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If You are to Win, You Must Lose

posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:24 PM by Eric Banks
"To adapt, is to move ahead." 

Byron Pulsifer


On Tuesday, we wrapped up about 2 months of focusing on kumite engagement and center management, and I am quite pleased with the results.  From the 9 year old white belt to the 40+ Shodan, and everyone in between, we have made some strong improvements in learning to engage the opponent by first gaining control of our own center.    One of the important ideas I emphasized was that of being willing to lose in order to win, in order to grow, in order to learn.  By letting go of our ego, and our fear of losing, and our need to win, we can more easily adapt to the situation and understand how and why we were defeated, and how and why we can be victorious in a given encounter.  To better explain this, allow me to let loose my inner sci-fi nerd…


I’m a big fan of Superman, and one of his all-time greatest villains is a huge roid-raged alien named Doomsday.  I don’t really follow the comic book all that closely, but I know enough to know that Doomsday is one bad dude, and I know enough about him to know that I hate that guy.   He’s bred to adapt and to overcome all obstacles that get in his way.   If you defeat him, it’s only temporary because he’ll come back stronger than before and resistant to the weapons and tactics you used to beat him.    Conquer him, and he gets stronger and more dangerous; he’s nearly impossible to kill.  Hate that guy. 


I’m also a big fan of Star Trek.  Perhaps the greatest threat in the Star Trek universe are the fearsome Borg, a highly advanced cybernetic race that seeks supremacy and perfection through assimilation of other races and technology.   They are extremely hard to kill because they are extremely adaptable.  Blast them with weapon A, and you might take out a few drones, but pretty soon, they adapt and weapon A won’t work against them any longer.  Hit them with weapon B, and though it works for a few minutes, sooner than you’d like, they just brush that off too.   Use weapon C, and yes, they may lose a handful of ships, but ultimately, and quite quickly, they learn how to adapt and they come back stronger, and the next thing you know, you’ve been assimilated and you’re a Borg too, or just plain dead.


This is how we need to be, just like Doomsday and the Borg; no, no not evil beings bent on destruction and world domination, but highly adaptable and flexible beings, able to learn and to advance through our defeats.  Like Doomsday and the Borg, we need to be willing to lose in order to win. 


How is it done?  First, and foremost, this is accomplished through maintaining the center and through proper energy management.   Along with this, we must let go of the desire to win, and lose the desire to “have it our way”, and at the same time, we must cultivate a calm, strong, yet humble attitude (fighting sprit).  Then, once we learn to keep our center, we can work on being sensitive to our opponent, their strengths and weaknesses, their center and attitude, their tendencies and temperament.    And then, though we may be defeated a time or two, or three, or more, sooner than the opponent would like, we have learned to adapt to them, and we come back stronger than ever.   It’s not quite as easy as it may sound, but it is an enjoyable challenge, and a goal worth shooting for.


The ability to adjust to life’s changing situations is even more paramount; here too, we must we willing to let go, and able to adapt.  This is, again, accomplished through learning to maintain our True Center.  It’s not always easy, but it is enjoyable, and it is the Goal worth living for.


In our training, and in life, the more we practice these things, the quicker we learn how to adapt and deal with the challenge before us.  Yes, this takes energy and effort, but it is so worth it.


Of course it goes without saying that a firm foundation of proper basic techniques, and proper training in center and energy management are absolutely essential, but who would have thought that the Borg and Doomsday would have offered such useful insight into karate training and life…  Still, I hate that guy.