The Ugly Side of Ego

Team Ironside/ Flickr Creative Commons

Jiu jitsu is very often tied to humility, its practitioners being taught from day 1 to check their ego at the door.  However, if you look at it at its highest levels, we often see big personalities with big egos.  Why is this?  And is it a BAD thing?

One of my posts on here, a long time ago, suggested that the ego is why we want to win.  Many “purists” decry competition is being ego driven, and as a frequent and avid competitor, I can tell you they’re right.  At the end of the day, we compete to prove to ourselves that our techniques are better than those of other people.  This is not a bad thing, competition has many benefits.  However, if that ego translates to negative behavior and worse yet negative behavior outside of competition, it can be problematic.

Very often we hear high level competitors’ teammates make offhanded remarks trying to diminish the accomplishments of another competitor who beat their teammate.  That’s a form of ego running rampant.  If someone beats your teammate, the focus shouldn’t be on diminishing their win, but rather on helping the teammate get better for the next time so they can avenge that loss.  Loss is never a reflection of your opponent, but a reflection of your own inadequacies, inadequacies that only you can address.

These reactions happen all the time, and seem to affect competitors of all levels.  It’s not okay and it can result in ugliness not befitting of martial artists…

Another issue that I see a lot is that of higher belts assuming that a lower belt is inferior to them.  I am fortunate enough to train in an environment in which many white and blue belts are actually very high level grapplers, drawing experience from other grappling arts, thus making rank not something on which people fixate.  However, I’ve seen many gyms in which rank brings about ego.  I see upper ranks avoiding newer member, or worse yet getting upset when the newer members experience success against them in rolling.  This is not okay.  Your belt doesn’t make you better, you make you better.  The belt is supposed to be a symbol of your hard work and dedication.  That hard work and dedication should have taught you a long time ago that ego is not your friend…

As the sport of jiu jitsu continues to grow, we should always be mindful of our egos.  Having an ego is okay, letting it run rampant is not.  When someone beats your teammate in a competition, be happy that they had good technique, and help your teammate get better for the next time.  We need to respect one another as we are all part of the same tiny community.



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