Fight Your Own Battle

As I get older, I often think back to my competition years. I learned so much during those years. Our instructors would tell us all these things we could to to psych out our opponent. They taught us moves that would be unexpected and thus, give us an advantage. I remember using my own special kick, something I’ve never seen anyone else do, a spinning back roundhouse kick (don’t ask) to completely set a guy off his edge, so I could just trounce him afterwards. Some instructors would encourage less honorable strategies, such as throw one low shot early in the fight, take the warning from the referee and then the opponent would be second guessing you the rest of the fight, if he wasn’t also hurt. I never did that in competition, but it’s great advice for the street.


I won a lot of matches, but I lost my share too. I learned so much from that time. If you win, you still probably got hit. In a street altercation, would that hit have killed or maimed? I’m pretty compassionate guy, so the other problem I had was, if I win, that means someone else, probably a really great guy, has to lose. I know that feeling and it often bothered me to beat someone, knowing this might be that one moment that makes him so despondent that he quits his training.


Matches seldom went based on weight, these were open and invitational tournaments that went on rank. They try to go on weight and age too, but they had to make sure everyone had a chance to fight. Even though I was 6 feet tall, I still only weighed around 165 (can’t imagine that today can you) and often went up against guys much bigger than me. I’d still did my best, sometimes winning, sometimes not. I learned to lose with grace and to win with gratitude and humility towards my opponent. I lost fights because I had an off day, and I’m sure I won a few because my opponent was not at his best either. I had one match where my opponent was so bad, that I stepped out of the ring on purpose to stop the fight, because I was worried that there was no way I couldn’t hurt him. There was no way he was a real Black Belt and there was no way I could fight him without hurting him. He was just that bad. The referee knew what I was doing though and nodded his approval. One time, I fought even though I had the flu (or something), but knew I could learn from the experience as well. Naturally I lost, but it was a learning experience of how vulnerable we are when not at our best.


I think there was only one fight my parents went to see. The guy I was up against outweighed me by at least 60 pounds. It was a good day and I felt great so I just went off on the guy and really trounced him. Afterwards I thanked him for the opportunity and he was great. My mom later told me how terrified she was for me at first, then how she was afraid I was going to hurt that poor man after I got going. It was too much for her, she didn’t go to any others.


Any fighter can beat any other fighter on any given day. Competition, ANY competition is FAR from real anyway. In competition we wear protective gear, even MMA fighters wear some. In competition it’s a clear environment. There’s no gravel or sand or chairs or cars. In a competition it is consensual. You want to be there and so does the other person. This is seldom the case in a real altercation and can change the mindset drastically. In a competition, even MMA there are legal moves and illegal moves. In a real fight, anything goes and if all you’ve trained in is legal moves, that is exactly what your body will do in a real altercation. In a competition, you have only one opponent.

When I was working as a Recreational Therapist in a Psychiatric facility, I learned to always assume you have more than one opponent. Imagine in a ground fighting match, where you are winning and then his buddy starts kicking you. You can’t handle two opponents unless you train to handle two opponents. You definitely can’t handle two opponents when you are on the ground. In a competition, there is a referee. He is there to make sure things don’t get out of hand. Imagine your opponent in a real fight knocks you out, but doesn’t stop when you hit the ground. THAT is reality. Imagine the fear you are going to feel and how that fear is going to affect you.


My point of going through all of this is that every day we fight. We are warriors. We go to battle to fight procrastination, lethargy, bad temper, negativity, ignorance and our own self loathing. Sometimes we have to compete against other people, but the most important thing I learned in those fight years is that no matter what I was doing, no matter who I was competing against, my competitor was really myself. I work every single day to be better than I was the day before. The other thing I also learned from those years is that losing doesn’t really mean you lose. The person who learns the most is the person who fails in the attempt and improves to try again. That person is the true winner. The one who truly loses is the one who, win or lose, doesn't improve from the experience.

How long is a yardstick? it is 3 feet long. Is it always 3 feet long? Of course it is. How good is your opponent or the person you are comparing yourself to? Today he could be having a great day, or a bad day. You just don’t know. He is an unreliable yardstick. Judge yourself based on a yardstick you can trust...yourself. You know how good you were yesterday, and you know how good you have to be today to do better than that. Fight your own fight and judge yourself based on YOU.

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