A person with a training disadvantage gets better at a task because of time they put into it.
Alt. Title: Session GrinderThis is a trope that covers a character who doesn't become more powerful, more knowledgeable or more skillful by raw talent, ageless wisdom, or tutelage under an experienced master. Rather, they accumulate the bulk of their abilities slowly, by performing some lame, mundane, or unremarkable task over and over again. For example: let's take a character who's never taken a music lesson in their life, but can compose an award-winning ballad just because they've listened to countless songs and have an innate understanding of music. His/her "training" is their regular chores, hobbies or occupation, and their "dojo" is simply surviving or making a living in a World of Badass. A Task Grinder may even fail constantly, but each experience improves them bit by bit, win or lose. But they still learn things that can be applied to wider pools than the others and that's the deciding factor. This is common in older, wiser characters, as they might be an Old Master, Badass Grandpa or Retired Badass, or a creature that got Stronger with Age. This sort of character can be either Weak, but Skilled (in which case they picked up their skills through Task Grinding) or Unskilled, but Strong (in which case Session Grinding slowly built up their physical strength). Compare Training from Hell. Contrast Hard Work Hardly Works.
Anime & Manga
- Earthlings in Dragon Ball. By the time the space men and the androids and evil magicians show up, the sheer amount of abilities, assets and resources the heroes have at their disposal is what saves the day. For example, the ability to sense ki, knowledge of how the Dragon Balls work, the ability to hide their power levels, the possession of a Dragon Radar, telepathic communication, and exotic techniques such as the Solar Flare, Destructo Disk, Kaio-ken and Spirit Bomb are what give them all a fighting chance against Frieza and his flunkies. The Z-Fighters were completely outmatched through most of the entire saga, but just having acquired these assets through years of adventuring is what eventually wins the day.
- The Saiyan race in general in Dragon Ball. The Saiyans are a Proud Warrior Race that are some of the toughest beings in the entire galaxy, with the ability to transform into multiple Super Modes that can even the odds against any opponent. However, that's not even the scariest ability they possess, as other races (namely Frieza's species and the Majin) are just as tough and possess transformations of their own. What really puts the Saiyans over the top is "Zenkai", which is the ability for a Saiyan to vastly grow in power after recovering from near death. That means a Saiyan can literally just Task Grind their way to obscene amounts of power if they possess the time and the means. Vegeta himself abused this on Planet Namek, and it enabled him to eventually kill every single one of Frieza's henchmen. Also, Cell (an Artificial Human created partially with Saiyan genes) combined this with a natural healing factor to become one of the toughest foes the Z-Warriors ever faced.
- According to several characters in Hajime no Ippo, the title character eventually fits this trope. By the time he's defended his title for the fourth time, Ippo has been acknowledged as a very formidable champion despite only having a limited repertoire. In a story where almost all of his contemporaries are innate "geniuses", this is Ippo's greatest advantage. Anyone who fights Ippo knows exactly what he's going to do: Attack! Attack! Attack!. But, due to the sheer gauntlet of skilled and varied opponents he's faced and trained to overcome, Ippo has the physical skill and ability to deal with just anything that's thrown at him. Ippo tends to get his ass kicked quite frequently in sparring matches or friendly exhibitions, but he always takes away some sort of experience from it that helps him win his actual bouts. This trope, in fact, is invoked when Coach Kamogawa is deciding how they will eventually face the World Featherweight Champ, Ricardo Martinez. While they could definitely challenge Martinez directly, the coach feels that Ippo currently wouldn't stand a chance and the best course would be to Session Grind against other Pacific region champions until he's built up the skill to face him.
- Black Star from Soul Eater. Eventually he has to go through a period of Time to Unlock More True Potential to avoid him turning evil by way of Loners Are Freaks.
- Let's just say that any western comic book character that is a Long Runner will unerringly fit this trope. Any superhero who has been around for at least two Ages (since the The Bronze Age of Comic Books or older) should qualify. Other examples in this medium should be limited to characters whose publications were shorter or are significantly newer.
- Green Lantern Kyle Rayner. He received no training on how to use his Green Lantern Ring, and just happened to wander into the Call Reception Area where he lucked up on the job. After years of adventuring in The DC Universe, Kyle eventually became one of the most exceptional Lanterns in the history of the Corps despite having never received any formal Lantern training.
- Conan the Barbarian: Somehow, pushing a wheel around for years turns young Conan into a Badass killing machine.
- In The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon, Barney Gorman is a garbageman and kicks his truck all day long. Eventually, he gets recruited to a football team because he can kick things very well.
- Keladry of Mindelin: As a girl, everyone assumes she will be weaker than her male peers, so she does her work with lead-filled practice weapons, and trains from before dawn till breakfast every morning. By the end of the books, it's clear that she is the strongest in fighting and command work.
- Lili from Tekken. Her official story is that she is a Rich Bitch that got kidnapped once and fought her way out. That's it. From that experience, she learned that she had repressed Blood Knight tendencies and she sought out more and more battles without her father's approval or knowledge. From then on, she simply Session Grinded her way into being good enough to compete in the King of the Iron Fist Tournament. She has no formal training, no martial arts background, and isn't described as a "natural" at much except dancing and ballet. However, the sheer volume of opponents she's faced has slowly helped her improve.
- This is how you improve skills in The Elder Scrolls: You keep using a skill until it levels up. Even skills that start at a measly level five can go all the way up to level 100 with enough practice. Even if a character does nothing but walk the entire story without touching a spell or weapon, they'll eventually be a superhumanly fast freak of nature.
- According to Word of God, Chris Redfield, circa Resident Evil 5. While yeah, Chris has always been a Badass Normal and Made of Iron in general, Chris's Rated M for Manly redesign in the fifth game was to demonstrate what a man who battled Body Horrors and a Transhuman psychopath for a living would look like after years on the job.
- The ''Street Fighter/Final Fight universe has:
- Blanka, a mutant who grew up in the jungles of Brazil. Apparently, living in the jungle teaches you how to produce electricity like eels. (His profile in Street Fighter II explicitly says that watching eels was how he learned to do this.)
- Cody, one of the protagonists of Final Fight, who gained most of his fighting skills from battling street gangs and surviving in prison.
- Marisa Kirisame of Touhou has no extraordinary magical talent, but is very strong in magic due to sheer practice. This makes her a foil to Reimu, who is Brilliant, but Lazy, getting by on the innate power of the Hakurei bloodline.
- In one episode of South Park, the boys played an MMO and spent months doing nothing but killing wild hogs to gain one point at a time until they were finally (almost!) strong enough to take on the Big Bad.
- In Ben10, Dr. Paradox accidentally gets sent back to early Earth but finds himself immortal and doesn't need food, water, or sleep. He takes The Slow Path and, simply by having studied time before being flung back and then living billions of years, he came to understand the fabric of spacetime inside and out. This allows him to warp wherever he wants and travel back and forth through time at will. This was knowledge he developed out of necessity to keep from going insane for being the only human in a dangerous world for so long.
- Professional Street Fighter player Wolfkrone. Unlike most pros, Wolfkrone didn't train with top competitors, learn trade secrets to give him a competitive edge, or have godlike execution skills from the beginning. He merely sat down, logged on to Xbox Live, and played match after match after match until he was good enough to win most American tournaments.
- Len Wickwar. A boxer with a record of 338 Wins, 85 Losses and 42 Draws, for a total of 465 professional bouts.
- Miles Davis was said not to have natural talent on the trumpet; he practiced a LOT, making him an excellent playe
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