There is a saying I found on Facebook about comparison, written by Bonnie Pfiester. I’ve shared it there before, and I really like it. It follows:
“I will beat her.
I will train harder.
I will eat cleaner.
I know her weaknesses.
I know her strengths.
I've lost to her before, but not this time.
She is going down.
I have the advantage because I know her well.
She is the Old Me.”
I love the concept of this saying, because it affirms what I already know is true: the only thing I really have to beat is my own weakness.
I’ve trained at ABD since October 2012, coming up on eight months. I’m a white-orange belt. Many who began with me, or even after me, have moved on to BBT, while I remain in Basic. Many have asked me whether I ever get upset or discouraged that I’m “still” a basic student, when so many of my peers have already tested past me. It always seems a funny question to me…why would someone else’s achievement be a reflection of my effort? As Sensei has talked recently about comparison, this question seemed especially important to me lately.
As I answered this question for myself, I thought it might be helpful for anyone who follows behind me in my path to hear the lesson that I learned.
Man A is jogging through Norwich. As he passes Man B at Norwich Free Academy, his friend asks, “Where ya going?” Man A replies, “I’m jogging to ABD!” Man B replies, “Sounds good! I’ll jog with you!” And so they jog along. They reach the marina, and they see their friend, Man C. “Where you guys off to?” asks Man C. Man B shouts, “Man A and I are jogging to ABD!” Man C responds, “What?! I love ABD! I’m coming too!” And so they continue on. As they travel, Man A tires a bit, and sometimes has to walk. But he never stops altogether. Man B and Man C travel with him for a while, but not wanting to hold them back, Man A says, “Go on, you guys! You rock! I’ll catch up!” So Man B and Man C run on, and soon reach ABD.
Now Man A is really tired by now, but he hears the shouts of Man B and Man C cheering him on, and so he keeps pushing. Sometimes it feels like Man A is barely crawling. But he wants so badly to get all the way to ABD, and he can still hear the cheers of his friends, so no matter what, Man A just keeps moving.
After what seems like a millennium, Man A finally reaches ABD and joins his friends. They’re all drinking water and cooling down, when Man C says, “Wow. It’s a long way from the marina to ABD!” Man B laughs and says, “Whooo buddy! You should’ve seen how far it is to ABD from NFA!” Man A is quiet for a while, and smiles to himself. Man B asks, “Man A, where’d you start from anyway?” Man A sheepishly grins. “Ledyard.”
That’s how I feel about my martial arts journey. Some may say, “Gosh, she must be so discouraged to be training eight months and still be a white-orange belt.” But the thing you have to understand is, just wearing ANY martial arts belt is farther than I thought I could go, as recently as a year ago.
Whether you see yourself in Man A, B, or C, the important part is that you are encouraged by your own progress. Looking around at what everyone else is doing will just make you dizzy. Seriously, try doing ten burpees while looking all around the room. You only succeed by looking straight ahead, at your own goal.
Tonight, I’ll tie my white-orange belt on with pride. I’ll bow onto the mat, and then I will face that beautiful, strong woman in the mirror, and I’ll bow to her too. She deserves my respect. She’s come really far. And I know she’ll go much farther.