Comparing and competing
by Víctor López Bondía (2014)

Karate-do is an individual path, and each karateka is a unique individual who should practice and study to make Karate their own. We all have read and heard about past senseis teaching different kata to different students according to the student's attributes. The nature of authentic classical Karate must have changed as little over the centuries as the nature of human beings, but this old approach to the art seems to be long gone and extinct in a world where the vast majority of practitioners are expected and eager to copy and imitate the most trendy and popular instructors and champions who set the mold for everybody else to try to fit into.

Barrett Sensei often advises his students "do not compare, do not compete". This reminds the students that their Karate is theirs and only theirs, and what other people are doing doesn't really matter. Everybody is different, and everybody should focus on dealing with their own weak points, for nobody else can do it for you.

When we engage in 2-person drills such as kakie, sandan-gi or ude-kitae, it might happen that you get carried away and start trying to overcome your training partner instead of keep focusing on yourself. What can you learn from feeling stronger than a fellow karateka? Does that mean that you have reached a high level where you no longer need to improve? As karateka, we should never let our ego take over, and if you experience the slightest satisfaction from feeling stronger and/or more skillful than your training partner, you may actually be losing against the only real opponent you should be trying to defeat: vanity.
At this point, perhaps you should try to face a different and more challenging training partner, I'm thinking the makiwara or the tou, or just the plain ishi, then challenge them, and see what happens... They will take as much as you are willing to give, and you will be in fact challenging yourself, which is the only competition those involved in Karate-do should concern themselves with.

Comparing, however, I'm not sure is always a bad thing... Jealousy is to be avoided, of course, but if you watch others with humility, you can always learn from them, getting inspired by their achievements, and whenever you spot a flaw, asking yourself whether you may be making the same mistake or displaying the same inappropriate attitude. It seems easier for people to notice mistakes in others. A karateka should take every opportunity to turn their attention towards themselves, and whenever they cross their paths with a good or a bad example, make sure they embrace the former and reject the latter.

Kakie Kakie
Shinsokan Dojo

Víctor López Bondía
July 2014

“No matter how you may excel in the art of Karate, and in your scholastic endeavors,
nothing is more important than your behavior and your humanity as observed in daily life.”