I’m not going to lie. There was a day when I made comparisons of myself with other martial artists. It was not so I could be inspired or learn, but because I wanted to see where I fell in the spectrum. Was I good? Could I beat someone else in sparring? Did I know the same number of techniques?

I can’t tell you how many times I felt inadequate during these comparisons. There was always someone better, more athletic, more skilled, or even a harder worker. On occasion, I thought that martial arts were not for me. But, that was a long time ago. That was before I realized that every martial artist has a unique spirit and truth.

Sometimes, comparisons are good. If you are going to fight someone, it is best that you know up front what to expect. If you identify their brilliantly executed, but utterly predictable, fast and furious round kick, you can do two things with that piece of information. You can look at your own kick and say, “Mine is a bit low. He is so much better than I am.” Or, you can think, “I cannot kick that high, but my quick uppercut under a rib would work.”

The difference between the two comparisons is that one is negative and one is positive. One will make you feel horrible about your skills, the other reminds you where your power is.

Beginners make these mistakes all the time. They want to be advanced past their level, to be respected and seen in excellence. The problem with this is that it is a premature wish. They will unlikely surpass the experienced, matured, well-rounded practitioner who has been at it for years. It is best they not compare, but instead take notice and learn.

Positive Comparisons

You cannot compare an apple to an orange, maybe not even a man to a woman, so comparing a beginner and a master is out of the question. Appreciate and learn, but comparisons in these scenarios are not helpful.

On my first day in the dojang more than 27 years ago, I experienced my first negative comparison. I felt I could never be like the martial artists I watched. Black belts were performing forms, board breaks, and gut-wrenching yells (or that’s what they sounded like to me), and were on the cusp of growing into their unique spirit and truth. They were past petty self-indulgent questions about if they were worthy or capable of becoming a good martial artist.

They were great examples of the future, my future, and when I realized that, I let go of the negative comparisons. I knew then who I wanted to become, and that’s all I needed.

Unique Spirit and TruthTrust me, others can see your spirit as clearly as they see the sun rising in the morning, or the steam billowing forth from a boiling teapot. There is no mistaking it. Each martial artist has a way about him or her. It’s in the eyes, the movement of the body, the focus, and the reflection. Along with this spirit is a sense of truth about self. It is a confidence, a passion, and a purpose that the martial artist starts to assimilate into everyday life, and into practice. It is easily noticeable by others, but not as easily notice in yourself.

Spirit and truth are thwarted when comparisons become ugly or negative. Until you open your mind to believe that you’re unique talent has meaning and purpose, you will never understand this concept, and you will never reach your goals.

Let go of stringent comparisons. Instead view what others are doing as a way to learn and get better yourself, use it to your advantage in a sparring match, or appreciate them as a role model. Never, ever compare to the point where you have diminished your own worth and value.

Someday, someone will compare themselves to you, and wonder if they can ever achieve what you have accomplished. Hopefully, they will recognize your dedication, determination, and how you committed yourself to a very exciting and worthwhile endeavor. Your spirit and truth should be the first thing they see. The responsibility is on your shoulders to make sure that is what they notice, first and foremost.

Start today by taking time to acknowledge the spirit that lies within you and appreciate your own truths, one of which is this: There is no duplicate of you which makes you one of the most special and unique martial artists on the planet.