Everything is Within
by Sayaka Torra
To say that the path of a competitive athlete is challenging is a drastic understatement to the physical and mental highs and lows he or she takes along their journey. If you’ve never personally experienced these peaks and valleys, it is quite difficult to understand the true thrill of victory and agony of defeat that these athletes taste.
As a competitive athlete in the sport of judo for over a decade, I was fortunate enough to win 7 national titles and earned my spot to represent the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China. To make the Olympic Team was (and will always be) one of the greatest honors and accomplishments of my life.
It is only now, 6 years after I retired from competitive judo that I am beginning to realize all the valuable lessons that I learned on my judo journey. I am now carrying all those lessons with me on my new adventure called kettlebell sport.
Being a competitive athlete is a constant process of assessing and evaluating yourself to become a better competitor and ultimately, a better person. It is about setting concrete goals that you’ve never accomplished and working your hardest to achieve those goals. It is about sacrifice, dedication, commitment and perseverance. It is about becoming the best version of you.
Kettlebell sport, like judo, is an individual sport. But unlike judo, when you step onto the platform, virtually everything is under your control. This is one of the things that I personally love about kettlebell sport; that when I step onto the platform to lift, I pretty much know exactly what it’s going to be like.
Some could argue that this predictability makes kettlebell sport less challenging than combat sports such as judo, wrestling or boxing. After all, another person isn’t trying to throw, pin choke, or knock you out.
But kettlebell sport is challenging in its own unique ways. Over the past year, I have grown an immense appreciation for the level of technique each lift requires but more importantly, the acceptance of vulnerability and self-actualization that kettlebell lifting requires of you.
Kettlebell lifting exposes you to yourself. Because everything is in your control, if you set the bell down early or give up mid way through your set, you have to accept that responsibility first and foremost to yourself. Accepting that you may have not given 100% is extremely difficult and to avoid taking responsibility, people love to blame anything other than themselves. We often hear ourselves say things like “I didn’t sleep well last night” or “work’s so stressful” or “I’m sore from yesterday’s workout”.
Ultimately, when we aren’t honest with ourselves and don’t accept personal responsibility for our own preparation and performance, the only person we’re really hurting is ourselves. As a competitive athlete (in any realm) we owe ourselves this responsibility, especially because competing is a choice we actively and consciously make.
Sports and competition exposes you to yourself and sometimes what you see isn’t pretty. It’s a hard pill to swallow but in the end, you can either wallow in this sorrow, or change something. But this responsibility and choice ultimately falls onto you as an athlete and person. Wallowing in the sorrow of a bad set or competition result is really the easy way out of a problem. Understanding why you made the decisions that limited you and figuring out a way to solve the issue, requires a deep understanding of yourself as a person. However, this level of maturity is a necessary component in sport and is what separates the good athletes from the phenomenal ones.
My words of advice to any struggling kettlebell athlete would be this: don’t let your struggles define who you are as an athlete or person. Kettlebell lifting is supposed to be hard. It is meant to push your mental and physical limits. Embrace this fact and know you’re not alone in your discomfort. Approach each set with a positive outlook. Be honest with yourself; understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Finally, take responsibility for your own training; don’t waste people’s time, especially your own.
In conclusion, I recently read a phenomenal quote that I would like to share with you.
“There is nothing outside of yourself that can enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself” ~Miyamoto Musashi