Facing The Challenge (To Who We Think We Are)

Who you think you are is your greatest obstacle to growth and progress along the way.

Mike Stewart Jr and Robert Van Valkenburgh at Kogen Dojo. Photo by Mike Oswald Photography

We all step onto the mats with a certain amount of ego — a self-perception, self-protection, and self-projection — that we consciously or unconsciously hide behind. As we train, if we are being challenged in a safe and healthy way, this holographic image of who we think we are, or who we want others to think we are, begins to flicker and fade, leaving us exposed and in the open.

As this happens, how we respond to the exposure begins to define and shape not only our progress, but also our character, both on and off the mats. If we insist on maintaining the illusion of our power and infallibility, it is likely that we will not last long in this arena. In order to change and grow, some humility is required. We must be willing to accept our own limitations and the help and instruction necessary to overcome those limitations.

If we are willing, we will find many teachers along the way. These teachers may be those more experienced and skilled than us, but we can also learn from the newest, least experienced people in the room. Everyone and every moment has something to teach us. Even as we become more senior and more skilled, we can learn, grow, and change. As long as we remain teachable, as long as we do not take ourselves too seriously, and as long as we do not quit, the possibilities are endless.

“As in life, so too it is in budo. As in budo, so too it is in life.”

-Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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