On Saturday, I went to a tournament. I lost in the first round to someone about half my age, maybe less. Where Jack Dempsey forgot to duck, I forgot to kiai, and I lost.

The whole week I went to Goju Ryu instead of Aikido, and trained two kata as thoroughly as I thought I could, and thought I had worked hard enough. But apparently I didn’t. And I don’t want to be that person that blames the judges, tournament structure and the group I was competing against. The pressure beat me, I didn’t get things as right as I wanted to, and all the little mistakes I thought I had corrected reared up because I didn’t keep calm. Its as simple as that.

Which is entirely different to grading pressure. At least it isn’t just one chance, one 30 second kata that decides the next belt. The tournament structure isn’t really a fair reflection of one’s capabilities, because it can come down to flashiness and “that’s nice, but that’s not how we do it in my dojo”.

I’ll be honest. I hate losing. I don’t think anyone particularly enjoys it, but I take it extremely personally, for reasons mentioned before in this blog. And the hard thing is to sit and look at the lesson. I’m not a big fan of the phrase ‘everything happens for a reason’, because the universe is chaotic and it also implies that there’s a good reason why babies get raped by disgusting fucks. I didn’t lose because many events were set in place and that there is some grand scheme. I just lost. And that kinda sucks. My giant, almost insurmountable ego doesn’t like being poked in the eye, and that’s what it felt like.

But, then again, with a few days between that event and coffee on a Monday morning at work, it is easier to reflect on things. Mostly that I can keep training and getting better, that at least I had my amazing physicist there to support me and remind me that it really was just a stupid tournament and that I am good at other things. Sometimes it sucks to watch people with shocking technique go on to the next three or four rounds, and I watch it and go, “I know my Seiyunchin is better than that”, but I guess that isn’t the point. I can hardly judge a 12 year old’s technique when mine clearly wasn’t good enough.

Again, the question echoes across the back of my mind: should I drop one art and focus properly? Could I have won my division if I had been training four days a week for the last year?

It is something I am thinking seriously about, and if I do my masters then I may have to drop one of the two, if only for a while. For now, I just have to reevaluate what I want from my training. I know not everyone can come first, but I’m used to being at least in the top 15% of my game. Maybe if I applied the same ruthless dedication to one art as I applied to academics, then maybe I would be top dog.

But, then again, academics comes easily to me. Its probably not sensible to compare the two. After all, I have been reading and writing for a very long time, honing those skills over thousands of hours. And it is easy, because its purely mental and I have never been able to run in a straight line or catch a ball without a very great deal of concentration. Never mind the immaculate alignment of posture, movement, coordination and breathing that kata require.

Right, this is a meandering blog post, and more an idle sorting through my thoughts than anything else, but it helps me clear my head enough to focus on what matters as well as what lacks.  I know its all so much deckchair-arranging on the Titanic, but it still matters to me, and is always worth sorting through.

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