Articles Comments

Bowley Kenpo Karate » Philosophy » Who are you competitive with?

Who are you competitive with?

While at my alter-ego day job the other day and also in the break room playing ping pong with a coworker, he remarked he thought most black belts were super competitive. Now my coworker certainly has an authoritative opinion on this as he’s a black belt in Jiu Jitsu along with a few other styles. He’s also competitive at ping pong. I disagreed saying, while I’m not yet a black belt, I don’t believe most are so competitive. Sure they don’t like to lose, but most of the black belts I associate with are driven by knowledge. Not necessarily a competition with others.

Internal competition helps you progress along the martial arts path

Internal competition helps you progress along the martial arts path

He smiled a knowing smile, like he’d set me up, and asked if I was competitive with myself. Stunned that I’d walked right into the obvious answer, I had to admit I was driven to improve myself in comparison to myself. He’s right of course. To progress on the martial arts path, it helps to be competitive. You must have the drive to see yourself improve, and internal competition is a great motivator.

Upon reflection, read also as self-psychoanalysis, I find I compete with myself about evenly split two ways: mentally and physically.

Mental Competition – Can I recite the pledges and belt sayings without missing any? Can I break down the power principles behind a technique in such a ways as to teach it to someone else? And also have it make sense? Can I come up with new games and drills to keep students engaged and moving forward? When I’m exhausted and tired, can I dig deep to keep going? These aren’t the usual questions someone might ask, but they are what goes on in my head when thinking about Kenpo. None of these have anything to do with anyone other than me. It is a competition. But only with me.

Physical Competition – Can I get through all of the forms and sets without stopping to remember the next move? How many push ups can I do in a minute? How many rounds can I go in sparring without needing extra time to recover? Can I get the angle of my hands and feet correct consistently and with power when striking the bags? How many counter-strikes can I freestyle against a random attack without pausing? Again, in these situations, I’m only competing against myself.

For the students, especially the kids, the goal is to see incremental improvement.  We encourage this by teaching them to measure against themselves rather than against other students. It’s not a race to see who can complete the technique fastest, but to make sure they do the technique better than the previous time. It isn’t about who can kick the bag the hardest, rather having better form when doing the kick. It’s okay to watch other students and use them as a goal for where you want to get, but don’t confuse the goal with competition and lose sight of your personal growth.

Could the mental and physical thoughts be turned into competitions with other people? Almost certainly. Not everyone can focus or even wants to focus on their internal goals. Some people, not exclusively martial artists, need to compete with others. In the karate world, many train with the express goal of tournament competition. There’s nothing wrong with that. But for me, and people like me, personal competition provides the most fulfillment. But I still don’t like it when my co-worker is right more than me. 🙂

If you enjoyed this post, please help spread it by sharing the link on Facebook or retweet on Twitter.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

Filed under: Philosophy · Tags: , , ,

  • OK Sam, a couple of things…your co-worker probably has a strong competitive bent because often times in ju-jutsu rank is awarded based on how well the student did in tournaments. Secondly, tournament competition can be a very motivating factor in one’s personal development…I know it was for me. It made me analyze what happened in every event I entered and figure out what I had to do to get better…better in the short term so as to place or win more, but also better in the long term by incrementally increasing my skills with every new event I trained for. Those skills stayed with me long after those events were just memories. Sometimes it is very hard to measure your progress just by how you are doing and stay motivated to continue trying to be better…even though that is the goal and personal development is the name of the game in training…sometimes a little external motivating factors such as tournament competition can be very helpful to keep you progressing on that path.

    • SBowley

      Thank you Sifu! I see your view, and it will certainly think on it quite a bit. I wonder how much perspective difference there is for those who came up through the tournament scene and those who did not. I didn’t, and this post probably reflects that.

Page optimized by WP Minify WordPress Plugin