“Leave your ego at the door.”
It’s a common statement that is heard in many places, but it is especially popular among jiu-jitsu practitioners. Jiu-jitsu is one of those practices that allows you to go 100% in your training and your sparring. However, if you come armed with an ego that interferes with your training and practice, then you won’t be able to go 100% for long.
I think even if you’re an easy going, humble person it is easy to get caught out by your ego. As you spend time on the mats you start to get better. As you get promoted you wear an obvious distinguishing mark around your waist – be it promotion stripes or different colored belts. Once that distinction is established, it provides cracks for your ego to appear. It becomes easier to think that ‘you should know better’ – but as in life that’s not always the case. Circumstances are not perfect. The path to success is not straightforward. The most important (life) lessons are most often taught during the journey and not found at the destination.
I never really gave the effects of my ego much thought before stepping on the mat, but now looking back at my training I can see how I sometimes did let my ego get the better of me – not so much in relation to my actions (I had no problem tapping if caught in a submission), but more my mindset. I’d catch myself comparing myself to others wondering why I wasn’t performing as well or admonishing myself for not doing better. Those nagging thoughts can really put a damper on both your motivation to train and your mood.
It is only once I learned to let go – to leave my ego at the door (all doors on and off the mats in fact) – that I was able to relax and enjoy the process of learning instead.
all tangled up & nowhere to go – that’s ok, let go of your ego
While my struggles with ego are mainly in my mind, there are more (physically) damaging consequences of letting your ego get the best of you.
What happens when you’re sparring with someone junior in experience to you and they are making you work for every move, for every submission attempt? Perhaps they’re even catching you in submissions? There are a number of potential consequences – you could respond with extra aggression, letting your ego get the better of you and throw caution (and technique) to the wind and work to ‘teach’ this lower rank a lesson or you could let the experience haunt you – let it break your spirit and confidence. Neither outcome is ideal. However, what if you looked at every roll as an opportunity to learn? What if you saw each person as a challenge and any challenge you faced to be an indicator of what you need to work on? The truth is you’re in jiu-jitsu class to learn, so why not immerse yourself in that learning? Why not ignore the belt completely and look at each exchange as a lesson? I think when you can accept the collaborative effort and value of teamwork within your jiu-jitsu community, you will be able to progress further. An ego can halt your success – don’t stand in your own way.
Beyond any technique I have learned, accepting humility and leaving my ego at the door has helped in situations both on and off the mats. I have chosen to challenge myself by learning jiu-jitsu. Just stepping on the mats is a sign of accomplishment. The techniques I learn and the experience I gain from grappling are the bonuses. Beyond the technique, learning to let go of my ego has been invaluable. Rather than let my ego haunt me I now use my reaction as a way to help me get a better understanding of myself – why am I feeling this way? Understanding the relationship of ego and training has allowed me take pause and take a look at my real purpose of training and pursuing this gentle art. Letting go of my ego has kept me on the mats.
Links to other posts in this series: