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"Know how a man fights, and you will know the man."
—Motto of every Warrior Therapist ever

Implausible Fencing Powers meets Hannibal Lecture.

If the Warrior Poet is a master of combat who apparently also took a few philosophy courses to round out his education. The Warrior Therapist must have had a minor in psychology; how else can you explain his ability to perfectly guess his opponent's hidden desires, ambitions, marital status, and mother's maiden name just by watching them swing a sword at his head?

An evil (or Terror Hero/antihero) Warrior Therapist will use this knowledge to intimidate and unnerve his foes, gleefully deflating their egos and likely reminding the hero that they're really Not So Different; sometimes to the point of breaking their wills entirely. A good Warrior Therapist will deliver a lifechanging motivational speech and beat the everloving crap out of them while he's doing it. (See Defeat Means Friendship.)

See also Talking the Monster to Death for another variation of this trope.

Examples of Warrior Therapist include:


Anime and Manga

  • Rurouni Kenshin makes a specialty of this. His second fights with both Aoshi and Soujiro, where he more or less mind-hacked (possibly) more powerful fighters with Heroic Willpower and virtue and wound up winning, are particularly prominent examples, but he does it a lot. His string of successes goes back to Sano, his second feature fight, whom he drew out, analyzed, beat up, and Hannibal Lectureed into giving up his self-destructive hatred and becoming friends, although the latter wasn't actually on his agenda and startled Kenshin rather.
    • He does this to Enishi while sitting still on a beach. There is some fighting, but mostly he just talks the guy into...ripping out his own inner ear in response to emotional anguish. Yeah.
    • His fight with Han'nya and his first fight with Aoshi, too, just to a lesser extent. He didn't get into Soujiro's head the first time at all, which was what made the guy so creepy, and he never managed to reach Shishio, which sets him apart as a villain. Oh, and there's Saitou, whom he misanalyzes during their first in-series fight and never really gets anywhere with. Although Saitou doesn't correct Kenshin when he lumps him in with 'his friends' during the final beach fight with Enishi.
    • Saitou Hajime is of the former type, using his uncanny powers of deduction and insight to pick apart his opponents' careful strategy and leave them easy prey for his own lethal attacks.
    • Another Rurouni Kenshin example: Hiko Seijuro. He did it both to Kenshin and to Fuji. Not in the nicest way, mind you.
    • Sagara Sanosuke pulls it on a couple of guys, clearly in imitation of Kenshin but his in own style. Particularly his own Evil Mentor, whose Freudian Excuse is really quite impressive. Watsuki does a pretty good job drawing backstories from actual historical circumstances.
  • The title character of Naruto is the good kind, but tends to be somewhat crude in his methods. It seems to work well, though -- on more than one occasion, he's turned an enemy into an ally by means of a well-timed inspirational speech and a well-placed right hook.
    • He has an even better track record with turning allies of convenience into actual friends through Warrior Therapy. It seems the writers responsible for the Filler plotlines can't do drama without having him doing this.
    • Other characters wield the same methodology to varying degrees, most notably Neji, whose supernatural vision and psychology training allow him to read significantly into an enemy's body language.
    • Lampshaded with a conversation between the Sand Siblings at the Kage meet.

 Kankuro: It's useless, Gaara, not even Naruto could reach him.

  • Taken to its apotheosis in Variable Geo, where the heroine's Finishing Move seems to simultaneously KO the opponent and induce a Dianetics-style audit; beating the crap out of you is the equivalent of a motivating speech ...
  • In Beyblade, the good guys were the first type. The bad guys were the second. Yeah. It was as much psychological as physical. No matter how much you've won, all it takes to throw off your game is a well-timed comment.
  • The title character of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha starts almost every battle by asking what her opponent hopes to accomplish. Most of her enemies join her side by the end of the season unless they make a saving throw by answering that question intelligibly.
    • Team Nanoha vs. Wolkenritter is basically Lawful Good vs. Chaotic Good, except that only Nanoha realized (or rather, believed) it from just looking into her opponent's eyes. Which makes her a Warrior Therapist of the purest tint.
    • In StrikerS, this is how Nanoha saved Vivio. (Of course, combined with an absurdly powerful magical attack.)
  • The Mobile Suit Gundam saga, with its love for staging prolonged dialogues during Humongous Mecha duels, has many, many examples, starting with the omnipresent Char Aznable.
    • Taken quite literally in Chars Counterattack, where the title character and his rival spend the last few minutes of their final battle (not to mention their lives), discussing Char's oedipal issues.
    • The later spin-offs, such as Gundam SEED and Gundam 00 also do this a lot, one notable example being Gundam 00 during the final battle between Setsuna and Graham Aker. They spend a minute and a half arguing whether the Gundams contradicts their own existence and if Graham really is the distortion of the world, all while chopping each others Humongous Mecha to pieces and eventually blow up (though they both survive and are repaired for season 2 (Graham even gets his upgraded, while Setsuna just gets Exia's head reattached (presumably through use of duct-tape)).
    • As mentioned, SEED does this as well, most notably (and commonly) with Kira and Athrun during any of their several duels.
  • This is also played straight in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, most notably in the final battle between the Chouginga Dai-Gurren-dan and the Anti-Spiral. This is taken to the extremes in the second compilation movie, where the battle is extended from approximately 10 minutes to a whooping 25-30 minutes of epic ass-kicking on a galactic scale (literally).
    • "GRIT THOSE TEETH!!!"
  • Dracule Mihawk from One Piece gives one of the best Warrior Therapy sessions ever in his first fight with Rorona Zoro.
    • Later, parodied on a filler ep where Sanji is on the receiving end of a therapist session from Caroline, the stand-in queen of Kamabakka Island, who convinces him he's really a transvestite.
  • Izumi Curtis, Ed and Al's alchemy teacher in Fullmetal Alchemist, specializes in this, to the point where smackdowns with a benign Hannibal Lecture on the side are her principal teaching method.
  • Bleach: Kisuke Urahara is the Eccentric Mentor version of a Warrior Therapist. In his early training with Ichigo, EVERYTHING consisted of basically beating the crap out of him while spoon-feeding him some important tidbit about the facts of life and combat.
    • According to Komamura, it's Aizen's specialty.
    • Averted with Zommari who thinks he's this but utterly fails to understand Byakuya.
    • Ichigo Kurosaki shows that he is this in his battle with Gin Ichimaru stating, "I'm not saying I don't remember your blade. I'm saying I don't remember your heart. When you cross blades, you can tell a little of what your opponent's thinking. I'm not saying you can read their mind or anything like that, but you can tell what kind of resolve lies behind their blade, whether they respect you or look down on you. That kind of thing, you can tell. When I'm actually fighting, there's no time to think about it, so I don't usually realize until afterwards, but in general, the stronger the opponent is, the more of that "heart" seems to come across."
      • Which explains a lot about why he gets so attached to some of his enemies.
      • He shows it again after his battle with Aizen when he tells Kisuke Urahara that he believes Aizen was lonely due to his overwhelming power and skill isolating him from everyone else, and desired to find someone else like him.
  • Kannazuki no Miko's Chikane counts. Although shes not always effective, and resorts to more than words.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has racked up a fair number of Heel Face Turns, even the Elder Master has commented on his ability. And Tanimoto has also reflected on it.
    • An interesting variation happens during his epic fight with Sho Kano from YOMI. Here they both act as Warrior Therapists to each other -- Kano as an (anti-)villainous one and Kenichi as a good one. While Kano constantly points out to Kenichi how miserable Kenichi's fighting skills are compared to Kano's and concludes that the Ryozanpaku masters were "too gentle" to Kenichi, Kenichi counters by pointing out that it's exactly because of their kindness and love that he managed to persist in constantly improving his skills, while those in YOMI deeply in their souls actually hate martial arts.
      • Which has a lot of Fridge Stockholm when you consider how constantly and gleefully the Ryozanpaku masters torture their shared apprentice. Which leads to more Fridge Horror when you realize that YOMI methods were even worse in their own way -- deliberately indoctrinating a philosophy based on killing people into children.
  • Whenever Amu does her speech, you know the battle is over. NO exceptions.
  • Technically 'Duelist' Therapy, but used heavily in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's by the protagonist Fudo Yuusei. Most of his duels in the first season tend to end up in a Defeat Means Friendship scenario, or just as a general means of befriending people in general, including Izayoi Aki, who has to go several rounds with Yuusei before she gets over her problems.
    • This trope also certainly applies to the protagonists of the previous two series as well.
  • Rei Ayanami. Yes, that Rei Ayanami. Even though she is intended to be creepy and cold Rei still sets out to help Shinji, Asuka, even Ritsuko this way. Rebuild of Evangelion takes it further with her convincing Gendou to get closer to his son.
  • Touma of To Aru Majutsu no Index has a few of these moments, including in his fight agianst Kanzaki where he called her out on her treatment of Index, and Accelerator, twice. The first time was accidental, and he became a slightly better person by using Touma as an example, but the second time was deliberate. The results have yet to be seen. One of his skirimishes against Misaka, when she was trying to sacrifice herself against Accelerator in order to stop the Experiment, and he stopped her by not fighting probably counts as well.
    • He's the very image of this trope in the series, actually. He is able to lecture Lessar 15 minutes straight about proper girl mannerisms that she gets literally worn out listening to it.
  • Inuyasha: Shishinki, an enemy of Inuyasha and Sesshoumaru's father, is an evil example. He deliberately turns up while Sesshoumaru is emotionally vulnerable fully aware of what happened and why Sesshoumaru couldn't fully master Tenseiga. Inuyasha's arrival allows him to immediately realise the half breed younger brother was chosen over Sesshoumaru to receive Tessaiga. Most of the fight consists of Shishinki insightfully exposing every single one of Sesshoumaru's fears over the meaning of the two swords and whether it's proof his father hated him. This culminates in the Awful Truth, causing an Heroic BSOD that lasts beyond the fight and takes a while for Sesshoumaru to recover from.
  • The titular chara from Orphen has potential for this, and specially shows it in Revenge when he deals with a Brainwashed and Crazy Majik via both speaking to him and blasting the shit out of him. He then manages to knock off the Nice Hat that keeps Majik under control and both defeats and fixes him..


Comic Books

  • Parodied in Deadpool #27, wherein Deadpool, on the recommendation of his psychiatrist, seeks out and picks a fight with Wolverine for just this effect.
  • Dr. Leonard Samson, who treats Bruce Banner, X-Factor and the Thunderbolts, and is gamma-powered himself without turning into a mindless freak.
    • Since Talking Is a Free Action in comic books his fights with the Hulk are multiple-page slugfests with psychological analysis often being spouted the whole time.
  • At times, the Mad Thinker falls into this category, depending on who's writing him.
  • Karla Sofen, aka Moonstone, is also a trained psychiatrist; she traded in her practice for the life of a supervillain (at least at first; things got more complicated later), but she's always on the lookout for psychological weaknesses to exploit in her enemies, and she's never quite so happy as when she's screwing with the minds of all around her.
  • Batman, of course, gets tons of opportunities to practice this, since most of his enemies are actual mental patients. Harley Quinn and Scarecrow, both former psychiatrists themselves, are particularly likely to fall victim to Bat-psychoanalysis.
    • Scarecrow can also use it back, though. (Harley ... can't.)
  • Superman has spent a good number of his battles simultaneously talking and beating some sense into his opponents. It's turned more than a few villains to a less destructive path.
  • Spider-Man has done this as a way to help villains such as The Lizard or Vermin. More often than not, he actually uses this in a way that is normally reserved for villains or anti-heroes: he humiliates them verbally, making them reckless. It has been revealed that a number of his foes have actually suffered some mental trauma because of this (then again, many of them were crazy already, so...)

Fan Fiction

  • A Star Trek: The Next Generation fanfiction once gave a Klingon Counselor to a starbase captain. (This was a bit of a Take That to the character in question, who had once been highly against being commanded by Data for the reason that computers don't make good captains, just like Klingons wouldn't make good counselors.)

Film

 Seagal as Forrest Taft beats the ever-lovin' shit out of a bigot in a bar

Forrest Taft: What does it take to change the essence of a man?

"Big Mike": Time. (sobs) I need time.

Literature

  • Timothy Zahn's Star Wars books, which jump started the fandom way before the second trilogy, had the inverted Science Fiction version of this. Grand Admiral Thrawn knew how an entire species would fight by simply examining their artwork.
    • Zahn's fond of this character, as Talon Karrde is a more limited variant of the Warrior Therapist, capable of using his vast information-gathering empire and turbolasers where turbolasers alone wouldn't work.
    • That's because "You can get further with a kind word and a gun."
  • The Silence of the Lambs series features numerous characters trying to pull this on each other, mostly professional therapists and FBI criminal profilers, and they all usually end up being spectacularly outdone by Dr. Hannibal Lecter, arguably the most definitive and iconic Warrior Therapist in existence.
  • Both Cordelia Vorkosigan and her son Miles make a habit out of this in the Vorkosigan novels.
    • Perhaps the crowning example of this is in Shards of Honor, the first novel Cordelia makes an appearance in. While a POW, the sadistic enemy CO ties her to the bed and then turns loose his deranged orderly on her - and from this helpless position she still manages to successfully diagnose and empathize with her own attempted rapist. To the point where he decides not to go through with it after all - and then turn right around and kill his commanding officer, so he can finally be free.
    • Cordelia is actually so good at this that she is eventually able to drop the Warrior part entirely and rely entirely on her ability to emotionally dissect someone. Of course, the planetful of security guards might help.
      • She also passes this skill along to the Emperor Gregor, to the point that he uses it on her in Mirror Dance.
  • This is one of the many abilities of Anasurimbor Kellhus from Second Apocalypse. He can completely analyse and deconstruct someone's personality by observing their movements and facial expressions. He can then use his own voice and movements to send subliminal cues and manipulate people into doing nearly anything.
  • In R.A. Salvatore's Legend of Drizzt series, Drizzt Do'Urden is this to Artemis Entreri and vice versa, except one is a Good Warrior Therapist while the other is an Evil one, obviously.
  • Ender Wiggin.
    • He specializes in knowing his enemies. Knowing them completely, at least as well as they know themselves. In the moment that he achieves this level of understanding, he naturally loves them. And then he destroys them. It's not good for him, emotionally. So he loses the 'warrior' part once they discharge him as Tyke Bomb grand admiral.
  • Rider in Fate/Zero. Within one Drinking Contest/conversation on the right way to be king, he manages what took Shirou and Archer two weeks. Irisviel hits the Reset Button by telling her that even if she sucked as a king, at least she is essentially the embodiment of (self sacrificing) ideals. Since this is a prequel, it's not like she's going to magically get better now right?
    • Speaking of Shirou and Archer, their match in the Unlimited Blade Works route has them both fall into this route. However, the sheer mechanics of fighting your cynical future self over ideals is... complicated. Would that be considered extreme introspection? Suffice to say there are pages upon pages of philosophical debate, and in the Nasuverse, your conviction equates directly to how much ass you kick.
  • Used by Tavi in Codex Alera. In particular in Captain's Fury he manages to defeat a vastly superior (but mentally unbalanced) opponent in a swordfight by attacking her psychological weak points during a Blade Lock, allowing him to defeat her because Sanity Has Advantages.
    • This is one of the darker expressions of this trope. He uses what is in essence a Hannibal Lecture to ruthlessly assault her fragile mindset and then exploits ensuing reaction by impaling her.
      • It's especially dark because the weakness he exploits in her is something he shares. Tavi is almost Mary Sue-like in his compassion for the fallen and eagerness to make allies, so to see him dredging up someone else's worst memories to get the advantage of them in a fight, especially considering that he can only do so because he has the same problem, was jarring.
    • Also used by Isana in Princeps' Fury. She challenges Antillus Raucus to the juris macto and proceeds to wear down his mental walls and reasoning in order to get him to agree to a truce against the foes he's been fighting and commit his Legions to a greater enemy. She's very nearly killed before finally succeeding.

Live Action TV

  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Conversations With Dead People", Buffy tangles with a rather literal version of the trope - a vampire who had been a Psychology major prior to being sired. He was at least as, if not more, interested in analyzing Buffy as in fighting her.
    • Also in Buffy, the vampire Spike shows an extraordinary talent for analyzing the motivations people don't want to admit to. "Lovers Walk" - Buffy: I can't lie to myself, or Spike for some reason. In "A Fool for Love," he implies that this talent was at least partly responsible for his having defeated two Slayers in the past; according to Spike, every Slayer has a death wish.
    • Exactly. Spike knows exactly how to demoralize an enemy. He even uses this to his advantage when he has the chip that keeps him from hurting humans, yet he still manages to deliver Buffy, friendless into her enemy's (Adam's) clutches.
  • Locke on Lost has shown warrior therapist tendencies, although he's more likely to restrain or intimidate someone than actually fight them.
    • Hello? Benjamin Linus!
  • Lie to Me is in general an action psychology show. Its main character, Cal Lightman, is a tooth and nails sort of psychoanalyst/interrogator, combining interrogation technique with the science of facial expressions he developed(in real life this science was developed by Paul Eckman). Lightman occasionally goes up against the odd Hannibal Lecter character, and ends up winning the inevitable game of Xanatos Speed Chess that results.
    • And has his own Warrior Therapist in Gillian Foster, who was his shrink at the DOD before they went into business together.

Video Games

  • In Planescape: Torment, Dak'kon, in addition to being a formidable swordsman, is a mystic and teacher. If the player character's stats are high enough, you can end up analyzing and teaching him.
    • You can also discover that one of your previous incarnations is the one who taught him most of what he knows to begin with.
  • Mass Effect's Commander Shepard, when played as a Paragon, can end up spending about as much time counseling people as he or she does fighting. Renegade Shepard, meanwhile, is far more likely to just shoot people, but can sometimes act as a much more cynical variety of Warrior Therapist. Either way, bullets appear to be quite integral to their therapeutic method.
    • This trope is taken to its logical extreme when, if Shepard consistently attempts to reason with the Big Bad Saren during combat, Saren will acknowledge Shepard as correct and shoot himself in the head!
      • That is for a very logical reason though, as he doesn't have a much of a choice in the matter, or one at all, so it isn't that extreme.
    • Even moreso in Mass Effect 2, where to Earn Your Happy Ending you have to solve your entire crew's problems, which range from dealing with an odd form of puberty to various forms of rescuing.
    • Lampshaded in Mass Effect 3, where Shepard will ask EDI if she has any issues "like an imperfect creator you could view as a twisted father figure or anything." When EDI asks why on Earth Shepard's asking those sorts of questions, Shepard'll comment that s/he's learned it's just easier to ask them sooner or later.
      • The role is also reversed many times in Mass Effect 3, as the strain and responsibility Shepard has finally starts to grind him/her down. Everyone worries about him/her and do everything they can to ease the burden that s/he has and keep him/her sane to get the job done.

 Garrus: How about you Commander? How are you holding up?

Shepard: There's only so much fight in a person, only so much death you can take, before...

Garrus: Before your friend picks you up, dusts you off and reminds you that you're the best damn solider he's ever served with.

  • This is an informed ability of the Handmaiden and Echani culture in general in Knights of the Old Republic 2
  • You can be this to an extreme degree in the Fallout games. In Fallout 1, you can even defeat the Big Bad by convincing him that his plans will never work. Ditto the second game, where one of the Warrior Therapist options involves getting a scientist to release the mutated FEV virus into the Enclave's life support systems, killing everyone but your people, anyone in power armour, the President, and Frank Horrigan.
    • Fallout 3 has you doing this to the Big Bad President Eden, a super-computer who you can basically talk into committing suicide, along with The Dragon. It even baffles your companions, who wonder exactly how you managed to do that.
  • Gouken comes off this way in his victory quotes in Street Fighter IV
    • Zangief parodies this when he meets Abel as he believes that Battle is Therapy and is the perfect remedy for the man's amnesiac melancholy.
    • Ryu: No need to speak. Your fists told me everything I need to know about you.
  • Kain R. Heinlein of Fatal Fury fame enjoys picking at his opponents with his victory quotes.
  • Several Final Fantasy villains are good at this. Kefka gives a nihilistic speech before you face him, talking to Seymour about his "spiral of death" plan is a core feature of the battles with him, and Sephiroth gave Cloud a mental breakdown. Mind you, he only ever talks while fighting in newer titles.
    • And Golbez from Dissidia Final Fantasy acts as the therapist for the heroes. Meaning he is simulateously backstabbing EVERY other villain in the franchise and the god of discord. All to make sure his younger brother Cecil survives. Best. Brother. Ever.
  • Due to the incredible importance of the target's emotional state to their plans, in Kingdom Hearts "Ansem," as well as most of Organization XIII have this as their M.O.
  • You can choose to be a Jerkass to your companions in Dragon Age Origins, but helping them through their various issues rewards you with stat bonuses for them, the occasional unique (and sometimes useful) item, and in Zevran's case, taking the effort to be friendly and supportive of him will avert his Face Heel Turn later in the game. The "Warrior" part comes into play since a few of your companions' Personal Quests, specifically Morrigan, Shale, and potentially Leiliana, involve combat. In Morrigan's case, you have to fight a freaking DRAGON. The "Therapist" part usually comes in the conversations you hold with your companions right after the quests are completed. You can actually make Alistair and Leiliana more cynical people right after their quests, depending on what you say to them.
  • Hakumen, of all people, takes up this role, at least in regards to his younger, time-displaced self, AKA Jin in Blaz Blue: Continuum Shift.
  • Rance despite being a Heroic Sociopath qualifies. Many normally competent and wise people become Horrible Judges Of Character when trying to evaluate him. That's not to say that he always uses his psychologist skills for evil though. One notable example of the positive side of this trope is that in Sengoku Rance, he helped Kouhime recover from the trauma of being raped. This is extremely surprising because he himself is a serial rapist.

Tabletop Games

  • In Savage Worlds, a generic action-oriented RPG, the Intimidation and Taunt skills can be used in combat to gain a temporary but significant edge over an opponent, or even render them functionally incapacitated. A good Warrior Therapist can basically induce a Heroic BSOD or Villainous Breakdown at will.

Webcomics

  • Taken to its logical extreme here. (WARNING: contains some gore)
  • Flipside's Maytag demonstrates early on in the comic that she can do this to people.
  • Arguably, Karkat from Homestuck.
    • Almost half the cast is playing at therapist in Homestuck but by far Karkat, and to a lesser extent John, is the best.
    • Rose claims that psychology is one of her hobbies and makes attempts at psychoanalyzing her friends early on, but as it turns out she's either not very good at it or has since lost interest.

Web Original

  • In Dragon Ball Abridged, Nappa claims that he majored in Child Psychology (WITH A MINOR IN PAIN!) and goes on about how the values of healthy communication... right before pounding the crap out of the guy he was talking about because they had interrupted him while he was talking to Vegeta.
    • On a less literal note, Vegeta becomes something like this, though only to himself. During his finale of Episode 10 he remarks about the possible reason behind his Tranquil Fury, and later on, after revealing the depths of his humiliation to Cui and then blowing him up to ensure that he would never tell anyone of it, Vegeta says that he loves therapy, and later on deliberately represses the memory of Dodoria's revelations. Considering that his anger seemed to have broke in Episode 18, his self-therapy doesn't really seem to be working very well.

Western Animation

  • Slade of Teen Titans is the master of the evil version of this skill.
  • Iroh of Avatar: The Last Airbender is a good master of this, offering advice on how to improve and find his enemies way in life even as he fights them. Of course, when he gives up on talk and gets to fighting, that's when you know you're in trouble.
    • To the point that when he's mugged, he teaches the mugger a better stance and fixes him a cup of tea in "Tales of Ba Sing Se."

 Mugger: Give me all your money!

[[[Beat]]]

Iroh: What are you doing?

Mugger: I'm mugging you!

Iroh: With that stance?

  • Spellbinder of Batman Beyond is another villainous example. He was an actual psychiatrist who turned to villainy because he felt undercompensated for dealing with unruly teenagers while their parents paid their garbage men more money. He uses illusions and his knowledge of the human psyche to manipulate people by giving them what they think they want and what they want to believe. In one episode he frames Terry for murder by showing Commissioner Barbara Gordon an illusion of Terry beating Mad Stan to death. When he is eventually discovered and captured, he calls her out for being an Inspector Javert towards Terry, an accusation which seems to leave an impression on her.

 Spellbinder: You were so ready to believe the worst. It was easy.

  • Black Canary in Young Justice. Not only is she the team's trainer, she is also their therapist and had individual sessions with all of them, as seen in "Disordered" to help them deal with the events in "Failsafe".
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