What Does it Take to be a Pokémon Gym Leader?

gym leaders

So, you wanna be a Pokémon master?

Well, you know what you have to do: Raise a team of Pokémon capable of defeating the eight regional Gym Leaders to gain access to the Elite Four. Beat them and the Champion, and you will be  Pokémon master.

Maybe you didn’t want to be  Pokémon master. Maybe you wanted to be a Gym Leader instead, guarding the gates to the Elite Four. To learn how to become a successful Pokémon Gym Leader, we’ll examine the eight original leaders of the Kanto gyms.

Brock, Pewter City Gym, Rock-Type

brock onix

Brock chose a poor place to erect his gym. Two of the four starter Pokémon have a double type advantage against his rock Pokémon. Only poor Charmander and Pikachu have trouble getting past Onix and Geodude.

In the anime, he leaves his gym in the care of his father to adventure with Ash. He’s a kid himself and should never have been left to tend to the gym to begin with. It’s not clear whether he did anything to actually earn the gym. It sounds like he just inherited it.

Misty, Cerulean City Gym, Water-Type

misty starmie

Along with her sisters, Misty guards the Cascade Badge. She too leaves her post to venture with Ash. They never say how they earned their ranks as Gym Leaders, but it seems to be another family ordeal.

Bulbasaur and Pikachu make quick work of Staryu and Starmie as long as they’re at high enough levels. Misty, like Brock, is still just a kid. How the hell did they get put in charge of gyms? It’s insane that the Elite Four would allow them that much responsibility in the world of Pokémon.

Lt. Surge, Vermillion City Gym, Electric-Type

lt surge raichu

Surge isn’t even native to Kanto. He’s described as being American in the video game, and he comes off as battle-ready. I won’t call him a warmongerer, but… Also, in the Pokémon Adventures manga, he’s a high-ranking member of Team Rocket.

Erika, Celadon City Gym, Grass-Type

erika victreebell

She’s not very aggressive until it comes to men, then she’s sexist. She doesn’t even want men in her gym, but she’ll allow it occasionally just to prove that she can take a man on and win.

She’s tough, but not too tough, and easily beaten with a well-leveled Charmeleon.

Sabrina, Saffron City Gym, Psychic-Type


In the anime, Sabrina is a sadistic telekinetic who shrinks Ash and friends down to doll size. In the manga, she’s a high-ranking member of Team Rocket. How does that happen?

Oh, apparently the entire Kanto Elite Four (save Bruno, since he’s mind controlled) is an evil organization bent on destroying humans and controlling Pokémon because of reasons.

Koga, Fuchsia City Gym, Poison-Type

koga koffing

A ninja who is skilled in the arts of toxins, he is also a member of Team Rocket in the manga.

It’s okay though, because he later helps start the new Elite Four with Bruno.

Blaine, Cinnabar Island Gym, Fire-Type


Blaine is a loony scientist with a Riddler-like personality. Also, he was one of the leading Rocket scientists in their efforts to clone Mew. In the anime, he’s just a nut who likes to battle in a volcano.

Giovanni, Viridian City Gym, Ground-Type


Well, there’s no secret here. Giovanni is the long-mysterious eighth Gym Leader of Kanto. And he’s also the head of Team Rocket, whom you’ve fought numerous times by now in the video game.

Once he’s beaten, he disbands Team Rocket and disappears, repenting of his evil ways, making way for a new Rocket regime (led by a few Johto Gym Leaders in the manga) and later antagonists in later games. He’s also the father of the mysterious red-headed Silver (or whatever you named him in the games).

IGN describes Giovanni as “the Pokémon equivalent of a prominent politician that is secretly the leader of a drug cartel and dog fighting ring.”

I think that’s fairly accurate.

So, to become a Gym Leader, you either have to inherit it from a family member or take it by force as a member of a crime syndicate. Whichever is easier.

But seriously? Five of the eight Leaders were Rocket members? In the manga, anyway.

Which Gym Leader is your favorite? Why?

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  1. Actually you can take it by force, but no need to be a part of an evil organization, also you can build a new gym, thus becoming the leader right off the bat

  2. I was looking for a reason for why brock became a gym leader. This came up as a result.

    I will play your game Glen Miller. My favorite is probably Sabrina. Although i’ve never read the manga.

  3. In the anime Pokemon Chronicles the gym leaders had to get re-certified periodically and they showed it happening in Brock and Misty’s gyms. In the manga you had to go through an exam process to become a gym leader one of which was a timed battle. Red was originally going to become a gym leader and was taking the exam but left in the middle of it thus letting Blue take and pass the exam.

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