What is combat, after all, but an intense relationship? Your opponent attempts to block and counter every strike you throw as well as land strikes of his own, which he will do in direct response to the signals he reads off you. He will also sense your energy, your reaction time, whether you seem confident or unsure, whether you move with experience, whether you hold his gaze, any patterns you have, etc. And while he is relating to you, he is adjusting himself as well. He is adjusting his strategy, his technique, his approach. If you land a strike, then he has to asses how you found an opening in him and vice versa. It's a dance. It's a relationship.
Does it sound familiar? It should, because we are reassessing one another every day, sensing the energy and adjusting accordingly. You show up excited and upbeat for a lunch date with a friend, but when you arrive, you find them flat and morose. If you are aware, you probably downshift a bit. Maybe you ask what's wrong or you try to get them to laugh, but you respond to what you're getting based on what you're sensing. Even when we interact with a total stranger, like the checkout person in a store or the mailman, we notice if someone is rude or pleasant and we respond in turn with either an inward annoyance or a friendly smile. We are in relationship all the time, and our relationships are a reflection of our own inner world.
To learn and to grow, you need relationships. You need that sparring partner to level up your game. Simply put for our purposes here, there is no one better than the person standing before you at any given moment to help you see yourself more clearly. Someone who is there, whether they know it or not and whether you've known it or not, to show you where the pain points are, to show you how to be better and how to shine your light more brightly. Because you are in response to your environment all the time, your environment becomes a reflection of you. So what can you learn about yourself? Where can you discover the cause of your own ignorance? How can you become better from this? But be aware: You want to become better, not better than! The opponent relationship is not a contest.
In her book, "Be Water, My Friend."