By Jose R. Villanueva

As originally published on the Listen & Be Heard Weekly1, December 21, 2005.

There are misconceptions about competition. It is important for any practitioner of the Martial Arts to understand what competition really is. Every practitioner is different in their performances, and their abilities. True competition is really a competition with oneself. A person tries to improve over his last best. Too many individuals try to compare themselves against another person. Every person is different that is why there are different levels of skills and performances. One cannot rely on another terminal to compare oneself against because it will eventually cause trouble. Competition is a game, and it should be treated in the spirit of play.

True competition is a competition with oneself. A practitioner should try to improve over his last best on every aspect of the activity he is involved in. The Martial Arts community does have a tendency to compare one practitioner to another, but it really cannot and should not be done. For example, there was never another Bruce Lee. He was unique in the way he trained, and the way he performed. Other Martial Artists such as Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, and a long list of others are all individuals with unique talent. They cannot be compared against each other. They should be appreciated for what they are and what they accomplished.

A practitioner cannot use another terminal as a gauge of his own ability. One cannot compete with another terminal to get to that terminal's level of skill. One's skills should be determined by one's own efforts to improve every aspect of ability because one is trying to improve over one's last best. For example, a person can only front kick as high as the shin, but he wants to improve the height of his kick because he's trying to outperform his last best. An example of incorrect competition would be if a person saw another practitioner kicking to the face, and he wanted to beat that person by outperforming him. This is not good competition because one has to use another terminal to motivate him to do better. What happens if that terminal suddenly disappears? The goal to improve will disappear as well because there isn't anyone to compete against to get better.

True competition is really a game. One is playing a game to improve his skills. All practitioners should have the spirit of play. It is this sense of the spirit of play that motivates creativity. One becomes as creative as he can to get better at what he does. For example, I have seen some of my child students that pretend there is someone there that is attacking them. They perform these techniques against the mocked up characters. They pretend, and they make a game of it. The interesting phenomena that occur is that they improve. If one is trying to improve, one should enjoy it. Why not make it a game?

The essence of competition is to outperform one's last best. One can easily get confused. Generally people will look to others to compete against, so they are already on the wrong road. It must be tempered with the idea that other people cannot determine whether one improves. Long lasting benefits and improvement only come from the self-determined action of deciding that one needs to improve because one wants to do it better than he last performed it.