The stars didn’t align in the right way for me to go to the USA Karate National Championships this year. Nonetheless, sometime in May I was invited to train with those who are going. I did a tiny bit of this last year, but only on Saturdays. This year, I’m doing it all. Three hours on Thursday, three on Friday, and three on Saturday. Then there’s the “homework” I have to do so I don’t die over the weekend – jogging, sprints, working my abs, arms, and legs… It’s brutal training but fun. The format is a little different this year. We start with jogging for 15 minutes, maybe 20, I really don’t want to know. This is usually followed by sprints. We have to meet or beat our record time in three sprints, or else we have to do an extra sprint.
A week ago (Friday, 6/24/16), our coach (Affiliate YMCA Sensei) had us do a variation on our usual sprints. We were to jog about a block, then jog back, increasing our speed gradually so that we were at a full out sprint by the time we ended. He said the winner would get a rest.
The results were predictable and by age. The teenager came in first.
Sensei asked the teenager, “Did you win?”
She beamed back at him, “Ossu, Sensei!”
Sensei asked her, “How did you know you won?”
The young lady said, “Because I was the first one back.”
Sensei had everyone line up again, yes, even the “winner.” He instructed us to meet or beat our times.
The results were the same. I pushed myself hard and beat my previous time. As I fought to control my breathing and my rebellious stomach, Sensei asked a couple of my training partners if they’d won. They responded that they had. I didn’t have the energy or attention to puzzle out their responses. As I was sucking air and trying to hold down the small drink of water I’d had before we started, Sensei turned to me.
“Joelle, did you win?” he asked.
Still sucking air, I shook my head and scowled in frustration. Sensei briefly and gently chided me for lack of manners, then continued, “I think you did.”
Sensei went on to explain that we’re competing against ourselves. I had a “d’oh!” moment when he said that a win or loss doesn’t really matter. What does matter is what you learn, and if you’re better than you were. Sensei said we need to focus on our own karate and not compare ourselves to anyone but ourselves. This is something I know, but I had forgotten it in the face of an extreme (for me) physical challenge. How often have I blogged about lessons learned that were in accordance with what Sensei said? Yet in a completely different context, the lessons I’ve learned in the ring went out the window.
I definitely had an eye-opener about myself and the martial-arts mindset, and I have to humbly admit I’m still a beginner. Andrea Harkins is a master at applying lessons learned on the mats, and I draw a lot of encouragement from her blog. As much as I’ve read of her writing, and as much as I’ve learned from time spent on the mats, I still don’t always “get it.” But then again, to use the words of Jackie Bradbury, martial-arts growth is not linear. I just need to be patient with myself when I don’t quite measure up to my own ideals.