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Make Your Ego Work for You in BJJ
Let's talk about one of the unsung heroes of our BJJ journey, one of the most misunderstood parts of why we get on the mats everyday, sweating, drilling and competing with our training partners, our opponents and our own minds. We're talking about ego, the much maligned part of us that gets blamed for a lot of the bad things that happen in the world.
There is a classic cliche about martial arts that says when you walk into the academy, you should "leave your ego at the door." We've all been told from white belt on that we've got to check our ego and control it and ultimately try to kill it. I'm not so sure we can or we should. Like anything, it depends on your interpretation and I'd like to present an alternative look the ego and it's relationship to your BJJ journey that hopefully opens you up to a healthier perspective when you're taking a look at ego's role in your roll.
Now it may be necessary for me to give a bit of a disclaimer. The ego is not perfect and left unbalanced and left to its own devices, it can undo any of the positive things that we talk about below. The ego is a powerful force that wears many hats. I'd like to focus on the good deeds it does.
Ego got you through the door.
Regardless of the reason you walked through the academy door the first time, it can all be boiled down to an impetus born from our friend, the Ego. If a person wants to get into better shape or to get healthier, no matter if it's for vanity or because their physician recommended it, the drive can be boiled down to "I want to look better" or "I want to feel better" or "I want to be healthier and live longer for my family."
It doesn't matter, because ego got us there. If I want to learn some self defense techniques to be able to protect myself, it's the same story. It's all ego, but it's good. It's ego being a positive impetus in your life. If you check it at the door, you wouldn't have walked in.
Building self-confidence is another aspect driven by our egos. Building the sense of being able to protect yourself, or those around you is just one aspect of self-confidence. BJJ can help you become a better problem solver, so that when life throws us curve balls, we are much better prepared to handle and overcome.
Ego drives your learning.
Once your on the mats and you're learning all of the new techniques and positions, what do you think is driving you to obsess about BJJ day and night and make you watch YouTube matches into the wee hours? It's your ego, my friends. Your hunger and desire to consume all things related to jiu jitsu and to know everything, is your ego.
Your ego is what's going to help you through the endless drilling it is going to take to create the proper muscle memory to execute the complex techniques of BJJ properly and effectively. Without that ego, you wouldn't care and you won't progress.
Look at all of the highest level BJJ athletes out there. They never stop learning. They never stop perfecting their craft. Those that do stop and those that become complacent, find themselves no longer at the highest level and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It is just a matter of what their individual goals are.
Ego makes you competitive.
Ego is also the drive that makes us want to do better with the knowledge we are accruing. It drives us to want to catch our opponents or training partners in the latest technique we have been working. Whether your goal is actually BJJ or grappling competition outside of your academy to test your knowledge or yourself, or not, competition is everywhere. You just have to step back and look at things.
You are competing with yourself and the world outside of BJJ every time there is an "obstacle" presented to you that would take priority over class, if you let it. I'm tired, I'm busy, I have such and such activity that absolutely must get done--are all opponents that we all compete with every day. What's your record? With practice, you can become better and better and soon you'll be the Rickson Gracie of defeating these opponents that aren't even at your level.
So if you are stepping onto the mats at the Mundials and facing the competition of your life, do not forget that it was hundreds if not thousands of little competitions each day that you won to get you there. And if you never step on the mats to try to win an IBJJF medal, it doesn't make you any less of a jiu jitsu athlete and practitioner, because you've been successful navigating all of the same competitions that the average person who never tries BJJ have lost and continue to lose everyday.
Ego helps you overcome the struggle.
Any time one of those obstacles becomes a little better at trying to dissuade you from going to class, it is your ego that will ultimately help you persevere and breakthrough the challenge. Maybe your job has changed and your hours of training availability have changed completely or been drastically limited. Perhaps a family related change has impacted your ability to train. Then there are the injuries, both minor and severe that must be addressed during your time training BJJ. All of these things can have a relatively minor to a major effect on your ability to train and must be addressed. It is your ego that helps drive you to persevere and make the necessary adjustments or adaptations necessary to your schedule, your training routine, etc. to get you back to back on track.
Now all this positive talk about the achievements of the ego aside, let's not forget that none of us are perfect, even our friend the ego. Sometimes our ego can get cranky and get us into some trouble. It is my ego that makes me think my hyper extended arm can go just a little bit further before I'm "truly" in trouble. My ego is the one that tells me that it's okay sometimes to try to bench press my opponents off of me instead of hip escape. Knowing that ego can make mistakes, is half the battle to a much healthier relationship with it. This allows you to put the ego to work for you, rather than against you.