I would like to share with you my observation about the phrase “strive to be the best”.
When a martial artist says that he is striving to be “the best”, he is actually working for a goal he could never achieve. To be better than all other martial artists and fighters is an impossible endeavor, and one he would never be able to prove that he has achieved. No matter who you beat, and who you think has not beaten you yet, the man who will defeat you is always out there. I remember a saying that the moment a man says he cannot be beaten, he will soon meet the man who can and will. So in that case, the fighter should be humble but confident, lest he hasten the wait to finally meet him.
This is not to say that the martial artist shouldn’t try to beat opponents, however. Opponents, to the fighter, are not the test of whether you have perfected your art–but the tools that you use to determine if you have perfected your art. We try to find better and better opponents to cross sticks and cross hands with, and regardless of the outcome we should take that experience back into the gym to refine and retool our arts. Win or lose, we can get better and improve, we can become more efficient and more perfect. We can become stronger and faster. We can califbrate our timing to near-perfection (it can always get better). We can come up with better ways to use our techniques, or create new techniques, or find more efficient ways to apply them. Opponents, not training partners or friends, are the surprise quizzes we take to find out what progress we have made. Every criticism I have ever had of the FMA man stems from the fact that most FMA men prefer to surround himself with training partners and friends, rather than opponents. In such case, they will never approach any place close to perfection with their art. And they also happen to be the first men to strap on the title of “Grand master” or whatever.
Perfection, my friends, is a level that the best martial artists and fighters NEVER see. And those who are in constant pursuit of perfection are the ones that most of his peers believe have achieved that level.
Perfection will never be grasped by adding to one’s repertoire also. You cannot perfect a mish-mash of arts. This is why the men we know who are the best we have seen usually only have had a few masters, if more than one. Rarely, we will see a man who has studied many arts and actually form the opinion that this guy is one of the best we have seen. The men with the most arts under their belts, in my experience, have had the worst skills. Likewise, the men I have met that have the highest levels of Black belt, the loftiest titles, have also been the lousiest fighters (or not a fighter at all) I have seen. Few people you will meet will be as honest as I am being with you right now.
Perfection is an ever-evasive plateau the martial artist will spend his life in pursuit of, and only what one stops chasing, will he have time to self-promote and Faceturbate with all these degrees and fan clubs and martial groupies. Trust me on this one. The best fighters you will find don’t have time to do PR.
So when you hear of being “the best”, what the real martial artist is really trying to say is “being MY best”; we are in competition with ourselves, with our old achievements, with the memories of what we once were. And this is why you find men like Bernard Hopkins trying to stay in the ring too long, and why some fighters seem to keep at it way past their prime. They are not afraid of losing. They are not afraid of poverty. They are not afraid of failure because they understand that in order to elevate to the next level of their pursuit of perfection, the martial artist must exhaust his last breath to find out more about his art. The martial artist who pursues perfection is always struggling to develop his art further, he trains until his body won’t allow more progress, and then he fights to find students who can continue to train and test the art when he can no longer do it himself. This is a never ending process you will never retire from. The goal is not to get more students, but to get better students. Not to add more arts to one’s knowledge base, but to know the arts in one’s knowledge base more. I hope you understand what I mean.
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