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To the Best of my Ability

Thursday, February 29, 2024 10:00 AM | André Salvage (Administrator)

One of the primary reasons I was drawn to Kung Fu San Soo was its non-competitive nature. Before discovering San Soo, I had immersed myself in competitive boxing and various martial arts, where the drive to win, to be the best, and to overpower others often led to a profound amount of pain and suffering, effects that can last a lifetime.

I recall my last contest vividly—a full-contact, all-style tournament. My instructor at the time emphasized doing your best without ever mentioning winning or losing. “Sometimes your best will surpass others, and sometimes it won’t. The key is to train intelligently and learn from every experience. And most importantly, enjoy the process.”

Facing my opponent, I sensed victory was imminent, not so much due to my skill but due to the intense pressure his coach—his father—placed on him. The desperation in his father’s commands to win was alarming. Throughout the fight, his father’s screams pierced the air, and during breaks, he berated his son with the demand to win. My heart went out to my opponent, especially after I knocked him down and claimed victory.

To this day, I wonder if my skill or the heavy burden of stress and expectation he carried into the ring decided the outcome. That competition was my last.

The obsession with winning over others is a toxin to the soul, fueling division, an “us versus them” mentality, and an unhealthy focus on comparison without understanding how to truly win or lose. It seems we’ve shifted from learning and mastering skills for their own sake to learning merely for the sake of our egos, to dominate others at their expense.

I’m not an advocate for the sentiment that everyone deserves a trophy simply for participation. Hard work, doing your best, and outperforming others deserve recognition. However, my concern lies with the excessive focus on external validation, rewards, and winning at the expense of others.

This distortion of sportsmanship skews our values significantly. It’s telling when professional athletes earn a hundred times more than teachers. The emphasis has shifted from growing through learning to competing to win.

I’m curious about your views on competition and comparison. Have you noticed when the joy of learning and practicing to your best ability shifts into competing at others’ expense? How do you feel upon winning? Does this competitive mindset aid your training, or does it impede it?

Delving deeper into the concept, I believe competition—measuring, comparing, and categorizing things as good or bad—fuels the notion of separation. These constructs—societal creations—empower some while disempowering others, fostering the divide that is growing daily.

The constructs anchor us to outcomes, overshadowing the journey and the myriad opportunities for learning and growth. This focus on winning rather than on the process obscures the ability to embrace and learn from loss, trapping us in a cycle of unconsolable grief, unable to appreciate the inherent beauty in every situation.

The competitive mindset that reinforces an “us versus them” mentality, promoting the necessity to “win” at all costs—and to prevent the “other” from winning is rooted in the fear that  if “they” prevail, “they” will do horrible things to “us.” 

This mindset paves the way for demonizing and dehumanizing opponents, justifying abuse, control, and even genocide by stripping people of their humanity. In this frame, competition becomes a battleground not for ideas but for righteousness, triggering debates, selective outrage, and ridicule rather than fostering understanding and respect.

In sports and my interactions—whether playing, working, or learning—I view competition as a contest. This perspective shifts the focus from asserting dominance to evaluating one’s abilities and identifying areas for improvement, growth, and development.

Imagine how our world would transform if we redefined competition not as a vehicle for division but as an avenue to excel to the best of our abilities, inspiring each other to reach new heights.

Such a shift could redefine sportsmanship, cultivating respect and collaborative efforts to enhance individual talents and collective achievements. This approach to competition, or rather a contest, could diminish the grip of separation on our culture and society, encouraging everyone to give their best, enjoy the journey, and engage with the world with an intention to connect.

©André Salvage 1979-2024. All rights reserved.


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