Imagine a tribe of Paleolithic hunters that are attempting to take down a grizzly bear during a bear hunt. Primitive hunters wielding nothing more than crude spears against a 500 pound bear that is 8’ tall when it stands on its back legs and has razor sharp claws and teeth. Imagine the fear and trepidation preceding the hunt. The likelihood of one or more of the hunters getting killed or injured is great. Getting seriously injured during the Paleolithic period was a death sentence especially for a hunter. A crippled hunter cannot hunt and as such is useless to the tribe. The hunt goes well, the bear is dead and no hunters have been killed or injured. Imagine the raw visceral rush of emotion the hunters must have felt as they pounded their chests and screamed at the sky brandishing their crude spears in victory!
Humans are no longer subsistence tribesmen. We don’t depend on game animals to survive and for the most part technology spares us from the tribulations of survival that our Paleolithic ancestors had to endure on a daily basis. Paleolithic man had to compete to survive. They had to compete with nature and each other for the basic necessities of survival…food, water and shelter. Failure to attain any of those elements could be catastrophic to say the least.
Modern man no longer needs to compete to survive, but we must compete none the less. Competition is coded into us at the genetic level. Without the “competitive/survival” gene we would not be the dominant species on earth. Competition is good for you. It tests you, it sharpens you. It drives you to become the best that you can be. Simply put, competition makes you a better-stronger person.
I don’t care if you play tiddlywinks, hopscotch or are a martial artist, you should compete. Many people are afraid of competing. They fear being embarrassed. They fear the possibility of losing. Losing for our Paleolithic forebearers was critical and problematic and in most cases catastrophic. For modern man losing has no serious consequences. In fact losing can inspire and motivate one to become better.
The most common excuses for not competing that I hear are:
- Fear of injury
- Fear of not winning
- Don’t like to compete
I’ll address all three. Not competing because you fear injury is bullshit. Hey bud…you risk slipping in your shower and fracturing your skull every time you step into your bathtub. Not competing because you are afraid of not winning. Let me hip you to something, 50% of all competitors don’t win they lose…join the club. Every and I mean every competitor experiences loss at some point. Put your big boy pants on and suck it up…you lost so what…start getting ready for the next competition. “I don’t like to compete”. Don’t like to compete…WTF? Let me see if I can understand this. You train at something all the time, weeks and weeks and perhaps even years and you don’t want to test yourself against your peers? Shame on you for playing it safe. Perhaps some people are willing to live their lives not knowing how good they actually are. Saying that you are afraid to compete is the pantheon of excuses especially for martial artists. If you are a martial artist how can you be afraid of anything?
I’m trying to put together my next climb. I’m hoping to get up to Mount Washington in the next few weeks to try climbing one of the technical “Alpine” routes. I climb solo. Solo Alpine climbing is ehhhh dangerous to say the least. One can certainly get killed doing it. Climbing a technical route and not getting killed or critically mangled is a “competition”. I’ll be competing against the elements such as snow, ice and the weather. Most importantly I’ll be competing against myself. Can I work past my fear? Do I have the technical climbing skills to do an “Alpine” climb? I’ll only find out by trying…by competing.
For me, half the joy of achieving has been the struggle and the fight, the pitting myself against the world and all its competition – and winning.~Conrad Veidt