Be careful what you wish for: a cautionary tale.

Silver Medal

How dedication works to overcome obstacles.

At this year’s World Championships, I won the match I set out to win but lost another towards which I had not properly calibrated my ambition. The difference showed me how dedication acts to overcome obstacles.

At the start of the year I had dedicated myself to beating an adversary who had been my vanquisher last season. My enthusiasm over months of training was directed towards this one aim. No matter what, I told myself, I wanted to overcome what I was not able to previously.

At the World Championships in Savate Assaut, in Varazdin, Croatia, September 2016, I met my man in the semi-final. I started valiantly enough, but in the second round a burning sensation gathered around my legs, close to my knees. If I had merely hardened myself to the task, I could well have floundered. I can imagine how the fatigue in my legs could have become a nightmare that drowned me. (The drowning metaphor is apt as the sensation of battling for breath when tired in a fight feels incredibly like being underwater). Instead, something told me to relax and I changed my posture by a fraction. This change kept me going to the end and – by the majority verdict of the judges – to a win. My task was complete. But where did the voice that told me to relax and adapt come from?

There was one match still to go: the final. The task to which I had dedicated myself all year was accomplished, which I now realise was dangerous. The first two rounds of the final went well enough, I might even have been ahead at that point. In the third round a switch of tactics by my opponent forced me into a corner, literally and psychologically. This time there was no voice telling me how to overcome it, only one that pointlessly reinforced the difficulty I was in. I floundered. Consequently, the win went to my opponent, whose dedication exceeded mine in the final analysis.

Dedication seeks to find a solution, no matter what. It might not always be successful, and it depends on a host of supporting factors, but it remains resourceful to the last. In the semi-final, dedication led me to find a way round the obstacle and this was the factor that won me the fight, more so than any particular technique or tactic. The absence of such a response in the final was what lost it. Dedication has this kind of flexibility towards its aim.

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