As I navigated through the wild forest of motivational words on Pinterest, a quote stood out to me: "Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better" – Author unknown.
My first thought: I wonder if there is an unfortunate somebody actually named Unknown dropping knowledge bombs without recognition.
Second thought: those words ring just as true for the wide world of martial arts as it does the world of sports and even business.
A healthy dosage of friendly competition can progress performance like few other things can — it can ignite the embers in a person's heart to become faster, stronger, more fluid, and confident.
Mind you, proper competition walks the balance between comparison and collaboration. Rather than base their personal accomplishments on the relative success or failure of those around them, a great competitor values the perspective those competing alongside them bring.
They understand that it is about something much more than walking away with a gold-plated trophy which will eventually fall apart. It is about personal progress, comradery between those with a similar interest, the high of excitement, and the accomplishment of facing and overcoming a challenge.
The secret to make sure we glean the benefits of tournaments without allowing any negative aspects creep into our being is simple. Let competition be your catalyst for improvement, let collaboration be what continues your drive and progress thereafter.
As much as we can accomplish staying within the four walls of our training studio, we can grow even more when we accept interactions and lend thought to the perspectives of those not in our immediate group.
Tournaments can be wonderful places to network and meet martial artists across the world with various backgrounds.
When you meet these individuals, conversate and discuss thoughts and experiences. Appreciate their performances in front of the judges or in the sparring matches against you. See if you approach aspects of training the same way. If you discover differences, distil the conversation and find out why they have their view. You may learn something new!
Vast and varied, the wide world of martial arts can be divisive. The more opportunities we have to glimpse into the experiences of each other and hold genuine conversation, the more we can collectively grow.
A different form of stress
Whether we are trying to get acclimated to the pressure of a high-stakes self-defense situation or to the pressure of performing with numerous eyes focused solely on your every action, proper or not, we have to get used to stress.
But guess what. Not all stress is the same.
Instead of going for the type of stress that leaves you with work nightmares, we want to
introduce ourselves to eustress.
This is the type of stress which comes about from the thrill of extreme sports, riding a
rollercoaster, performing on stage, or competing in a challenge.
In other words, this is the positive stress which breaks up the monotony of life and unshackles us from a boring life. Without a dose of this in our lives, we would lose motivation for a lot in our life. When our world loses its spectrum of life experience, it is easy to become depressed and apathetic.
Imagine trying to live life without the excitement of a first date or the nerves of a wedding day, without the anticipation of a scary movie or the first day of school.
Pretty blah-blah bland.
More than simply maintaining our interest, the correct type and dosage of stress can help us get used to the times when we are forced to withstand moments charged with negative amounts of stress.
The more we can step outside our comfort zone in responsible ways and put work into our skill set while in those unsettled moments, the better.
Life can be...hard (you know this already).
If we want to be able to perform at the highest level, we have to get used to the challenge of overcoming stress.
Whether competing in forms, breaking, self-defense demonstrations, or sparring, the pressure of having all eyes on you can be helpful for your growth.
Of course, there are physical benefits to competing as well. Aside from the athletic build which top-notch performance training can develop, there are universal attributes such as awareness and coordination that are improved.
Though the purpose is for aesthetic reasons, the extreme self-awareness tournament training promotes is largely beneficial when trying to refine the efficiency of movements.
As you learn to be aware of what fallacies a judge might spot in your routine, you can become a better critic of yourself.
Awareness informs intellect. If you are more aware of what your body is actually doing (whether it be through focus in the present moment, reviewing footage, or simple observation in a mirror), you are becoming more capable of changing what needs to be changed.
Coordination is also key.
The most powerful technique means absolutely nothing if you are, physically or mentally, getting in your own way every time you try to execute it. Having the coordination to properly perform movements is important.
The more harmonized our motion, the better our actions. Marry the left and right halves of the body, coordinate the upper and lower halves of the being. When each portion of the body can move in a way that is in unity with the rest, fluidity across action occurs and true power can be issued with each movement.
As we train, we strive to maintain that unity across the actions of our eyes, hands, feet, and the rest of our body.
With all of that being said, remember the wise words of Big Daddy Kane-sensei, "ain't no half steppin!"
You'll find as many benefits from training for competition half-assed as you would training for combat or traditional reasons in a half-assed manner: very, very few.
If you want to gain any of the aforementioned benefits, put the work in with a serious attitude.
Whether you place actual value in competition results or not is irrelevant. If you want to reap the benefits of any training, each action has to be taken with purpose.
See you on the competition floor!
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