In conversations I am regularly asked if I still compete in tournaments. Students, friends, family, and strangers seem to always ask me when my next tournament is or if I’m fighting in X Tournament at Y High School.
My answer has changed over time, but in a way, it never really changed at all.
Yes. Yes, I still compete. In fact, I fight in 365 tournaments and 52 Championships a year. The arena has changed from losing in loud coliseums in Germany to winning in a storage space less than 400 sq. feet. It’s changed from fighting for a taste of International success, to fighting the economy of the world. It’s changed from losing first round in London to calculating how to write an email to a customer. I’m keen to the strength of the Euro and Yen to the Dollar, but I travel a lot less. It changed from cutting weight for my category to making sure I have enough weight in my pocket to run two businesses. I still study the competition and can name all the names in my category. It’s changed from making a National point roster to writing down business expenses and tallying receipts. Forget what an Olympic caliber opponent will do to you, you know how hard the IRS hits?
Where I currently sit in my life, my thought process is, what is any tournament compared to what I’m facing in life? At the same time, my life mirrors a competition, one that has higher stakes than what color medal hangs around my neck.
I’d be lying if I said that when I’m asked this question that it doesn’t bother me. Having been a mild competitor, I know how much effort it takes to actually compete. Ask any serious competitor, it requires your utmost attention, strict discipline, and sacrifice. At the highest level, any time spent not trying to advance towards victory is time that should be called in to question. I know what competitors do with their time, the intensity in which they train, and I can answer honestly that I am no longer able to, both physically and mentally, get near to training at that level anymore. Nor do I have the desire to.
No podium place can make me feel the way I feel when a child executes a technique I shared with them.
No amount of medals can take the place of the feeling I get when I train with my students.
My purpose of training has shifted from being selfishly centered to asking what more can I give to others?
I spent the majority of my life chasing podium Gold, only to find that it was so close in front of me that I was blind to it.
Despite all of these realizations, people still ask me if I compete.
All I can do is laugh and reply, “You’re standing in the competition.”