Ichiban: roughly translated means one in Japanese, often used to refer to a great fighter or sports figure, in fact the sports entertainer Hulk Hogan was referred to as “Ichiban” in Japan because he was the most popular wrestler in the Country for a long period of time.
I was introduced to the term at Jadi Tention’s Annual Winter Sparing Camp,by one of the few Master Teachers I have had the privilege to train with Mr. Richard Plowden. He gave a passionate speech about the mindset of a champion and what it takes to win and become the absolute best fighter at any given event. That of all the fighters that show up to an event, at the end of the day only one man would be crowned the champion. Only one man that would be “Ichiban”, number one, the only undefeated person of the day.
I sat hanging on every word, inspired by them, and by the concept of being the last man standing, the champion of the day, the only person to survive the day without suffering the agony of defeat. Since that day I have even had the good fortune of being “Ichiban” on a small scale at a regional event, winning a double grand in both forms and fighting. My team, training partners, and instructors were there to see me stand undefeated at the end of a long day.
However to be honest that “Ichiban” feeling only lasted a few brief moments, really didn’t make it out of the parking lot with me, my mind was already on the next event, the next goal, the next hurdle. It was definitely no where to be found when the next event did come around and I missed my forms division, and lost the fighting grand! The weight of losing however did make it to the parking lot with me, and managed to hang around for a few days like “Eeyore’s Cloud” from Winnie the Pooh.
The pain of losing will always be greater than the joy of wining, and the “Ichiban” will change from event to event, year to year, and generation to generation. What cannot change however is your belief and dedication to continuous and never ending growth. The idea that you will sacrifice, sweat and bleed to become the best you can possibly be time and time again, day after day. That age, ability, physical gifts, wealth, status, or obstacles will not be used as a crutch or excuse for success or failure. That the race is not over until you decide to stop racing, that “a man is not old until his dreams become his regrets”.
To me that is my Ichiban, my drive to continue to race simply because I still can. That more than a destination, it is a lifestyle and continual raising the bar mentality.
What is your ichiban? What are you doing to get closer to that goal, that accomplishment, that ideal way of living. What are you willing to give up to get there? Is what you are giving up worth the journey? How will it help others reach their goals, and inspire the next generation? Whatever it is I wish you the best, and I hope to share a part of that journey with you on the mat soon!
-Joshua Page, www.hickorymartialarts.com