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"us" and "them"
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I'd like to present an idea to the group here for your feedback.
The idea of competition and where it should be directed. I think that this should always and only be directed at yourself to make yourself better and not directed at anyone else with the idea of being "better" then they. We know that society works because people within that society have found ways to cooperate thus allowing for the standard of living we currently enjoy. Anything that hinders that cooperation has the long term effect of hindering such necessary cooperation and so affects us all in a negative way. It is this philosophy of "us" and "them" that fractures such cooperation and is really destructive to us all. In reality it's not even "us" and "them" but "ME" and the "us" to keep "me" on the top with everyone else being "them". Now that is REALLY a destructive attitude! Any thoughts?

Posted on: 2011/11/14 10:49
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Ed Martin aka Papa-san
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Re: "us" and "them"
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Well, that's a complicated thing to explain. Competition is and can be a healthy thing. It brings out the best in people in regards to what they can achieve, overcoming fear, doubt and self-limitations. However, if that competition is spiteful, then it makes the person sick inside. The person may 'win', but they eventually will devour their own tail in desperation to constantly be 'the best'.

At the same time, a person who never has any competition doesn't know what it's like to fail and succeed. They just go about life with little ambition to improve and push themselves beyond what limits they 'think' they have. This is why sports programs that discourage a 'winner' and 'loser', don't keep scores or stats, only end up robbing each player of the desire to succeed. It doesn't prepare them for the real world, where your results are what's important. Competition, when done in a healthy manner, prepares people for life success and is a necessary component to fostering a spirit of winning - and how to constructively accept a loss.

Balance is always the key here.

Posted on: 2011/11/14 12:52
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Darren Dumas

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, or in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. ~ Thomas Jefferson
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Re: "us" and "them"
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Thanks Darren, that is just the type of thoughtful response I was hoping to get here.

Posted on: 2011/11/14 13:32
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Ed Martin aka Papa-san
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Re: "us" and "them"
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A foundation tenant of the art we study is that it's "natural". Okay then, lets look nature where you find all flavors and stripes of cooperation, symbiosis and yes, even altruism. But all that happens in the context of unrelenting pressure if scarcity----scarce food, water, light, heat and so forth. That pressure externally fuels the competitive urges within to overcome. In my mind, we have similar forces at work in our training and our lives. The fundamental scarcity is time. As we grow in this art we see how much more there is to grow and how little time there's left. I don't view competition as good/bad but simply natural

Posted on: 2011/11/14 15:06
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Re: "us" and "them"
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Another well thought out point John, I also think that if a person doesn't "struggle" that much of what makes us special is lost. It is in that struggle that we get to define ourselves. Contrary to the idea that self-esteem can be taught, I think we must earn it by the struggles we endure. So how to connect these two important concepts? Maybe, I think, that the struggle is a "competition" within ourselves and directed at making us better providers, defenders, and supporters of the human society. Yes, nature requires that all creatures struggle to live or that life is lost and we certainly are part of nature. But in nature there are also many examples of group cooperation, ie, the herd to protect the young, the 'wolf pack' to provide food for the pack, and many more. How should we define "our pack"? As just the small sub group who lives and believes as we, or the broader human race?

Posted on: 2011/11/14 21:42
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Re: "us" and "them"
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The bottom line for me right now is, in order to benefit and enjoy the fruits of a more altruistic or civil society, we need to accept and embrace the natural tendency for competition, the healthy kind as well as the ruthless and destructive kind.

The minute we assume we can safely ignore or legislate away that tendency, is when the clock of our society's demise starts counting down.

When we tried to legislate away greed by forcing banks to give loans to people who had no means of paying them back, we created a lot of suffering despite our good intentions. ALL entites, biological, idealogical, corporate or what-have-you, will maneuver endlessly to protect benefits and minimize loss.

Right now we seem to be experiencing relatively good times, wherein poor people often suffer more from obeisity and boredom than any real deprivation. What I see as the primary danger is what I call the 'Let's make a law!' syndrome.

An inequality or lack is perceived and then legislation is pushed to fix it, with little regard to the long-term consequences. More thought and acceptance of competition and selfishness--on all sides--could go a long way to help guide legislative efforts to more productive (if perhaps less sensational) ends.

Just some thoughts of mine of the cuff. Good discussion!


Posted on: 2011/11/15 3:00
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Re: "us" and "them"
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The year I passed my godan, Soke painted me a large picture. Even though they were kanji, nobody could really tell what they were (even the Japanese men in suits standing off to the side asked to see it and shook their heads in confusion). After I got home, I sent a photo of it to Joji-san who graciously took it before Soke and asked him.

Soke said it was "ryuuko hikan", but he split the kanji and did some other artistic expressions as only Soke can do, and that's why it was not immediately recognizable as such.

Not being very familiar with the terms, I looked them up, only to be shocked to discover meanings like 'disappointment', etc! I emailed Joji-san back and he clarified that it actually means "dragon, tiger, secret scroll". In further research, I found that the who meaning of ryuuko had to do with struggle, that the dragon and tiger struggle with each other as a natural polarity. I further learned that in that struggle lies the secret knowledge, the 'hikan'.

That has come to define my own training (even using it as the name of my training groups) and continues to be my primary inspiration to "keep going", knowing that in order to understand and grow, I must accept struggle as a natural part of the process, that it is vital in developing the fudoshin (immovable heart) so that I can "keep going" (gambatte). If I'm not struggling, I'm not growing.

Posted on: 2011/11/15 4:19
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Darren Dumas

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, or in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. ~ Thomas Jefferson
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Re: "us" and "them"
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I like the idea of competition as a gauge for what you have learned, trained on, practiced etc. I believe competition just like any training, should be progressive in difficulty and realism. Every modern military takes this approach to training, you get your individual tasks, train until you become proficient, then put them together in a culminating event, if you are not proficient at the individual task (if you don't qualify to a set standard) you cannot move onto the culminating exercise.

For example;
Shoot your rifle until you can hit 40 out of 40 targets at varying distances with zero misses, then you can go on to compete against other marksmen to see who can do it the fastest and hit the center-most part of the targets. This is marksmanship competition. You cannot move onto the competition until you met the qualifying standard, hitting 40 out of 40 targets with 40 rounds.

Another;
Army Combatives Level 1 (grappling) demonstrate that you can do the techniques prescribed for this level with a moderately resisting opponent. If you cannot submit them, you do not move on to level 2 and the testing phase which involves the opponent striking at you.

Another;
Army Physical Fitness; train your body until you can run 2 miles in 13 minutes or faster, do 80 pushups in 2 minutes or less, 82 situps in 2 minutes or less. This will give you a base maximum score in each category, then you can move onto the physical fitness challenge against other units, where all the fittest Soldiers compete in longer distance running, obstacle courses etc. You should not go to the competition unless you max out the base fitness score. Of course, units sometimes don't have guys that can max the base score but they send the fittest guys they have to the competition anyway to show their unit pride, the result is that these guys get slaughtered by a unit who sent guys who maxed the base score and then some. Don't compete until you are ready, especially when there is a set standard you know others are training towards.

Boxing;
Train for awhile and then jump into the ring with Mike Tyson, game over. Rather, train for awhile and then spar against someone who has been training as long as you have, and relatively similar body composition.

I agree in that competition is good for growth, it is part of human nature because everything is not equal in this world, no matter how much some political groups want it to be. But like anything, it needs to be progressive and worked on in order to develop properly, because in the end ask yourself what are you training toward? Me, I am training to the highest standard possible; somebody trying to kill me and I need to be better (weapons, hand-to-hand, or tactics/strategy) than them or I die.

No glory, no victory, no trophy, no credibility, just survival.

Posted on: 2011/11/15 6:38
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Re: "us" and "them"
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Unfortunately competition in this art is only existent on internet forums. Too many people fail to even compete against their own ego, the greatest adversary of them all, so to risk a public trouncing is highly unlikely. On the other hand, successfully eschewing the influence of the ego also leaves us with no urge to compete, because there is nothing to prove for the genuinely humble, although many may pretend to the latter mindset to avoid damaging their ego. I'd have a go though. I'd probably lose but what the heck eh?

Posted on: 2011/11/15 8:14
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Re: "us" and "them"
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I wonder if we are all defining "competition" in the same way. If it's purpose is to push yourself to greater levels, then I call that good competition. If it is only to satisfy your personal ego by putting someone else down, then I would not be so quick to see benefit in that. Interesting. I do think that there is here a general consensus of opinion on the value of struggle. It is when you struggle for something and then attain it that gives that "something" value to you. Anything that requires no effort on your part will also have little or no value to you. Ego is another good word to consider, I don't view ego as just bad. It has a purpose which is to spur you on to greater achievements. In doing that it is your servant where it must always remain. If ego begins to rule your choices it will become your master which makes you its slave. Just my opinion.

Posted on: 2011/11/15 11:10
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Ed Martin aka Papa-san
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