Are You The Egotistical Jerk Nobody Wants to Train With?
The longer you train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you begin to realize it's so much more than just a bunch of super cool, even deadly techniques and having the skill to apply those on training partners and opponents. Besides an understanding of half guard, triangles and guillotines, it's about challenging your comfort zone, becoming a better version of yourself and also about doing the same for your teammates, training partners, and even your opponents. Being a positive force at our academy and a great representative of BJJ is a skill, just as much as the leg lock and can be developed if we understand how not to become the jerk that no one wants to train with on the mats.
For me, the longer I train, I pretty much have everyone broken down into two groups. The vast majority of the people I train with all the time are awesome training partners who are looking to help me get better and are receptive to me trying to help them. Whether they are athletes who look to train all the time or the average practitioner doing it for fun and recreation, we roll, we share, we work to get better. The other group, thankfully very tiny, are the people who are just the opposite. These are the jerks no one wants to train with.
There are a million cliches regarding ego that get thrown around in those Instagram and Facebook quotes about martial arts. Let's cut right to the chase. The ego is mostly responsible for all of us stepping on the mats. Whether we started to learn self defense, get in better shape, become a competitor, or just relieve stress, it doesn't matter. Our ego is behind that decision. For this, the ego deserves a lot of kudos.
Conversely, the ego can also be the reason a lot of practitioners walk away from jiu jitsu. Think of anyone you know who succumbed to blue flu. Blue flu is the disease that often attacks newly promoted blue belts who quit BJJ after their first year or two. The reasons can be varied but usually boil down to things like, "I'm too busy with other areas of my life", "I'm not getting any better", and "I know all I need to know." These sentiments can all be traced back to the pesky ego.
All this to say, that the ego is not inherently bad, despite what Confucious or Bruce Lee may have said. The ego can be used positively and help one become a world champion, when coupled with thousands of hours busting your butt on the mats. But too much ego, can be a terrible thing. By letting it go unchecked and down the wrong path, you can become the jerk that no one wants to train with at your academy. What are some warning signs that you may be becoming that jerk?
You Count Taps
Over the years, you will meet and train with a lot of people. Thankfully, in my time, I've been lucky to only run into a few people that were blatantly "keeping score" or counting taps during training. In one case, there was a white belt, who was a former wrestler, who only came to open mats, never really came to class and had a game plan that included trying to leap over one's guard, get to north/south and put on a choke that was 98% neck crank and 2% choke. He was rolling with a purple belt and as they bumped fist, he actually stated, "I'm 2-0 against purple belts." 2-0.
I was able to train with this person once a week for about a year. Once a week because he would only come to the open mat, so we didn't see each other that often. Over that year, the first time we rolled, he flipped up and over my guard several times, scrambled to north/south and commenced cranking. Sometimes the choke would be tight and I would need to tap, which I have no problem saying. But I can also say that over that year, like the movie Groundhog Day, that was the only game he played, whereas me and everyone else on the mats did something that he would never do, we progressed. We tried new things and sharpened old things making them better. Don't be that guy. Be the person everyone looks to for help, inspiration or an example.
You Use 100% Resistance and Strength 24/7
Let's say your coach or instructor is teaching a move from side control where the person the bottom is hugging the person on the top. In the move, the instructor shows how you can push the opponents chin and face away causing them to loosen and ultimately lose the grip they have hugging you. When practicing this technique with your friends and teammates, we all understand that pushing on the face and chin is something that is supposed to cause extreme discomfort in order to open the grip.
The sensible person pushes gently knowing that you are just drilling and learning the mechanics. The jerk that no one wants to roll with smashes his/her partner's face and jaw. Conversely when on the bottom, the sensible training partner holds the grip firmly but not as if they are in the frozen ocean with Rose and hoping not to slip to the bottom of the Atlantic. The jerk that no one wants to train with holds on with all of their strength. Don't be that jerk.
There is a time and place to use strength. It is not when you are training, drilling or learning techniques with lower belts. If you are a man, it is not when you are playing pass/sweep games with lower belts or someone smaller than you (man or woman). Of course a strong, 200 lbs wanna-be wrestler can "firemans carry" a 120 lb female white belt. But what does it prove, really?
You Over Coach (especially when rolling).
This is an important one because as you progress, if you are a good training partner, you want to help people get better. You want to help save them some struggle or trial and error that you went through. If you're smart, you also want them to get better so they soon challenge you. This makes you better. If you're the jerk no one wants to train with, that's not your motivation.
Instead the jerk wants to be critical, to belittle, or to mock their inexperienced or newer teammates efforts. They are the person who wants to talk during the entire roll, providing a critical commentary as if we accidentally put the movie on "Director's Cut" and don't know how to turn it off. They seem to know everything, regardless of what their belt level is. I've seen over coaching white belts before.
There's an old saying that you should listen more, because you might learn something, whereas if you talk all the time, you're just repeating everything you already know. Shut up and train. Then offer a tip or two if you see the person doing some blatant that can get them hurt or hold back their progress. Help. Don't overload.
Hopefully, in your long and amazing journey as a jiu jitsu practitioner your interaction with the folks that no one wants to train with will be minimal. If any of this article hit home, then fix it. There's hope. Be a good training partner because you will learn more, get better, and bring everyone else with you.
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