A certain football coach has been at the forefront of the news lately. The overwhelming majority label him as a “nice guy”. However, the context and tone of the phrase leads me to believe that when they say “nice guy”, it is not actually a compliment, but almost a character defect. It is as if the coach will not be able to perform his duties or rise to greatness because he is “nice”. This is a cultural myth perpetuated by the media and movies; that if you are nice, then you are somehow weak, uncompetitive, and do not “have what it takes”. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This idea starts from the notion of “tough love”; common in sports and athletic endeavors. This idea is that you have to be hard or harsh to a student for their own good – to make them take the step to the next level. On the same thread, a student must develop a strong mental attitude to overcome the inevitable hardships and setbacks one must endure to get to the next level. They also must have a strong mental attitude to face their competition. Often, an opponent can mentally derail a fellow competitor with trash-talk, jibes, insults, etc. so that they do not perform their best.
Where this notion has gone wrong is the next idea that a competitor/athlete must therefore become “mean” in order to be tough enough to face the competition. By extension, a person who is not “mean” must not be tough enough to excel in athletic endeavors.
In martial arts, courtesy is taught right alongside lethal and joint-destructive techniques. The most terrifying people I know are the ones who will smile, say hello, and then take you out, without so much as a hint. These people have nothing to prove, they are confident in their own abilities, and they will not provoke or insult, because there is no need to provoke. They have the greatest desire to excel; to become constantly better than their opponents, and themselves.
So you can then, have courtesy, and be nice without compromising your competitive spirit. Trash-talk, insults, and being “mean” is about trying to prove something to someone else. It has nothing to do with being an excellent competitor, improving your abilities, developing a tough mental attitude, and being strong, mentally and physically