The Curious Nature of Success in Martial Arts & Life!

Life is tough, unpredictable, and will kick you between the legs when you are not looking. Life is, at its heart imperfect, just like a roll in jiu-jitsu, just like sparring. But we want everything to be perfect. We want, seek, for the perfect roll, the perfect round of sparring, the perfect life. Perfection, we have been told, offers the key to happiness.

But, in my experience imperfection gets a bad rap. Straight lines, perfect shapes, and order, is what we have been told is beautiful and good. But it’s all fake. Embedded in the very fabric of the zig zag, the oblong shape, and disorder is where the creative spirit lies. As John Ruskin, in the The Stones of Venice reminds us:


“To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality.”


In our modern world we prize ingenuity, fresh approaches to old problems, and doing so in spite of obstacles – yet paradoxically at the same time society suggests we should conform to be happy. The former leads to creative insight, and our ability to come up with novel solutions, while the later, conformity, leads to the herd mentality.

To conform is to lose ones creative spirit. Conformity is simply an illusion of what is suggested as to be perfect, but invariably it leads to decay. This decay is not only physical, but mentally and spiritually. Ralph Waldo Emerson reminds us about this when he writes:


“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”


And as Rita Mae Brown American writer and activist, reminds us in respect to the opposite of being yourself:


“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”


The Paradox of Success

The truth is, we look at those among us who have stood out from the rest, and if there is anything they have in common is that they refuse to conform. They have fought the ideal of perfection, and instead rather sought out their creative expression at the edge of chaos. They ignored their critics, and did what the did — not for anyone else, not for notoriety — but rather because they were curious, and had the courage to answer their own deepest held questions.

I write this, because this has been my own personal experience of doing what I do. As a martial artist, and my expression of this craft, I am inspired by my own curiosity, and in the revelations that are held in the imperfect nature of its expression. As such my experience has shown that where curiosity and imperfection meet, is where creative insight emerges. This to me is true bliss!

This is also what my critics will never get me. I don’t care about what they have to say about my work, my Art, because I never pursued my craft for an audience, for them. My questions are not generated to answer their doubts, but rather to answer my own curiosity.

To be successful then….you need to do the same. Success in anything, is meant to be an imperfect experience. As we wrestle with the imperfection, we grow, expand, and find what we are most are looking for. As Dejan Stojanovic, a Serbian poet, writer, essayist, and philosopher notes:


“We love the imperfect shapes in nature and in the works of art [jiu-jitsu, sparring, life], look for an intentional error as a sign of the golden key and sincerity found in true mastery.”


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