Ego and BJJ: How to balance BJJ and your ego? Are you just fighting yourself?

In a previous post I offered a definition of "the ego" and how the ego relates to the practice of BJJ, grappling and the martial arts in general. In this post, I will suggest what to do with the ego or rather how to train BJJ in a way that allows us to learn, develop, help your mat friends but also evolve as people and achieve a higher level of awareness.

In Buddhism*, nothing will become clear if you don't meditate and meditate regularly. When we meditate, on or off the mat, we are instructed to simply observe the thoughts (basically the ego). Not judge them, not stop them nor act on them, just observe. By resisting (just like in BJJ) we give the ego substance, power and validity. By observing it we come to witness it as the weak web of disconnected fears and illusions that it is.

Here's one of my favourite quotes by buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal when asked how this thinking could help free us from fears. He said: thru a change of perception from "I'm afraid" to "I have a fear within me"**.

When you observe the thoughts, you no longer have to own them and they don't own you. If you are rolling with a someone who's less experienced and they catch you in an armbar and you find yourself resisting, it's ok as long as you ask yourself "why am I resisting?" If you are resisting because you're actively working on last-minute armbar escapes then fine. Now ask yourself "is free rolling the best time to work on this, or should I ask my partner to drill this afterwards so I can work some serious reps?". If you're just resisting because you don't want to lose then ask yourself: "why shouldn't I tap? If I had caught their arm and straightened it, wouldn't I want them to tap? Isn't that the idea of an armbar?"

Similarly, if you find yourself in a position to go for a submission and you find yourself hurting*** your partner, ask yourself: "why am I doing this?". If the answer is "because that's the only way to get the sub" then you are not really practising the art of Helio Gracie. Surely you don't expect that that's how people the size of Helio or Royler or Marcelo Garcia or Caio Terra can beat giants. It becomes a question of knowledge. I suggest you take your partner aside and say: "I am sorry if I hurt you. To me, that was the only way to open up for the submission but it feels like it shouldn't be. Do you know a better, more jiu jitsu-like, way?"

If you are using BJJ to prove something to someone, you need to realise that you are wasting your time and hurting people in the process. Nobody cares about your BJJ training. When you step onto the mat, invite your ego along and keep a close watchful eye on it. Don't just act and re-act, ask your ego "why?". Confront it. Grow up!

*Buddhism is simply my frame of reference. Yours maybe different but we can still agree or disagree on the suggestions here.
** Gil's fantastic dharma talks can be listened to here.
***Alright. Grappling hurts, at least a little. I don't mean discomfort or rug burn, but rather sticking the point of your elbow into someone's throat just to get an armbar opportunity.

Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi ----Did You Like This Article?--- Click here to add The Part Time Grappler to your Favourites / Bookmarks


Jodie said...

Thanks for the great follow-up posts to our discussion. I'm inspired to go pick up a book on Buddhism. It has been a while since I looked at the world from that perspective, and I've never tried to apply it to my game.

The Part Time Grappler said...

thank you very much Jodie for inspiring the posts :)

A great book is "The Power of Now" It's not so much Buddhism but it's a great and wonderful eye openner to the awareness-based lifestyle :)

Ruu said...

Very interesting articles about the ego.

I enjoyed reading them both.

It's great to study the inner mechanisms that mirror in training, and also how they can filter though into your day to day life.

Basic ego study is useful not only when you set foot in the gym.

We often search through mountains of information for meaning, when in reality it's all quite simple. Such is the ego.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thank you Ruu for the kind words. I like what you've written too :)