“I think I went a little too hard,” a young red belt whispered grimly to me after a sparring match at a recent tournament. He and a young red belt girl also from our school were doing an exhibition match. Typically students from the same school don’t compete against each other, but because at the time the coordinators couldn’t find competitors in their age, rank, and weight class, these two agreed to have a friendly fight (or…well…we coaches and their parents agreed for them).
This little guy is a natural. He’s fierce, scrappy, and I’m so jealous of his jump spin kick. He was trying to hold back and be more controlled since he knew his opponent (and his classmate) was smaller and less quick in the sparring ring, but sometimes he couldn’t help going full force.
“That’s okay,” I whispered back to the red belt boy. “She needs a good challenge. We all do sometimes.” The red belt girl lost the match but held up just fine and had a priceless little sly smile on her face when she later showed me the gold medal she won in board breaking. We have some great kids.
There are a few people in my dojang whom I can count on to beat the daylights out of me on a regular basis. They’re faster, stronger, usually bigger, smarter, and almost always younger (although I’ve also had the shit kicked out of me by people twice my age). Some are higher ranking than me, and some are lower ranking. They force me to become better.
I always have a little twinge of dread when I’m paired with them, but even more so I enjoy it because of the challenge it presents. My mind jumps into high gear like an excited dog who’s ready to go on a walk: “All right! It’s time to play! How can I outsmart them or at least get out of their way? What new tricks can I try? What habits do I notice so I can predict what they’ll do next?..My brain feels wobbly and I have a headache–did I just get a mini concussion when I was thrown to the ground?”
Challenges can be thrilling, frustrating, fun, scary, or some combination of all those feelings and more. Without challenge, whether it’s generated internally or externally, we remain static. We never change. We never grow. We never live up to our potential. Sometimes challenges show us a fork in the road and give us the opportunity to make a choice. Maybe it’s time to give up a particular battle and choose a different direction. Other times we choose to charge straight ahead into the fire.
So if you find yourself in a situation where you’re getting your figurative or literal ass kicked (one that is not abusive or dangerous, mind you–if that’s the case, GET OUT), ask yourself:
What am I learning from this?
What can I do differently next time?
What were the things that DID work for me?
When can I try out what I’ve learned?
What do I do once I’ve overcome this particular challenge?
It’s not always a bad thing to lose or to fail. It’s not always a bad thing to bite off more than you can chew. Failure can teach us things that triumph cannot. The key is what you do with that ass-kicking. Do you let it keep you down or do you get up again?
And in other news: This is my 200th post! YEEEAAAHH!