The Jiu Jitsu community has written about the ego ad nauseum, and I posit, has completely missed the point. Egos and Jiu Jitsu do mix, and much deeper than our surface level judgments reveal.
The Egoic Student
I often find myself getting frustrated at students who, unable to see the big picture, act like a disgruntled child when they are gotten the best of in a roll. Holding one’s self to a higher standard is invaluable, but when one does so with an adversarial relationship to their teammate or experience itself, this mode of being robs you of the gratitude which you should be feeling when you “lose” a roll.
When we are beaten, we are forced to become more of what we are: exploring unexplored territory to acquire a newfound understanding of the art, cultivating subsequent tools to be used in future training sessions.
But many lose sight of this. Their guard gets passed and they get frustrated. The newer students don’t yet understand that their teammates are a support system; a tool, not an obstacle. When they are beaten, they avoid eye contact, make snarky remarks, and leave the academy without saying goodbye, undoubtedly embodying the same mode of behavior which has been an obstacle in much of their lives.
My Myopic Thinking
I have naturally felt repelled by such students and questioned their place within the community. This is too shortsighted. Deeper inspection reveals that the white belt with the huge ego needs Jiu Jitsu more than anybody.
We say there is no place for ego in Jiu Jitsu. That’s like saying there is no place for sick people in the hospital. Those driven by their egos have to come to Jiu Jitsu, because the secular world offers little therapeutic practice to transcend this sub-optimal mode of being. We should more appropriately say:
If one is to derive the holistic benefits of Jiu Jitsu, they will do so to the degree that they can lessen their ego; their ego is a representation of their fundamental need for Jiu Jitsu, not an indication of their unworthiness of its practice.
Rather than feel disdain toward such students, it is the instructor’s responsibility to serve them. My feeling aversion toward these individuals is the same as a doctor turning away sick patients; we have each taken a hippocractic oath (though the Jiu Jitsu instructor’s is implicit) to serve the individual in need.
It is actually these individuals who make our profession so meaningful.
Call To Action
I have to be a better instructor. I have to be a better steward of this art. If even one of my students embodies this antagonistic relationship to Jiu Jitsu, it is due to the shortcomings of my communication of the significance of our practice.
I will do my best to no longer be repelled by such actions, rather, I will use them as a true north for my compass.
When we feel averse to the egoic display of a student, it is not a result of their weakness; this simply highlights our own. If we are to use this marital art to effectively combat our inherent weaknesses and fortify ourselves against the vicissitudes of chance, we all must embody “extreme ownership.” Both instructors and practitioners are stewards of this art. We all have to be better.
I have to be better.
Check out Professor Chris’s last blog about the beautiful parallel between Jiu Jitsu and the bad habits we embody.