Genetic Potential

By Lon Kilgore

In ExPhysiology

August 01, 2007

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I have kids. One, a six year old, Thomas, loves all things martial arts. Since he was four years old, he's been studying with Harley Elmore, a heavily credentialed and amazing instructor in Jeet Kun Do, Sayoc Kali, Muay Thai, and Silat. Why, as a little four-year-old, did he make a decision to study martial arts? I bet you can guess. TV. I'm not sure but I'll wager that there has been a large upturn in the traffic in any martial arts business with a good kids program due to two cartoons: The Avatar and Naruto. Both of these shows have engaging stories, interesting characters, and prominently feature fictionalized and/or magical martial arts forms rooted in Chinese and Japanese forms.

But this article isn't about martial arts, kids, and cartoons, it's about genetic potential. You'll see the connection soon. In Naruto, the title character, Naruto Uzumaki, lives in a community protected by a revered troop of Ninja warriors. His single-minded purpose in life is to complete Ninja school, become the greatest Ninja of all time, and ultimately become "Hokage," the leader of the Ninjas. To do so he must overcome his orphan status, prove himself in school and in the field, and learn how to deal with an occasionally active supernatural demon spirit that was purposely trapped in his body to save the world (OK, that last bit is weird but it's part of the story).

But the lesson I want to address here deals with not Naruto Uzumaki but with a couple supporting characters, Sasuke Uchiha and Rock Lee. Sasuke is the consummate "natural," possessing amazing abilities inherited from his family, and seems to effortlessly and intuitively perform combat skills without instruction or practice. Then there is Rock Lee, a Ninja nerd with absolutely no natural ability but a work ethic the size of Texas and an absolute commitment to never quitting, even if it kills him.

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