“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac? — George Carlin
Man, that is one of my favorite quotes! We’ve all been there on the road before, trying to get from Point A to Point B and dealing with the nonsense from everyone else alongside us.
But what I love about this quote is how applicable it is to sparring. Whether it’s BJJ or Striking or whatever.
Our ego always wants to set the standard to that which reinforces our belief systems. It doesn’t like getting challenged or called into question. For example, if someone’s getting one over on us, they are going “too hard” or “too fast.” If we’re winning, it’s because “they suck” or “we’re awesome.”
This is an easy trap to fall into, and one that doesn’t really allow you to grow to your potential. This mentality basically denies the existence of your training partners as dynamic individuals, and merely categorizes them into neat little boxes that reinforce our own egos.
If we’re losing? They’re too big, too strong, too rough. If we’re winning? They suck, we are better, etc.
In reality, though, perhaps we’re losing because they’re simply better, or perhaps we’re in that stage of a growth cycle where we’re focusing on secondary and tertiary skills at the expense of absolute performance.
Perhaps we’re winning because our partners are just going light or exploring bad positions, or maybe it’s because we’re just a lot bigger and stronger than them. Maybe, it’s because we can’t stomach the idea of losing, so we put 100% into what we’re doing to avoid it while our partners are just being chill.
Martial Arts training is difficult. We tend to focus on the physical difficulty first, because the novelty of the movements and exercises makes that initial period so challenging.
But as we get comfortable with the physical process, the true difficulty starts to set in. Our sense of self will be constantly challenged on the mats. Often, we have to concede that we are maybe not as tough, smart, or crafty as we’d like to think we are.
The natural instinct for most people is to run away from these uncomfortable truths. But it is the very act of facing them head on that provides opportunities for growth.
At nearly 19 years into these arts, I am still humbled on a daily basis. Over time I’ve learned to see the value in this experience, and I allow it to guide me towards those paths that lead to improvement and growth.. usually at the expense of my own ego (although, I am human, and I slip up from time to time!).
So remember, sometimes your partners aren’t going “too fast” — you simply just have some work to do to get your skills up. And that’s OK!
A good training partner is like a mirror, and he or she will show you your true self. Appreciate that and have gratitude for those people in your life that provide you with such rare opportunities!