Published by Russell Kelley, Sensei · 6 September 2022
When you compete with yourself, whether it’s in learning a new language or tackling a new hobby, or training to run a marathon you create a basis of comparison. Not a comparison with another person but the ability to compare how much you progress from day to day. Instead of feeling envious of the abilities of the higher ranked belt or even the black belt training a few feet away from you, you can focus on the progress you make every time you practice so that you get a little better each time.
While it may seem simple, this perspective shift allows us to progress faster because we’re not discouraged by the fact there are people who are better than us. There will always be people who are better than us and we need to accept that. If we can accept this, then we can allow ourselves to celebrate others’ achievements and use them as inspiration for pursuing our own.“The toughest competitor you will ever come up against will be yourself.”
Why is it that? It is because people have to look inside themselves to be their own competition; the old phrase “Know Thyself” comes to mind. We have to know our abilities and shortcomings, but what we end up doing is failing to recognize our strengths and rationalize away our weaknesses. Instead, you need to work on your strengths to make them stronger, and overcome your weaknesses by turning them into a strength. It helps you to know your limits; so instead of limiting yourself cross your lines and go outside the safe zone you have created.
How do we do this? Work on your stances, trying to hold a stance for longer and deeper from day to day. Practice your kata, increasing the speed you do it at day to day, always making sure you stay within form and don’t lose it as you work on the speed. Practicing your techniques making sure you do every movement correctly. Stretching to increase your ability. It helps you to set your new and improved limits.
“The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”
Competing against yourself might sound easy, but it also requires courage and strength to keep going when you are not seeing a lot of progress. After the first several months, additional progress becomes more challenging. It is a spiral staircase; you are making your way up until you it a landing. This plateau will be where you stay until you have pushed past it and started up the staircase and realize new progress After changing the easy things, you’ll eventually be required to tackle more challenging issues. Competing with yourself is exciting and challenging.
“Compete with yourself, strive to be better than yourself and you’ll eventually be better than the person you were yesterday.”
Martial arts teach that continuous self-improvement, through competing with yourself, is the key to making ourselves better than we were yesterday. We should always aim to improve ourselves at least 1% each day. The greatest achievement is to realize you compete not with others, but with yourself. There is no opponent except for who you were yesterday.