After reading the headline, you may get the impression this article is about facing your teammate in competition. However, this is not what I am referring to. I’m referring to our natural competitive side of trying to be better than the rest of our peers. Some may call it ego. Call it what you will, we all have it. And it has become a taboo in the martial arts world, but truth is, we all do this in other aspects of life, especially in business and workplace. But is there room for having a competitive nature in martial arts?
Positive Competition vs Negative Competition
Before answering the question above we must understand that there are two kinds of competitions: positive and negative.
Negative Competition refers to pursuing a challenge with a meaningful gain at the expense of others. In this case, there is always a loser or several, and a winner. And the impact of the outcome affects each party directly.
Positive Competition refers to several parties conjunctively pursuing a common outcome out of which all parties will benefit from in some way or another. You may have heard of this as “You will either win, or learn”. So yes, martial arts competition, although it gives the impression of having a winner and a loser(s), it offers the idea that we are all winners in some way.
Competing in Training
Before you blow a gasket, let me open this with a statement – It is NOT OK to engage in Negative Competition with your teammates. But what about Positive Competition? Can we still roll competitively in training with the purpose of winning? After all, it is Positive Competition. The short answer is no. The time to train is precious and limited. It should be spent wisely trying to learn. Putting your winning game aside to work on your weak areas is crucial. However, there is a way you can compete with your teammates, and this is really what this whole article is about. So let me explain with a real-life example.
I have a pretty decent guard, however, one my very talented teammates and close friend, Alex Rodrigues always manages to pass my guard with a very nice Knee Cut pass. I manage to stop most Knee Cut passes. But I can’t stop his. It was a matter of time before I realized that I needed to work on it. I was growing tired of Alex passing me with it. So, I started looking for ways to shut it down and I kept testing it with him. I watched countless hours of tutorials, hit the counters successfully against others, took privates. And the journey continues. My goal? – To stop Alex! (insert evil laugh). I did mention we are friends. And he knows what I am doing. And as soon as I crack the defense I am sure he will get back on his drawing board to make his pass work again. And on and on we go! Although, we are acting competitively, it is positive competition. We are both pushing each other to improve. We are both benefiting from this “race to the knee cut pass”.
In my opinion, if you don’t have a competitive drive, whether it is to be better than you were yesterday, or the best in your gym at some specific position you want to be regarded for, or collecting tournament hardware, chances are your progress will be slow. It is ok to be ambitious specially with something that takes so much time out of life.