A couple of years ago my Jiu-Jitsu instructor Conan wrote a post on The Jiu-Jitsu Fighter blog called “Leaving your ego on the edge of the mat”, in which he talked about a student who had told him they’d finally submitted someone they had never been able to tap out before, but they weren’t sure how to feel about it, because of the whole ego thing. The student wanted to be excited about their progress, but they felt bad because someone else had to lose in order for them to win, and they felt as though it was wrong to be happy about beating them. I know exactly what that student was thinking and feeling, because the student was me. I was the unnamed person that Conan wrote about in that post.
He basically said that you need some degree of ego in order to train Jiu-Jitsu, and that there is nothing wrong with celebrating your successes, as long as it’s not about beating someone else, but an acknowledgment of your improvement. Whether we can submit someone, or protect ourselves from being submitted, are measures of our progress in Jiu-Jitsu. When I now say that I can tap out many of the new students, it’s not about me thinking I am better than anyone, but me realizing how far I have come. I spent my first couple of years being tapped out by pretty much everyone, all of the time. Even after I first got my blue belt, some new students could still submit me on their very first day.
Yeah, I can finally tap out white belts who don’t know anything, but give them six months of training, and they will most likely be submitting me. I have to take my successes where I can get them, because they are few and far between, and otherwise I will be crushed under the weight of my own insecurity. I know without question that I could easily submit the person I was a year ago, and that is really the only victory that matters to me. That’s the only person I am truly happy to beat.