First, my heart goes out to all Utahans that may have suffered ill effects from the sustained heavy winds (75-100 mph) and power outages on 12/1/11 to 12/2/11. It sucks to have a 30-year-old pine tree ripped from your yard and placed not-so-gently onto your car, or to have your truck flipped over by sheer wind-power.
With this recent calamity in mind, I’d like to draw a parallel between emergency preparedness and overall fight preparedness. When the storm comes – be it literal or in the cage – you know in that moment what you don’t have. Many folks here in Davis county (where I live) had the power out for 18+ hours; they immediately realized a need for candles/flash lights, extra blankets, and non-electrical heating/cooking.
In that moment, when your opponent is hitting a solid double-leg takedown, you realize your deficiency in wrestling. In that moment, when you cannot get past your opponent’s jab, you realize your boxing is sub-par. In that moment, when you are gasping for air, think back on your cardio time in the gym.
In that moment, all you can do is try to make the best of things.
However, let this be a lesson to all of us. You cannot prepare for every contingency but you can prepare for many contingencies. If an emergency beyond your capacity hits, your self-reliant attitude and survival practices will help you see another day.
I hope that when our moment finds us, it does not expose our weakness but reveals our preparedness.
I was watching an episode of “Ask a Black Belt” and they talked about what having an ego meant in BJJ. Dave Camarillo talked about how ego was both a good a bad thing – how it can motivate you and how it can also make you go too far. I though his comments were insightful and feel that a lot of guys miss the boat of how to manage their egos. In my mind, I keep coming back to two particular evils of an uncontrolled ego: poor risk management and alteration of perception.
The problem with ego isn’t that it drives us to achieve something – masculine grit and fortitude is actually the positive side of ego. Its the blurring of goals and boundaries along the way that are the hazard. Similar to Dave Camarillo’s remarks in the vid, it is okay to say, “Man, I want to smash everybody today; I’m not going to tap.”. The line you need to walk is how far you’re willing to go to achieve that goal or maintain your self-perception as a tough-dude.
Remember, there are limits beyond which additional exertion become very dangerous. When you “need” to smash all the guys you roll with, do you go ape-shiz with strength trying to get your submissions, even though you might injure them? Would you do tactics (biting/gouging/etc) you normally wouldn’t just to the results you want? It is okay to train with vigor and force – as long as you keep the risk-reward ratio set to a good level and never abandon your standards. At some point of exertion/tenacity, you leave reasonable behavior and hurt yourself or others. Why would you trade a six month layoff due to a broken arm just for anything? If you were in the UFC and a six-figure payday were at stake, I might consider it. But for an extra nod from my Sensei saying, “Nice submission defense”, I wouldn’t risk the medical bills.
Luckily, almost every injury I’ve ever had (or caused) has been after~2.5 hours of training. I failed to acknowledge my body’s dwindling motor control but kept the tempo and activities static. (The other main failure is to not know how intense you are exerting yourself – since I’m not that strong nor angry, I typically don’t get this one.) The likelihood of injury raises with the intensity and length of a training session. You want to find that sweet spot where you stay in control enough to keep injury probability low while still milking the training session for every ounce of improvement you can get. My personal preference is to stay one or two steps back from that edge. Know these boundaries and be disciplined about keeping them. I feel that staying safe is the only legitimate long term strategy for perpetual growth.
(BTW, my rule on tapping: joint locks I tap early, but chokes I wait a little longer. Your brain probably won’t get destroyed that bad if you wait till the blood really starts to be slowed/shut off. Your joints, however, can seriously get damaged by a 1% degree change in angle.)
Think about it this way. If I told you that you could give up 2% of the skill you might gain in the next year with a guarantee that you would not be injured, would you do it? I would.
Likewise, this risk/reward interplay is applicable to personal relationships. Yes, you could smash faces 100% of the time, but would this degrade your friendships with your training partners? I am a big believer of win/win scenarios and the tribal-health model of team building. You get so much more out of your training camps and partners when they respect you, stay injury free and you keep to mutual goals and boundaries. When one guy decides to get advantage by leaving those boundaries – like going way too hard while sparring – he might be getting a little extra juice out of the session but at the cost of the health of his teammate which will ultimately reduce his long term rewards within that team.
Altered States of Perception
I’m not going to get all Joe Rogan on you – so no need to start smoking the ganja to see the “real world”. This evil of ego is straightforward to describe; when you have a bad ego, you see the world through colored glasses. Rose-tinted, dickish glasses. You lose a match but don’t accurately attribute the reason you lost to the outcome. One of my buddies current peeves is when guys tell him that the 10lbs he had on them was why they lost the submission match. Certainly, those 10lbs helped, but so did the 3+ years of skill gap. Moreover, when you have an unhealthy ego, you seem to automatically defend yourself perception instead of taking data for what it is. You just don’t see what is before you.
I’ve seen guys get injured because they didn’t know when to tap. Usually, these are either the guys with big egos or dudes without a lot of experience. Once you’ve been around the block, you know how far you can go. You know the limits because you know the terrain so well. That perceptual gap of what you think is happening and what is actually is happening gets slimmer with alive training.
On a different note, I don’t really mind when guys know they are good. If its true, its true. No reason to lie to yourself on either side of the spectrum. Again, its a boundaries thing. Being good at fighting means what? That you can cut in line? That you can shout at police without consequence? No, being a good fighter means you’re a good fighter. The problem starts when being X parleys to getting some undeserved privilege in Y. Because you’ve got the ego-glasses on, you see everything under the guise of “I’m good at X”. Everything gets interpreted, filtered under this belief.
The fix is generally to compete more, try to listen to your coaches and critics and not always defend yourself. Take things for what they are. Some dude trolls your youtube vid of your last amateur MMA bout? So what? Does his or her comment have merit – usable or actionable knowledge – or is it just, “you suck monkey turd.” If someone’s right, their right. Get over it and adapt. Scientific type thinking will go a long way. Looking at results objectively helps diminish that gap between who you think you are, who others perceive you as and the “real” you.
Your ego is much like a your physical body, or a trait. It responds to training and modification. Disciplined effort, over time, can shape it – just like your body can add muscle or lose fat – but generally your ego won’t change overnight. If you think you have a problem, go talk to somebody – a friend, a mentor, a coach. If they really care about you, they’ll be able to help you shift your attitudes without needing to get in their own personal jabs just to wound you.
Have an ego. Think of yourself as a tough dude. Don’t give up. Balance that with a proper sense of risk-reduction – both for physical safety and maintaining your relationships. Try to do gut checks about who you are vs who you think you are. Keep those feet on the ground and strive to have a more empirical view of your identity and skills.
But enough of what I think – what do you guys and gals do to keep your ego in check? What is your take on the role of ego in training?