Saturday, July 30, 2005

Tournaments and Trophies

Tokyo, 1964: Jigaro Kano's dream of having Judo included as an event in the Olympics became a reality. More recently, Tae Kwon Do has entered the Olympics arena. Competition, especially in this country, has made martial arts very popular and attractive. Americans love to win and take home trophies. But the aspect of sport imposes some limitations on the martial arts that must be considered.

Sports are founded on rules. In traditional bujutsu (combative martial arts) there are no rules. Your "opponent" is trying to take your life, not your title or whatever. There exists no "fair-play", time-check or referee. In modern budo (martial art ways) the objective is self improvement through discipline and character development. Physical fighting technique becomes a by-product. Spiritual growth is not possible through the acquistion of trophies and ribbons.

This all sounds like I'm opposed to competitive martial arts. I'm not. I've competed in kata and kumite with varied success. And I certainly don't mean to take some lofty, holier-than-thou, arrogant stand against competitors. Pride can be a major stumbling block to self-perfection. When you go out to compete, remember, you're really competing against yourself. So are your opponents. We should all strive to be better tomorrow than we are today. That's the real journey.

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