This I Believe

Lonnie - GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan
Entered on February 5, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: humility, sports
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Tiger Style Vs The Ego

“You should just sign up for black belt.” Sifu said and his words, flavored with a Cantonese accent, caused my heart to jump. I had been training for a while but I didn’t consider myself a black belt level fighter, a title, I thought, was reserved for “masters” of martial arts. I was just asking to be pounded into unconsciousness if I fought at the black belt level at the tournament.

Yet, before I knew it, the day of the tournament was upon me. I showed up early. It’s rude to be late to your own beating. As the day wore on, the other fighters and I tried to stay “warm” by throwing punches and kicks into the air. I decided to have a friend hold pads for me as I tried to throw thunderous round house kicks into them. Each time my kicks would echo through the gymnasium, I would try to gage the other fighters’ response. “I bet no ones wants to get hit by that”, the shaky voice in my head whispered, trying to feel tough.

All of the warm ups in the world couldn’t help when it came time to face my first opponent. My legs felt dead cold and my body felt heavy. He seemed bigger than me.

The referee yelled, “Begin!” and electric excitement shot threw my body. His fist smashed into my cheek bone and my vision went black for a brief second. I heard the crowd laugh as the fight was stopped because one of my punches had spun my opponents head gear around obscuring his vision. My blows didn’t seem to affect him much at all, but the pain I felt from his was very real. I was finally able to breathe when the referee blew his whistle to signal the end of the fight.

As we faced each other and bowed, I was surprised find defeat in my opponent’s eyes. Perhaps I had won after all? Hopeful, I turned to face the spectators and held my breath as the judges held up paddles to represent their vote. The corner judge came to a draw and the referee became the tie breaker. His decision would affect my life profoundly.

“The fight goes to Red!” he barked. My opponent had won. I waited for that sinking feeling of defeat, but it never came. As I walked away, I noticed several young boys wearing Tae Kwon Do uniforms with assorted colored belts approaching him, congratulating him on his victory.

As I listened, I realized that he was not just a black belt, he was their teacher. I smiled to myself. This had been a great day.

I learned from my mistakes and went on to win a good amount of tournaments that year, but the medals were nothing compared to what I learned about competition and ego.

I find if I am constantly victorious over small obstacles, my ego can fool itself into thinking that I am greater than I really am, trapping me in cockiness and mediocrity. If I am routinely being defeated by tremendous obstacles, it can fool me into thinking that I am worthless. If I always strive to be better than I am, I can only accomplish increasingly greater things. I believe it’s useless to use others as measuring sticks for greatness.