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Sometimes. Seldom / Hardly Ever. Maybe Never.

posted Sep 3, 2011, 4:19 PM by Eric Banks

“God makes three requests of his children: Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have, now.”

    -African American proverb


On May 1-2, Tim and I trained at our regional seminar in Cedar Rapids, IA, and after the seminar ended, Tim took the exam and was promoted to Shodan by Sensei Smaby and the board of high-ranking black belts.  Congratulations to Tim on passing his test!


When preparing for anything, a test, in particular, we all want to be at our absolute best, especially on the day of the event.  Unfortunately, being at ones best doesn’t always happen when one wants it to happen, but we can still learn to make the best effort with what we have everyday. 


I remember my Shodan test.  That weekend was the first time that I had trained at a Nishiyama Sensei seminar, so that, along with the prospect of becoming a black belt, was more than enough to get me all-extra hyped.  I trained hard, mentally and physically, and when the test came at the end of the seminar, I was at my best.  Though I had experienced several set backs in my preparation, I was at my best, and I passed.


I remember my Nidan test.  That was not a good weekend.  I was again in Chicago at Sugiyama Sensei’s dojo for the biannual Nishiyama Sensei seminar.  I was not at my best; I wasn’t feeling very well that weekend, mentally or physically.  I barely remember doing my kata (except the part where I caught a mistake and changed it in mid action), and the basics…man, not good.  Then, I had to fight a guy who was testing for Sandan, but could have been testing for Godan!  Yeah, I got punched, hard.  On the plane home, I was down, I was unhappy, I was determined to do better, even though I knew I had done the best that I could have done that day.  A few days later, my instructor called and said I had passed.  What?!  Really?  Man, the masters must have been particularly merciful in their gradings that day…


I remember my Sandan test.  It wasn’t as spectacular as my Shodan test, but it was about a billion times better than the Nidan test.  My chosen kata was Gankaku and I was given Tekki Sandan as my second.  I did the teaching / correction of the brown belt, fought a line of unfortunate brown belts, and felt pretty good about it all when I sat back down.  After all the tests were done, Nishiyama Sensei lined us up and told us what we needed to work on.  Not bad.  And yes, I passed.


I remember the 2007 Show-Me-State Games.  Three students and I decided to compete in the annual tournament for the first time.  We trained hard, and we trained smart, and we were ready to go the morning of the competition.  Only problem was, by the time we got to compete, several hours later, we were tired…tired of waiting all day long, and tired of warming up and cooling down.  Also, I had to judge a couple kumite matches in the late afternoon, so when the time for my kata event came around, yeah, I was not at my best.  Still, I went out, performed Unsu as best as I could, and, somehow, took the gold.  What?!  Yeah, gold.  And my students?  They did just as well, if not better, in their individual events.


From these experiences, and from many seminars and demos, and a few tournaments, and just life in general, I’ve learned that being at ones best, functioning at peak performance, performing at the apex of what we dream to be possible, doesn’t happen all that often.   Maybe a few times.  Hardly ever.  Maybe never.


How often, in the past 365 days, would you say you were in the zone and firing on all thrusters?  Can you count it on both hands, or just one?  How about within the last 100 days, or the last 10 days, how many times were you at the top of your game mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, all at the same time?  If you’re like most of us (or is it just me?), you can only think of a few ‘ultra-zone’ moments…they don’t happen very often.  Maybe a few times.  Hardly ever.  Maybe never.


Does that mean we should stop trying to get into the zone?  Should we settle for being less than our best?  Should we accept the status quo and resolve to just get by on ‘normal’?  Absolutely not; always try, always seek to be the absolute best you that you can be.  But, recognize that we, life, and circumstances, are not always going to line up the way we want, when we want.   Instead, adapt, flow and still go forward.    Always strive to be your best, always, but learn and understand that being your best is really about giving your best under less-than-the-best circumstances. 


Are you living in the zone this year?  Maybe a few times?  Still, do your best.


Are you in tiptop condition this month?  Hardly ever?  Still, give your best.


Are you experiencing the ultra-zone everyday?  Maybe never?  Still, be your best.   


You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish, with what you’ve got, if you use it now, to the best of your ability, today.