Updated: Aug 27, 2018
You’ve probably heard me say that before—“Check your ego at the door.” It’s not meant to sound harsh in any way but to encourage a spirit of cooperation, respect, and honesty while we train. Our egos can be powerful influencers on us. Too much ego, and we start to think things like:
- I don’t really need to practice, I know it
- I’m ready for a rank test, why is it taking so long?
- I’m better than that other guy
- I’m not going to tap, I’m going to tough it out
- I’m tired of the repetition, when do we get to do something fun?
- I got tapped out and I feel like I lost
I admit, I’ve probably said or felt most of things on that list and more in my years of training. And every time I did, my ego got in the way and I usually had to learn the hard way to move past it.
How does your ego get in the way? It makes you complacent. It tricks you into comparing yourself to others. It makes you impatient. It can make you feel bad when there’s no reason to. And it can cause you to be dishonest with yourself, or to disrespect yourself or others.
Fortunately, checking our egos at the door frees us. It’s liberating. If you can practice martial arts or do anything else without ego, you will pursue that thing with honesty and an open mind. And that lets you celebrate your victories and treat mistakes or sparring losses as simple learning opportunities. It lets you practice with an open mind, being open to learning from every experience, every training partner, every technique that is taught. It lets you practice with repetition and yet find joy and learning within the repetition. It frees you to be curious, to explore techniques in new ways, to ask questions. And it builds patience, humility, and character.
There’s always something to learn. And new ways to think of the things you already know. Practice in a spirit of humility, respect, patience, and cooperation, being honest with yourself and open to learning and exploring. If you do these things, the rest will take care of itself. You will gain skill, build character, and advance. If you’re not gaining skill or advancing, take some time to think about these things, try to make some changes and apply these things. And watch what happens.
Of all the things that it takes to pass rank tests and eventually reach black belt ranks, the hardest thing we have to learn isn’t technique and skill—it is overcoming ourselves.