Since I moved to Switzerland, my training is 50km away from my house, so I go to the dojo only on Sundays. I always joke with my friends: people go to church on Sunday and I guess my dojo is (in some way) my church. We anyway bow and show respect when we go in and out, and we pray not to get hurt (especially when my Croatian friend Ivan is in training). Joke aside, dojo is my place of peace and balance.

If we continue with the similarities, my trip to Japan few weeks ago was sort of a pilgrimage. After 15 years of trying to understand what was I doing on and off the training, I finally went there. To Noda. To place where the ancient schools of ninjas and samurais are taught to everyone open to learn. The lessons I have got while being there I could not transfer like this and it would be stupid to try and put them in a simple blog. But there is one conversation that is still fixed in my head weeks upon my return.

This trip to Japan was special in many ways, and one of them was my Sakki test (if you want to find out more, fell free to search the term online). It will take me more time to be able to even think to write about it. But there was an interesting conversation that happened exactly two days after me passing this test. We were in the training and I asked one of the Japanese Shihans (Nagato Sensei) where should I focus my study now, studying the schools, in what way, etc.

He looked at me and smiled. I could see he gets this question a lot. His answer was in english. Very basic. Perfect. He looked at me and said:

Until 4th Dan, you need blood, sweat and tears. After you pass your Sakki test, no strength, no power in your training. Do not try to win, but remember, you can’t lose. 

Whether we speak about surviving the attack or living life, this lesson is the same. From these words I understood that hard work is one of pre-requisites for every success but it is not the only one. With time we have to learn to do things in a smart way, with less strength or power; try to understand the deeper connection with the challenges on our road.

But most of all, we have to stop thinking about winning; either a fight, or honours, titles and medals – our ego is guided (and blinded) by these means of instant gratification. After we reach the certain point we have to let go of these superficial things and start thinking about persevering, ability to keep moving forward even when the chances are not in our favour. And if we spend enough days persevering, having faith and just simply keep going – we can never lose. And not only that we will not lose, but the person we will become in the process will be the real winner. Not from our ego and not for our ego. The joy and fulfilment that comes with becoming someone better today than you were yesterday is the real win. The win within.