One of the saddest things about humans is our proclivity to choose ourselves over others. Everyone does it to some degree or another. It is just one of those things that is left over from a past time of scarcity and fear.
Martial artists are people of character and thus act accordingly. We are people who choose the difficult paths in life. One of those unbeaten paths is that of selflessness and compassion. We put ourselves forth for the benefit of mankind, not to destroy it.
Furuya Sensei once wrote:
To show the proper spirit in regi-saho (etiquette) is a very difficult part of Aikido practice. This is only because we think of ourselves too much and not enough about others. Thinking of others, we learn how to appreciate their effort, but only thinking of ourselves then we never have time to care for others. We become selfish people and this is not Aikido at all. In fact, it is contrary to all Aikido principles.
Practice regi-saho in the dojo and learning to practice it with the proper mental attitude and spirit – maybe this will be the most difficult of all to learn – more difficult than the hardest throw or pin. Once you master it, then practice it in your daily life.
The weird circuitous logic is that when we focus on others, we actually get the benefit. Fighting, ambition and competition is sometimes thought of as being part of our DNA. This is contrary to the way of nature. In nature, nothing struggles to happen and nobody takes more than they need. Selfishness is man made and something that we could all do without.
Each and every one of us is to some degree selfish, but it is the martial artist who is aware of it and does their best to suppress it. We choose to do something else and to be better than all the rest. Sensei always used to say, “Act as if your teacher is watching” so that we would learn to be selfless and act like the people we are trying to become.