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Well-Trained, but Inexperienced

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"All that breeding, all those years of training... it doesn't really prepare you for all the screaming or the blood, does it?"
Clone narrator, Star Wars: Battlefront II

They say that any new skill can be learned with proper observation and a deep, clinical understanding of the subject matter. Or at least, that's the theory.

In practice, even the most practical forms of training and education may end up failing the student when they finally have to face the subject in the real world. Consequently, in this trope, characters who've learned their skills through the best training that money can buy may find themselves folding like cheap suits the moment they leave the training grounds — especially in the case of military training.

Part of this is due to the fact that, sad to say, the lessons can't account for literally everything a trainee is expected to do in the field. More important is the simple fact that the education almost always takes place in a controlled environment of some kind: no matter how extreme the training, most teachers actually want their students to survive long enough to apply their skills outside of classrooms or boot camp, so the lessons won't actually feature all the potential threats that they would face in the real world, only comparatively safe approximations. Once the trainees are forced to use the training they've learned when up against real, tangible danger, they will likely find themselves under incredible stress and start making mistakes.

All of this can lead to a form of Performance Anxiety, the realization of just how out of their depth they really are leaving the character paralyzed with fear and left at their opponent's mercy. If they push through it and try to get a hit in, chances are that they'll still be completely overwhelmed by any of the many, many factors that their training did not account for, and in the process, get thoroughly curb-stomped.

The counterpoint to this is Taught by Experience, where someone has the skills to handle the project but never went through the comprehensive training to expand their knowledge base past the immediate needs of the work. If these two people interact you might find a Technician Versus Performer situation.

Depending on the story, this will end in either a horribly ignominious death, or a valuable source of experience that will end in the character becoming genuinely Strong and Skilled.

Compare Ensign Newbie, Every Year They Fizzle Out, Paper Tiger and Weak, but Skilled. Contrast Incompletely Trained, Strong and Skilled and Unskilled, but Strong. See also Skilled, but Naive, where the Naïve Newcomer can come across as rather ditzy or green-horned, but are still able to do what they do best when given the opportunity. May result in a (subverted) case of When All You Have Is a Hammer…


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: The third part of Paradis's military, the Military Police, are held up as the elite of humanity's fighters; the top ten trainees from every class of recruits get picked to join them, as they are given food, luxury, and safety behind the innermost wall. However, considering that humanity is embroiled in a war for survival against the Titans, this is a way for people to be able to cower behind the walls in safety despite how much more valuable their skills would be in the field. When the Survey Corps launches a coup against the government, the Military Police are essentially helpless against their lesser-ranked but much more experienced counterparts and fail utterly to resist at all. There is one unit, however, the Anti-Personnel Control Squad, that is frighteningly efficient, but even then they still don't last long.
  • Berserk: When teenaged knight Mule Wolflame engages the pirate captain Bonebeard in a sword fight, Bonebeard remarks that Mule is clearly well-trained in the orthodox fencing style of the nobility. However, the old pirate gains the upper hand by exploiting Mule's lack of experience fighting on an unstable platform such as a small boat, and his vulnerability to Combat Pragmatist tricks.
  • Bleach: Nanao Ise is well trained and is extremely powerful, but Captain Shunsui Kyoraku deliberately kept her off the front lines due to not wanting her to get hurt. When she finally enters battle in the Thousand Year Blood War arc, she quickly has a panic attack and needs a pep talk from her Captain to calm down and show what she can really do.
  • Cells at Work!: Even after implicitly surviving harsh training in the thymus, Naive T Cell screams in terror and runs when an influenza virus comes. After a pep talk by Dendritic Cell, he becomes Effector T Cell and returns to take out the virus.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Gohan qualifies during the Saiyan Saga. He trains with Piccolo for a year in preparation for the Saiyan invasion, but when push comes to shove, he breaks down under the pressure and cowers behind a rock during a team attack, which leads to Tien's death at Nappa's hands moments later. Piccolo furiously rips into him for it, but Krillin quickly tells Piccolo off, reminding him that Gohan is a five-year-old boy who's never been in a real battle before and shouldn't even be fighting in the first place.
  • In Food Wars!, during Stagiaire Week, Hisako Arato gets paired up with Soma at the restaurant they're both interning at. Hisako, at this point, is a haughty but pretty talented cook, and doesn't think much of Soma despite him having proven that he's likewise a formidable cook (making it all the way to the final round of the Fall Classic while she was defeated in the quarterfinals). However, the restaurant they work in deals in lunch rushes and Soma questions Hisako if she's ready for it, which she responds to by saying she has experience in staged situations at Totsuki. But come time to face the real deal, she is completely overwhelmed as it's nothing like she expected. Soma, on the other hand, breezes through it as working in a special-of-the-day diner has long given him the skills necessary to keep up with the demands of the incoming patrons. Hisako has to swallow her pride and follow his lead in order to keep up, and by the end, she's humbled by the experience.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Patrick Colasour has completed 2000 simulation battles, but gets stomped in all of his battles with the Gundam Meisters. Downplayed in that the Gundam Meisters have an enormous technological advantage and when Patrick has to fight against mobile suits on par with his (however few times that occurs), he gets to show why he's considered one of the AEU's aces.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: Guel Jeturk was once the top duelist in Asticassia Academy but, he is still just an innocent civilian whose fighting experience consists of normal non-fatal duels. When he is faced with the possibility that he can die for real, he sobs and cries while fighting for his life. Nonetheless, he does win, if by the skin of his teeth. His horror isn't helped when he learns that the pilot trying to kill him, who he kills in self-defense, is his own father.
  • My Hero Academia:
    • Momo Yaoyorozu got into UA on recommendation, coming from a rich family and possessing a quirk — "Creation" — that she had spent much of her time studying for in its use. While she is an incredibly intelligent member of the class and has used her quirk to great effectiveness when as part of a group, she has difficulty when forced to stand on her own, a problem that has given her reserves of self-doubt as she continues to lose fights as the series progresses. Recognizing this, Aizawa pairs her up with Shoto Todoroki (who also relies too much on his quirk to carry him) against himself.
    • Subverted in the Joint Training Exercise Arc. Class 1-A, who has survived multiple villain attacks and learned to operate under fire, and Class 1-B, who has not been targeted as frequently and thus has more time to develop and understand their usage of their Quirks, are pitted against each other as a training exercise. The result ends with the fights being hard for both sides as each has strengths that the other doesn't.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • The Indigo League episode "The School of Hard Knocks" featured Giselle, an Alpha Bitch at Pokémon Tech who bullied the other students under the guise of tutoring, and who had the nerve to openly insult Ash's Pikachu. Ash proceeds to give her a healthy dose of Break the Haughty by defeating her Cubone using said Pikachu, making her realize that you can't learn everything about Pokémon through books alone.
    • In the Diamond & Pearl — Galactic Battles episode, "Classroom Training!," Ash and co. attend the trainers' school in Snowpoint City and runs afoul of a student named Jeremiah, who notes how Ash got a low score on a Pokémon exam and outright asked how he won six Badges with how little academic knowledge he has on Pokémon. Jeremiah is subsequently curb-stomped by the Team Rocket trio of all people (with no cheating or dirty tricks on their end) because for all of his book smarts, he had no actual battle experience and could only think of shouting attack names.
  • In the second episode of Samurai Champloo, Jin is the target of Inuyama, an assassin who is an excellent swordsman. At first Jin has the advantage, until the assassin begins taking advantage of the environment, causing Jin to start making mistakes due to his lack of experience with fighting in the middle of a wild forest.
    Inuyama: I've got to admit you're better than I expected. In fact, if we were fighting in a dojo, I might not be able to beat you. [After starting to get the upper hand in the fight by utilizing the terrain] It isn't the same as fighting in a dojo, is it?
  • A flashback during Vagabond shows a young Denshichiro was this. Although thoroughly trained by his father and older brother, both of whom were Master Swordsmen, a teenage Denshichiro was utterly inexperienced with anything approaching a real fight and plagued by nervousness and fear which would make him freeze up when getting into a fight. He gradually snaps out of it during his duel with Kojiro, and while certainly not a master on the same level as his father, brother, or Musashi, became a much more formidable combatant afterward.

    Comic Books 
  • In Batgirl, this is part of Cassandra Cain's backstory. She spent her whole childhood being trained to kill someone as easily as other humans talk, but when her father actually forced her to go through with it, the experience was so traumatic that she immediately swore never to kill anyone again.
  • Hitman (1993): One of the hardest opponents Tommy ever faced was fellow hitman Johnny Navarrone, and shoots down any compliments on winning by stating his victory was due to sheer luck. So when he hears that Johnny had a son of similar skill (who we see training on corpses) out for revenge, Tommy is appropriately panicked... until they meet, and it turns out the kid only ever trained on dead bodies, meaning he forgot to turn the safety off his gun.

    Fan Works 
  • Lampshaded in Bastard. Gil reflects on the countless brilliant duelists who lost their lives in wizarding wars: since wizard duels are practically a sport and have a very strict set of rules, most of the duelists weren't prepared for the real battlefields at all.
  • Doctor Strange more-or-less explains to Naofumi in A Special Kind of Magic that this is his problem; Naofumi is adept at the "theory" side of sorcery, but not in the execution.
  • In Prehistoric Park Reimagined, the resident animal expert of the rescue team Leon Gilbertson is incredibly well-read and knowledgeable on animals in general, and has technically received a degree of training in animal care due to his work as an animal handler at a pet store and several zoos in his life prior to his work at Prehistoric Park. However, due to just how little experience he has with the kind of work required for him to undertake on missions with the rescue team by the time he first gets hired to work at the park as well as the world of difference there is between reading about something in a book and actually working with said thing in the field, he initially starts out as The Load. Thankfully though, he eventually gets better as time goes by.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Aliens: During the landing on LV-426, Lieutenant Gorman says that he has participated in thirty eight "drops" (landing in enemy territory via Drop Ship), but that they were simulated (i.e. in training). When asked how many combat drops he has made, he says "Two... including this one." In other words, this is only his second combat drop, which explains why he's so uptight and nervous. Finding this out only makes the battle-hardened marines resent him more than they already do. He soon makes things even worse by giving a poorly explained order for the marines to not use their heavy guns under the colony's reactor, and then freezing up when the xenomorphs attack. This gets most of the platoon killed, forcing Ripley — a more-experienced civilian — to take charge and drive the APC in to rescue the survivors.
  • In Batman Begins Bruce is one of the finest recruits for the League of Shadows, quickly learning and adapting to all the training he was given by Ducard. When he decides to engage the criminal element in Gotham, his entire strategy has to change because he is unwilling to use the Leagues' extreme methods, and he has to develop the Batman persona through trial and error while adapting rejected R&D equipment for his own use. This results in a few early missteps, with his first attempt to escape via a rooftop ending in him smacking into a fire escape and making himself look like an idiot.
  • In Down Periscope, Lt. Emily Lake has the highest simulator score in the US Navy, but no actual experience on a boat prior to being assigned to the Stingray. Also, she's not very confident, which doesn't help.
  • The two halves of Full Metal Jacket illustrate this trope nicely; the first half shows how well-trained the Marines are for conventional warfare, while the second half shows that they can still suffer heavy casualties in battle with an irregular enemy that uses tactics like ambushes and booby traps.
  • The Karate Kid Part II: Although Daniel LaRusso is a well-trained martial artist by the end of the first film, his time in Okinawa shows he's unprepared to deal with other karate practitioners outside the rules and regulations of the tournament. It shows especially in his final fight with Chozen, where using his tournament moves gets him thoroughly beaten until he improvises.
  • In Outbreak, Major Salt is the New Meat of the USAMRIID team and though he's trained well enough to detail the symptoms of Ebola from memory, he has absolutely zero field experience. Sure enough, while deployed to a Crisis Point Hospital hit by the Motaba virus, Salt pukes inside his hazmat suit and tears the helmet off in a blind panic — an act that could have been fatal if the strain of the virus had been airborne. Though badly shaken, he recovers and begins working hard to make up for his earlier cockiness, soon adjusting to the pressure of working in the field — to the point that he even manages to commandeer a helicopter and help Daniels save the day.
  • In the dystopian future of the movie Soldier, soldiers are raised literally from birth to be perfect fighting machines, participating in dozens of dangerous missions over the course of decades and carrying them out without a shred of mercy or hesitation. That is, until the Next-Gen soldiers, a new breed of genetically engineered soldiers that are stronger, faster, and more durable begin replacing them. However, while the Next-Gen soldiers are unquestionably physically superior and well trained, they have absolutely zero real battlefield experience and are led by a pompous Armchair Military officer who doesn't see the vulnerability this causes. During the climax of the movie, in the first real battle that the Next-Gen soldiers experience, they are unable to adapt or deal with a single "obsolete" soldier and a few trained villagers using guerilla tactics against them and an entire platoon gets wiped out.
  • When the protagonists of Starship Troopers are sent out to attack the Bugs for the first time after scene after scene of professional training and pure, patriotic passion, they all immediately freeze up when faced with the overwhelming horde of bug drones. The exciting action music cuts off, some of the troopers flee and even a few are ripped apart screaming.
  • The clones from Star Wars were a major case of this at the beginning of the Clone Wars, having trained their entire lives in simulations and practice battles, but never having had their lives on the line.
    • The Jedi also qualify this by Episode II. One reason why they suffer such high casualties in the Clone Wars is because they are essentially trained as an elite peacekeeping and police force, but not for sustained battlefield conditions. Mace Windu even says at the start of the movie that they are specifically keepers of the peace, not soldiers. While the Jedi have fought in many wars in the past (very often against the Sith), it's been centuries since the Sith have existed.
    • A textbook example is the lightsaber duel in The Empire Strikes Back. Darth Vader, a veteran of the Clone Wars, is a No-Nonsense Nemesis with three and a half decades worth of EXP, whereas his son Luke is a great pilot and foot soldier but a rookie Jedi, and has minor (at best) experience confronting a Sith Lord. The result is a Curb-Stomp Battle in Vader's favor, and his iconic Wham Line revealing his relation to Luke haunts the latter for months afterward.

  • Belisarius Series: Link's Khmer assassins and bodyguards.
    Link's assassins were the ultimate elite in Malwa's military forces. And therefore—just as Belisarius had estimated—suffered from the inevitable syndrome of all Praetorian Guards. Deadly, yes. But, also—arrogant; too sure of themselves; scornful of their opponents. Well-trained, yes—but training is not the same thing as combat experience. Those assassins had not fought a real opponent in years. As Praetorian Guards have done throughout history, they had slipped from being killers to murderers.
  • In Gift of Gold by Jayne Ann Krentz (NSFW), Jonas, in the climax of the book, duels the villain with both of them wielding old dueling swords, and Jonas drawing upon the memories and skills of his sword's former user. After killing the villain, Jonas explains that he was drawing upon the memories of a person who actually had to fight for his life in duels, while the opponent, for all his training, had no chance to gain such experience in the twentieth century.
  • Gate: Princess Piña Co Lada is well trained, but that was only in sword lessons and combat drills. In her first real battle, the Battle of Italica, she panics and freezes up when her battle plan goes wrong and everyone around her is dying. If the JSDF hadn't interfered, she would have likely been captured or killed.
  • INVADERS of the ROKUJYOUMA!?: Yurika claims to be "Magical Girl Rainbow Yurika", sent from an otherworldly kingdom to defend Room 106 from evildoers... but she never displays any magic, and is timid, lazy and generally incompetent enough to become the group Butt-Monkey. However, when she's not restricted by her land's Prime Directive she proves herself to be a Strong and Skilled Cowardly Lion with a knack for elaborate Wizard Duels. In volume 19 it's revealed why Folsaria would send an agent who seems so ill-prepared for their duties — reaching the rank of "Rainbow" would normally take about five years of training, but Yurika was so gifted and driven to follow in Rainbow Nana's footsteps that she went from Muggle to The Archmage in only one year. Nana claims that the only place left for Yurika to grow is her strength of heart, and on the day she achieves that she'll go down as the greatest wizard in history.
  • By the midway point of The Magicians, the Physical Kids have completed the mind-pummeling coursework at Brakebills, polished off a year of Training from Hell in Antarctica (complete with a naked march to the South Pole), have graduated, and are fully trained magicians — for all intents and purposes, minor reality warpers. After several months of mindless hedonism, they decide to journey into the Magical Land of Fillory... and in their first battle, they're quickly reduced to a terrified, confused, shambolic mess because none of them have any combat experience. It takes several battles before any of them can effectively apply their skills to combat, and Quentin doesn't become remotely useful until the second book in the series. Worse still, they're also pretty easy to outsmart, given that they haven't had to apply their intellectual gifts to anything serious in months: the Beast is able to fool them into serving as his MacGuffin Delivery Service, and would have ended up dooming Fillory if Alice hadn't took the fight to him.
  • Referenced in Moonraker, where M insists that all shooting at the shooting gallery be done in averagely bad conditions (such as poor lighting) to get as close to the real thing as possible, and still acknowledges the limitations.
    Shooting hell out of a piece of cardboard doesn't prove anything.
  • In the book version of The Princess Bride, during his duel with the Man in Black/Westley, Inigo notes that Westley is a tremendous fighter when the two are in the middle of open ground, but is tripped up when Inigo lures him over to obstacles like large rocks and trees, where Inigo is able to briefly take the upper hand. This dovetails with their back stories, as Westley was extremely well trained by the Dread Pirate Roberts and his crew... but he was trained to fight aboard a ship and all his fighting experience has taken place aboard boats, so he has no training or practical experience dealing with natural land obstacles likes trees or boulders. Meanwhile Inigo has traveled all over the world training under and fighting various masters, including one Sadist Teacher who insisted on Inigo learning to fight on rough terrain and under all sorts of adverse conditions. And on top of that, Inigo has been working as a mercenary with Vizzini and Fezzik, fighting to the death in all sorts of situations and places. As a result Inigo has both the training and experience to better deal with such obstacles.
  • Shows up a lot in the Sven Hassel novels, where fresh from training recruits are well-drilled in their weapons and tactics, but have zero experience when it comes to actual combat. Considering the chaotic and savage nature of the Eastern Front (where most of the novels take place), this can get them killed pretty quick. In contrast, the men of the 27th Penal Regiment were well-trained, but much of that training has long-since been replaced by improvisation, pragmatism, utter ruthlessness, and an innate familiarity with their enemy that means they can react to and even predict their movements.
  • The newly-minted Lieutenant John Foley first realises that a full year of intensive training at Sandhurst sums up to knowing which set of cutlery to use for each course, and a schooling in the protocols and politenesses of a pre-war officers' mess. Within a day he's binned his course notes from officer school and learns how it's really done in wartime, from the bottom up. Later in Mailed Fist, after escaping from a brewed-up tank, he discovers that being a marksman on the pistol ranges means nothing when he is trying to shoot at real-life German soldiers carrying machine-guns. He misses with every shot from close range.note .

    Live-Action TV 
  • This shows up throughout Band of Brothers. The paratroopers of Easy Company are superbly trained but D-Day is their first time in combat. By the time they are pulled from Normandy, they are toughened veterans but at a very bloody cost. This is then repeated on a smaller scale when the company gets replacements who are highly trained but have no combat experience.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Giles is fired as Buffy's Watcher, he's less than impressed when his replacement, Wesley Wyndam-Price, boasts about being up on all the latest techniques, but he's obviously in over his head in the field.
    Wesley: I have, in fact, faced two vampires myself. Under controlled circumstances, of course.
    Giles: No danger of finding those here.
    Wesley: Vampires?
    Giles: Controlled circumstances.
  • Farscape:
    • In the B-plot of "Look At The Princess - The Maltese Crichton" Aeryn teams up with Dregon to go on a rock-climbing tour of the Barrens; though she's annoyed by her partner's constant showboating and flirting, she's at least somewhat reassured by the fact that he has an "expert" proficiency rating... up until they have to actually scale a cliff, whereupon it turns out that he got his rating entirely at the training facility, and this is his first outdoors climb. As a result, Dregon panics in mid-climb and grabs Aeryn's leg, accidentally sending them plunging down the cliffside, and Aeryn spends the rest of the B-plot furiously dragging her "expert" climbing partner back to civilization on a broken leg.
    • Aeryn herself is normally Skilled And Strong, having both the Peacekeeper training and the experience to serve as a deadly martial artist, an expert sharpshooter, and an Ace Pilot. However, "Die Me Dichotomy" uncovers a critical gap in her experience: her dogfighting's been limited to the vacuum of space. By contrast, Crichton has only his IASA-standard training and what he's learned from Aeryn, but does have experience with flying in an atmosphere back on Earth — resulting in problems when Harvey takes over his mind and leads Aeryn on a chase across an ice planet. Harvey is able to use her limitations to perform a surprise attack from above, critically damaging Aeryn's prowler and ultimately sending her on a fatal plunge into a frozen lake.
    • In the fourth season, the crew is joined by Sikozu, an expert in Leviathans who quickly gets shunted into the role of The Smart Guy on the team. Unfortunately, Sikozu is very wet behind the ears: she is quickly startled when Rhovu's layout doesn't match her study material, doesn't know that non-Kalish can't shift their centre of gravity, and ends up getting so bewildered by some of the phenomena Moya encounters that Rygel loses his temper over her inability to accept basic facts. There's another reason why she's so easily flustered: she's a bioloid, and has been programmed with the knowledge rather than actually learning it.
  • In Season 7 of Game of Thrones there's young Dickon Tarly, whose father is one of the best generals in the Kingdom and has obviously had extensive training in how to be a knight and the art of war. However, he had no actual battle experience before being called upon to take part in sacking Highgarden, and after the battle he is clearly disturbed by his first glimpse of real warfare.
  • House of the Dragon: The candidate knights for the Kingsguard are well-connected noblemen with access to the finest martial training in Westeros, but because of the long peace, none have any combat experience outside of apprehending bandits and poachers. Ser Criston Cole immediately appeals to Rhaenyra because he, alone among them, is battle-tested, having earned his knighthood for his valor against the Dornishmen.
    Rhaenyra: Those men are tourney knights. My father should be defended by a man who's known real combat.
  • Hawkeye: While Kate Bishop is a skilled archer and martial artist, she has little practical experience outside of gyms, which immediately shows when she runs afoul of the Tracksuit Mafia and finds herself struggling against them - however Laughably Evil they may be, their practical experience proves a match for her extensive training.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The volunteers who offered themselves to go on a military expedition in Middle-earth are well trained, most of them serving on the Sea-guard, but they are young with no real experience on a battlefield. Galadriel tests they abilities to make sure they can fight off Orcs, teaching them to be ruthless against them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech: The Clans were like this when they invaded the Inner Sphere. Their warriors were well trained and equipped with mechs that were far superior to anything the Inner Sphere had to offer, but three centuries of living in isolation and a society where short, decisive fights between small forces was the norm left them unprepared to fight a protracted war. Once the Inner Sphere realized this, they were able to exploit it and began using the Clans' tactics against them, culminating in the Battle of Tukayyid, where Comstar handed them a powerful defeat that forced them to abide by a 15 year truce. This loss caused most of the Clans who were involved to get a clue and start actually using real tactics against the Inner Sphere.
    • The Com Guard ended up on the receiving end of this trope when they faced the Clans at Tukayyid. Well-disciplined, drilled intensely, given the best technology available to the Inner Sphere and fanatically loyal to ComStar, they were nonetheless intended to be hidden from the Inner Sphere and only a few of them had therefore ever faced real combat (usually as part of False Flag Operations or veteran converts from the Great Houses). The Com Guard still won, thanks to superior strategy (as in, they had one), numbers (six-to-one advantage, and the defensive ground), preparation, and most of the Clans not taking them seriously as a threat, but still suffered over 40% fatalities (not casualties — fatalities) during the battle. When faced with the one Clan that actually did prep-work for the battle (Clan Wolf), the Com Guard got trounced (and even then they managed to kill a Khan).

    Video Games 
  • In Deus Ex: Invisible War, Klara Sparks is a highly-trained Tarsus Academy recruit, but she has very little field experience, and thus ends up quitting mercenary work.
  • In The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a Fighters Guild quest tasks you to escort the rookie Buoyant Armiger Ulyne Henim to execute a necromancer within his stronghold. Buoyant Armigers are an elite unit within the Tribunal Temple made up of elite warriors hand-picked by Lord Vivec himself, but even they take this trope into account when assigning junior members to missions.
  • Demonstrated with the Elite Mooks of PSICOM in Final Fantasy XIII. Lightning explicitly notes (after easily dispatching a whole PSICOM squadron in the first chapter) that PSICOM's only real advantage is their superior equipment, and that the majority of PSICOM is made up of inexperienced recruits limited to training simulations. As the game progresses, though, you fight more experienced troops until you're eventually fighting the equally ineffective Home Guard: they're only last line of defense because they're hardly ever needed, and spend all their time doing combat drills and training that was meant to prepare them for a Pulsian invasion of Eden... without actually having experienced one.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, Alphinaud and Alisaie are both Teen Geniuses who are the youngest ever to graduate from the Studium, the finest college in the Proud Scholar Race nation of Sharlayan. This also extends to their skills at offensive and healing magics, with Alphinaud summoning a unique obsidian carbuncle while Alisaie wields the Secret Art of red magic. But both teenagers have limited experience on the battlefield due to their age and their nation's pacifist ways. Alphinaud in particular is clearly shaken when he's ambushed by bears at Gorgagne Mills and needs a moment to compose himself after killing one of them. Alisaie is also said to struggle with the rigorous physical component of her fighting style.
  • At the beginning of Fire Emblem Gaiden, Alm has been thoroughly trained in the arts of war by his grandfather Mycen, but has no actual war experience. He outright claims to Lukas in the remake that he knows "as much about war as any man who has never seen one can."
  • Genshin Impact: Noelle is a Ninja Maid who wants to be enlisted on the Knights of Favonius as a proper knight, having a massive force (her main weapon is a claymore). During her playable story/date, the Traveller helps her to study/train for the next recruitment test, just to see that although she has enough merits to be a Knight of Favonius, her experience in real battle is almost none, getting nervous and needing help during real combat.
  • Lea and Kairi spend most of Kingdom Hearts III being trained to use their Keyblades under Yen Sid's supervision in preparation for the upcoming battle against the Thirteen Seekers of Darkness. When the battle occurs, Lea and Kairi are proven to be the weakest of the Seven Guardians of Light. While Lea does have experience wielding his chakrams and fire magic as Axel, he has only recently acquired his Keyblade, and Kairi has no combat experience. Worse still, Merlin is the one to supervise them, and while he is very intelligent, he has no Keyblade or combat experience of his own and thus lacks certain qualities that would make a proper teacher for them. When they are brought into the final battle, Lea is quickly overpowered by Xemnas and Kairi is also kidnapped. Kingdom Hearts III: Re𝄌Mind expands on this, where Kairi is shown to be able to break Xemnas' Ethereal Blades and overpower him in a straight up fight but is stopped by Xemnas trapping her in an energy field.
  • Lie of Caelum: Miyu is a Combat Medic with decent offensive stats and her Aloerus Overdrive is a powerful group healing skill. However, during her Duel Boss fight, she flubs the Overdrive and ends up weakening herself out of nervousness, despite all the training she did to catch up to her peers. Kyou points out that if she pulled that move off, he wouldn't be able to win against her in a battle of attrition. Fortunately, she can use Aloerus consistently after a week of offscreen training.
  • Mentioned almost word for word in the in-game text for M 1 Tank Platoon. The second easiest difficulty level was "TRAINED" Warsaw Pact forces and part of the description was that that they were "well trained, but inexperienced" and that they'd be "slow and hesitant" in actual combat conditions.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the mission to Grissom Academy features a unit of biotic students being trained for the war against the Reapers; the kids have received the best training possible... but none of them have seen any actual combat experience, resulting in confusion and panic when Cerberus attacks the academy. How well they do depends on whether or not Jack survived the previous game: if yes, Jack is working at Grissom as a teacher and is able to keep the kids focused enough to survive the battle. However, if Jack isn't there, the students' CO is killed by Cerberus before you arrive, forcing Ensign Jason Prangley to take command; lack of overall experience results in Prangley getting killed while rescuing a fellow student, and Kahlee Sanders doubts that the survivors are remotely ready for front-line combat.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, it's noted that Raiden, the new protagonist, has mostly only been trained by virtual reality simulations. Snake (who said simulations were based on the personal experience of) far outclasses him. In a twist, the whole game turns out to have been a plot by The Patriots to recreate the events of the previous games, using Raiden as an Unwitting Pawn to produce enough data to create a simulation which averts this trope.
  • Red Alert 3: Veteran Academies allow new units to be built/trained at higher levels and perform no differently from their Taught by Experience counterparts. However, it's mentioned in-game in Uprising's Challenge mode where one commander tries to prove this trope is in effect.
    Although surviving battle probably builds skill and character, it is ultimately a dangerous and time-consuming process. To address this, we are looking into means of implanting training "memories" directly into our soldier, and the results are promising. The Allies must think so, too, as their Commander Hill has taken it upon himself to prove that our program's subjects could never stand up to his battle-hardened veteran squads.
  • In The Secret World the Orochi Group maintains an extensive private army, but it quickly becomes clear that they're hopelessly out of their depth; regardless of how well they were prepared for the supernatural threats of the game, it's simply not enough to prepare them for the realities — hence why Orochi security is often a Red Shirt Army. Kurt, the only surviving member of the tank battalion in Kaidan District, bitterly recalls that he didn't have the experience to deal with the narrow streets of a city as big as Tokyo or cope with the threats that the Filth-infected city threw at him. And this was before the Black Signal killed everyone else in the battalion and drove Kurt insane.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Talented and experienced at fighting Grimm, the Ace Ops have earned their title as Atlas' best. Volume 7 establishes that they're soldiers rather than Huntsmen and have no experience fighting Salem. Used to stacking things in their favour and military grunts cleaning out lesser Grimm before moving in, they rely heavily on following orders, controlled environments, and Clover's leadership and Semblance. However, Salem's forces specialise in targeting weaknesses, dividing allies, and using unusual or unpredictable Grimm. As the Ace Ops' competence and discipline deteriorate, the younger heroes increasingly prove their greater experience with Salem makes them more resilient, competent, and flexible at handling her machinations.

  • Kill Six Billion Demons: In her youth, the Master Swordsman Meti trained her body and her sword skills relentlessly until at sixteen her strength and athleticism bordered on Charles Atlas Superpower. In her first real fight she was subsequently beaten nearly to death, broke her sword, and only killed her opponent by gouging his brain out with her thumbs. This event led her to conclude that she had been training all wrong — things like "skill" and "technique" had simply distracted her from the act of Cutting Down Her Opponent — and she proceeded to develop a style founded solely on Killing Intent and her ability to actualize it.
  • During the main comic for The Order of the Stick, Hinjo is a paladin and a capable fighter. However, in the prequel story "How the Paladin Got His Scar", which takes place somewhere around a dozen years before the start of the comic, a teenage Hinjo is just a junior ambassador who gets involved in the plot partly due to luck. He has combat training from his uncle's samurai, but has absolutely zero combat experience, so one of the very first things that happens after Hinjo and the experienced soldier O-Chul meet is O-Chul sits Hinjo down and explains to him that Hinjo would be a liability in an actual fight, so much so that one of the other members of their very small group would need to babysit him to make sure he didn't get himself killed. Therefore, he is not to attempt to join in a fight under any circumstance. Hinjo agrees, and proves O-Chul right shortly afterward, when during an ambush he freezes in place when an enemy attacks him and is wounded as a result.
    O-Chul: Do you know why I just asked you if you can fight?
    Hinjo: Because you want to know if you can rely on my sword if this mission turns deadly?
    O-Chul: No. I already know that I cannot, just by watching you move. You have never drawn blood with that blade. I asked because, knowing that you cannot fight, I need to determine if you know that you cannot fight, and therefore, whether one of us would be obligated to protect you from your own overconfidence in the event of a battle. And so I ask you again: Do you know how to fight?
    Hinjo: ... no.

    Western Animation 
  • In contrast to her predecessor Aang, Korra in The Legend of Korra has spent a majority of her life being professionally trained by masters in a bunker in the South Pole. Because of this, she is an expert in Earthbending, Waterbending, and Firebending. However, her training has been predominantly focused on martial arts and has allowed her spiritual skills to atrophy, making her useless when facing threats involved with the spirits. Because her fighting experience has been predominantly based in a controlled environment, Korra can be easily overwhelmed when facing a large group, facing a combatant that uses techniques that do not involve the three aforementioned abilities (like airbending, metalbending, and chi-blocking), or when an opponent fights dirty. She slowly gets better with these problems over the course of the series, but even then she can still be rendered helpless when an opponent thinks outside of the box.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse: Rook Blonko is a graduate from the Plumber Academy who becomes Ben's new partner. However, he tries to be a By-the-Book Cop, not understanding how bad guys think or act outside of what he has read about them. In his first mission with Ben, he foolishly gave a villain back his helmet so he can breathe just because he said he would tell them what they wanted to know, not realizing he would just run away afterwards.
  • The Daughters of Aku in Samurai Jack were trained since birth by the cult that raised them to act as the ultimate assassins to kill Samurai Jack. While at first they were successfully able to overpower him, finding him where he hides and mortally wounding him, by the time they locate him after he had fled his wounds have already healed sufficiently enough for him to regain his strength and ambush them. Jack trained by touring the world, allowing him to learn different cultures and lifestyles as well as learn different fighting styles. By contrast, the Daughters were kept isolated and cut off from the rest of the world, thus they know nothing of the outside world or anything that isn't related to killing Jack. Also, being raised to be Social Darwinists and being discouraged from aiding one another ultimately becomes their undoing as Jack is able to easily whittle their numbers down by using the environment against them. This makes the Daughters in actuality Incompletely Trained.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Gem Hunt", Connie is brought along on her first gem mission to help Pearl and Steven catch two gem monsters. When Steven and Connie find one of them without Pearl, she ends up freezing under pressure. While Connie felt ashamed by this, Pearl assures her that she still made her proud, having instructed her not to fight on this mission and instead notify her when they found it. She soon overcomes this in the next episode when she and Steven fuse and fight off Jasper and the gem monsters as Stevonnie.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): The Turtles themselves start out as this. While trained in ninjutsu their entire life, the bulk of their fighting experience comes from training in a dojo one-on-one. In their first fight with the Kraang, a full-fledged real street-brawl, they repeatedly get in each other's way and find their opponents to be stronger than expected, enabling the Kraang to escape with April. Splinter himself muses that while he trained the Turtles to fight, he never taught them to fight as a team.
  • Young Justice: Garth aka Tempest is a far better sorcerer than the Incompletely Trained Kaldur. However, Garth also lacks in combat experience and his problem of second-guessing his attacks is acknowledged by Mera during a sparring session between himself and Tula. In Season 3, Garth's single fight against an enemy has him rather easily dispatched and it is quite telling that he doesn't have Kaldur to aid him.

    Real Life 
  • As the historian Steven Taaffe points out here (at 32:00), a surprisingly large number of American WW2 generals got combat commands with zero combat experience. Even as the war churned out battle-tested commanders, Chief of Staff George Marshall had no qualms giving commands to people who never been overseas. It simply was not that big a deal for him. Unlike in fiction, the commanders usually did very well.
  • Armed forces use simulators for training that have differences from common commercial simulators intended to try to minimize chances of operators becoming accustomed to things that are virtual only, for example force feedback when wielding guns or flying an aircraft. The most important thing is that in a simulator, now matter how realistic its physics, you don't die. This subtlety influences one's behavior even if all care is given to remember that it is not the real thing, which can be lethal in real combat. Therefore, military simulator sessions usually involve some kind of real life punitive consequence for the operators if they get "killed", in order to induce behaviors that avoid anything that could result in a kill. In the end, no simulator can replace reality.
    • Naval aviators in particular must land on an actual aircraft carrier including a certain number of nighttime carrier landings, at a regular frequency in order to avoid this issue and maintain their qualification to fly aircraft for the navy. Simulated landings do not count, as they will not be able to replicate the difficult task of landing at a precise location on a pitching and rolling ship’s deck. Promotions to higher rank and even qualifications for command often require that a certain number of carrier landings be amassed.
  • Many academic degrees and professional certifications require an internship, apprenticeship or professional assistant before completion. In the cases of some careers like physicians even after getting their degree their field demands a progressive demonstration of their knowledge and ability to perform the work before being considered fully trained. Thus someone can have an expansive knowledge of medicine or engineering but still have to show they can keep up with the rigors of the day-to-day requirements.