For anyone embarking on their first day of training on the mat, you should keep a few things in mind. First of all, congratulations on deciding to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) in the first place. Walking through the door for the first time is never easy, especially if you are someone who lacks confidence. The second (and most important) thing to remember is the difference between confidence and ego.
Many wrestlers who have been around submission grapplers in any form might have heard the phrase “leave your ego at the door.” This expression has grown into an idiom bestowed on many would-be practitioners of the discipline over the years. It is commonly misinterpreted by some as meaning anything from “don’t be a douche as you will pay for it on the mat” to “try not to attract attention by wearing a leopard print Gi on your first day.” To many practitioners, it means something entirely different.
What is the Ego?
The word “ego” simply translates from Latin as “I.” Therefore, the origin of the word is defined as one that describes the self, by the self. As the English language has developed over the years, especially in the fields of psychoanalysis and philosophy, the word has been used to describe other facets of the human mind and condition. In common use, anyone considered as having “an ego” is often considered to be a bit of a jackass.
When we think of the word “ego” in BJJ, especially regarding the quote above, leaving your ego at the door is not a warning or criticism. It is simply a request to take everything that you think you know about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, everything you think you know about your strengths, skills, and future in grappling, and leave them outside. They are of no use to you.
An argument can no doubt be made that anyone with an inflated sense of self-suffering will experience a real shock their first day on the mat. There are many reasons for this, with none of them meant to deter or frighten any eager newcomers. The philosophy here is that unless you are prepared to keep an open mind and be humble, you will be humbled. Very quickly.
How BJJ Can Change Your Mind . . . Fast
If you are new to BJJ, many things may surprise you. Competitors often speak volumes about how much they learn from their instructors, their academy mates, and the sport itself. The fundamental principles of BJJ are to turn a stronger opponent’s strengths against them, meaning that anyone who simply builds muscle through extensive weight training and walks in with a disrespectful attitude is often food for those on the mat. They will be humbled very quickly.
Training in BJJ can change the perspective of many who hit the mat for the first time. Quite often the most skilled and proficient practitioners are men and women that you would walk past in a dark alley without any fear whatsoever. They are professional people with humble and gracious attitudes. Your instructor may look more like an accountant than a savage and speak to you clearly and with respect.
Over the years, many have become accustomed to believing that the most dangerous men and women are those who tower above us and scowl. Those who have muscles on their eyelids and disrespect anyone in their line of sight, therefore, would be the most dangerous to meet on a mat. In any BJJ academy worth its salt, however, many candidates will prove that this is not the case at all.
Accepting You are a Beginner
Leaving your ego at the door also means accepting that you are a beginner and someone willing to learn. There is no way that you are going to step foot into a school or an academy with no experience and expect to be a “natural.” You are there as a beginner to learn. Being humble and respectful to your teachers and potential teammates is a surefire way to indicate that you are there to do just that.
To become proficient at BJJ and lay down the foundation to constantly improve, you must be willing to work, hard. Time and time again, you must be open to the prospect of assuming the role as a beginner. As time goes on, you will continue to learn. You will adapt and add new skills to your repertoire, provided you have the desire to increase your knowledge of the discipline and yourself.
The Best Shortcuts and Hacks in BJJ
Looking for the best way to become a black belt in BJJ? Do you want to know the best hacks for getting there fast? Great, because you won’t be disappointed if we suggest standing up and walking out the door of the school. There are no shortcuts in BJJ, period. Respect your instructors and training partners, respect yourself, and keep working hard. There is no way to “jump the ladder” or “fast-track your way to the top.”
The only way to succeed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is by consistent and frequent effort and hard work. You will be dominated time and time again and must become familiar with the feeling of being a beginner. Just as newborn babies cannot walk out of a hospital with their parents, you must develop your skills from the bottom up and understand how to express yourself proficiently on the mat.
Leaving Your Ego Behind
By leaving your ego at the door, you will learn valuable skills that will no doubt be crucial to your development as a practitioner. You must be willing to surrender what you think you know and your own sense of self to get there. BJJ is more than just a martial art. It is a discipline that can improve the human being under the Gi or rash guard.
Whether it is your first day or your 1,000th session, leaving your ego at the door—or better yet, at home—is vital for improving as a practitioner.