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Transcending the ego on the road to victory

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The greatest competitors leave their egos outside the playing field. A competitor has enough to fight about without having to add his or her ego to fight over or fight with.

My five main teachers exhibit little ego. They are trial law masters Steve Rench and SunWolf; Ho’oponopono/getting to zero teacher Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len; the t’ai chi ch’uan lineage of Cheng Man Ch’ing, Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo, and Julian Chu; and my peace mentor Jun Yasuda.

My years-long martial art of t’ai chi ch’uan tests how successful I am in shedding my ego in the battlefield and elsewhere. First, I must keep relaxing when overpowered by an opponent, because collapsing and stiffening contribute all the more to one’s weakness and ultimate defeat. Next, in the past through now, I have taken it more in stride when a much more advanced t’ai chi ch’uan practitioner successfully pushes me than when a much newer and seemingly less experienced practitioner successfully pushes me. I must not assess how long any opponent has been practicing, nor how well; I must shed my ego. Next, I must shed an attachment to winning, while still fighting to win at every turn, thus making me win more often.

With the foregoing in mind, here are some additional recent thoughts, mixed in with some other ideas:

– Today at t’ai chi ch’uan practice, I thanked a newer student for helping me get closer to losing my ego. Only a few months ago, he and I were pushing hands on the sparring line at the summer Sunday morning t’ai chi gatherings organized by master Julian Chu at Carderock Park in Maryland. At first, I thought he was using more external force than is called for in t’ai chi push hands. However, I later realized that if I was not soft enough at the time, the reason that I felt force in his push may have been that he had something hard to push against, when I should have softened more.

Ken Van Sickle is a former student of Cheng Man Ch’ing from the 1960’s, who says that Cheng Man Ch’ing "seemed to have no attitude" and a "very healthy" ego. He did not judge others. Professor Cheng "seemed to exude love and tolerance and non-judgment. "

– T’ai chi sparring is always beneficial towards losing ego, particularly when sparring against those skilled but doing it fewer years than I.

– As I blogged two years ago: Practicing t’ai chi ch’uan helps one loosen attachment to one’s body, to desires, and to material things, in that in t’ai chi one must deflate the ego, softness is valued and muscular strength is not sought. As Jan Diepersloot writes in Warriors of Stillness: "The accomplishment of the training in the meditative and martial arts is precisely the ability to transcend and suppress the functioning o the sympathetic, pituitary-adrenal system and continue to operate with calm equanimity in the face of extreme danger, including, ultimately, the encounter with death itself."  

– A t’ai chi practitioner more successfully pushes his or her opponent when not intending to do so, and when applying all t’ai chi principles. In court, too much is at stake for me not to intend to win. However, being overly-fixated on winning can have the opposite results, whereas applying the key beneficial principles of combat will achieve more victories.

Being in such a competitive profession as criminal defense brings with it both the real risks of ego-driven actions, and all the more need to shed the ego.