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Three long minutes of your life

Knock-out-Martial-Arts-Lieven-Verbrugge
clipboard-with-pencil_16x16 Some days ago I went to an open martial arts championship. Fighters from different schools and disciplines gathered to test their skills. A fight lasts about three minutes and many fighters prepared themselves for a year for this moment. The rules are simple. You win, you go to the next round of the tournament. You lose, you are out and eventually you could participate again next year.

I have a passion for martial arts. One reason for this is precisely because of these three minutes. For an outsider this is a short moment. For a fighter however it is a significant long and intensive period of time.

When the fight starts, your adrenaline kicks in and your body is ready to act. Your mind is focused. Feelings of excitement, determination, fear and uncertainty mingle. Every punch or kick that your body receives can only mean one of two things. Or you didn’t see it coming or your defense wasn’t sufficient. Every time you succeed in scoring a point, you judged the situation right and you reacted correctly. All this happens so fast and your mind processes the information in microseconds. A fight demands so much energy that your body quickly gets tired. The adrenaline and the hard training made you resistant to most of the pain. You breath intensively and each time the judge stops the fight for a few seconds you try to calm down your body and recover as much as you can. Then you restart the fight and give the best of what you got, until the three minutes are over.

For me these three minutes represent in some way life in a highly accelerated manner. In some fights you see an overconfident participant who loses the fight because he underestimated his opponent. In other fights you see a participant who is technically very strong but loses the fight because he lacks confidence. You can sometimes observe how the confidence level rises and falls depending on how the fight evolves. It is a struggle for many fighters not to be too happy when they think they are winning and not to be too uncertain when they think they are losing. An experienced fighter knows that every second of the fight brings a new opportunity and the situation can change rapidly.

Just like in real life, to be overconfident or to be too insecure doesn’t really bring you forward. In Martial Arts as in life the real skill is to stay in balance and to stay yourself, regardless of the situation. In Chinese philosophy this is called Zhong Young (中庸), the way of the middle. The author Kong Ji (the grandson of Confucius, +- 450 B.C.) describes it in this way: "The superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself. In a high situation, he does not treat with contempt his inferiors. In a low situation, he does not search the favour of his superiors." Fighting in competitions and experience victory and defeat, is a perfect way to discover this valuable principle.

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