Jul 022010

I have always been a big fan of the underdog. I love stories where they struggle against great odds with courage and determination because it inspires hope. No matter how much hardship they face, they refuse to stay down or to give up. Written well, such stories are moving and instructional. One of my favourite underdogs is Rock Lee from the popular Naruto manga written by Kishimoto Masashi. Lee is a classic underdog with a pure heart. His slight goofiness only adds to his likeability. Today I will share why I like him.

The World of Naruto

The world of Naruto is a fantasy one filled with ninjas from hidden villages. The story revolves around the fire village of Konoha which earns its living by sending out ninjas on missions. Ninjas graduate from the ninja academy around the age of 12 and obtain the rank of genin. There are 3 ranks a normal ninja can obtain; the lowest rank of genin, the middle rank of chunin and the highest rank of jonin. Due to their lack of experience, genins in groups of 3 receive further lessons from jonins to prepare them for their chunin exams. As part of their training with their jonin instructors, genins also take part in easy missions. Most ninjas would know how to use ninjutsu (special powers), genjutsu (illusions) and tajijutsu (martial arts).

The Determination of Rock Lee

In a world filled with gifted ninjas, Lee was born without talent. He couldn’t use ninjutsu or genjutsu which placed him at a severe disadvantage. Worsening matters, his taijijutsu was below average during his academy days. These factors combined to make him last in his class. On top of his handicaps, he had to endure the taunts of his classmates. They did not believe that someone with as little talent as Lee could ever be a good ninja.

But even then, what Lee lacked in talent, he tried to make up for with hard work. At that young age, he already had a clear goal in life. He wanted to prove that even without ninjutsu or genjutsu; he could still be a splendid ninja. Somehow he managed to become a genin and soon he joined Team Guy.

I cannot help but admire Lee’s spirit. All of us have different starting points in life. Some are privileged, others are not. Some are gifted, others are not. But it is not how you are born that matters. It is what you do with the life you are given that counts. Lee could have saved himself a lot of ridicule by not chasing his dream. But this guy just didn’t know how to accept his fate. He didn’t know how to give up. Despite all the naysayers, he had the courage to dream and the will to pursue it.

The Turning Point; The Student Meets His Master

At Team Guy, one of Lee’s teammate was the top ninja rookie Neji Hyuga. Unlike Lee, Neji was gifted and highly skilled. He was a genius in the eyes of everyone. These facts however, did not daunt Lee. Lee made it a point to challenge Neji in the hopes of improving himself. But he constantly lost. Unkindly, Neji mocked Lee’s attempts to improve by telling him that he would always remain a failure and a loser. Soon, Lee began to believe Neji and felt that he could never achieve his dream; that hard work could never surpass talent.

In an emotionally moving scene , Lee’s mentor Might Guy stepped in to help. He reminded Lee that all the hard work in the world would amount to nothing if he did not believe in himself. Guy’s solution was to train Lee to be a taijijutsu specialist. He put Lee through insane physical training which would have killed lesser people. But Guy did not stop there. He also taught Lee forbidden secret techniques. These techniques allowed Lee to unlock his body’s full potential, giving him awesome power in the process. But there was a catch. The stress from using this power would destroy Lee’s body if carried on for prolonged periods. Due to the dangers involved, Guy made Lee promise to use these techniques only in life and death situations.

I personally like this mentor student relationship best in the story. Firstly, Guy himself graduated last in class, so he fully empathized with how Lee felt. This insight allowed him to give Lee the encouragement he needed. Secondly, Guy valued Lee’s spirit. This led him to give Lee the training and skills needed to fulfil his dream. Lastly, Guy understood and believed in Lee when no one else would. Naturally, Lee hero-worshipped Guy and adopted many of his eccentric mannerisms which led to much comic relief. Because of Guy’s active interest, Lee did indeed become stronger than anyone expected him to be. In fact, Lee used his newfound strength to protect those who were weaker than him. This was all thanks to Guy’s patience and influence.

How Lee Proved Himself

The climax took place at the chunin exams. The genin ninjas from Konoha fought against genins from other villages. Lee found himself facing a fearsome foe named Gaara who could control sand for offense and defence. No one in Konoha knew it, but Gaara was in fact the most powerful ninja from his own village. During the fight, Lee found that he could not even scratch Gaara with his normal attacks. It was only when he used all his secret techniques that he managed to break through Gaara’s defence and bring him to the brink of defeat. In doing so, Lee displayed a power that shocked everyone present. Unfortunately, it was not enough.

Gaara managed to survive all of Lee’s best attacks. By this time, Lee was helpless. He had torn all his muscles and broken many of his bones. He could barely stand, yet alone defend himself. Gaara went on the offensive and easily crushed Lee’s arm and leg. He was about to deliver the killing blow when Guy stepped in to save Lee. Despite his grave injuries, Lee rose once more to carry on the fight. Only when Guy gently stopped him did Lee collapse in the arms of his mentor. Lee may have lost, but he proved to everyone present that he was a splendid ninja.

Lee trained his entire life to prove he could be a splendid ninja who relied solely on taijijutsu. Although he came up short against Gaara, he proved two things. Firstly, he proved that his training had indeed paid off. His skills awed everyone present. Secondly, he proved that he had the heart needed to be a splendid ninja. Even though he took a great beating and sustained grave injuries from Gaara, Lee refused to stay down. This display of heart and courage earned him the recognition and respect of his peers. In the ongoing story, Lee eventually recovered from his injuries and continues to improve his skills.

Rock Lee VS Gaara Videos

For those of you who would like to see the videos of the fight between Rock Lee and Gaara, you may do so with the links below.

Rock Lee vs Gaara: This video shows the fight between Rock Lee and the frightening Gaara.

Taking Action

Lee reminds me that life is about choices. It is not your birth that defines you. It is the choices you make and what you do with your life that matters. Lee’s strength and courage in the face of adversity is all the more admirable because of his disadvantages. All his power and success are the result of years of training and the determination to improve.

Success doesn’t happen overnight. It is the little things you do, the steps you take each day that bring you closer to your dream. Pursing your dream requires courage and tenacity. Whenever I feel like giving up or doing less, Lee’s shinning example reminds me to press on.

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  2 Responses to “Why I Like Rock Lee”

  1. having a mentor in life is important… but without the hard work, correct attitude and persistence like lee, he may not even have had the opportunity to benefit from all that his mentor had to offer.

    very inspiring post. and I would like to emphasize once again that luck = preparation meeting opportunity.

    life is very generous with opportunity. you just have to reach out and grab it.

    • I’m glad you found the article and Rock Lee inspiring. Whenever I feel like giving up or staying down, I remind myself of Lee and pick myself off the ground and press on. That’s how winning is done as Rocky Balboa so aptly put it.

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