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Your Eyes Can Deceive You

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Obi-Wan: This time, let go your conscious self and act on instinct.
Luke: With the blast shield down, I can't even see. How am I supposed to fight?
Obi-Wan: Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them.

In an attempt to show the supernatural affinity of a character with the skill he is training, The Mentor will cover the pupil's eyes with a piece of cloth, and say something like "Don't 'see' the enemy, 'feel' the enemy". A really key part of this is that the student always complains (either first thing or after getting their ass handed to them), and it rarely comes up again.

In Real Life, this would only make sense if the skill itself involves an invisible element, or if the practitioner is expected to perform the skill under low- or no-visibility conditions (thick smoke, underground, eyes gouged out, etc.). Soldiers in a Training Montage may field-strip their weapons, disarm bombs, or perform other precision tasks while blindfolded for this reason. Super Soldiers do it instead of (or while) smoking, usually during the briefing sequence or the calm before the climactic battle scene. The goal of blindfolded training in martial arts is not to teach someone to fight blind, but merely to speed up reaction time so as to not get caught by surprise, blind or not.

For the "super blind man", see Disability Superpower or Blind Weaponmaster.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Syaoran went through this when he learned to use a sword in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-. He has a "chi sensor." Thermal energy and Life Energy are often conflated in fiction. Also, Shaoran can't see with his left eye, so he compensated with the other senses when reacting to attacks from that side, while he just relied on his sight for the rest. Kurogane was trying to improve his reflexes on the right side of the body.
  • During his chariot race battle with Joseph in Part Two of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Wamuu blinds himself to avoid being fooled by his vision. He then extends a horn-like antenna from his forehead that reads the wind currents, giving him a Daredevil-like radar sense.
  • Pokémon: Lucario and the Mystery of Mew has Lucario dodging swinging logs while blindfolded in order to practice its 'aura sense' ability, all taking place during a Training Montage Flashback with Sir Aaron.
  • Claymore: The protagonist, Clare, fights by ignoring what she sees and concentrating on feeling where her opponents are going to attack next. But then, she's a Half-Human Hybrid Super-Soldier and that's her MO...
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the setting doesn’t bother explaining how Zenitsu can even tell his surroundings so precisely during his sleeping trance mode, with his eyes completely shut, because that should be rather obvious since Zenitsu is explicitly said to have Super-Hearing as one of his abilities thus Zenitsu’s form of combat while in trance invokes the same image of the famed Blind Weaponmaster in Japanese tales, who can tell his surroundings with his hearing sometimes even better than those who can see.
  • Kaede of Negima! Magister Negi Magi does this to herself while fighting a dragon as part of her training in Mundus Magicus.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Babidi tries to give Yakkon an advantage over Goku by teleporting them to the Planet of Darkness (Yakkon can see in the dark). Goku easily decks Yakkon and explains that trained warriors can read air currents generated by the opponent's movements (Goku also cheekily comments that Yakkon stinks).
    • When fighting the Invisible Man in Baba's palace, Yamcha tries to find him using the noises his body makes. It works...up until Baba starts singing.
  • The SD Gundam Force try using invisibility magic to sneak up on Kibaomaru, but not only has the warlord foreseen an ambush, his elite guards are good enough to sense the enemy's presence.
    Bakuhamaru: We can't see them, but the atmospheric current has been disturbed...Lord Kibaomaru was right after all!
  • Sonic X: When fighting a losing battle against a robot with camouflage capabilities, Sonic manages to best it by closing his eyes and relying only on his hearing sense.
  • Brave10 S: Master Swordsman and Public Domain Character Mikogami Tenzen (real name Ono Tadaaki) is such a skilled warrior he can move on the battlefield with his eyes closed and usually fights by blocking incoming enemy attacks, stealing their weapons and use them against them himself with great skill. He compliments Saizo when he forces him to open his eyes to follow his attack.
  • Gamaran, Riko Murasame is such a genius swordsman that a quick glance is all he needs to anticipate his opponent's next attack and parry if perfectly even with his eyes closed. In Shura after he taught Iori his defensive methods, the latter is able to defeat one of the Bakufu's elite Human Weapon troops using hearing and istinct alone, even with Riko yelling at him for keeping his eyes closed during the entire battle.
  • One of Yusuke's opponents during Genkai's tournament in YuYu Hakusho, Kibano, is a man who fights while wearing a helmet that covers his eyes and ears. He's trained himself to use spiritual senses instead, and since the fight is in a pitch-black room, this gives him an edge over Yusuke. Or it would have, if Yusuke hadn't snuck a lit cigarette into Kibano's belt at the start of the fight, giving him something to aim at.

    Comic Books 
  • Played with a little in the Fables side story The Fencing Lessons, from 1001 Nights of Snowfall. Preparing for a potential war with the underground-dwelling Dwarves, the humans are shown training blindfolded to accustom themselves to fighting in the dark, as they would have to underground. Then we see the Dwarves doing the exact same thing, except that instead of wearing blindfolds they're training in a well-lit room (and complaining about it just as much).
  • In Marshal Law, this is a huge part of Private Eye's origin: His Mad Scientist father bound a blindfolding mechanism to him and forced him to live without sight for months if not years, engendering in him an eerie affinity for the dark.
  • Nightwing blindfolds Robin for training that involves riding train tops around Bludhaven and doing various balancing exercises to get a better grip of paying attention to his surroundings with senses other than his eyes. He also blindfolds himself, "for fun".
  • Brave10 has Master Swordsman and historical figure Mikogami Tenzen (or Ono Tadaaki). He's so skilled he can face a 4 vs 4 battle with his eyes closed, his sixth sense so sharp it allows him to snatch the weapons of his attackers from their hands and use them to wound them. He's genuinely surprised when Saizo performs well enough to force him to look at him.
  • One time, Wonder Woman faced the gorgon Medusa in a duel to the death. Medusa had both a Compelling Voice and a Deadly Gaze. Diana decided to use one of Medusa's hair snakes to blind herself and then fought and killed the gorgon by relying on nothing but her other four senses. In a later issue after this, Diana displays her sharpened senses by taking on several members of the Justice League in a sparring match and winning while still blind.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Apprentice, the Student, and the Charlatan, Nova Shine's energy-sensing ability lets him detect magical energy all around him, and he demonstrates this during a sort of play-duel with Twilight where he blindfolds himself and is still able to deflect and dodge magical attacks without issue. However, when Twilight blinds him with a particularly powerful burst of energy, he is forced to yank the blindfold off and return to eye sight.

  • Star Wars: In A New Hope, Obi Wan makes Luke wear a helmet with the blast shield down (and Luke complains about being unable to see) before saying "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them." Luke proceeds to actually do really well against the training orb thing. ESP is so handy. Later in the movie, he puts this to use by turning off his targeting computer before firing the proton torpedo. Ironically, this would subsequently become the most glaring case of Forgot About His Powers in the entire franchise! In later films, Jedi and Sith alike were regularly shown as being taken by surprise by things they could not see or hear.
  • Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, with Ricky's father training him in driving. Since Ricky isn't a Jedi, it goes as well as can be expected.
  • In the Takeshi Kitano version of Zatoichi, Zatoichi says near the end of the film that he's been pretending to be blind so as to train himself to fight with his other senses. The last few seconds of the film reveal that he actually is blind.
  • The scene in the movie Blind Fury which the natives are training Rutger Hauer to fight blind is an all-time classic example of this trope.
  • Subverted in Big Fish, when young Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor) is confronted by two Korean soldiers who demonstrate superior acrobatics and martial arts skills. He puts on a pair of anachronistically-small night-vision goggles and turns out the lights. When he turns them back on, he has successfully knocked the soldiers out.
  • Patches O'Houlihan has Peter train blindfolded in DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story.
    • Peter wins the tiebreaker in the tournament final against White while blindfolded as well.
  • In Dead Man Nobody pilfers William Blake's glasses while under the influence of peyote: "Perhaps you will see better without them", he says. "This weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it; and your poetry will be written in blood." Sure enough, the mortally wounded Blake becomes a deadly accurate gunslinger.
  • Happened in the Jean-Claude Van Damme film Bloodsport. This time, though, Van Damme's character also was forced to utilize it, when his final opponent tossed some kind of powder in his eyes.
  • Yoshitsune, the bishounen Ginji boss in in Sukiyaki Western Django, has a sequence where he does this with a subordinate and Blade Catch, getting the guy killed after a Rousing Speech to the assembled gang and doing a super-dramatic demo himself. It is beautifully theatrical, and also completely unfair—he could catch the sword with his eyes closed, but he'd had extensive training. The guy who got his head split open never had a chance even if he'd been allowed to look.
    • This scene is one of those that cements the fact that Yoshitsune is evil, and ridiculously awesome.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman tries to get an advantage over Bane by killing the lights. Bane laughs and says that he's been in a dark prison his whole life, easily locates Batman, and beats the crap out of him.
  • In Three Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, after Rocky, Colt, and Tum Tum overconfidently pass an obstacle course, Grandpa makes them run through it again in the dark. They fail. Later, the bad guys destroy the lights and don Night-Vision Goggles. This time, the three are able to concentrate and defeat them in the dark.
  • Strange Magic: Marianne does this to herself for training. She has her miniature Fairy Companions attack her while she's blindfolded and she does a very good job at blocking them.
  • The Bodyguard. Kevin Costner's character is in the woods at night with a professional killer. At one point, he closes his eyes and fires on the sounds of movement the killer is making. The shots strike close enough to drive him off, but they still miss. This is an actual blind-firing technique, based on the fact that your head instinctively turns towards a sound when you can't see.

  • The Pendragon Adventure, book six. Loor and Alder force Bobby to fight blindfolded as part of his training.
  • Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold has a variant. Miles Vorkosigan reminisces about an informal stunt-flying competition he used to have with his cousin Ivan, in a mountain canyon. He won (and convinced Ivan never to do anything like that with him again) by teaching himself to fly the course with his eyes closed.
  • This was part of Inigo's Training from Hell in the book version of The Princess Bride. It actually comes in useful as Inigo uses the training MacPherson gave him to kill a darkened roomful of bats using only his sword. MacPherson did make a point of giving a reason for the training (what if your opponent blinds you with acid?), but then he is described as "having a special feel for adversity".
  • An exercise in the David Morrell novel The Fraternity Of The Stone has the assassin being trained via a dark room exercise — the lesson is to not blunder around looking for the enemy but remain perfectly still and wait for him to make a noise. Unfortunately later in the novel he's lured into a dark room by someone who had the exact same training that he did. So who moves first?
  • The ninja assassin in Neuromancer gets blinded at one point. His mistress points out he already knows how to fight in pitch darkness.
  • As part of her training with Syrio, Arya Stark of A Song of Ice and Fire wears a blindfold at one point.
    • Later on, she is temporarily blinded as part of her training at the House of White and Black. She overcomes this by relying on her other senses, but not in the way her trainers (probably) expected: she learns how to use her latent warg abilities to see through the eyes of a nearby cat.
  • In Updraft, as part of her training, Kirit is required to move around blindfolded. This is to encourage her to use other senses, which are necessary if she is to learn to fly at night.
  • Cradle Series: Sacred artists of Jade or better have a "spiritual sense" that can detect other sacred artists. It can be used as a focused scan to determine someone's exact advancement level, but it also passively warns of incoming attacks. In Uncrowned, Eithan starts training Yerin's spiritual sense by having her fight blindfolded, without her eyes to distract her. Eventually, right before an extremely important fight, he suggests she do it again. When she goes out on the stage blindfolded, the Sage who sponsored her in the tournament facepalms. She's more forgiving when it works.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • During training, Giles has Buffy throw a basketball at him blindfolded. She misses him and he starts to lecture her, but the ball makes several bounces and hits him.
    • However, when Buffy has to do an exercise for the Watcher's Council, involving a blindfolded Buffy protecting a training dummy from an axe-wielding Watcher, she ends up breaking the Watcher's ribs and axing the dummy herself.
    • In "Out of Sight, Out of Mind", Buffy is unable to land a punch on Marcie the invisible girl until she shuts her eyes and just listens.
    • In a subversion, Buffy really sucks at fighting blind and doesn't get much better at it. It's especially ironic since her primary targets are nocturnal.
  • An Enforced Trope in Knightmare, a British fantasy-adventure Game Show for kids. The main adventurer was given a helmet which restricted their view, and had to be guided by their team-mates watching on a screen. Ostensibly this was because their environment was full of deceiving illusions: Metaphorically True, given the backgrounds and effects were Chroma Key based and all they'd have seen otherwise would be a blue or green backdrop.
  • Subverted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Lower Decks" when the blind fighting session is actually training for a test unrelated to sight or combat: After receiving an insulting and abusive dressing-down from Cap. Picard, a young ensign is challenged to a blind-fighting test by her martial arts mentor, Worf. He's nearly twice her size, un-blindfolded, and a master hand-to-hand combatant. After several humiliating takedowns without her landing a blow on him, she rips off the blindfold and tells Worf she thinks the test is a totally unfair and inaccurate measure of her skill. That's when he admits that it was actually a Secret Test of Character (with a name he made up to sound cool in Klingon) and suggests that the next time someone treats her so unfairly, perhaps she won't take as much punishment before speaking up. This helps her realize she needs to stand up to Picard, who is also giving her a Secret Test of Character to see if she can handle a potentially harrowing and stressful secret mission.
  • Bra'tac does exactly this to Teal'c in a flashback in the Stargate SG-1 episode "Threshold".
  • Done to Cedric in the tourney episode of Covington Cross. Perfectly justified, as his opponent later manages to blind him by throwing sand in his eyes.
  • In Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Gannicus is forced to fight a gladiator match blindfolded. He isn't hindered that much, especially because his opponent stank and made a lot of noise whenever he moved.
  • In Power Rangers Megaforce, Troy practices blindfolded when the team is being beaten up by a Monster of the Week with Super-Speed. Of course, being air-powered makes him and Emma the ones best at detecting his movements via air pressure, though the rest of the team does go through the same practice routine eventually.
  • Supernatural: Bobby Singer does the 'closing eyes and firing on sound alone' technique in "How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters". One hopes the Monster of the Week had actually killed the deputy it had snatched moments before, or this could have involved some Friendly Fire!
  • Titans (2018): In Season 2, Dick Grayson has the Titans training to fight while blindfolded, so they can continue to fight if they are ever blinded or unable to see.

    Tabletop Games 
  • It might be implied that Dark Elves in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms universe learn this way, to take advantage of their innate darkness powers. Certainly Drizzt has demonstrated the ability to fight in complete darkness. They have the canonical power to see in even the complete absence of light, so to them there is no such thing as total darkness, but it's explicitly stated that they can't see through magical darkness. Since every dark elf can summon said darkness, blind-fighting is incredibly helpful.
  • Some RPG games and RPG video games have a skill called "Blindfighting" which, once learned, allows the person to fight while blind or in darkness. They do receive a penalty, but less than that of characters without the skill.

    Video Games 
  • Kreia lives by this trope in Knights of the Old Republic II: She's technically blind, but only because she stopped using her eyes. She gives The Exile several lessons emphasizing other senses.
  • In Disgaea, Mid-Boss tells this to Laharl word for word when Maderas is attempting to take advantage of his weakness to sexy bodies and optimistic phrases. It's part of a grand speech about how to activate his inner energy, Use The Force, and all these other things... Flonne tells him after he may have set the bar too high, so Mid-Boss simply says "Then just plug your ears and close your eyes." Even though Laharl promptly does this, this somehow doesn't seem to keep him from hearing all the relevant plot details in the ensuing conversation between Etna and Maderas, or fighting at full capacity.
  • In Shuyan Saga, some of the training Shuyan gets from Master Shan involves being blindfolded. From the player's point of view, this means that the screen is mostly black, but ghostly outlines of attackers appear when they're about to strike.

  • In Girl Genius a pair of Smoke Knights try to cover their eyes when they know they're being attacked by a Night Master since relying on them will hinder them in the fight. Unfortunately they are also being ambushed by spark hounds so when they stop blindfolding themselves to deal with the hounds, the Night Master stabs them through the chest with poisoned blades from behind.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Toph a blind earthbender and the best in history, trains Aang this way, the point of which was to get him to rely on vibrations through the ground to "see" what was around him, which, as Toph has repeatedly demonstrated, is damn useful, if not crucial, in earthbending. So useful that it saved him from a sneak attack by Fire Lord Ozai in the finale.
    • Master Piandao teaches Sokka a variation of this by showing him a beautiful landscape with a waterfall for about three seconds and then telling him to paint it without peeking. The goal of this was to be able to gather as much information as possible, as quickly as possible.note  He demonstrates this later when Sokka throws sand in his face by not only disarming him, but sheathing his sword when his servant throws the scabbard through the air. Then he wipes off the sand.
  • An episode of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends has a mysterious bowling-pin-shaped imaginary mentor give—along with various Ice-Cream Koans—this advice, but for bowling. You need sight in order to know where the bowling pins are. Subverted, as none of his training or advice proves useful and he cannot bowl at all. He was just created by a human who could.
  • Also done in Samurai Jack, who learned this from the Shaolin (after complaining that "No one can fight like this") and actually had to use it to accomplish something. That almost never happens anywhere else.
  • In an episode of Teen Titans, Robin went to China to train with a great martial arts master. One of the trials along the road was to defeat a giant snake in battle. When Robin protested that he had an unfair advantage since the snake was blind, the snake blew out the only candle in the cave to even the score. Unlike some examples, this proved useful later when an opponent nicked Robin's smokebombs and used them on him.
  • An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants involved the titular sponge being coached by a new boating teacher (the undersea equivalent of Driver's Ed) that insisted on this trope when practicing. Subverted when SpongeBob is completely unable to pass the test unless he is prevented from seeing.
  • Inverted on The Boondocks, in which Huey attempts to train Granddad to fight the blind Colonel Stinkmeaner by having him spar with a blindfolded Tom DuBois. Naturally, Tom can't do a damn thing when Granddad starts beating up on him, and he points out that this isn't a very effective way to train. It also foreshadows how Stinkmeaner didn't have Disability Superpowers, he was just lucky.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, when facing Mysterio's summons, some of which were illusory and some of which were robots or whatnot, Spidey made himself a web-blindfold so that he would only react to the real threats. It worked. Justified, as by blindfolding himself it made his spider-sense more acute, letting him see every danger in the area.
  • In the second Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon Splinter taught them to fight blindfolded. It later proved useful when fighting invisible Foot Ninja.
  • Done in Batman: The Animated Series, against an eyesight distorting enemy.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars a team of assassins injects sleeping Count Dooku with a poison that greatly affects his vision. Being trained as both Jedi and a Sith, he declares "I do not need my eyes to see" and dispatches the trio of assassins with relative ease.
  • In an episode of Rocket Power, Otto decides he and his friends can improve their game by practicing playing street hockey blindfolded. They actually do well for about a minute, then they all crash and decide it was a stupid idea.
  • Subverted in an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. In a flashback, Bruce Wayne is ordered to blindfold himself by his sensei to learn how to fight blind. The other students beat the shit out of Bruce, and the sensei mocks him for falling for it.
  • On one episode of The Penguins of Madagascar, the penguins train to fight blindfolded and "listen to your gut". All of them pass except for Kowalski, who trusts his brain over his gut. He eventually learns how when fighting an invisible enemy in the reptile habitat (actually chameleons who abducted the others because they wanted guests for their party).
  • In The Legend of Vox Machina, Grog beats Sylas Briarwood in "Whispers at the Ziggurat" by closing his eyes so he doesn't fall for Sylas' bewitchment and swinging his axe around wildly.

    Real Life 
  • The andabatae in Ancient Rome were gladiators who were made to fight in full-faced helmets that had no eye holes and left them completely blind. Most sources suggest that these weren't super-skilled warriors, but condemned criminals who were made to fight that way for sadistic humour and so that they had no chance of surviving a combat.
  • During their Jujitsu training in Japan, the hosts of the History Channel reality show Human Weapon were taught a samurai trick that lets them dodge an unseen (and unknown) attack from behind and counter in one, fluid stroke.
    • This is also used in modern Taijutsu: One way of proving that you're worthy of the next belt is sitting down blindfolded and being able to avoid, block or counter your master's next attack.
  • Blindfolded training is sometimes done in grappling systems like wrestling, sambo, judo and brazilian jiujitsu. Because the two fighters are already in physical contact, the aim is to get them to focus more on their senses of touch and balance to tell what an opponent is doing rather than just sight.
    • Particularly justified in that sweat in the eyes is very common in grappling and blood in the eyes isn't rare in MMA.
  • One of the most common form of "your eyes [in fact, your whole body] can deceive you,": being trained to fly by instruments in poor visibility conditions, where a pilot not only can't use visual references outside the cockpit, but also must ignore his own sense of balance. It is possible for a plane to be doing a roll while feeling like it is flying level (which type of roll? A Barrel Roll, of course.)
    • Inverted under visual flight rules, when your eyes are the only one of your senses that aren't deceiving you, as they're the only one that can tell that you're flying a plane, and what the aforementioned plane's attitude is, when the rest of your body thinks you're sitting still in a chair on the ground.
  • From a more metaphysical point of view, this statement sums up Plato's (and other rationalist's) stance on epistemology: The senses are not only unreliable in obtaining knowledge, they only convey a limited image of the world. Greater understanding and higher knowledge must be achieved through reason alone. See the Allegory of the Cave and the Analogy of the Divided Line. See also René Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, which seek to build a construct of absolute knowledge through extreme skepticism of all sensory information, i.e. assuming the possibility that all we believe to know about the world is false.
    • Relatedly, this is why modern science relies so heavily on double blind experiments and independent reproduction of results. It's just so easy to see things that support your ideas whether they're there or not.
  • Any performance that involves rapidly manipulating objects, such as juggling items or twirling a baton, flag, rifle, sword, staff, nunchucks, etc., lends itself to this. Tracking the object mentally and by feel is much more effective than watching it with the eyes. And less likely to result in embarrassing and/or painful mishaps. Besides, pulling off complicated maneuvers while keeping one's eyes straight ahead just makes it look all the more badass. A more mundane example would be touch-typing on a keyboard while looking at a monitor.
  • Several movies are billed as "May cause motion-sickness" or some such warning. This is usually the ones using either long tracking shots, where the camera is the point-of-view of someone on a roller-coaster, or similar; or, the camera is hand-held for most of the movie (ex. Cloverfield), where the motion of the screen causes the viewer discomfort. The theater seat isn't actually moving (usually), but the eyes of the movie-goer make him/her believe that motion is taking place.
    • Similarly this happens with VR games where the player physically doesn't move, but the world around them continues to move. This is best experienced in racing games where taking a turn results in your mind having a moment of trying to make your body counter the supposed centrifugal force but your body going "there's nothing going on."


Video Example(s):


SpongeBob SquarePants

After all those training with the sergeant, SpongeBob has learned to drive a boat blindfolded...and ONLY when blindfolded.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (25 votes)

Example of:

Main / ALessonLearnedTooWell

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