Martial Arts are way more than a mere physical demonstration. A good fighter is not really interested in sheer brute force and power, but in the harmony of the movements and coordination of the entire body, from breathing to a tiny flicker of the eye.
Erik has been practicing the Asian martial art of Judo since he was just a little kid. This is far more than a sport that requires physical preparation: Judo comes in with a whole philosophical system, and it is meant as an art of defense, not attack. Unlike the flashy version that you´re likely to get from Hollywood movies, real Judo has no flying kicks or searing punches. Every single move, step and position is about self-protection. Even the attack moves are not meant to be attacks: The purpose is not to use brute force to crush an opponent, but to tactically neutralize his attacks, turning them against himself with clever and detailed actions that take advantage of levers. In Judo, the force of an opponent is your primary weapon, and it adds to your own strength. Erik knew that very well, and this was the main idea in his head every single time he was up on the tatami, against an opponent. There is a lot of guesswork going on, as Erik and the apprentice on the opposite side of the ring circled each other, slowly and carefully, without losing high contact. Unlike any other martial arts, one little distraction can turn the whole match upside down. Not only can a fault be used against you, but it could also literally nail you to the floor without any chance to get up. The thing that truly sets this discipline apart is the mindset. Erik was not aiming to win. There are no winners and losers in judo, there are tori and uke: the aggressor and the defender. Both performers play an equally relevant role within the match, which almost works as choreography, a dance where coordination and mutual interpretation is absolute key. When a tori makes a move, it is up to the uke to decide how to react. A prepared uke can decide if it is worth to “take the hit” and give in to a well executed move. Even though they had never met each other, Erik and his nameless opponent were definitely sharing the same mindset. They both were looking forward to impress the judges and the audience, offering the best possible performance, truly tracing shapes and sculptures in the air with their expert, almost like a more dynamic and passionate version of the millenary Chinese art of Thai Chi. Erik and his peer on the ring were offering a stunning spectacle to every single person in the room, and it truly did not matter who was the tiger and who played the crane. Both were beautiful and accomplished in their own right. The tiger will eventually devour the crane, but with dignity and leaving the onlookers with wonder and admiration for both creatures, just like it happens within the laws of nature.