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Friday, July 5, 2013

For my friends on the Mat and Platform this weekend:

"Life is growth. If we stop growing, technically and spiritually, we are as good as dead....."
Morihei Ueshiba (O Sensei), founder of Aikido*

Competitions, tests, challenges, what are they really?
As a fellow-student and friend of several people who are competing or being tested this weekend, I offer this perspective in the hope of supporting your progress.

Having been a martial artist for only a short time, and kettlebell lifter even shorter, I have relied on wisdom of great teachers such as O Sensei and Gandhi to help me understand how I feel during tests and moments of maximum effort.

Whether you succeed or fail, let the test develop your character.

First, you may be asking "What does Gandhi have to do with this?"
Have you ever been in the middle of a test and realized that you are seeing your own commitment or lack of commitment to the subject through the examination? This, I think, is the true usefullness of tests, to show us what we have learned or not even noticed about our field of study.
M.K. Gandhi submitted a list called "Seven Deadly Social Sins" in which he covers all the basis of conscious social awareness (easy to find on Google). The "sin" that answered my heart about being humiliated by a test was "Knowledge without Character."

The test allowed me to acknowledge my human-ness, if you will. The most amazing athletes in history have walked away from botched attempts expressing awareness that they hadn't done the homework. While many of those who succeeded had the character to acknowledge both commitment to practice and Grace as factors in the outcome.

Whether you have studied all the material or not, perform with confidence.

Second, in the midst of a competition it really becomes obvious when I have stepped out of my depth of experience. Many Girevoy Sport coaches will train athletes to physically peak a growth phase at the competitive event, meaning it's very likely that the lifter will step out on a limb and do something completely new on that day. The coach or teacher knows this will happen and believes his or her student has deep enough training to cope with the unknown.

From the athlete's perspective if I am truly where I need to be I will re-set my center in mid-flow. If I am in over my head I will maintain on the foundation that I have already built. Something I have witnessed at aikido tests: the martial artist is ready to advance in rank when he/she can notice new levels of pressure and make adjustments during the moment of challenge.

Whether it's a new test or a re-test, you are not the same person this time.

Last thing, because I know you all have better things to do than read this blog. I wish for you all to have this moment before beginning your test. Remember a time when the challenge you are about to face was unthinkably above you, and acknowledge the practice, understanding and growth you have accomplished between that time and now.

My thoughts are with you this weekend, wishing you all a great time and a turning point for even greater things to come!