Leave Your Ego At The Door

This saying is synonymous with fitness facilities, martial arts studios and, in particular, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) clubs. It’s a great saying and great advice, but reading it is one thing and implementing it quite another.

I’ve been practising martial arts for many years and began in Ken Do Kai Karate. It was a tough martial art and sparring was brutal, but I learned a lot. Leaving your ego at the door is easy in this type of environment. If you didn’t, you simply got an arse kicking from a higher belt or the instructor and it checked your ego pretty quick.

I’ve found BJJ a little different and dumping your ego much, much harder to do.


I suspect because BJJ is traditionally thought of as more of a gentleman’s sport. By that I mean it’s much less aggressive than most other martial arts. BJJ is all about submission wrestling and trying to get your opponent in some kind of choke strangle or lock. There’s no striking of any kind.

I think this is why it attracts people from all different backgrounds, body shapes and sizes and fitness ability. It’s also why I think it’s much harder to drop the ego. In this instance, I don’t mean ego to be aggression and arrogance towards your opponent. I mean ego to be doing your utmost to avoid being ‘submitted’ while wrestling. It’s wrestling and fighting like crazy, forcing your body into unnatural and potentially dangerous positions and refusing to give in, even though you risk injury.

Which is exactly the reason so many people get injured in BJJ. They let their ego dominate. They get caught up in this ego driven mindset that doesn’t allow them to ‘tap out’ or submit when they should. They refuse to give up a position and contort and twist and manipulate their bodies to the point of breaking, which it often does.

In allowing your ego to dominate you close off your mind. Your learning is stunted as you’re entirely focused on winning or surviving, rather than learning. You don’t allow yourself to work from a ‘bad position’ to improve your weaknesses. You can’t let things go, you get angry, frustrated and negative thoughts cloud your judgement. Your mind is one-tracked.

What if you could leave your ego at the door? What would happen then?

Your mind would be clear. Open to learning and improving. It won’t be clouded with negativity and thoughts of revenge from your previous training session. You’ll begin to understand and accept your weaknesses and, in doing so, be able to improve them. You won’t think of your opponent improving their position or submitting you as a life or death situation; manipulating your spine, neck, back and shoulders to the point of injury, simply to not lose.

But it’s hard. That younger, stronger, fitter (maybe even tougher) guy who is of a lower rank and only been training half the time you have seems to get you every time.


This is the time you absolutely need to leave your ego at the door. You need to work smarter, not harder. You need to study the nuances of each position, discover the different angle and the little 1 percenters that will help you improve and make all the difference.

And it will prevent you from re-injuring that knee you had a reconstruction on a few years earlier.

This is just on the BJJ mats! Imagine if you could leave your ego out of all areas of your life…

Relationships – Your relationship with your partner will be better. You won’t feel the need to have the last word or continue an argument just so you win.

Family – You’ll be able to forgive family members more easily and quicker, allowing you to continue with a lifelong, valuable relationship.

Career prospects – You’ll be able to see your boss for truly who they are and not allow their negativity to control your emotions.

Driving your car – You won’t envisage ramming your car into the back of the guy ahead of you simply because he cut you off and failed to indicate.

Physical fitness – You’ll realise that attempting to lift 200kgs on the deadlift bar probably isn’t the best idea at your current fitness level.

And then there’s dealing with…

  • Work colleagues
  • Government agencies
  • Teachers
  • Housework
  • Neighbours
  • The Law
  • Kids

…and much, much more.

Will you never go all out in a 100% effort to win and be the best? Certainly not, you want to be the winner. It’s learning when to push, when to wait, when to manipulate, when to accept, when to find another way, when to resist, when to retreat and when to power through that will make the ultimate difference.