“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not to men.” Colossians 3:23 (NKJV).
That is the foundational verse for our karate association. I appreciate that beating everyone else in a division isn’t what’s valued most when it comes to our physical training. It’s pursuing full potential…our real best, not just our better-than-someone-else level of effort.
As Steve Prefontaine said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Winning doesn’t exactly equal best effort, does it? I pretended to be a swimmer for a summer and with only two of us in the heat, it didn’t take much effort for my only competitor to be out of the pool, toweled off, and half way through a juice box before I even got to the far end of the pool. There are some very talented pool noodles that could beat me, though that little nugget of information doesn’t get mentioned alongside my second place swimming ribbon. That was the best I had to offer that day. Thankfully, losing doesn’t equal failure either.
I experienced both sides of the coin at our Octoberfist tournament (what a great name). I managed to get into the grand championship competition with a form that I knew I could have done better. After the second and superior performance of that same form, I lost to the men’s champion. The satisfaction of knowing I did my best in the second (and losing) round was far better than settling for a winning (but lacking) first attempt.
One of the concepts of forms is inward focus. The idea is to be aware of, but not at all distracted by, what is around you. No matter how chaotic the competition floor, it doesn’t interfere. It doesn’t matter what scores your competitors have been awarded, the judges backgrounds are irrelevant, and the savory aroma of pizza wafting from the concession stand isn’t even an issue…yet. The form you’ve practiced 300 times is engrained in your muscle memory and every bit of your attention is set like flint into executing every move with power, precision, and balance.
Outside the dojo, may that same focus help us reach for our own best. Don’t settle for better-than-others and don’t be discouraged when it looks as though we are behind. Find your own yardstick and train “heartily” to honor God with your gift.
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