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Six ways ego can limit growth in the Martial Arts

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Six ways ego can limit growth in the Martial Arts

1. Excessive teaching when drilling

It’s one thing to help a white belt struggling through a technique.  It is another matter to start reteaching a move after the instructor has just taught it.  You are not allowing your partner to even try, fail and fix what he is attempting to learn.  People who fall into this ego trap usually can be found saying, “You work the move the whole time. I’ve seen this before.” Excessive teaching establishes a dominant role between you and your partner and allows you control of the situation and how much you drill. Boxers have seen a jab before. Elite boxers still practice a jab and associated footwork.  There is a difference between giving a partner feedback and controlling the situation through instruction.

2. Excessively working defense against opponents during sparring.

Most will agree that in a balanced way you need to intentionally put yourself in bad spots and work your way out of them.  People better than you will put you there against your will.  Partners who are less skilled than you will need to be given the position.  People of equal skill can provide competitive back and forth rolls and you can occasionally intentionally give them good positions to work your way out. The ego trap is where you intentionally work defense against somebody who poses a threat to you because if they catch you, you rationalize that you weren't trying 100% anyway.  This is particularly evident when you have somebody who is a rising star but you are supposed to be better/higher ranking than.  This ego trap can be disguised well, especially when combining it with some very valid points about the importance of defense in general.

3. Just showing up for sparring/rolling

This allows you to control the situation in which you learn.  Some people don’t like working on specific moves.  Only attending the sparring or rolling classes the week the gym was going over a move you don’t particularly like?  It’s because you knew you would be forced to learn, drill, and specifically train a technique you have no interest in.  This ego trap is very common for practitioners who do not have a well-rounded game but are exceptional in one area but are severely deficient in another.  Possibly you specialize in the counter-attacks but know your coach would force you to specifically train your takedowns if you came to class?  “I’ll just pull guard in competition anyway.”

4. This Technique doesn't fit my style or game

Everybody has a set of techniques they are best at.  They will go for their ‘a game’ techniques when training hard or in a competition.  This ego trap comes in when learning a new technique, but it is dismissed, forgotten, or filed into the back pits of your brain as soon as class is over because it incorporates a different strategy, grips, or position than what you are currently good at.  All roads lead to Rome.

5. A world champion taught me this way

Yes, your world champion is very qualified and knowledgeable.  It’s also probably a great technique as well.  The inability to learn something different from what this qualified person taught you is an ego trap is particularly evident when the student studies or has studied with a great champion for a period of time.  Quite frequently because of the instructor’s accomplishments it closes the student's mind to any other possibilities.  Simply look at the differences between Roger Gracie’s approach to bottom half guard and Bernardo Faria’s.  Both are great champions with many accomplishments.  For one, the half guard is the last resort.  For the other, is a main attacking weapon.  This is made worse when the champion - for whatever reason - tells the student this is the proper/correct way to approach the position.


6. Fear of Success

Success builds expectations.  High expectations breed a fear of letting down expectations and leads to a more pronounced fear of failure.


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