“Without the spur of competition we’d loaf out our life.” — Arnold Glaslow
Competition is all around us – in school, at work, in sports, and in the martial arts. We are constantly competing with others, whether we know it or not. Your approach to that competition will determine your success.
Some people thrive on competition, others shrink from it, and some misunderstand competition and allow it to consume them. As martial artists, we should have a proper understanding and appreciation for the benefits of competition. It is through competition that we improve our knowledge, skills, and physical abilities, and increase our contributions to our families, employers, and society.
The purpose of competition is improvement – improvement of an individual, of a team, or of an organization. Beyond the scoreboard of athletic games, there are rarely clear cut winners and losers. There is just the competition of life and your approach to it.
Pierre de Coubertin, former International Olympic Committee Chairman once stated, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part … The most important thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” This is how martial artists should view competition. Do we compete well? Do we try our hardest, learn from our mistakes, and grow as individuals and as martial artists?
No one likes to lose, and martial artists are no different. When we enter a competition, it should be with the intention of winning, but, we understand that no one wins every time. We also understand that to compete well is the true measure of an individual, not just the win/loss columns.
Seek out and embrace competition, and realize that it will improve you if you allow it to do so. However, don’t be consumed by it. As Henry Ford once said, “Competition whose motive is merely to compete, to drive some other fellow out, never carries very far.” Engaging in competition without a clear understanding of its correct purpose can cause harm to an individual and those around him or her.
Many martial arts tournaments begin with, “Everyone here who has competed is a winner.” This is also true in life. Your willingness to compete, to improve yourself, and to grow as an individual and martial artist already makes you a winner, regardless of what any scoreboard might say.