Here’s Why You Need The *Right* Kind Of Ego In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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I’ve seen this sign inside some BJJ schools reminding students of the correct attitude for training. Like many idioms, it is the distillation of a piece of wisdom.

But is it possible to have no ego whatsoever?

No. Not based on what I’ve seen of human nature in sports and especially in the world of a competitive sport and art like jiu-jitsu.

The ego is part of what drives so many to grind it out when 9 out of 10 quit before blue belt. Think of the most competitive, skilled guys in your academy. Would you say they have no ego?

Like most intensely competitive personalities, they hate to lose. That is part of what drives them, and part of what makes them hate losing and train so hard to improve is that ego.

Do you really think top competitors like Buchecha or Felipe Pena have no ego? Athletes at that level have to have an ego! They need that force to do what they do and push through fatigue, pain, and stress like few people can understand.

I am more understanding of the ego of a top combat athlete that is putting it on the line in front of thousands of fans. I believe they need that to do something most sane humans would be terrified to attempt.

Now, that drive is a little different than the guy who gets angry when he gets tapped by a lower belt or the guy who takes himself way too seriously. But I believe those emotions originate at the same place. It depends whether that emotional force is channeled in a positive or negative direction.

I recall one BJJ student who would try anything not to tap to an arm lock or kimura. When his grip was broken he would scream when the arm was straightened out. He would sulk and glower while holding his arm and mutter about his training partner was “going too hard”. Classmates watched him grab his gym bag and stride right out the door after being unable to escape the coaches rear naked choke.

This kind of ego is negative for two significant reasons:

1) It annoys the most important people that surround you at the academy: your instructor and training partners. Who wants to train with the guy with an ego problem who is having a temper tantrum after he gets tapped in training? It is destructive to a healthy atmosphere in the school.

2) It limits your ability to get better. If your ego is preventing you from rolling with partners who can dominate you, you will miss out on gaining experience from rolling with the best guys.

If your ego prevents you from being coachable and being receptive to constructive criticism, then the more advanced people are simply going to decide to not bother helping you.

If your ego demands that you think that you know everything, then you are closing yourself off to learning new and better ways to do things. Your metaphorical cup is full and no more knowledge can go in.

Understand the difference between a healthy, competitive ego and the possible negative influence of the ego in the BJJ school.


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