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Akuma’s driven by a single need: to become the strongest fighter in the world.
To this end, he’s got two prime directives: become stronger, and test himself against worthy opponents. Unfortunately, with how powerful he has become, both of these directives have become a bit tough to follow.
To compensate for this, Akuma tends to limit himself in combat against most mere mortals. He claims to be heartless, and driven by a desire to lose his own humanity, but I would say that this willingness to limit himself for the sake of competition actually indicates he’s still got some humanity left inside somewhere. Sure, he wants to be able to just open up against someone, but it would prove nothing except the fact that he is the strongest by a huge margin.
However, if Akuma really only cared about being the strongest fighter in the world, he wouldn’t care how many people he obliterates on his way to the top. His compassion towards his fellow fighters and his willingness to allow them to grow stronger speaks to a small remnant of humanity within him that still burns. We know this, also, because when he completely gives himself over to the satsui no hadou, his becomes the completely unrestrained Oni, who doesn’t have a shred of compassion or humanity left.
Driven, Yet Measured
So how do we relate this to our own lives? Well, first off, we have to notice the progress that Akuma made in his life. He set out to become the strongest fighter in the world. Seriously, that’s been his only purpose since he was a very young boy. This single-minded focus saw him through his youth and into adulthood, and although he’s committed some decidedly evil acts in that time, he has almost certainly accomplished his goal. If nothing else, he at least stands among the best-of-the-best, in terms of fighting power and skill.
Now, I’m not recommending you go out and kill your karate master in a demonstration of your absolute skill, nor should you give your heart over to dark, murderous intent in the pursuit of power. However, devoting yourself to a single, driving purpose is definitely something that we can emulate to improve ourselves.
The fact is, splitting your focus in a bunch of different directions is a great way to get nowhere. By instead picking on a single, over-arching goal, you can refine your approach, set small micro-goals (Navpoints, anyone?) and continue on a defined, set path with a definitive end point. You would be surprised at how much progress you can make in a single area if it’s your only focus for an extended period of time.
Allowing an all-consuming pursuit to, well, consume you can have negative consequences as well, though. Witness the person who lives entirely for their business and neglects their family because of it. Or, perhaps, the incredibly skilled athlete who doesn’t have any kind of social or recreational life outside of their sport. Throwing yourself at one single pursuit will grant you incredible progress in that area, but you will definitely lose some things, as well. Maybe not your humanity, but still, there are costs for everything.
The Desired Protégé
Akuma’s other strange relationship is that with Ryu. While seemingly antagonistic in nature, when Akuma’s not pounding Ryu’s face in, he’s actively encouraging him to give into the satsui no hadou, and yield to his darker nature. Akuma may be angry, and violent, and murderous, but it’s pretty obvious that he also wants a pupil. His motivations for this remain a bit of a mystery, but it could very well be that he wants to use Ryu as a tool to make himself stronger.
Here’s something interesting: In teaching something to someone else, you also increase your own understanding and mastery. That single-minded pursuit you were considering earlier? When you’ve achieved significant skill and/or knowledge of it, you can increase that knowledge and understanding by instructing others in it as well. When I teach martial arts, I’m also improving my own skills and understanding of those arts, for a variety of reasons.
First of all, if you can’t break a skill down into bite-size pieces that others are able to ingest, then you really don’t know that skill inside and out. The act of taking it from your head and putting it forth in an easily-explainable, teachable format, will cause you to look at it from all kinds of different angles, and force you to increase your understanding of the subject.
Second of all, students will ask you questions about that subject. Coming from their own life experiences, they probably have different viewpoints on things, which will cause them to ask questions that may come at the subject from a different angle than you are used to. Considering something from an oblique angle forces you to grow your own perspective to suit these new possible interpretations, and make your skills fit their view.
In the end, I’m sure Akuma’s not the best teacher. He’s also not the best example for a good, healthy, non-evil way to interact with other people. However, by emulating his single-minded drive towards a goal, we can certainly improve ourselves in whatever ways we see fit. By teaching others what we know and taking students under our wings, we can again boost our own strength and knowledge.
Pick a direction, lock on, and go for it. Allow it to consume you, and you’ll achieve things you never thought possible.
Live boldly, change the world, and continue to be awesome!
Dan “DaRatmastah” Wallace