I’m counting the days now. I have five precious days between now and then. I have a tad less than 120 hours between now and then. I have two formal lessons between now and then. I also have two children to teach, three scheduled appointments to attend, and six youth group children to lead between now and then.
This is something I’ve prepared for over the course of the past 11 years, more heavily over the past two years, but devotedly over the past six months. Call it a hobby, if you must, but I call it a passion; I call it part of me; I call it dedication. What is it that lives in my future, a breath away, anticipating my appearance?
In five days, I will stand with a group of peers, before an examination board of five members to demonstrate my abilities in Soo Bahk Do while seeking a rank promotion. Soo Bahk Do, a traditional Korean martial art, is not a sport, so to suggest that my demonstration involves competition would be technically incorrect. However, on that particular night on the floor of the dojang, I will be in competition – not the competition that would bring to mind two rivals ferociously seeking to triumph over their opponent, but rather the competition that occurs within oneself. Instead of demonstrating superiority over my peers, I will be contending for outstanding execution of all I’ve ever learned. I will be competing for my finest hour … er … three hours.
Competition. Does it conjure up a positive feeling? If team sports, such as baseball, football, or soccer, have been part of your life, or perhaps part of the life of your children, competition can feel inspiring or motivating. Likewise, it can also feel discouraging or disheartening, probably depending upon the outcome of the event! The same is true for those that compete in individual sports or arts, such as gymnastics, dance, golf … or martial arts.
Until recently, I’ve viewed competition as rivals attempting to triumph at the cost of defeating of the other. Both sides walk away; one having conquered, the other having surrendered. Personally, that has always presented a conundrum … how to feel completely content with that win, understanding that it came at a cost to others. At the heart of it, however, we discover that we compete with others, not against others, since we are all striving together to produce excellence. To give the opponent anything less than our best would be out of the question, as it would prohibit them from improving themselves.
Despite the fierce competition that comes from the outside, competition within ourselves can be even more intense as we know better than any other where our capabilities lie and therefore know when we’ve fallen short. While it’s true that we are typically our own worst critics, we can positively utilize that inner-striving to produce excellence. We can use both setbacks and success to improve ourselves. To use setbacks for the purpose of growth is called grace, and as we extend grace to others, we need to extend it to ourselves as well. To fail gracefully, while learning from the process, is a win. We can view our very best attempt as a win, simply because we attempted.
On my journey to this newest martial arts rank advancement, I’ve achieved so many smaller successes. Previous rank advancements would be obvious achievements. But I’ve also learned the art of dedication and drive, the profession of perseverance and practice, the capacity to comprehend new material, and the ability to overcome adversity in training, Incrementally I have received lessons, beyond the techniques themselves, that I didn’t expect to learn inside the four walls of the dojang.
Soon I will take part in a dan classing where my technique will be showcased to five examiners. While I do not yet know the outcome of that event, I do know that I have grown through the process of preparation. I have developed in ways that far surpass my technique alone. Fortunately, my instructor is more concerned about my development than my three hours on the floor.
Interestingly, that’s just how God works. He refines us from the inside out and cares about our growth through the process we call life. Our striving in life mirrors our striving in the various arts and sports … and through both, we grow.
I’ve absorbed, practiced, and persevered. After all that, I still cannot claim perfection in technique. On October 11, 2013, I’ll be leaving the results to God. Like my instructor, He too is interested in the process of development and any lessons left to learn, He will be teaching me!