I’m sure most people who train Jiu-Jitsu have heard “leave your ego on the side of the mat”, but I’m not sure everyone understands the reasons why they are told this. It’s not just about being respectful and taking care of your partner, or about being humble. You do need some degree of ego to train martial arts. One of Roseberry’s Notions for Training is “Do not be too proud or too modest”, but an inability to keep that ego in check can negatively affect your training.
One of the ways your ego can hold you back is during open mat. It can hinder your growth if you are more concerned with “winning” than with “learning”. You will probably find a couple things that work for you, and then just keep doing them over and over instead of attempting to grow. You will be more likely to try to tap people out with the subs you know work for you, rather than trying to incorporate new techniques into your game. This is the way you should grapple when you are at a tournament, but contrary to popular belief, open mat is not a competition. It’s supposed to be a time to experiment and take risks. The purpose of open mat is to help each other, and ourselves, learn to be the best we can be. I like the way Rollo stated it in one of his posts “No teacher will ever pull a trophy or medal out of their display case and hand it to you in class for tapping someone out.”
I’ve had to deal with this particular ego issue myself. Since my submission success percentage rate is so small to begin with (because open mat is almost never a fair fight for me), I would find myself just sticking to the things I have the most success with, in an effort to tap at least ONE person out that day (or week, or month). Then I realized that I had plateaued because of it, so now when I grapple with people who I know I can submit with a certain technique, I will tell myself that I am not allowed to use it during our roll. Instead of going for the things that are the easiest for me, I’ve started working more on all the things I don’t do as well. This means I’m tapping even less people out, but I am learning SO much more. I’m glad I broke through that wall.