Muhammad Ali proclaimed to the world, “I am the greatest.” Ali was boastfully funny, not entirely facetious. He inspired millions of fans around the world. The several-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion transcended to Champion of the oppressed peoples of the World. He was the voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. His convictions and beliefs outside the boxing ring reflected his unmatched skill in the ring.
I’m an Ali fan. “I am the greatest” resonates authentically for many. I admire those who pursue the possibility of being the greatest. I never did.
I have no desire or dream of becoming the greatest. I pursue becoming greater than who I am now. That scale of becoming greater matters little. As long as it’s greater than my defined “zero”, I’m good with that.
O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” Become greater than you know you to be.
Most of Ali’s “greatest” was hyperbole, for show. Mostly. I work making me a little greater. As small as that might be. I listen and see others as greater than they know themselves to be.
I participated in the Aikido Seminar taught by the strong Sensei from France. She is a master of Japanese weaponry. She instructed us in the art of the jo, the wooden staff. The primary movement in Aikido is irimi, the entering in of the attack.
When one attacks with either weapon or empty handed, you enter after waiting out the attack, giving your opponent a target. You profile your body to let the attack pass you. Sensei Dan said, “Take the glancing blow. It’s only one time.” You surrender to what happens in that moment.
Through her interpreter, Sensei said, “Enter the attack and die with honor”. Be present. Learn the art of dying. Learn the way to lose. Live with honor in the outcome: win or lose.
Bruce Lee said, “Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose. To accept defeat, to learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your mind and learn the art of dying.”
I’ve experienced bullying growing up at home as a boy. Bullies define the #Metoo movement. Bullies are abuser, who feel entitled, forcing silence from those they victimize. Bullies only want to know the way to win. Bullies victimize those they deem to be weaker, lesser than themselves. They never learned the art of dying. Their path is of cowardice, devoid of honor.
We all fear dying in some way. We each reconcile that in our own ways. Bullies and abusers fear shame and being called out as afraid more than dying itself. That’s their karma.
Actor Ellen Paige wrote in her open letter to Hollywood calling out all abusers, who deem others as lesser than:
“This is a long-awaited reckoning. It must be. It’s sad that ‘codes of conduct’ have to be enforced to ensure we experience fundamental human decency and respect. Inclusion and representation are the answer. We’ve learned that the status quo perpetuates unfair, victimizing behavior to protect and perpetuate itself. Don’t allow this behavior to be normalized. Don’t compare wrongs or criminal acts by their degrees of severity. Don’t allow yourselves to be numb to the voices of victims coming forward. Don’t stop demanding our civil rights. I am grateful to anyone and everyone who speaks out against abuse and trauma they have suffered. You are breaking the silence. You are revolution.”
Initially, studying Aikido was my “in order to” be stronger, to not be afraid. Yet, it’s never about becoming more of something. More of anything will never be enough. We discover peace in our acceptance.
After 28 years of Aikido training with Sensei Dan and Sensei Bobby, it’s not about winning, it’s not about losing. You overcome you—your frailty, your fear—and become your greater than self. That’s what bullies and abusers never learned. Perhaps, in #Metoo they might learn that lesson. Maybe.
We can’t change bullies or abuser, much like we can’t change people in general. However, we can alter and recreate who we are, what we do. The bully must do the same as well.
Become your greater than self. Stand your ground. Take your stand against the bullies and abusers. That becomes the abusers’ reckoning as well.
It’s not about becoming the greatest. Become greater than you know you to be. Accept and love who you are, and who you become.
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