Compete (Again)

Many of you know my friend Bin. He's a good shit...

118kg clean & jerk

Anyways, Bin also embraces the benefits of competition. He's currently a top-notch Olympic weightlifter, he participated in DC's Most Primal (with less than three weeks of conditioning work), and he used to compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Thai boxing. He wrote the following piece in reference to his martial arts days and how competing is a part of his life:

I don't compete because I want to win. I don't compete for glory or for a feeling of satisfaction. I compete because I want to face failure, face the risk of failure, and test myself against the odds. I compete because it is my mind against the situation I am given. Competition is never a test of my abilities, my methods, or my preparation; it is purely a test of my will, and whether I win or lose, succeed or fail, is only a product of my mental state.

I find the atmosphere of competition intoxicating. It is my catharsis, my opportunity to channel everything in my life that oppresses me, everything that hurts, into something purposeful and beautiful. What would normally sit and fester, stew and rot inside me is instead purified and put to work. In those few moments before it begins, nothing feels more miraculous than the rage welling up inside me until it is almost too much, waiting for that clock to start. Once things begin the dam bursts.

To be sure, these patterns are tried and true for me. As a child searching for a way to deal with myself I found the masochism of training to be engrossing. At a time when it seemed like I was at the mercy of pain and suffering dealt to me by everything and everyone, finding a place, a means, to control the pain seemed like nothing less than salvation. In the beginning it was the training that I found rewarding - the daily exhaustion, the inability to think or consider the inanities of my life, and the struggle to merely survive gave me definition and necessity. Suddenly I had a daily goal, a task that I had to accomplish. Luckily I was young enough to buffer and push through what was almost certainly severe overtraining.

My first time in competition, however, was a revelation. All the hours and weeks in training paled compared to the gravity of that moment. Everything I had worked for, every scar, every lost hour of sleep, was distilled into these few minutes, these few moments really, in which I was given an opportunity to prove myself, not just to me, but to everyone around me, to these nameless faces that had come and gathered to witness. The crowd wasn't cheering for me necessarily, they were just cheering. But that didn't matter. In my mind and in my heart, everything that had been shoveled onto me up to that point was suddenly my ballast, the mountain I stood on to tower over the person facing me. He wanted to defeat me, but he didn't know what he was dealing with. He had no idea of what I had been through, what was driving me. He didn't know my resolve and how much stronger it was than he. How easily it could break him.

That part of my life is long passed. My days of one on one contests are over, but the spirit remains. It is rooted deep within me, waiting to be tapped, to be set free, and though my outlets for competition have changed, my motivations, what goes on inside, have not. I realize that these circumstances and attitudes are unusual, borderline unhealthy even, but to me, there's nothing else.

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