Competition: Why?

This past Sunday was the Southern WI Open. It’s an event I’ve been going to since I was at 15, if not younger and it’s always been a fun tournament and a place where I get to see friends from all over the state. This year was no different.

It was also my first event as a solo school owner. It was. . . way more stressful than I was expecting.

And far more awesome.

I’ve been supporting students at tournaments for years. But for some reason, this one hit home a lot harder than previous ones. There was no other person to point at when there was the question of “Who’s your instructor?” I am their instructor and to everyone’s credit, they did a great job and represented the school. It was incredibly energizing and humbling experience at the same time.

This experience highlighted something for me, however.  Watching my students compete made me start thinking about why I think competition is important. So I made a list. Here we go!

1. It’s terrifying.

 

 

US Open, Disney, Orlando FL
They’re all watching YOU

 

Competing is legitimately scary. You’re going to showcase a series of skills you’ve worked on to a bunch of strangers, and then be ranked by their subjective opinions. That nails a whole lot of fears and phobias for a bunch of people. There’s the fear of failure, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of being in front of people, plus the 300 other odd thoughts that will drift across your mind as you get closer the point of no return.

All of these still hit me. There are times I step on the floor and still get the shivers. I love it, which is why I’ve been competing almost non-stop for 20 years (whoah, when did I get so old?). But, learning to overcome all of those fears, push past that adrenaline spike, and then present yourself confidently and with purpose? That’s huge.

2. It’s hard.

 

IMG_4091.jpg
Like, REALLY hard. 

 

I forget this part just about every day. Doing forms (which is what I’ll talk about the most, as it’s what I do the most) at a high level is HARD. Like, really hard. Just on Sunday, I watched Grandmaster Likes do his form in Grands.

He’s 80, by the way. And he’s still competing. And he was in Grands. Just let that settle into your brain for a moment (it was AWESOME)

He came back breathing hard and told me. “If you aren’t absolutely tapped out by the end of your form, you’re not doing it right.” I agreed. I believe in that 100%. However, I sure do wish I started puffing a little later in the process. The point is, working hard and consistently on a goal is something that can never be underrated. When I have kids that want me to watch their forms, I always take the minute or two to take a look because it means they are working outside of class and it also means they want a second opinion on their skills. They’re actively trying to improve. What kind of instructor would I be if I shot that down?

3. It’s a commitment.

Subaru Impreza, out of gas
Those three dashes represent how many miles left until empty tank…

I spend more hours than I really want to contemplate on tournaments. There’s all the training to get ready for a tournament. The actual travel to the event, which can be significant, depending on the event. But even if it’s only down the road, it takes time out of your life. Then when you’re finally at the event you get to get up and compete for all of 5 minutes. Maybe. On a really good day.

It’s a whole lot of time. A lot of late nights and early mornings. A lot of discomfort and more than a little frustration (and so much gas). I can’t tell you how often I’ve looked in the mirror and asked why it is I do this to myself.

It’s an easy answer with some pretty heavy repercussions.  I committed to this a long time ago. And once I commit to something, I stick with it.

That is a skill that is learned. Grit. Game. Tenacity. Budo. Whatever you want to call it, learning how to keep on working your goals and dreams, especially when they’re hard, is a skill that I can’t put a price on. Every achievement I’ve ever earned has come about from an idea followed by a hell of a lot of hard work.

4. You will lose.

Diamond Nationals, Minneapolis, MN

Losing sucks.

I really feel for my students when it happens. But it will happen. Often. Losing, and by extension failure, are a part of life. I welcome the challenge of competition and demonstrating the skills I’ve been working so very hard on for so long. But, by welcoming that challenge, I also accept the possibility I will lose. And that is part of the process. Failure is a teacher, losing is a guide. When I compete and lose, I learn far, far more than I ever do from winning a division or a big trophy. And that’s the lesson I stress with my students. Mistakes happen, losing happens, we will all fail at some point. The important part is we don’t let that fear of failure influence our decisions or our commitment, and if and when it happens, we accept our loss with grace and humility.

And here’s the cool thing. The process never stops. Last weekend was the Southern WI Open and this weekend is AmeriKick. The growth never stops, and the learning always continues.

It’s completely awesome!

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