Showing to Much Compassion on The Mats Is Not Always a Good Thing

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Professor Bob McRoberts breaking me down with the armbar!

“If you can’t accept losing, you cannot win.”

– Vince Lombardi (Legendary NFL Hall of Fame Football Coach)

Ever since I was a child I was told the one great trait I’ve always possessed is a deep compassion for other people’s feelings. Sometimes I am even told it’s too much as I’ve been taken advantage of in my younger years. It is the one thing my parents always drilled into me as a child is to think about others first before saying or reacting. They were always taking other people’s feelings into consideration sometimes to the expense of their own happiness.

While I truly believe, this is a great trait to have it can sometimes put yourself in a bad place. It can also keep enabling the bad behavior of the perpetrator. In my 40 plus years of martial arts experience I’ve seen all types of characters come and go…

  • The bar fighter who takes martial arts to a low level by using it for evil instead of good.
  • The legend in their own mind student who takes a few years of martial arts wins some tournaments and now thinks he or she is the next best thing since Bruce Lee hit the movie screens.
  • The trouble lost soul who comes through the dojo doors shy, lacking confidence, but respectful. Who after a couple of years decides they are too good to listen to the teachers in class. Instead they believe they no longer need to bow, line up with the other students or follow the rules of the gym.
  • The student who does not know what humility is, instead looking to throw a temper tantrum when they get tapped by a fellow student.

The one thing that is common for all these students from the 70s, 80s, 90s, till today is they never last in the martial arts. They all quit. In fact, I am hard pressed to find any of these students from the 70s and 80s still training today. I can count on one hand and this is from two major cities in Canada because I spent half my life in Winnipeg before moving to Vancouver in 1993. Many of these former “legends in their own mind” bragged the most, acted tough, but they are like a bad 80’s metal hair band now, gone, and forgotten. The true martial artists from those days are still practicing some are in their sixties, fifties, and forties. I still speak to many of these great martial artists on a regular basis gaining further insights and perspectives.

The question, I often get now from students is, “professor, I tapped out someone in class, and they got really angry with me.”

My response is, “well did you do anything illegal?”

Student: “No”

Me: “Were you out of control? Did you crank on the submission”?

Student: “No professor, I did the move very slowly and was careful.”

Me: “Then what are you apologizing for? The problem is not with you but this individual’s own ego.”

Student: “I know but I don’t want anyone to be mad at me.”

Me: “Look, this is jiu-jitsu class not babysitting adults 101. If everything is legal then submit the person. Who cares what they think. If they have half a brain they would thank you for doing it because it uncovered a weakness in their game. A weakness that needs to be addressed. Blowing smoke up their ass, making them believe in their own hype is not going to help them get better!”

Student: “Your right professor, I will remember for next time.”

I had this situation several years ago, When I was a white belt this blue belt would kick the crap out of me during practice. I thought he was awesome. When you are a fresh white belt you think everyone above you is awesome, it’s only later you find out that maybe they weren’t as good as you thought they were.

This individual continued to beat me up for a few more years, then he entered the Pan Americans and got trounced in the first match. I was surprised and shocked as I thought he would dominate easily. The following year I kept hearing this individual was hurting people’s knees during practice, in fact he rolled out of control many times.

At this point, I had grown into a very good blue belt and had just won gold at the first annual Las Vegas open in 2010 by submitting a competitor who had been ripping up the tournament scene in my division. When I arrived back at the dojo, the thought of individuals having their knees twisted by this person never left my mind. I was due for my purple belt and was asked to roll with him. I made sure I was going to bring my A game, and I did as I subbed him in under a minute. He was shocked and angry at the same time. I was taken back by his behavior because I considered him a friend or at least on friendly terms.

That evening I asked my professor, did I do something wrong? If I did I apologize. He quietly but sternly shook his head and said no. Next time submit him again, don’t worry about it because he always has a million excuses.

That night I laid in bed thinking about it. My professor was right, I did nothing wrong. I worked hard all these years, took the beatings without complaints, researched spending countless hours till 3am in the morning watching instructional videos. My ego never got me in the way of my progress that is why I am here, and it is this student’s fault that I superseded him. His ego got in his was way not me. To me I earned this right to train freely without drama, my control is always excellent and I am proud to say no one has ever had to take time away from the mat due to me injuring them. This is over a 13-year period. So why should I let him continue to feed his childish behavior? Everyone at the gym pays their membership to learn in a comfortable environment. No one individual should poison the club atmosphere, taking the joy out of learning jiu-jitsu for everyone. Martial arts is about humility, respect, and honor.

So, to all of you compassionate, empathetic BJJ students out there. Take care of your training partners but submit them at will! This is BJJ!

Please share your thoughts? How do you handle a training partner who is a sore loser rather than a good loser?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.