It was my first Judo match and I was really nervous. Once we bowed, and closed the distance, I realized that I was breathing twice as hard as I had been. My heart was beating twice as fast. I was sweating twice as much. Everything seemed to be happening twice as quick. At one point, I wasn’t sure if I could escape a choke, but somehow I did. It was a situation that I had never encountered before, but staying calm and looking for a solution benefitted me. All the practice and preparation had provided a proper mindset and stamina to keep me from doing anything too stupid.
I think everyone should find something that they can do in a competitive arena. Competition is great for showing you situations that you may have otherwise never anticipated. Competition is a test of your skills and an honest assessment of your abilities. That is why I compete.
Competition has become kind of a dirty word, but I don’t know why. Competition, if approached healthily, can provide some very important lessons about life, about yourself, and about how you perceive the world. While I realize not everyone wants to compete, and people may have their own reasons for why they don’t, all reasons are acceptable except fear. Especially fear of failure.
Having lost at many things in life, I can honestly say that the sting of defeat is definitely a sting. It is not pleasant. However, I think it is a barb that plunged deep into your backside makes you look at reality without any misconceptions. It provides clarity like nothing else. Defeat either makes you apply yourself and make changes, or it makes you quit. The adage that you learn more from losing, if posted on Facebook, would probably get a huge amount of “likes”. But I wonder how many people would apply it to themselves or their children? Regardless of the intellectual understanding, the possibility of failure is uncomfortable, and that is why it is beneficial.
There has been a real shift in how people view competition, especially among children. I went to my nephew’s football game years ago, and noticed that the scoreboard was blank. His team was wearing uniforms that looked top notch, and there were cheerleaders decked out like real cheerleaders. There were people in the stands, and they were cheering. It looked like a football game to me. I was completely confused. What the heck was I looking at? Why a blank scoreboard? I asked my brother what was going on and he informed me that they don’t keep score, so that the game is not competitive: no losers. I was aghast, I told him that also means no winners! The whole message of competition has been lost.
My feeling on having no losers is that the later you put off the confrontation with defeat, the worse it will be. In martial arts competition, no matter the discipline it is important to compete, and risk something. The reasons to compete are numerous, but here are a few worth thinking about:
When I first moved to my new home city of Atlanta years ago, I hadn’t found a new teacher or place to study, so I was just working and practicing what I knew already. Moreover, I needed a reason to practice harder and I wanted to be better at what I knew. I had learned a lot of Xing Yi forms before I moved and I wanted to remember them. After a while, I saw an advertisement for a tournament, and signed up to compete with a few of them: empty hand and a weapon. For the empty hand I chose Xing Yi Rooster and for the weapon the Xing Yi five element staff.
As the date grew closer, I was finding many places to practice that I hadn’t thought of before. I was leaving work a few minutes early to practice at a local school. At one point I began keeping my staff in my car at all times. Any flat open surface and I would jump out and do the form. When I came home, before I pulled into the garage, I would do my form, then stash my staff in the back seat and pull in. I found that I could practice in a conference room at work if I just put my hands in the right position and visualized a staff, and then went through the movements.
It was pretty amazing how with a little pressure, I was finding all kinds of ways to practice and prepare for the big day. When the day came, I went down and competed, and did better with the staff than the Rooster form, but it didn’t matter. I was happy with my effort, and I achieved what I wanted to achieve: I was much better than I was before.
Regardless of the discipline or art you study, I suggest that you contact your martial arts instructor and find out when the next competition is and start training hard for it. Commit to it, and also commit to the idea that regardless of the outcome, you will have taken your training to a new level. If it comes, shrug off defeat, or briefly embrace winning. Know that both winning and losing are temporary, and you cannot keep them for long. Acknowledge that taking the step to become a competitor is a major one, and you will get to keep all of the benefits.
There must be winners and losers. There must be struggle. That is how we grow. I think that a watered down idea of competition is unhealthy, and so is a fear of competition. I have entered into many aspects of my own life with the attitude and spirit, that I would rather be a spectacular failure, than a timid soul unwilling to take a chance.