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I had an interesting discussion the other day about different styles and how aikido, specifically my level of aikido, compare with each other. At some point in the conversation it was brought to my attention that it doesn't matter what the style is. What is important is the level of commitment the individual has. The difference in commitment is readily noticed between practicing martial arts for competition versus practicing for self-defense (self mastery, self improvement, self realization, etc).
There is a definite amount of respect I have for those people who commit to training their mind and bodies to the point of being able to compete. Not being extremely competitive myself, I can only imagine that there is a certain amount of precision involved in competitive training, i.e., knowing the rules about where you are allowed to strike, knowing which strike zones are worth more points, etc.
There is a definite amount of respect I have for those people who commit to training their mind and bodies to handle being attacked on the street by multiple assailants. Someone who sets out to attack you has definitely committed themselves to your demise and your ability to handle that will be demonstrated by which person is able to walk away from that situation voluntarily.
So maybe it's worthwhile to find some similarities between these two scenarios. Doing this might help find out what the real differences are.
l. They both invoke an enormous amount of adrenalin
2. They both carry a level of emotional intensity
3. There is something at stake in both situations
Now for the differences, I'll take those similarities and get much more specific
1. Competition produces adrenalin but it's likely used by your body in a completely different way then if a sharp knife were to find itself inches away from your stomach.
2. I've never had my life threatened but I would guess that surviving that kind of incident would produce very different emotions than being part of an awards ceremony.
3. In a competition, your pride is at stake. When you are accosted, your life might be at stake. Dramatic difference.
Again, this post isn't to say what's right or wrong, who's better or not. It's just an attempt to examine the difference.