I once witnessed a sparring session that taught me a lot about perseverance, confidence, humility, and what it means to have an indomitable spirit.
There are a lot of possible explanations for the behavior of the student that you will read about below (we can’t read his mind), but I honestly believe it was an amazing example of the aforementioned qualities.
Here’s what happened:
Two of our most advanced students were sparring; one male, and one female. They are roughly 8-10 years of age. The female student was able to take the male student down and control him throughout the round. The male student worked hard to get back up, but the girl clearly held the advantage throughout the round.
I was impressed with how he kept his composure throughout the round, working hard to get back up, and never giving up. However, I expected to see some visible signs of distress on his face when the round was over. After all, if I had been out-sparred by a girl when I was that age, excuse, when I was out-sparred by a girl, I used to through a fit, cry, or at least feel very embarrassed. If I were this student, I probably would have claimed she poked me in the eye, which would explain why I had been taken down, and why my eyes were now watering.
To my amazement, this young man popped right back up at the end of the round as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t read his mind, but I am almost certain there was no change in the way he felt about himself after this sparring session, and he would have been happy to do another round with her or anyone else.
Of course, we could say that perhaps times are changing and it is no longer as big of a deal for a boy to lose to a girl as it was when I was growing up, which is probably true and I for one think that is a good thing. After all, in jiu-jitsu especially, it is not unusual to see a female student overcome a male opponent or training partner, but as I said before, BOTH of these children were among our top students. Learning that someone is ahead of us in any activity in which we excel can be a blow to the ego.
I would invite you to take what you want from this anecdote. Perhaps you think it is no big deal. However, I was deeply moved by this student’s character. It was as if he had the perfect balance of humility and confidence to say, “I was beaten in sparring, and that is OK, I’m still happy with who I am.” Talk about being comfortable with who you are.
We’ve all heard about the importance of getting up when we get knocked down in life, but rarely have I seen it exemplified so clearly. It made me realize that if we can be graceful in the face of defeat, then we really haven’t been defeated. This is as true in our day-to-day lives as it is in sparring.
Imagine if every time we get knocked down, or someone does something which might be perceived as an insult, we get up or kept our head up as if nothing happened. This is easier said than done, and we will be discussing some strategies for developing this kind of confidence, attitude, and spirit in class this week, as well as in next week’s blog.
For myself, I find it a little bit easier now that I have a role-model to follow in this young student; a walking personification of the great Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
I don’t know how many times he will get knocked down in life. What I do know is that he will eventually achieve whatever he chooses to in life, because he will always get back up.