“That Guy is a World Champion?”

In a This Week in BJJ show, Kevin Howell said something that resonated with me. He was talking about rolling at the academy versus competing, and that some guys who are killers in the academy do not do well in competition, and vice versa. Kevin said that he’s seen world champions rolling at their school and couldn’t believe it because they weren’t always “winning” their sets.

This resonated with me because of my own struggles with ego, and of what I imagine many people go through. The experience is of “losing” on the mat when working on anything outside your comfort zone. Of course, as everyone says, there is no “losing” or “winning” on the mat in the academy. But that’s a mindset, and such a mindset takes a lot of time to develop. It’s certainly not natural, and doesn’t come easy.

I imagine that keeping the ego in check gets harder and harder as you move up the ranks. I imagine how hard it must be for brown and black belts to work on a new technique, which may result in them getting smashed by aggressive lower ranks in training.

But it certainly does seem that all the great competitors have this one thing in common. They are willing to work outside their comfort zone, even if it means being smashed over and over in training.

0 thoughts on ““That Guy is a World Champion?”

  1. Lincoln

    In Judo this type of “winning” or “losing” mentality is rarely found in the club because it’s just training. Probably because the sport has a different culture and throws and submissions don’t have much ego attached. It’s common at large training camps where there are hundreds of black belts doing many rounds of sparring that you get thrown, often by completely unknown players. It’s not easy to be thrown or submitted by some guy ten times in five minutes, but that’s part of training.

    1. Lex Post author

      Actually I disagree a little bit. I think it all depends on the club. This ego-centric mentality is common in both communities. It’s human. And is very common in people who have been training some time but have not yet quite achieved competitive success. I find that the most ego-free people are high-level competitive judoka. They prove themselves enough in tournaments where they don’t need to make it a war back at the school.

  2. Alan

    I’ve seen ego get in the way of many of my training partners. There are some that literally need to be choked unconscious before they’ll give up. I don’t see how that’s productive in training. In the club, everyone should be working together to make one another better.

  3. Samu Kuosmanen

    Hello. I just found out about your blog and youtube channel.. I’m a beginner judoka and I myself have already found these same challenges with the ego that you are talking about in your blog.. I just wanted to say it’s nice to see that I’m not alone with these challenges. I like your blog and your youtube channel, it’s nice to watch your competition videos as my own first competition is coming soon. Also I’m getting alot new ideas from these vids that I want to try in randori next time.

    I’ll try to improve with my ego and I’ll try to focus on having fun in the dojo, bringing a good vibe in there and always try new things and learn.. And learn to always feel comfortable while doing judo.. Even when losing or being pinned or whatever. Because I think that is the most important thing; to have fun and to explore and improve yourself as a human being and as a judoka.

    Also I try to always to be less restricting and instead flow and be like water. And never forget to have fun. Atleast this while doing randori and training.. Maybe when competing you need to be a little more restricting at times(?)

    I realized this is a old post, but anyway, they resonate within me and just wanted to say thanks for these posts!

    1. Lex Post author

      Thanks Samu, that means a lot. The first competition is scary but liberating when it’s over. Like you said: have fun and explore!


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