Training Martial Arts; Leave Your Ego at the Door
Most people who have been training martial arts for any length of time have probably heard the phrase, “Leave your ego at the door.” It is usually associated with the Gracie family, who are credited with bringing BJJ to popular awareness through the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
“Leave your ego at the door” is a typical admonishment for newcomers to the sport; as you cross the threshold into your academy, tap into your humility really fast. Understand you know even less than you think you do about how this sport works, and if you think you know a lot because you have been inventing your own moves in your friend’s matted garage, that means you know less than anybody.
The phrase encompasses the idea that you cannot get better unless you are first willing to be terrible – and then to work your backside off. It also speaks to the fact our teachers appear in unlikely forms: your best instructor might be someone who weighs half what you do, is much younger or much older than you, or otherwise does not fit your preconceived notion of “teacher”.
You can learn a vital home truth from a rank beginner as well as from the most seasoned expert – if you are willing to do so. People you don’t think should be able to “school” you will “school” you on a regular basis. Thus, the phrase also reminds us that we have autonomy; what happens to us in the gym is within our control more than we may realize or want to take responsibility for.
As I have persisted in the sport, my orientation to this phrase has changed somewhat. Although I have trained in grappling arts from a very young age, I still concede that I know very little about BJJ and will never learn in the rest of my life even a fraction of what there is to know.
That being said, however, I do believe at this stage of my development, I must be willing to accurately assess my strengths and weaknesses. This means I must be able to identify what I’m good at as well as what I need to work on. Thus, I still leave my ego at the door, but I make sure it is always watching and taking notes.