China 2019 – Day 16, Friday, 2nd August

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, pushing hands has been a very big feature of the training here. All the way from very gentle movements to feel your opponent’s energy and momentum, to tai chi wrestling where you are trying to push or pull your opponent off balance.

The principles do not change but the intensity certainly does! It gets really tricky to not get over competitive and stick to the correct way to do it, rather than using too much force – which if you are against a skilled opponent, will only end up coming back at you!

In some ways I can be a very competitive person.

In my younger days, I quite often used competition to try to beat the person or people I was against, nothing personal against them (most of the time!). As well as enjoying it, it was also a way to bolster my ego, feel good about myself and try to perhaps make up for a lack of self confidence. Especially once I had reached a level when I started winning!

I feel now that the only reason for competition is to elevate my own skills, win or lose, because whatever happens at that point in time is a reflection of my current skill set, what is happening in my life at the time, as well as a little bit of luck.

As a student of martial arts (or anything) we shouldn’t worry about other people and where they are at on their journey. You’re going to meet people who are so far ahead of you right now, you just can’t beat them.

The correct mindset to have is one in which you “invest in loss”.

Someone beats you in competition? Oh, well… Ask yourself honestly if you did your best, analyse where you could have done better and start training again. Don’t feel bad, just put in the work.

Someone has more moves or proceeding quicker than you in a tai chi form? It doesn’t matter, they might train harder, attend more classes, they’ve had a completely different existence and experience in life and it just so happens that it has meant they know a few more moves than you. Don’t feel bad, just train more, relax.

Someone else’s business bigger than yours? So what? Work harder and smarter over a long period of time if you want a more successful business. The most sustainable progress is slow and steady.

I love the phrase that martial arts instructors tend to use when they think another teacher or club encroaches on ‘their territory’ and is in competition with them: ‘Taking rice from my rice bowl’. As though the businesses are competing for the same people.

It’s a ludicrous statement. I’m in southern China right now and I can testify, there’s a hell of a lot of rice here!!!

Adopting an attitude of abundance is very important in business. There is enough rice/students/clients/money (because that’s where the real fear is!) for everyone and we shouldn’t fear or worry about ‘competition’. Competition should be used in the right way as an inspiration and a way to improve yourself and your business.

I love to see other businesses doing well – it’s inspiring. The world needs more tai chi clubs and good instructors. It makes people happy and sometimes it feels like we have a definite lack of happy people!

So, who are you competing against?

That’s right…yourself.

I heard an interesting quote the other day along the lines of, ‘you don’t practice tai chi to become good at tai chi, you practice tai chi to become a better person’.

I love that sentiment. After all, what is ‘good’ at tai chi. It’s all relative and of very little importance. Becoming a better person in terms of your health, positive outlook, being calmer, being part of a community, more focused and dedicated…these are all very tangible things which, if improved on, will dramatically increase your quality of life and have a knock on effect to the lives of those around you.

So if you have that competitive spirit, fantastic! Harness it in the right way – there is only one opponent, there is only one person that you need to be better than today – and that is yourself, from yesterday.

4 thoughts on “Day 16 – Who are you competing against?

  1. Some timely advice in a week which has found me feeling very bad about my lack of ability/progress compared with other students…..! Do you think we are more prone to this kind of thinking in the West, Mark……? I think I might throw out this habit…………!!!

    1. Yeah definitely one to throw away Lynne.

      Comparisons of any kind with another person are one to discard in my opinion.

      If I catch myself doing it – which I do – I try to just change my thinking and be pleased for the other person, they’re on their own path and I am on mine. I like mine, I wouldn’t want to be on theirs.

      At the end of the day, if we have the luxury of enough free time an disposable income to be able to spend our time waving our arms around slowly and breathing deeply, we shouldn’t worry if someone else knows a few more arm waving movements than us 🙂

      Also, they may know more moves but not understand them as well as you know your fewer moves.

      Or they may just learn quicker naturally. It doesn’t matter.

      I remember my first Mandarin course in London and it was me – at 42- in a class with a load of very bright city workers – all about 22. They were like sponges in comparison to my middle aged pumice stone of a brain!

      By the end of the course, half had dropped out. A year or so later, I’d hazard a guess that I am one of a max two or three still studying… and quite possibly after the amount of time and effort and trips to China I have invested, I’m as good, or more advanced than the others.

      So, don’t worry, keep on training – you train diligently every week and you’re at exactly the right place and level for you at this moment in time….and it’s a no brainer, you’re going to get better and better and learn more and more.

      So after lots of waffle…basically, don’t worry 🙂

    2. Yeah definitely one to throw away Lynne.

      Comparisons of any kind with another person are one to discard in my opinion.

      If I catch myself doing it – which I do – I try to just change my thinking and be pleased for the other person, they’re on their own path and I am on mine. I like mine, I wouldn’t want to be on theirs.

      At the end of the day, if we have the luxury of enough free time an disposable income to be able to spend our time waving our arms around slowly and breathing deeply, we shouldn’t worry if someone else knows a few more arm waving movements than us 🙂

      Also, they may know more moves but not understand them as well as you know your fewer moves.

      Or they may just learn quicker naturally. It doesn’t matter.

      I remember my first Mandarin course in London and it was me – at 42- in a class with a load of very bright city workers – all about 22. They were like sponges in comparison to my middle aged pumice stone of a brain!

      By the end of the course, half had dropped out. A year or so later, I’d hazard a guess that I am one of a max two or three still studying… and quite possibly after the amount of time and effort and trips to China I have invested, I’m as good, or more advanced than the others.

      So, don’t worry, keep on training – you train diligently every week and you’re at exactly the right place and level for you at this moment in time….and it’s a no brainer, you’re going to get better and better and learn more and more.

      So after lots of waffle…basically, don’t worry 🙂

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