The goal of BJJ is to make your opponent give up, to submit. Each of us will be forced to submit many times while training. It’s a humbling experience. Those of us without any ego problems tap, learn and keep training. Those who can’t manage their ego either quit or become self destructive.
The longer you train, the better you become at not letting your ego become involved. At least, it works that way with most people. For an unfortunate few, the longer they train the more significant every perceived loss becomes. Being swept by a lower belt becomes a big deal. This self directed frustration then manifests itself in ugly ways.How ugly can it get? Very ugly. I once witnessed a black belt instructor being submitted by a smaller blue belt twice via the same submission. After class the blue belt was acting up and the instructor told him to stop. The blue belt didn’t so the instructor picked up a pair of scissors and again told him to stop or else he’d throw the scissors at his head. Laughing with the ludicrousness of the situation, the blue belt continued so the black belt stepped forward, wound up and hurled the scissors at the blue belt’s head. Fortunately the rotation of the scissors caused the handle to strike first so there was no significant injury other than a mark by the eye.
While this is obviously an extreme example, being controlled by your ego makes for bad BJJ. Frustration causes you to lose the sense of fun and excitement that is the main reason we train.
How do you know if you have ego problems? If you find yourself thinking these kinds of thoughts. “I should be able to pass this guard, he’s only a white belt”. “He beat me with strength, not good jiu-jitsu”. “I don’t want to roll with that opponent, he might submit me”.
Part of my job as a coach is to make sure ego problems don’t occur and to fix them quickly if they arise. These are the things I do.
- Deal with any ego problems in myself. Members of a club always follow the lead of the head instructor. I conduct myself the same way I want everyone else to behave. I tap if I get caught. I roll with everyone. I don’t make excuses.
- Everyone trains with everyone. This is the most important part of ego control. When you train with someone and know their name, you become friends. Rivalry is friendly rather than hostile. It is much harder to feel superior, which is a common precursor to ego problems.
- No cliques. Cliques encourage an “us vs them” elitist attitude which is poisonous within a club.
- No favouritism. It’s extremely tempting for a coach who sees a promising student to want to give them more attention. This is wrong for two reasons. Firstly it causes jealousy and alienation amongst the other students. Secondly, most of a student’s learning comes from their training partners, not their coach. It is an arrogant coach who thinks that a little extra instruction makes much of a difference in the long term.
- Watch for people who look frustrated after rolling. Frustration indicates the person feels they should have done better. This student needs immediate assistance to help quell their rising ego.
You may think you don’t have any ego problems because you don’t feel superior to anyone. Ego isn’t just about feeling superior, it’s about any sort of false expectations you have regarding yourself. Stop, breathe and remember why it is you train BJJ. BJJ is about having fun and the way you feel after training.