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Cakes and Pies

posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:14 PM by Eric Banks

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.”



Over the past two or three months, one student and I have had the wonderful opportunity to train with two amazing, highly advanced instructors.   Over the past few days, several of us have viewed some really cool videos of Japanese karate-ka and instructors.  We have also, undoubtedly, viewed some videos of ‘karate’ that made us say, “yeah…right…’karate’…”   Whether we have been inspired by those who are light-years ahead of us in skill and ability, or frowned at and laughed at those who are well below us, the important thing is this: we must neither envy those above us nor scoff at those below us; in all things we must maintain a right assessment of ourselves and of our own abilities.


From the time we are able to walk and talk and reason, we begin comparing one thing with another, apples to oranges, big to little, cakes to pies.  We also begin to compare ourselves to others, or we get compared to others.  While this is quite normal, dwelling on our superiorities or inferiorities, constantly comparing our lives to other people’s lives can, at times, lead to either an overblown ego or low self-esteem, so use caution and check your emotional motives. 


I would say that learning by comparison is the first way, and maybe most important way, most of us learn how to learn, so I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t use comparisons at all.  In fact, it is good to compare our technique or kata or kumite with others.  Why do they kick like this, or like that?  How does that body position help them in kata as compared to the way I do it?   This is extremely beneficial, if you are aware of your goals and intentions in making the comparison.  And, when you find yourself lacking in any area of your technique (or life), when compared with another person, if that lack is truly important, be willing to make the necessary changes. 


One thing I like to do is to compare myself today to myself of the past.  I like to look at old videos or read old things I’ve written, or daydream about who I was a few months or even a few years ago.  Am I a better, stronger person today than six months ago?   A better teacher?   Am I more connected with God and with my family and friends now than a year ago?  Is my Unsu kata more dynamic today than it was when I won my division at the 2007 Show-Me-State Games?  If I time traveled back a few years and got into a kumite match, or a real fight with myself, who would win???  (Yes, I think about these things.)  Now that comparison, a confrontation with myself, is one that I love to make and would love to see played out in real life, as weird and as creepy as it might be…and after the match or fight is over, no matter which me is the victor, I’d take myself out for cake and pie.