We’ve all been waiting for this: Karate at the Olympics. Watching kata and kumite at Tokyo 2020 has been riveting. What we’ve seen on screen is an impressive display of athletic excellence.

For privacy reasons YouTube needs your permission to be loaded. For more details, please see our Privacy Policy.
I Accept

And as a martial artist and athlete, that lure is strong: to be THAT good? That would be amazing, right?

When I look at the faces of the athletes, the medal winners: they’re blissed right out. The athletes who lose, however—and they lose by a hair: the crush of disappointment is clear on their faces.

They sacrificed everything: quit their jobs, ditched their family, friends and communities, lived on shoestring budgets out of suitcases, slept on couches and floors, travelled during a pandemic, competed in excessive heat and humidity, slept on freaking cardboard in a city that didn’t really want them there in the first place. They put aside everything in pursuit of that dream, and they lost.

And these are INCREDIBLE athletes. A medal or lack of one doesn’t change this.

But… society has roped us into this game, where there are clear winners and losers. Winners? Those are the ones who get the medals, prizes, status, titles, and alllll the power. Losers? Those are the ones who don’t.

And if you choose to step back from the game? To honour your mental health, physical health or personal safety? Guess what? You’re weak, and you lose.

The Olympics are all about spectacle, and media will idolize the winners of those coveted medals. And the “losers”? Those who lost by a hair, or stepped out for health or safety reasons? Despite all of their skill and excellence and admirable dedication to their sport, many are left with feelings of heartache and crushing defeat. They will be criticized, devalued, or forgotten, and get far less than the tremendous respect that they actually deserve.

The Olympic motto is: “Faster, higher, stronger.” And anything less? Is just not good enough.

…Or is it?

Would you want to compete in the Olympics? Please share your thoughts below.