Never Forgotten Skill
A skill that a person will always remember how to do once they learn it.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-04-13 07:35:07 sponsor: TiggersAreGreat (last reply: 2013-04-25 10:18:09)

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Every character in a fictional work will always have a skill. These skills can be anything like choosing the right people for a job, stealth, pickpocketing and so on. Normally, a skill has to be learned, and once a character learns it, s/he has to practice it lest s/he forgets how to do it.

Not these skills. These skills are learned once, and then the character never forgets how to do them, even if s/he hasn't used them for years.

There is a Stock Phrase representing this trope called "Like riding a bicycle/bike" as well as the phrase "An elephant never forgets". However, the page is not about either stock phrase. On an interesting side note, Russia has an equivalent phrase that says "мастерство не пропьёшь" (masterstvo ne propʹʹ), which literally translates to "skill not (you) drink away". As laugh-inducing as that may sound, any skill that doesn't go away due to alcohol has to qualify for this trope.

This is pretty much the default situation in Tabletop Games that use skills. It is very rare for an RPG's rules to have characters lose skills even when they're not used for long periods of time. By extension, there are so many examples of this trope in Video Games that it would be easier to list the video games that subvert or avert this trope.

This trope can result in Damn You, Muscle Memory. Bag of Spilling can happen and subvert this trope. This is the polar opposite of Forgot About His Powers, in other words, an Inverted Trope. Compare and contrast with Instant Expert, No Stat Atrophy, Suddenly Always Knew That.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • Dragon Ball GT: Played with quite oddly. After being turned back into a kid, Goku is unable to use his Instant Transmission technique and Trunks theorizes that since Goku is a kid again, he can't use any technique he learned when he was an adult. However, Goku pulls off the techniques of flying, turning Super Saiyan, shooting out ki blasts, and sensing energy with little difficulty...despite the fact that he never learned them back when he was a kid.
  • Fist of the North Star: Close to the end of the series, Kenshirou ends up losing his memory. Despite this, he kills off some thugs with Hokuto Shinken with little effort. Clearly, his skills with the martial art can never be forgotten, even if he has amnesia.

Comic Books
  • The Dark Knight Returns: The story starts off with Bruce Wayne retired for ten years and an alcoholic. However, once he puts the Batsuit back on, he demonstrates that ten years of retirement and alcohol have not caused him to forget his skills at all.
  • Huntress Darknight Daughter: In this storyline, Catwoman pulled a Heel-Face Turn, retired from crime, married Bruce Wayne and had a daughter named Helena Wayne. Everything was good for years...until Catwoman got blackmailed into one last job. She was given the job to break her old partners-in-crime into a building, which she executed flawlessly despite having not practiced it for years. One of the members even comments on that.
  • XIII: The story starts with a man with amnesia. Just like Jason Bourne, his combat skills are not at all affected by the memory loss.

Film
  • The Bourne Series: Jason Bourne is introduced with having amnesia. However, his memory loss does not affect his combat skills in the slightest.
  • True Lies: Double Subverted and Played for Laughs. When Gib says Harry can fly a Harrier jump-jet, despite reportedly not having touched one for fifteen years. For extra points, he says this to the actual pilot of the Harrier. Harry has some trouble at first, crushing the roof of a police car with his nose gear ("Sorry!") and sending the onlookers scrambling for cover with his thrusters, then gets the hang of it and heads off for Miami.
    Harry: If I break it, they can take it out of my pay.

Literature
  • The Bourne Series: Jason Bourne is introduced with having amnesia. However, his memory loss does not affect his combat skills in the slightest.
  • Guards! Guards!: Sgt. Colon claims shooting a longbow is like "riding something you never forget being able to ride," while having terrible problems even drawing his bow, let alone aiming. In reality archery is most definitely NOT a case of this, it requires constant practice to keep your hand in. (The main reason crossbows became so much more popular.)
  • In Death series: Roarke was quite the accomplished pickpocket and thief in general in his youth. He still is, actually, and he'll never forget his skills at stealing as long as he lives.

Live-Action TV
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander got magically transformed into an army soldier. After the transformation wears off, he still has the skills he "learned" even though he rarely uses them.
  • Person of Interest: The episode "The High Road" shows a POI who is an expert safecracker who can crack a combination safe by ear. He retired a long time ago and had been living as a husband and family man in the suburbs...until his partners-in-crime found him and pulled him in for one last job. Despite not have practiced for years, he managed to pull off this rare lost art of a skill like a professional.
  • Revolution (NBC): Exemplified, where the world has suffered an electricity blackout for 15-and-change years, but all of the soldiers have more or less retained all of their smooth skills behind the fighter stick of a Blackhawk helicopter.

Real Life
  • In Real Life, skills which work like this are the ones related to motor control; once the cerebellum (the part of the brain which co-ordinates your muscle movements) learns a given pattern of movement, you'll never forget it (through natural means, at least). Hence why it's so easy to get back on a bike (which is controlled entirely by simple muscle movements), no matter how long it's been since you last used one, after learning to ride one. In other words, muscle memory.

Video Games
  • Dark Forces Saga: Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast has a lot of years go by and Kyle Katarn seems to have lost his Force abilities. However, judging from the way he uses his lightsaber and the speed of regaining his Force abilities, he clearly didn't forget how to use them.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: As of the Legendary update, the game has this trope. Even if, for example, you reset your Destruction Magic skill back to level 15 from level 100, you can still cast your Master-level magics that you learned from books. Books that, bear in mind, you strictly must have level 100 Destruction to find.
  • One Must Fall: Played with. While the trope is played straight for the most part, if you spend too much money buying improvements for your robot, you get penalized by having your Strength, Agility, and Endurance stats decreased. A message even explains that apparently your character was so busy raising funds for buying the improvement that s/he neglected her/his training which resulted in the decrease of all three stats.
  • StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm: Kerrigan is given a gun by Raynor. She has clearly not forgotten how to shoot with it, which is impressive, considering that she had spent four years as a melee character and a human/zerg hybrid.
  • XIII: The story starts with a man with amnesia. Just like Jason Bourne, his combat skills are not at all affected by the memory loss.

Western Animation
  • Lady and the Tramp: In the sequel Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, Tramp has long since retired from his life of crime. However, he unlocks one locked door with awe-inspiring ease, showing that his criminal skills have not degraded in all those years.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Inverted Trope in the episode, "Your Shoe's Untied." Spongebob has not needed to re-tie his shoes in so long, he has actually forgotten how to do so.
    • In the episode "Pickles", SpongeBob goes through a Heroic BSOD when he thinks that he got an order wrong. It gets so bad that he starts wearing his pants on his head and speaking in scrambled sentences. Mr. Krabs figures that if he can get SpongeBob to make a Krabby Patty again, then he'll go back to normal; he even compares it to riding a bicycle, then notices a bicycle on a boiling pot in SpongeBob's stove.

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