BJJ / Grappling and the Ego. Inspired by Julia Johansen.
Jiu Jiu recently wrote an intriguing post about the ego's role in the roll (that's right, I said it!). I, and the whole world, replied to it but it got me thinking. Is it possible to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or anything for that matter, without an ego? Or as my good friend Don put it: "how does one roll without a head anyway?"
To my eyes, the whole problem rests on a misunderstanding. If we examine why we do things in life / on the mat, the root cause is one of two things:
1. Doing them makes us feel truly happy
2. Doing them influences our perception of our self-worth.
These two are not always mutually exclusive, but the happiness in the grey area never struck me as genuine.
When I allow only the first to guide my life, views, actions and relationships all is well, but only always. If I allow only the latter, however, then I enter a rabbit hole from which I may never escape, where the ego whispers nonsense and white noise.
How does this relate to the ego and learning BJJ? Long time ago I asked myself why I wanted to get better at BJJ / grappling, and I realized that I associated performance with self-value. I thought if I did well, people would love / admire / respect / look up to me.
I also thought that if I didn't perform then they would cease to love / admire / respect / look up to me. I wanted the former and didn't want the latter and that made my life on the mats a misery. For a long time, I saw every roll as a challenge to my self-worth. I didn't mind tapping, as long as I had in my mind a good enough excuse. I was polite enough never to accuse anyone of "tapping me coz they're stronger!" but I do admit, sometimes I thought that as a mechanism to deal with "losing".
Then the "happiest day of my life" came and it changed everything. It opened my eyes and they won't shut ever again. I will never let it happen.
Now, every time I step on the cold mat, I'm overwhelmed by how lucky I am to have that opportunity to play in the first place. Every roll is a challenge, not to me or my skills, but to the laws of physics, bio-mechanics and gamesmanship.
I no longer aim to get better at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu / Grappling. I only aim to have a richer experience (not just knowledge) and become more aware of what's happening to me and whomever I am rolling with:
How are we moving?
What openings are presented (by me or my partner)?
How do we react / flow?
What emotions surface at different moments during the roll?
and many other questions intrigue me.
The people I tug cloth with on the mat are some of the finest people I've ever met. What a privilege. I work with a some nice people and all that, but the people I meet at the gym are amazing and none of that is performance related. When the gym is built on principles such as mutual development and growth thru real, personal experience and aliveness, you can't really help BUT develop your performance, so why fret?
See you all at the Labs @ Fighting Fit. You'll love it there.
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