William had practiced martial arts from the time he was eight years old. Now, at twenty-eight, he was approaching his 21st year in martial arts. He was a skinny young kid when he began, now, as a young man, he was completely filled out, strong and fast. He remembered his excitement when he first entered the school and how, later, his mother and his instructor had to encourage him to stick it out when he had wanted to quit. He remembered achieving his first, second and third-degree black belt. Now, as tournament season was coming to an end, he was preparing for his fourth-degree belt. William was in The best shape of his life. He had collected 30 trophies this year, more than in any year past. All of them were in sparring. William love to spar and, while perhaps not consistently the best in the school, was certainly in the top five.
One day, he came to the school a little earlier than usual, just to stretch out and practice before classes. After he had stretched, the master asked, “William, would you like to spar? We haven’t in a while.”
William responded, “yes, sir.” And quickly went to get his practice gear. No one knew how long the master had practiced, but it was known to be over 40 years. As the two men had bowed in, William began to size up the master. He watched carefully at the way the master moved and looked for the openings. William through some fakes just to see how his opponent would move. After a few moments, he decided to launch an attack. William entered with a flurry of punches and kicks. The master responded and the two men began.
After 30 or 40 minutes, the master said, “Time.”
The two men bowed and walked off the mat. William felt a bit unsettled about what had just happened. They hadn’t kept score, so he couldn’t be sure, but he guessed that he had beaten the master. He said, “Sir, I am confused. I have never done this well against you inspiring before.”
“Yes,” said the master, “ your physical technique has come along way.”
William nodded and said, “If we were in a tournament I would have one.”
The master responded, “Yes, today you would have, but tomorrow maybe not. William, this is your problem. You ONLY spar for trophies - not for yourself. I am not concerned at all with winning and losing, but only in allowing the experience to sweep over me. I know that, because of the experience, I will be changed for the better. It might appear that we are doing the same thing, sparring. You, however, our enhancing your ego, while I am striving to let go of mine. You look at what just happened. You feel superior and self congratulatory because you scored more points than I did. If you had scored fewer points you would have been upset and disappointed. Both reactions wrong. Neither reaction enhances the experience. Stop being so concerned with victory or defeat and you will enjoy the practice and experience regardless of the outcome.”
“You need to use sparing as it was intended, not only as a sport, while competition has its benefits as well. Spore as if you and I were dancing. Any dance, there are three energies at work: your own energy, your partners energy, and the energy that you create together.
Any dance, the object is not to get to a certain place on the floor or two out-dance your partner. it is really too engrossed your self in the experience, so that when the dance is finished you will remember such an enjoyable time that you want to dance again.”
“ so sparing is more than just fighting, with rules,” said William.
The master smiled. “Just because you can win a fight does not mean that you are a martial artist. You are a martial artist when you use fighting to change your life.”