Some recent comments made by a certain actress on a certain awards show brought to light an interesting issue. There are many people in the martial arts community who are extremely emotionally fragile and soft . The reaction, outrage, and emotions stirred up over this actress’ comments, made largely out of ignorance, is in and of itself very telling of a deeper issue that persists both in the martial arts community at large, as well as in our tiny jiu-jitsu community.
There is a whole lot of emotional weakness in jiu-jitsu. I don’t know the exact cause of it, if it’s overactive ego run rampant or a result of the fact that as a martial art, jiu-jitsu is meant to specifically cater to people who are physically smaller (who may have been more likely to be bullied in grade school.) I don’t know if this is simply human nature.
If a 67-year-old woman who you’ve never even interacted with face-to-face making off-handed comments about one of your passions is enough to evoke any real emotional response, what does that say about you? Let’s dig deeper.
People always talk about how you need to “check your ego at the door” meaning that jiu-jitsu is not supposed to be ego driven. But when one looks at the grander scale, the bigger picture, there are a lot of overactive egos in the sport.
Don’t believe me?
Watch the viral video of BJJ black belt Alex Vamos putting on a white belt in a class and rolling with blue and purple belts.
Why is anyone acting the way they do in this video? Why are people so surprised to be getting tapped out by a white belt? Because of their egos, more specifically because of how their emotions and their egos interact. Ego runs rampant in jiu-jitsu. White belts aren’t supposed to be able to tap blue and purple belts, and when they are able to, that supposedly says something negative about those blue and purple belts – and how dare anyone say anything negative about me? That makes my emotions hurt.
Let a white belt tap you today. I don’t mean go limp and just let them tap you. I mean choose a white belt you know won’t injure you, one of the gentler white belts in the room, and allow the position to devolve to the point that you can’t escape. Then try to escape. Let them tap you. Does that diminish your skills?
The ego I am talking about is not that which motivates you to win matches or get better, but the one that tells you that you are better than another living breathing person simply because of the color of a swath of cloth that you wear while rolling around on the ground with other people in a smelly room with padded floors. This kind of ego is one that causes very strong emotions rather than smart motivation.
I had an incident about a year ago with a black belt in another state. He didn’t like that I write for Jiu-Jitsu Times because I was just a blue belt at the time. This black belt didn’t actually read my post nor have any valid arguments against what I had written. Instead, he felt that, because it was me who was writing the post, my perspectives were rendered invalid.
Perplexed, I summoned a handful of brown and black belts with whom I am friendly, gentlemen who don’t even know each other, just to see if maybe they saw the guy’s point. One of them suggested that maybe we should hash it out in a match. I stated that I would be amenable to that as I don’t tend to back down from challenges. This black belt, from across the country, then made a public post on his Facebook page calling me out and stating that, in order to make good on my claim to not back down from challenges, I should travel across the country to face him at a tournament that his gym puts on, lest he call me a coward that backs down from challenges. This is a true story.
This post is long and rambling, but it has a point: root out examples of egos getting out of hand and bringing out negative emotions. Have conversations with people. If you are guilty of allowing your ego to run rampant, work on that. It’ll help you get better faster, not only at jiu-jitsu, but at being a human being.