The Ego In Training

There is a popular saying in jiu-jitsu “Leave your ego at the door.”
I have even seen this quote posted on a sign at the entrance of an academy.

The common interpretation of this piece of advice is if a student is too focused on winning and losing in training, their learning of jiu-jitsu is harmed.

And this is a BIG problem for students to recognize and for coaches to deal with among the students.

on Gracie Barra : Life Lessons From Jiu-jitsu

Example 1: The student who refuses to tap when caught in an arm bar because if they tap it means that they are no good at jiu-jitsu (at least in their own minds!).
Instead of tapping, they stubbornly try to escape and end up with their elbow getting popped and a cry of pain startles the entire class.

This is the equivalent of working out at the gym and asking each other : “How much can you bench?”
This is the DEMONSTRATION of strength, NOT the development of strength. You build your strength by sets and higher reps. The single maximal effort does little to actually improve your strength. But you try to look cool in front of your buddies!

If one approaches their rolls with the mentality that each roll is a measurement of their ability in jiu-jitsu – and even if they are a worthwhile human being! – it is easy to see that will interfere with their ability to learn. Behind many a sore elbow or shoulder in the academy is an ego that refused to tap early enough.

Example: The student who needs to win the roll EVERY time and / or be very tight defensively to see if they can survive a round without being tapped.
If they balled up tightly and “white knuckle gripped” their collars while watching the clock to see if they could survive the 5 minutes – and consider that a victory?

They didn’t try any of their escapes or transitions. They just held on for dear life and tried to stall the roll.
Is this effective training?

Now there may be some sort of a moral victory there for them in avoiding a tap?
But they have entirely missed the MOST IMPORTANT point in rolling in class.

To get better at jiu-jitsu!

To improve, you need to open up your game, try new techniques and be prepared to have them fail enough times until they are sharp enough to succeed.
I recently spoke with a multiple time World Champion who stressed that “training is just training” and to prove your techniques in the tournament.
Training is for learning.

The truth is that bjj attracts competitive personalities and there is a certain amount of “ego” that goes along with that.
I dare you to find a top level competitor who is perfectly fine with losing!
That part of the personality that badly wants to win drives them to train hard and develop the highest levels of techniques and conditioning.

A certain amount of ego IS important to stay involved in such a competitive and demanding thing as jiu-jitsu.The ego becomes counter productive when it takes your focus off of training to improve and instead just trying to measure yourself.

see also: : Adding New Positions To Your Jiu-Jitsu

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ