“Ego vs. Technique”

it helps to have a sense of humor on the mat

“…You can’t look at it as winning or losing.  You will get submitted, you will feel inferior, but through it all you will grow….” 

 It’s been around three months since I started training and as more time progresses I’ve been able to see the application of brazilian jiujitsu techniques from many different angles.  As of lately I’ve observed what I would consider a developmental hurdle amongst a few of the guys, their ego. With the new guys it’s that fear of losing, or worse losing to a girl, or that initial fear associated with venturing into the unknown. With the older guys it’s that confidence, the big head, or the “my belt’s not white so I know everything” attitude, or the guys that hear the higher-ranking person that’s leading the class but they aren’t really listening to them.  Lately it’s been that guy that just won a fight or has a few under his belt and parades around the mat like he can do no wrong. All of these people have one thing in common and I see it more and more during each class, their ego is getting in the way of progressing their technique.  

I’ve even fallen victim to this as well. As a woman I have to carry myself a different way. I have to approach the guys and rolling with the guys from a more technical perspective.  My socalled “guns” weren’t responsible for that armbar or triangle, my instructor gets the credit for that. But I am human and with that being said whenever I get to submit someone that outweighs me significantly I’d be lying if I said it never went to my head.  Personally I have to fight the emotions more than the ego on the mat.  Whenever a guy refuses to roll with me because I’m a girl, someone makes a dumb or disrespectful comment, or most notably whenever we’re practicing leglocks and i’m struggling severely, my emotions get in the way–>the technique suffers and at times is completely forgotten.  

If I could offer any advice to the newer guys (or hopefully one day girls) that come to train it would be to leave the ego at the door. As a newbie you can’t look at it as winning or losing.  You will get submitted, you will feel inferior, but through it all you will grow.  Now you won’t get submitted one day and oh that’s it you’ll beat that blue belt tomorrow, um well it doesn’t work that well.  You’ll get submitted a lot, but it helps to look at every submission as a learning experience.  If someone puts you in a go-go plata and the first thing that comes to mind is “What the f*#!,” stop them and ask what that was and how to defend it, you could ask how to do it but the likelihood of you remembering how do to that submission early on is very slim.  

I’ll definitely say the major red flag for me when rolling with someone is if they mention the words win, loose, girl, beat, or first time.  I say this because it’s clear within that person’s first statements what kind of person they’ll be while rolling, and I’ve been slammed on my head enough times to recognize a few of them.  

Not only can one’s ego hinder their learning experience it can also lead to more injuries on the mat. If someone focuses more on “winning” than surviving they can definitely hurt themselves by not tapping soon enough, or even hurt their partner with insistent flailing and muscling. Checking your ego at the door isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do but it’ll be worth it. Confidence in your own technique is necessary but try not to let a few submissions give you a big head.

One Response to ““Ego vs. Technique””
  1. slideyfoot says:

    Yes, absolutely! ‘Win’ and ‘lose’ are meaningless in the context of a class: that kind of thinking should be saved for competition, when it actually matters, not a class, when the point is to learn, not ‘beat’ the other person. Something I babble about over on my BJJ Beginner FAQ.

    The way I’d put it is not so much leave your ego at the door, as the saying in BJJ tends to go, but simply to relax. Don’t worry about who taps who, or blow all your energy desperately trying to bench-press somebody from underneath mount. Instead, it should all be about focusing on technique, staying calm, and trying to progress incrementally with a handful of techniques drilled over a period of months, even years.

    I find that helps with frustration too, which is handy: plenty of times I’ve been to class and got completely smashed, so focusing on “hmm, maybe I could move my hips like this and put my hands there” is much more motivating than “dammit, stop passing my guard! AAARGGGH!”

    Though it’s definitely tempting to go with the latter impulse. ;p

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