Season and Super Empowering. See also Full Potential Upgrade when a character's weapons or tools have to be powered-up along with the character. For their first fight afterwards see Look What I Can Do Now!

For information on why this trope so often appears in Japanese media, please read our Analysis page.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • At different points in the series Ranma and Ryoga in Ranma ½ would turn to the Chinese Amazon matriarch Cologne for advanced training.
  • Dragon Ball takes this to dizzying levels: anyone more than a century old and not evil will either impart new techniques or glow eerily, increasing the main characters' strength either way. Even when the characters train solo rather than directly under a master, it's acknowledged by Goku multiple times that he thought he'd hit his limit only for a much more powerful foe to show up. Luckily for him, the excitement of training up and fighting to see how he does is more than enough motivation to start all over again.
    • Gohan is the example takes this trope extremely literally: he has an inner strength far beyond anyone around that only appears when he's emotionally pushed to the brink, and much is made about how powerful he'd be if he could use it at will. The first "unlock" is with the Grand Elder on Namek, but then in the Cell Arc this hidden power utilized as the way for him to reach Super Saiyan 2. Then in the Buu Arc, Elder Kai performs a ritual that draws out the "hidden abilities" of mortals beyond what they're normally capable of, layering on top of the Grand Elder's unlock! It's later acknowledged in Dragon Ball Super by Beerus and Whis that Gohan has a ridiculous amount of potential that not even Goku and Vegeta can hope to have, but the issue is Gohan simply isn't a Blood Knight like they are, so he doesn't have the same drive for training and combat.
    • In Dragon Ball GT, the Kais think Goku's in for this after his first defeat by Baby Vegeta. Played with in a sense, as all Goku needs to unlock his potential is to have his tail grow, in a particularly painful manner involving a pair of pliers.
  • Bleach is made of this trope—Ichigo turning to the Vizard for training as well as Orihime training with Rukia and Chad training with Urahara and Renji are the most standard examples. You could also say that when a Shingami achieves Ban-Kai by training with the spirit of their swords it is a variation of this trope as the sword teaches them how to unlock their true power. Ichigo has especially abused this trope. As of this writing, he has been (deep breath): a shinigami, a bankai level shinigami, a Vizard, a Vasto lord shinigami, a more powerful shinigami, a Fullbringer, a more more powerful shinigami, and a Quincy. Again—that's all performed by a single character.
  • Rurouni Kenshin's Kyoto Arc features Kenshin returning to the Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryū master he ran away from years ago, in order to learn the succession technique that will help him defeat the main villain of the arc. This training also features psychological Training from Hell: Kenshin, a pacifist, must kill his master in order to learn the Amakakeru Ryū no Hirameki. Thankfully for him, his reverse-bladed sword had a loose stay pin, which negated the damage just enough so Kenshin didn't kill his master.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi: Negi's Training from Hell with Vampire Evangeline, complete with a Year Inside, Hour Outside bottle containing an enchanted resort. This is hardly the only instance, either. He does it again with Jack Rakan, learning Black Magic. And he's going through this again with Pseudo-Eva, to get the Black Magic under control.
  • Naruto has this happen often for the main character, especially in Shippuuden. After he returns from a three-year-long training trip, does some more training, after which he gets to do some extra special training—and that's when the ''real'' training starts.
    • And each previous unlocking of his true potential is proven ultimately ineffective against the current threat before he defeats them with The Rasengan, which requires him to unlock more true potential that will likewise prove to be ultimately ineffective against THAT current threat.
    • Eventually they just ditch the vanity of training altogether and just hand him new power-ups as the situation arises.
  • Soul Eater: Black Star does this by going to Japan to train after a series of defeats. It works wonders. Maka and Soul, by contrast, have always taken the more direct approach, whereas Kid got his forcibly and briefly unlocked because no time was available.
  • In the anime adaptation for Reborn! (2004), the Vongola are sent back to the present twice to go through some trials. The first arc deals with them passing the Arcobaleno Trials in order for a boost up before Choice. The second arc has them prove themselves to the First Generation in order to be able to use their Vongola box weapons to the fullest. The Inheritance arc averts this instead, where they receive upgrades that are meant to compliment their fighting styles instead and did not even train how to use them.
  • Inverted in Kojirō Hyūga's case during the World Youth arc of Captain Tsubasa: until then, he unlocked more potential thanks to his mentor Kozo Kira's help, but in this arc Kira told him he had nothing more Hyūga could learn from him, and that he needed to hone his skills by himself. Cue Hyūga going hermit in the mountains for a Training from Hell session, in which he gained his new destructive Raiju Shoot.
  • Luffy and Zoro of One Piece went off to do this during the two-year Time Skip after the Marineford arc. Luffy went off to train his Haki with Silvers Raleigh and Zoro went to train with Dracule Mihawk. The other characters went off to either Take Levels of Badass in their own way or on other escapades.
    • Interesting case with Luffy, as not only did he do Haki training, but he also gained Gear 4, which combines Gears 2, 3, and Haki to create a much bigger form for him. Which, by the way, was first seen in a Curbstomp Battle against Doflamingo, who, by the way, was in the receiving end. Mind you, Doflamingo is a Warlord, and a particularly nasty one.
  • Magical Girl example: In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, Tsubomi and friends had to do this twice. The first was after the Desert Generals gained their Deadly Upgrade, and the second was after the Big Bad Dune curbstomped them in a battle.
  • Samurai Deeper Kyo. The protagonist is trapped into the body of his worst enemy that they both share, but he's still strong as hell. Then he is surpassed and taken down... and suddenly he gets up, shouts something like "I remembered how this body fights!" and proceeds to kick his foe's ass. After some point, EVERY fight has this. Every character, sometimes more than once during the same battle if it's a long one, gets another upgrade by The Power of Love, The Power of Friendship, the awakening of their hidden power, the pursue of their true convictions (even when they know that their acts are evil)... even the bad guys get their upgrades this way, during the very same battle that the good guys!
  • Used in Fairy Tail to quickly explain away how the core cast managed to catch up to everyone who's had seven more years than them to hone their magic abilities. Some of them did it through (off-screen) Training from Hell for three months while others, because they got stuck at a party in a dimension where one day is three months in the real world, had to get a handy Power-Up from an old enemy-turned-ally that forcibly and permanently doubled their magic power at the cost of extreme agony throughout the night. Later on, a second Timeskip has everyone going off to do one year of Training from Hell to improve even further.
  • Deconstructed in Ramen Fighter Miki, an hilarious parody of the Fighting Series:
    • Subverted with Kankuro, who goes into a The Quest not for better Training from Hell, but after using underhanded methods to beat a rival (Kankuro is the Idiot Hero) to become a better person.
    • Deconstructed when Miki and Megumi are Kanban Musumes (poster girls) for a Ramen Restaurant and a Bakery respectively. They only use their great fighting skills to fight between themselves. But they are so good fighting that two true martial artists (who played Pink Ranger and the Classic Villain Hell Bunny, an expy of Sailor Moon at the Show Within a Show Star Rangers), come to their city only to see them fight and help them with Pink Star’s confidence. In other words, the protagonists are The Quest.
    Pink Ranger: [in civilian clothes] Amazing! I never thought I would see such skills outside such a small neighborhood store.
    Hell's Bunny: [in civilian clothes] What do you think? Aren't you glad we came?
  • In Scryed, Kazuma, Ryuho, Cougar, and Mujo all get more powerful versions of their Alter powers after passing into the "Alter world" and back.
  • Haikyuu!! has Hinata, who starts to get frustrated that he can't improve his unique quick attack with Kageyama simply by trying, especially with Kageyama telling him it's as good as it will get. Cue Ukai taking him to see his grandfather, the senior Coach Ukai with a reputation for extremely demanding training. Hinata learns to apply more complex thought and technique to his spikes, and becomes a much more formidable opponent on the court in the Spring tournament.
  • In Yu Yu Hakusho, Yusuke comes a long way in the run-up to the Dark Tournament and during it, but he's still far from being a match for Toguro until his mentor, Genkai, informs him that it's time for his final test. The test? To absorb, with excruciating pain, her Spirit Wave Orb, containing almost all of her phenomenal power.
  • To fight the devil hosts of the Spade Kingdom, most of the Black Bulls in Black Clover get stronger over the six month time skip: Asta and Noelle train in the Heart Kingdom, Charmy, Luck, and Nero learn arrays from the Spirit Guardians in the Heart Kingdom, and Gordon studies Curse Magic under his father.

     Fan Works 
  • Averted in The Keys Stand Alone: The Soft World when Paul tries to train with Andro. Paul, being an Actual Pacifist, merely wants to learn how to control his Super Strength; the more combat-oriented Andro wants to tease more strength out of Paul so he can be a better fighter. As Paul bitterly complains to George: “ I don't care that he could defeat me in a fight. I don't wanna be a good fighter! I'm also sick of him telling me I'd be stronger if I ate meat.”
  • Taken even further than canon in AU: A Saiyan Warrior where Guru unlocks the hidden potential of Krillin, Dende, Tien, Bardock (Kakarot's son with Bulma), Piccolo, and even Bulma. Notably, Bulma doesn't become stronger but smarter, noting that afterwards problems that eluded her for years seemed painfully easy and even instinctively knowing how to speak Namekian.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars: Luke Skywalker never had more than two straight weeks of Jedi training; rather, he seems to have obtained all of his power from this trope.
    • There are hints that he self-taught during the gap between Episode 5 and 6, coming back with much more powerful force techniques, and declaring himself a Jedi Knight. And Yoda admits that he's effectively a Jedi already, and only needs to undergo one more true test of character to finalize it.
  • This happens entirely off-screen in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of The Last Dragon.
  • Glaring example at the end of Kung Fu Hustle. Possibly the most absurd number of badass levels gained ever committed to film. Actually justified in that he should have been that powerful to start, but his chi paths were all messed up until the Beast broke his... Well, broke every single bit of him and the semi-mystical process of his healing not only fixed his bones and flesh but also his ability to be an insanely powerful martial artist. His potential was LITERALLY unlocked.

  • Lone Wolf of the eponymous gamebook series. Whenever he reaches what is believed to the maximum Kai rank of any given series (Kai, Magnakai, and Kai Grand Master), he sets about mastering the new level's skills, as well as enhancing his repertoire with unrelated combat skills (Magi-Magic and Kai-alchemy, for instance). In normal play, this keeps the reader from merely skating through the books using all of the accrued skills from previous series.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Juken Sentai Gekiranger has this in spades, with the three core Rangers finding three additional masters (one each) to unlock their new weapons and mecha, then three more masters to access their Super Mode. Even the villains get in on the act, with the Big Bad seeking out three of his own masters to train him in the ways of evil. Finally, when the ultimate mecha—SaiDaiOh—is found, it sprinkles everyone with Applied Phlebotinum to—and this is stated—"unlock their true potential".
    • Its American counterpart, Power Rangers Jungle Fury, kept much of this (the Rhino Steelzord didn't come with any True Potential Fairy Dust™, however, which is just as well - the Rangers didn't seem stronger in later episodes. However, after trying and failing to awaken it, Dai Shi, the bad guy, realized he could now perfectly wield the technique he'd been trying to learn for the past several episodes.)

  • Played with by Chaos in Ragnarok. When we first see him, he's a Rune Knight with Identity Amnesia. Turns out that amnesia "re-locked" true potential he had unlocked as a child—he had once been trained by a Dragon Knight (swordsmen in direct service of Odin) in their style of combat, such as cleaving entire armies in half. Over the course of the novels, Chaos grows stronger as he remembers the training he'd forgotten.

  • Older Than Print: The mythical Celtic hero Cúchulainn's training under the immortal warrior woman Scathach conforms pretty closely to this trope.
  • Ubiquitous in Chinese legends and folklore, to the point that some mythical figures have this as their entire story. The trainer were almost always humans who have transcended human limitations, or outright supernatural beings. Even the Monkey King (of whom Son Goku was loosely based on) had met his matches — and he used to lead an army that could match the legions of Heavens.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • At the end of 2004, Sarah Stock signed a six week exclusive contract to LLF and spent her increased time away from the ring training in the CMLL gym in preparation for the move from Monterrey to Mexico City she would take when those weeks were up.
  • In 2008, CMLL World Welterweight Champion Místico traveled to the second Beijing International Martial Arts Training Camp, to get instruction in Qinna joint locking from Belgium-based martial artist Mike Martello and Chinese traditional wrestling known as shuaijiao from two time Beijing Champion Yu Shaoyi. Clips of his progress were shown during the Olympic games.
  • The Kings of Wrestling, Claudio Castagnoli and Chris Hero, were the most dominant tag team in the United States Of America bar none but when they went to Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2009, they mostly got their asses kicked, leading Hero to train in NOAH's dojo to improve. However much Hero improved wasn't enough though as he and Castagnoli continued to lose. Then when he came back with Colt Cabana, they lost some more. However, he was given an award for having the most outstanding technique in 2013. And if nothing, else, Hero wasn't content and continued to try and win, or at least advance out of the first block of the Global Tag League in following years, winning best technique again in 2014 and 2015.
  • Davey Richards, having become the Butt-Monkey of Ring of Honor in 2010 after becoming part of the "No Remorse Corps", who forced him to watch their bags, turned his fortunes around by training with the former NWA Wold Heavyweight Champion Dan "The Beast" Severn, eventually defeating tag team partner Eddie Edwards, who had earlier seemingly left him behind, for the ROH World title at Best In The World 2011.
  • After being cheated out of Sean Allen's Future Of Wrestling Heavyweight Title, Shawn Prime sought out further training at The Spot (and broke up a Harlem Shake session after arriving to show how serious he was)
  • Amber Rodriguez took on one of La Rosa Negra's old managers, Rico Casanova, in Ring Warriors, who naturally knew most of La Rosa's tricks, besides the new ones she had been learning with Kevin Sullivan.
  • Boogie Woogie Man Jimmy Valiant served as a trainer for the promotions that joined the Allied Independent Wrestling Federations, such as when baby face Jenny Jannetty degenerated into obsession with losses to Kacee Carlisle in 2012.
  • Jimmy Jacobs tricked Ta'Darius Thomas into thinking he was doing this for him when he turned him against "TD's" Adrenaline Rush partner ACH.
  • Shayna Baszler has said her mission, having educated mixed martial artists on Catch Wrestling, was to bring catch back to pro wrestling. At Ring Of Honor's thirteenth anniversary Kyle O'Reilly and Bobby Fish revealed they were two of her first benefactors.
  • Enforced on Black Lotus by Dragon Azteca after she was kidnapped by Prince Puma and brought to him. Dragon Azteca explained that to fight The Monster Mantanza as she was would be pointlessly throwing her life away and that she would need a lot more training if she was so insistent on it. Lotus came to see he was right.


    Tabletop Games 
  • GURPS has the Trained By A Master ability, which has to be learned by finding a GM-approved NPC to train you rather than just being bought with character points. Once you've got it, your character becomes able to learn a variety of new techniques depending on what the training was like.

    Video Games 
  • Claus from Tales of Phantasia never gets any ability aside from making pacts with summons. By the halfway point of the game, you need to gather four elementals for him to progress in the game. Other summons in the future aside from Origin are totally optional.
  • The Fell Arms from Tales of Vesperia can be awoken and powered up to become the best weapons in the game, and you'll need to them if you want to unlock the bonus boss battles at the end, including an extra One-Winged Angel form of the Final Boss.
  • Link from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link learns new magic and sword skills from wise men living in the hidden parts of towns. The Minish Cap also have Link meets multiple mentors that teaches him new sword techniques. And Twilight Princess has Link learn special attacks from the Hero's Shade.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, all characters have Fate Episodes which unlock their third (or fourth) skills when completed. There are also those who have their 5★ uncaps unlocked after completing one post max-level. Finally, Cross-Fate Episodes permanently increase the Attack and HP stats of the two involved characters (or unlock another skill, depending on the individual).
  • Inverted in Inazuma Eleven, where some of the team members rely on finding new techniques from manuals early on too much that the rest has to remind them that they can also win if they try hard on their own.
  • This is what the player will spend a lot of time doing in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, from slaughtering dragons to eat their souls, and then finding Words of Power to apply the knowledge from aforementioned dragon souls into devastating Shouts. Unrelenting Force is given to the player for free, but everything else requires you to unlock it.
  • The Dragon Ball Z mobile phone game Dokkan Battle takes this to ridiculous heights. The game has three types of "awakenings", which increases your power—Awaken, which is just a normal power boost, Z-Awaken, which jumps the character to a new rarity level, and Dokkan Awaken, which transforms your character to a brand new form. The worst offender to this trope is the Rare-level Technique-type Overflowing Resolve Goku, who will Dokkan Awaken twice to Message from the Heavens Goku (Angel) then The Legendary Super Saiyan Goku, which pushes him from Rare, to Super Rare to S-Super Rare with one final Z-Awaken to turn him Ultra Rare.
  • In Fable I, the Hero repeatedly gets the "power in [his] bloodline" unlocked, first by his long-lost sister Theresa and then by his mother, a legendary Hero. This takes the form of a moment of dramatic floating and glowing, followed by a hefty Experience Point reward.
  • In Planescape: Torment, The Nameless One needs to find a trainer who can teach him improved weapon mastery (as a fighter), or someone to train him in the ways of thievery or magic. Played with, given that thanks to the fact that the Nameless One is an amnesiac immortal, he's not unlocking new skills at all but recovering memories of skills he'd learned long ago.
  • Characters with demonic ancestry in the Devil May Cry series are able to use that side in order to gain more power through an ability called "Devil Trigger". However Dante always seems to be pushing that envelope and finding new and more powerful forms. The Majin form from 2 and the Sin form in 5 are examples of this.
  • Final Fantasy XIV does this with its relic weapons. In the post-game for each expansion, a player will start a quest to obtain a nifty-looking weapon, which will be the strongest of each patch. After a major patch, you'll learn that that weapon can be made even stronger and you go off to do just that. This process continues until the last major patch, where the weapon will be the strongest in the game... until you go into the next expansion. D'oh!

    Web Original 
  • Buttlord GT makes fun of Dragon Ball Z, and contains this gem of a line: "My true power is more true and more powerful than yours!"
  • In Homestuck, Aranea's powers as a Sylph of Light allow her to heal others by healing their mind. Vriska and Rose are also able to do this as Light players, but not as well as Aranea.

    Western Animation 
  • In Teen Titans, Robin heads to a monastery to get some more martial arts training from "the True Master". But first, he undergoes a Secret Test of Character to see if he is worth training with the True Master. After fighting three or four Guardians and the Student Who Didn't Get It, he only then begins the actual training just as the episode fades to black. The test, which involved chasing after a MacGuffin, was just a lure to get him up the mountain.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "Magic Duel", a minor antagonist called Trixie runs the protagonist Twilight Sparkle out of town by beating her with the help of an Amplifier Artifact of Doom, which enables her to perform magic normally available only to the highest level unicorns; Twilight is known to have immense magical potential, but it's shown here that she hasn't yet gotten the skill to perform the most advanced spells. Twilight seeks training with Zecora, who teaches her more about magic. Subverted: Whatever Twilight may have learned, she doesn't use any new skills in the rematch, rather relying on trickery and help from her friends to give the appearance of doing impossible things with magic, ultimately part of a Batman Gambit to get Trixie to relinquish the artifact.

    Real Life 
  • Hypnotism can work like this. It can't make you do anything that would be physically impossible for you in a normal state, but it can improve performance on some sports by helping the athlete unlock their inner potential. In the case of hypnosis for sports performance, the hypnotist functions as the mentor/guide who is helping to unlock the athlete's potential.


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