Here I am, writing a handbook on How to Win a Competition, or, rather, 10 small tips / mindsets that helped me achieve, through the years, the results I obtained in competitions.
Before we set out to discover these 10 “secrets”, let me say first what their ultimate purpose is: it is not winning a competition, not even a European Championship, but rather improving ourselves along the way. Secondly, the tips I will describe may appear trivial to many of you; however, if we examine our practice and ourselves, we have to ask ourselves: do you “know thyself”? I refer you to Vittorio’s wonderful analysis: Hagakure 7 (post in Italian language).
My first secret is:
Never underestimate anyone
The toughest opponent is always the one you have to face in that very moment. As I said before, it may seam like a triviality; however, how many times have I heard “I’m going to beat this guy for sure,” or “I’m not sure I can make it against…” or some such?
There is no easy opponent, there is no competition already decided, nobody can be considered less capable than we are. Everyone is better than us at something and worse at something else (talking about iaido practice). What we have to do is always give our best, without calculations or trying to spare our stamina. One needs to focus on the kata one has to perform and not think about the opponent; all our opponents are to be feared, and every fight requires our highest attention.
A fun story
I have to thank Angela Papaccio, former National Kendo team member, for becoming aware of this: at the 2004 EC in Bologna, after I defeated Andy Watson (then, and hence, unbeatable) she congratulated me and told me, “You won, but do not let go, because now it gets tough.” This became my firm belief: the toughest shiai is the one you still have to fight. My friend Vittorio might say that in life as well the toughest fight is the one you have yet to face.
Until next time, ciao
The psychological aspect
I will try, as I was asked and where possible, to provide a comment from a psychological point of view to Claudio’s interesting indications, following the line of sport psychology and cognitive psychology.
In this first point, you will find what is usually called with the name “Synchronicity“, that is to pay attention to the present moment, to give the maximum in the current performance, without thinking or being influenced by what happened before or what will happen after. When you are in sync, there is only one dimension of time, the present one, experienced moment by moment with the utmost awareness.
All this can also refer to the concept of mindfulness, very dear to contemporary psychology for its value and its therapeutic power, that is the awareness, without judgment, of what is happening in the here and now, in a harmonious union between body and mind.