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Ideas On Grappling With Ego
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Ideas On Grappling With Ego

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Exploring the battle with ego on the mats...

The mats provide many lessons in life. Some lessons are obvious; keep your elbows close and manage space. Some lessons are subtle; ideas that we inherently know but can barely articulate. Some lessons we relearn continually, like Sisyphus from Greek mythology. Sisyphus was the king of Corinth. As a punishment for his wicked behavior, he was forced to push a large stone up a hill. Once the stone was near the top it would roll down the hill. He was forced to repeat this cycle for eternity. Some lessons in Jiu Jitsu are like that. Once we believe we have the box checked we are forced to relearn it.

Grappling with ego encompasses all of these tenets. Sometimes the struggle is obvious. Sometimes the lessons are subtle. Almost always we have to continually relearn them.

First and foremost, when grappling with ego, we learn the importance of tapping. If we fail to tap, it can mean being choked out or catastrophic damage to our body.  If we fail to learn this lesson, we won’t be in Jiu Jitsu very long. In tapping, we learn that we can’t achieve growth without realizing there is a weakness.  As time goes by, this lesson expands. We learn that there is a difference between tapping in the training room, tapping in a competition and tapping in a self-defense situation.  Unlike competition or self-defense, there is no losing in the training room. Tapping is a constant restraint on ego.

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Another check for our ego, often as a white belt, we learn that strength means very little on the mats in comparison with sheer technique.  While size and strength are always a factor, it fails in comparisons to superior technique. We learn that it is a flaw to solely measure our ego by our physical strength. The ego we place in strength is slowly replaced by a confidence in technique.

Technique should also serve as a restraint on the ego. We learn that no matter how far and deep we perceive our expertise to be, there are always deeper levels to go. If you have been grappling for a day or a lifetime, there is something to be learned.

Confidence, ego and humility all battle for prominence in the training room. In training Jiu Jitsu, we learn that confidence is not the same thing as ego. We can be confident in your abilities and accomplishments. We know you can compete with a certain caliber of grapplers.  Yet, when ego replaces confidence, we stop rolling with those who we perceive as a potential source of embarrassment in the training room. We get angry when someone taps you. We refuse to tap. We start keeping score on how many taps we collect. We stop growing. Contrary to ego, humility keeps us in the training room. Humility keeps us learning. Humility keeps us asking questions. Humility should permeate every aspect of the training room.

Ultimately, many of lessons of the mat translate to life. Living with confidence and humility fosters growth. It makes us better. A life with ego, like on the mats, kills growth. Sometimes this lesson is obvious to us. Sometimes it is subtle. Almost inevitably it has to be continually relearned. But every time we step on the mats, we must check our ego to grow and maybe even survive.

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