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"Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you kingdoms and armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger ..."
Gordon Dickson


Vegeta: Hold on... You went to college?

Nappa: Yeah.

Vegeta: What the hell could someone like you possibly major in?

Nappa: Child Psychology...

Gohan: Wow! That sounds really interesti-

Nappa: WITH A MINOR IN PAIN! *chops off Tien's arm*

The Big Guy isn't just tough, but has a tough time of things due to The Worf Effect, being used as a punching bag to prove how dangerous the Monster of the Week or Villain of the Week really is. There are some characters who can avoid that trap though. This is a guy who, after displaying his prowess in combat, goes back to being the unassuming Scholar, to the point where we almost forget he's stronger than the Lightning Bruiser.

A Smart Guy who Minored In Ass Kicking is a character who, like targets of The Worf Effect, is among the strongest in the cast. The difference being that not only do they rarely get beat up, most anyone challenging them gets their ass handed to them.

Despite this, they probably aren't a Boring Invincible Hero because they prefer to use their brains and/or diplomacy to solve a problem, and will gladly let the rest of the cast flex their own muscles, only intervening directly when the situation is dire. It's this emphasis on non-combat that saves them from The Worf Barrage, by keeping their combat skills as a hidden depth they pull out maybe every fourth episode.

Despite their lifesaving combat skills, they may pose a danger to their friends when they aren't fully in control of themselves. When mind controlled they are unbeatable because they are unrestrained, if angered they are unstoppable, and all this usually comes wrapped up in a Nice Guy package. Beware the Nice Ones, indeed.

Compare Badass Bookworm (for whom this is not an unusual trait), and the more extreme version Genius Bruiser. Contrast Dumbass No More. See also Martial Pacifist.

Examples of Minored in Asskicking include:

Anime and Manga

  • Yuuno Scrya from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha would be one of these, being both a very powerful Barrier Warrior and the master of the Infinity Library, but Nanoha, being the kind of series it is, doesn't give him too many opportunities to establish his badass credentials.
  • A bit of a throwaway scene in the Anime of Trinity Blood has an elderly Gadgeteer Genius and resident Smart Guy in the church anti vamp squad beset by a dozen zombie vampire assassins (it makes sense) who are like vampires, but much more powerful. We cut to other adventurers, and when we cut back they're all dead on the floor while he calmly lights a pipe.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima has a number of these but Albireo and Negi are probably the foremost examples.
  • Son Gohan! Dragonball Z being the show that it is, he doesn't get much of a chance to show off his intelligence, so he tends to hide more behind his pacifism.
    • Fillers of the Anime and the The Movies do show his smart side, being able to read complex entomology book and building a sand-surfer/Nice Boat (with complex equations to calculate its dimensions and proportions) before turning 5. Seriously, if he doesn't define Child Prodigy, I don't know what does!
  • Baccano!'s Luck Gandor, as the social face and "strategy" of the Gandor family, prefers talking his way through situations, and reads poetry in his spare time. Having a philosophical bent doesn't mean that he's not capable of some remarkable feats of badassery when properly motivated, however.
  • Yuki Nagato from Haruhi Suzumiya is a perfect example of this. She appears to be nothing more than a rail-thin bookworm who rarely moves or says a word, but is capable of distorting reality, moving at impossible (for a human) speeds, and surviving otherwise fatal wounds without even wincing. And when the fight's done, she just sits back down and continues reading silently.
  • Yoko, the poster girl for Fan Service in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, decides to retire halfway through the Time Skip to become a teacher. In one memorable scene, she silences the classroom by throwing a piece of chalk so hard across the room, it embedded itself into the wall. Without taking her eyes off of her book. When the students get attacked by a pair of rogue Beastmen in mechs, we quickly find out she hasn't lost her snipin' skillz.

  Yoko: Class dismissed. You fail! *Mechs go BOOM*

  • From Bleach, Aizen Sosuke. Too bad he's evil.
    • Also, Urahara Kisuke. He very rarely fights - but if he does, you are dead. The only one able to defeat him was Aizen, and that doesn't count because it was part of Urahara's plan.
  • Isumi from Hayate the Combat Butler.
  • Yukio from Blue Exorcist. His Hot-Blooded older twin brother Rin always protected him as a child; now that they're in exorcist academy Rin learns just how badass his brother is: not only is he the smartest freshman at school but also Rin's professor and a highly skilled exorcist who could see demons since childhood (and always knew something was up with his brother) wielding anti-demon guns and (at least for a moment) coldly determined to send his brother back to his biological father for the death of their beloved foster father.
  • Akisame of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, who spends his free time dabbling in sculpture, music, calligraphy, and just about every kind of artistic expression imaginable. It's implied that he's quite good at most of it too.
    • During the arc where Ryozanpaku invades the American army base on Okinawa, Akisame takes this trope learns how to hack a complex computer system on the spot by first asking for help from and then just copying Niijima. It's seriously scary how competent that man is.
  • In Soul Eater, Maka spends most of her time reading books and studying for exams. However if you call her on it, she and Soul will beat the ever-loving crap out of you (kinda subverted in that they do get beat up a bit until they Take a Level In Badass). Also, Kidd counts - obsessed with perfection and generally thinks his way out of situations... however he's a freaking shinigami!
  • A semi-example for Hattori Heiji in Detective Conan: He is more hotheaded than the other high school detectives (a fact remarked upon in the series), but he always keeps using his brains, confronting armed killers with his logical conclusions rather than just knocking them out and calling the police. Attack him or his friends, though, and you'll find out just who can beat the entire police kendo club of Oosaka. Or stop a sword with a cell phone.

Comic Books

  • Compared to the rest of the Justice League of America Batman is a "weak" Badass Normal. Most of the time he's the one who puts together the available information to figure out who the bad guys are, what their plan is, and how best to foil it... but when it comes time to fight, he's one of (if not the) most dangerous leaguers to face.
    • The White Martians found this out the hard way, even AFTER Superman clued them in:

 Protex: He's only one man!

Superman: The most dangerous man on Earth...

    • Hell, the entire Bat family is made of this. Even in a wheelchair, Oracle is still more than capable of defending herself!
    • And Alfred, who has an Expansion Pack Past involving careers in the British army and Her Majesty's secret service, among other things.
  • Lois Lane has a lot of this going on. Sure, she's nowhere near the level of Batman or other Badass Normal superheroes, but the sight of a skinny woman usually seen clutching a reporter's notepad busting herself out of her undercover position as the bride at a mobster's wedding with a machine gun she hid in the wedding cake isn't something that you really expect.
  • Loki is often considered a Glass Cannon or Squishy Wizard by Asgardian standards (though he has Super Strength and amazing endurance in comparison to mortals). However, he has physically (or mostly phsycially) outfought several opponents, most recently the Dsir during the Siege event.
    • He also changes weapons more than most Thor characters, his main ones being a whip, sword, or halberd.


  • Yoda, especially in the 2nd of the Star Wars prequels.
  • Rafiki from The Lion King.
  • It may not seem like this trope because we only ever see the Badass parts of his life, but Indiana Jones has "professor" as his day job.
    • From the perspective of his students (as well as others who meet him as the "professor" first), this trope is played straight:

 Henry Jones Sr.: You call this archaeology?!

"Mutt" Williams: You're a... a teacher?!

  • Iguchi Seibei in The Twilight Samurai. By the Bakumatsu era, most samurai were bureaucrats, so fighting skill was not a foregone conclusion. Seibei, in particular, prefers his drama-free existence, and plans to become a farmer when the Shogunate is overturned. However,after he trounces his friend's abusive, alcoholic ex-husband in a duel armed with only a bokuto, the new daimyo wants Seibei's skill in settling a succession dispute.
  • Dale Arden, from Flash Gordon.

  "Hey, I'm a New York City girl! I took karate at the Y!" (as she beats up a couple of Ming's mooks.)



  • Sherlock Holmes solves mysteries with his vast intellect, but he is occasionally given the opportunity to showcase his martial arts prowess. His wiry frame also hides incredible strength.
  • A number of Tamora Pierce characters.
    • Tris: Redheaded glasses-wearing crosspatch bordering on genuine Jerkass, but is a sweet heart underneath. Constantly reading, slightly overweight, brilliant, and always picked on. Has weather magic that can literally rip you to bits.
    • Numair: Veritable Cloudcuckoolander, always lost in some scholarly pursuit. Someone doubted his prowess as a war mage, however. That someone is now a tree. (As a consequence, somewhere, a random tree is now a somebody.)
  • Surgeon/natural philosopher/spy Steven Maturin of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels. In the course of 21 books, he never learns larboard from starboard and shows a general disdain for heated combat. But he repeatedly demonstrates he's more than capable of taking care of himself in a duel or assassinating rival spies.
  • The science-fiction version of Maturin is Adele Mundy in the David Drake RCN series. She'll never not be clumsy on a starship, she's uncomfortable dealing with people rather than computers or books and she'd much prefer collating information to anything, but threaten her or her True Companions and she will end you, generally with two neat bullet holes where your eyes used to be.
  • The first thing Richard notices about Henry in The Secret History is his size and how carefully he carries himself. It turns out he's a softspoken genius and even more terrifying for his mind. In addition to being a stoic killer.
  • In Jin Yong's Legend of the Condor Heroes, the guy with the most powerful martial arts is not the abbot of Shaolin, not the series' protagonists, not the Big Bad... but the guy, completely forgotten to even his fellow monks, who sweeps the floor in the Shaolin library, and has probably read some that even the abbot hasn't heard of.
  • Sazed from the Mistborn books lives and breathes this trope. He's a teacher first and foremost dedicated to preserving knowledge, but the same powers that let him store memories of entire books also allow him to store strength, speed and endurance, to be tapped whenever he needs them. He's also the first character in the series to take on a Steel Inquisitor and come off at all well. Lampshaded in the third book, where he begins to protest that he's a scholar, not a fighter, for something like the eighty fourth time before realising he's seen more fighting than most actual fighters.
  • El Greco of In Fury Born:

 The academics of El Greco warmed up their computers, set up their data searches, and turned to the study of guerrilla warefare, sabotage, and assassination as if preparing to sit their doctoral orals.

  • Edmond Dantès from The Count of Monte Cristo. The greater part of the story involves him infiltrating the French aristocracy multiple times under different guises, and trapping his enemies in various plans. But he's also a hardened ex-con, seasoned buccaneer, and hellbent on revenge.
  • Stenwold Maker, hero of Adrian Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series, scholar, artificer, spymaster and War Master of Collegium.
  • Harry Potter: The staff of Hogwarts.

 McGonagall: We teachers are rather good at magic, you know.

  • A few examples from the Dresden Files:
    • Charity Carpenter (the wife of the Fist of God makes his armor and is his sparring partner).
    • Mortimer Lindquist (after Harry helps get the former's act back together) who turns out to be able to call on spirits to let him do something like this.
    • Molly's tutelage under Lea could be considered this, since combat is one of the disciplines of magic she's least good at.
  • Cursors from Codex Alera. Yeah, they're couriers, and spies, and occasionally, they're called on to defend themselves, so its one of the things they train in.
  • Kahlan Amnell of the Sword of Truth is somewhere between this and a mixed Badass Normal and Badass Abnormal. Her father taught her everything he knew about fighting, and he was a king who was unequaled in the Midlands at bringing war.

Live Action TV

  • Mr. Spock of Star Trek: The Original Series fame was a Crouching Scholar. As a half Vulcan, he was much stronger than his human peers, had combat training, could nerve pinch most enemies into submission, and aside from bantering with McCoy never lorded his abilities over anyone. This is made very apparent in the new Star Trek film, where when Kirk manages to break Spock's Berserk Button, he is thrashed from one end of the bridge to another and is very nearly choked to death.
    • Data from Star Trek TNG also fits the trope - he has the strength of ten men, nanosecond reflexes, perfect aim, and other superhuman body feats. And he is a science officer. Excels at it, having perfect memory, infallible logic and being faster at data processing than the ship's computer. He isn't defeated in hand-to-hand combat once. (For the record, he can use the nerve pinch too, as demonstrated in "Unification", pt. 2.)
    • Jean-Luc Picard has shown enough combat and survival ability that he could easily be a one-man commando unit. This is the man who prefers diplomacy and peace above all else, enjoys a glass of tea and some classical music while reading a 19th century novel and is in his 60s.
  • Methos from Highlander, at least from about 1800 till modern day. He's spent two hundred years hiding out and spying on the Watchers, and running away from every fight he can run away from. But just because he doesn't like to fight doesn't mean he can't. After all, he's not the world's oldest Immortal for nothing
  • Giles of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Quiet, scholarly, and can (and will) kick your ass. It could be with a spell, it could be with one of the hundreds (if not thousands) of weapons that he is familiar with, or (as Ethan Rayne knows) good old fisticuffs. As stated elsewhere here, there is a reason why he used to be known as 'Ripper'.
    • Dawn might not be as badass, but she has shown potential in magic ("Conversations With Dead People") and combat (multiple times, including fighting side by side with Buffy and holding her own). Oh, and there was the time she tasered Xander.
  • Firefly: Shepherd Book is especially this trope, delivering a half-fist to the throat to Dobson in the first episode. When Mal is taken hostage, Book is asked if his religion prevented him from killing. His response? "It's a little fuzzy on the subject of kneecaps."
    • Also, it appears that on his way to becoming a respected doctor Simon Tam learned to throw one hell of a punch. Which makes a good deal of sense if you've ever had the misfortune to attend a hospital emergency room on a Friday or Saturday night after the bars close.
  • In the later few seasons of Stargate SG-1, Dr. Daniel Jackson falls into this trope. Keep in mind he was always The Smart Guy (well, he shared with Sam), but only later did he take a level and fit.
  • On the surface, Simon Campos of Flash Forward is a brilliant particle physicist (not to mention short and wimpy-looking, which has been pointed in-show). However, you do not want to bully, threaten, or hurt him, or he will go psycho and kill you without hesitation. Preferably with his bare hands.
  • The Doctor of Doctor Who isn't called "The Oncoming Storm" and "Destroyer of Worlds" for nothing. Even if he would prefer to offer you a jelly-baby rather than fight.
  • Jor-El on Smallville. Renowned scientist and scholar, legal mind par excellence...and a former Kryptonian soldier--complete with dog tags--who can nerve pinch most enemies into submission.
  • Dexter, the eponymous protagonist, is a "lab rat" (with an MD) who took "courses in advanced jujitsu". While he usually strikes by surprise, he was able to clash with a heavily muscled police sergeant who is ex-special forces, and able to best him while Dexter was hancuffed and the cop had a pistol drawn.
  • Most of the Babylon 5 philosophical characters are capable of beating the living hell out of anyone given enough provocation. None of Delenn, Lennier, Sinclair or Sheridan appear to be particularly physically intimidating--until the moment they decide that the universe would be best served by beating someone into unconsciousness.
  • Sanctuary: Helen Magnus is most often seen utilizing her abilities as an Omnidisciplinary Scientist and diplomat to solve problems and save the day, but her coworkers in the Sanctuary are always quick to point out that she can handle herself in a fight and she has shown the ability to do so many times. The entirety of Monsoon is basically Helen evading the bad guys and saving the innocent bystanders through a combination of wit, stealth, and hitting people in the face. The following exchange sums it up quite well, clearly with the trope in mind:

 Charlotte: What are you, a spy, an agent or something?

Magnus: A doctor.

Charlotte: Of asskicking!

    • She spent an entire episode fighting with Adam and decisively kicked his ass despite his ability to teleport.
  • Scorpius of Farscape wins most of his battles by outwitting his opponents, but when pressed, he has immense superhuman strength. He hates relying on it, though, and would much rather be remembered for using his brain than his brawn.
  • While Castle is usually a Non-Action Guy, as a civilian writer shadowing the NYPD, we are occasionally reminded that he can occasionally be angered enough to punch a sniper out and that he is also a hell of a good shot.

Tabletop Games

  • Forgotten Realms: The Drow in Menzoberranzan. Particularly the wizards in that, in addition to ten years in Sorcere, they also spend six months in the school for fighters for martial training with all kinds of weapons. Likewise, the fighters go to Sorcere for six months of training there.

Video Games

  • Liara T'Soni in Mass Effect claims to be a regular archaeologist, not even of the adventurer type... then, with some training, becomes the single most powerful biotic in the game. All while retaining her rather timid personality.
    • And in the sequel, she becomes a Knowledge Broker dedicated to getting revenge on the previous top player in that field, and has apparently done well enough by the time you meet her that she actually has said previous top player on the run. Also, she threatens to flay someone alive with her mind. Not exactly all that timid anymore.
      • Keep in mind, though, that since said archaeological ruins potentially hold amazing technology, they get 'visited' quite often by pirates and mercenaries. Add in that Liara's done nothing but study these ruins, by herself, for at least fifty years, and that adds up to a lot of practical combat experience.
    • The asari species as a whole. They are actually the galaxy's diplomats and mediators, and their military generally consists of semi-organized militia....but said militia are proficient in a vast array of killing and usually spend several centuries practicing their trade, and thus are the deadliest fighters in the galaxy.
    • Mordin Solus in the sequel. Originally a doctor helping out plague victims in a clinic infected with a plague, you're told that mercenaries that attempted to threaten him and his patients were soon killed and hung outside as a warning.
      • In the words of the man himself; he helps people. There are many ways to help people - and sometimes the best way to help people is to kill other people.
  • Citan Uzuki of Xenogears is an eccentric Omnidisciplinary Scientist, the main healer for much of the game, very polite...and an almost game-breakingly powerful fighter with bare hands or a sword. He is also a secret agent.
    • A viable combat strategy for some of the latter giant robot fights is to remove Citan from his robot and hit the giant enemy with his sword.
  • Lara Croft from Tomb Raider is just searching for ancient artifacts, but if a T-rex, dark entity or Super-powered queen of an ancient civilzation gets in her way, she will take it out.
  • The Keepers of the Thief series. Sure, they may be stealthy and unfathomable BadassBookworms, but... why endanger themselves when they can beg Garrett to do their dirty work once in a while ? At least they usually award him for the trouble he goes through.
  • In Final Fantasy V, Ghido the turtle sage mostly just provides exposition...but when the Big Bad attacks him, he fights him off with surprising ease. "You think I sat around seven centuries munching on pizza?"
  • Canas of Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword is an easily-missed, slightly klutzy and very calm shaman who spends his days studying and traveling to learn more about the dar- sorry, arcane arts. Recruit him and train him up, and he'll be able to take down the final boss in a turn or two on his own.
  • Kuzuki Souichirou from Fate/stay night. He's the protagonist's homeroom teacher who dictates history and ethics classes. Also a highly skilled assassin.

Web Comics

  • Raven from El Goonish Shive. Most people know him as a strict old teacher with an off-putting (occasionally creepy) interest in certain students, particularly the main characters. It turns out that walking cane of his is actually a concealed sword. Also, he's an elvish mage.

 "I can act directly if the situation involves magic or is an immediate threat to myself or others. You are a homicidal wizard invading a public school. No one will care if I kill you."

    • Also, Noah. Androgynous and slight, and speaks very precisely and without contractions. He wore Elliot out racing and playing basketball. Also, this:

 "I am good at controlling my temper now. But I was suspended on my first day of high school for beating up two seniors who were playing keep away with my backpack. I heard they are offensive linemen on a college football team now, whatever that means."

  • Gil from Girl Genius. He's more or less constantly underestimated by most of the cast, but trip his Berserk Button or threaten the woman he loves and you'll see another side of him.
    • Surprisingly, Tarvek. Even his own bodyguard's mouth was hanging open when it turned out he can match even with Gil, to the point that they both just collapsed in exhaustion (and illness) at the end of a recent brawl that was supposed to just be a staged one.
  • Kevyn from Schlock Mercenary. A scientist and engineer who would really be happiest messing around with cutting edge technology. Happens to wear antimatter grenades as epaulets, one of which might as well be a nuke.
    • Technically, they both may as well be nukes. The one he threw at the tank just used up most of its destructive power to get through the shield first.
  • Jane Doe from Nobody Scores has actually attended "The Courtney Love School of Just Hauling Off on a Motherfucker."

Web Original

  • The title character in The Saga of Tuck is a math and Unix geek and D&D nerd who can jump more than three meters off an escalator and punch an abuser in the back of the head. Without thinking it over beforehand.
  • Headmistress Elizabeth Carson of Whateley Academy in the Whateley Universe. She was the head of the English department before she became the acting headmistress. It turns out there's a reason she's the headmistress of a school that has around 600 superpowered mutants: she's really Lady Astarte. She's the greatest superheroine of the 90's. And under a different codename she was also the greatest superheroine of the 80's... and the 70's... and the 60's... and the 50's... and... At Halloween, she flexes her muscles and takes on the most deadly killer in the Whateley Universe, and the army he brought with him, convincingly demonstrating why you don't mess with her.

Western Animation

  • Master Splinter in many incarnations of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He usually leaves the fighting to his sons, because of his age and that his sons need to fight their own battles. When pressed, however, he demonstrates just exactly who taught the turtles to be tough ninja warriors in the first place.
  • Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender is one of the most skilled fire benders alive but usually restricts himself to drinking tea unless fighting is really necessary.
    • Sokka is well on his way to being the same, except replace "tea and pai sho" with "corny jokes and science".
  • Jackie from Jackie Chan Adventures is an archeologist, and when he's not fighting the Dark Hand, he seems like he couldn't hurt a fly. Of course, since he is Jackie Chan, the viewer can tell he's a strong fighter just from the name.
  • Thomas Paine in Liberty's Kids has a brief badass moment in "American Crisis". Say you're a brilliant propaganda writer in The American Revolution, you're wandering the streets of Philadelphia at night looking for a printer, and some British loyalists threaten you and your young friends with bodily harm. What do you do? Pick up the nearest log and charge.
  • Ferb of Phineas and Ferb is usually a quiet Gadgeteer Genius, but took down bully Buford in one Vulcan-inspired move after he "got all in [his] face". Likewise, while "Vanessasary Roughness" showcases Vanessa as an Action Girl, he has more than his share of cool moves as well.
  • Rhinox in Beast Wars is head technician and pilot of the Maximals. His weapons are also known as the Chainguns of Doom and when brainwashed into being evil he took over the Predacon army. By himself.
    • Optimus Primal is a space explorer. Doesn't stop him from kicking ass.
  • In the otherwise-lackluster By Word of Mouse the professor mouse is able to fend off Sylvester.
  • In Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, Walter "Doc" Hartford is usually the Plucky Comic Relief, Upper Class Wit, or Deadpan Snarker compared to his more frighteningly-enhanced teammates. His Technopath Series 5 ability is utterly useless in combat. However, "Heart of Tarkon" revealed that he learned acrobatics and fencing from "Miss Abercrombie's Charm School." Considering he has used the stuff he learned in "charm school" to break out of a dungeon, hand an Evil Chancellor his ass, take down one of the most frightening villains on the show single-handedly and impress the local princess? Yeah, Doc. That's some "charm school."
  • Hank McCoy, AKA Beast of the X-Men has always been a capable fighter belying a brilliant mind, regardless of the media portraying him. Yet his incarnation in Wolverine and the X-Men states early on that he's "a pacifist by nature." Push comes to shove, however, he'll knock you down.

Real Life

  • Pretty much every technical graduate of a military academy.
    • At least in the US Military, a Bachelor's is mandatory for officers. Don't expect to rise above O-3 without more than that. Enlisted can get away with a 2-year degree, though not for Sergeants or above.