When I teach I always aim to leave every student feeling a little better when the lesson is over. Many lessons are learnt on the mats but I believe the most important of all is acknowledging the ego. I also believe that 99.9% of the time why a student quits is because they fail to acknowledge their ego. We have students of all ages, shapes, sizes, male and female. Some have excellent fitness, youth and strength on their side, while others are older and weaker.

We have black belts in their prime sparring with fledging white belts. We have ageing black belts sparring with super fit newcomers who are 30lbs heavier and stronger and all of them are learning from each other. Many are (pleasantly) surprised when I address this topic before I teach.

I was teaching an international seminar a few years back. I was invited to give a demonstration on the fundamental aspects of Hard Target. Having spoken to the instructors before the seminar began; I chose who I believed was the most suitable person to demonstrate with. All went according to plan because I acknowledged the ego. Every person in attendance was a seasoned martial artist, doormen and bodyguards. Some were physical giants, while others were small and wiry. My partner for the demonstration was very experienced, similar to my weight, age and understood the premise of the instructional.

However, most importantly he also understood the corrosive effect the ego can have on progressive learning (unless we acknowledge it). In my experience the majority of students who quit, do so at blue and brown belt. These grades take between 3–5 years respectively. Why? The following story will help to explain why I believe this happens. A few months back a student asked me how I continue to train at such a high level. This gentleman was twenty years younger than me, extremely fit and muscular. He knew I was on the mats 5 – 6 days a week for 4-5 hours every day and couldn’t understand where I got the energy from!

“There is no secret I replied”, for me to train at such a high level there is certain guidelines that must be adhered to on a daily basis.

  1. All sessions must be balanced to avoid mental and physical burnout.
  2. Sleep and rest must be sufficient to recharge for the next day.
  3. Nutrition must be balanced to fuel and repair.
  4. Understand your capabilities and limitations and finally, but (in my opinion) the most important of all…
  5. Acknowledge the ego.

When we acknowledge the ego we can then maintain control over it and ultimately starve it so that it struggles to exist. When you do, you won’t feel the urge to quit. You will enjoy each and every training session and your technique and skills will progress on a weekly basis.

One of my main goals is to continue to train and teach into my final days. This is a long journey, therefore the only way I can achieve this is to understand that it’s a marathon and not a sprint. I want to enjoy the journey at a slow progressive pace. I am in peak physical condition and maintain this year in year out. I don’t have an off season – this is because I am constantly working on my work/life balance. And I have a passion for my art (my occupation).

Over the years I have sparred in many hours of gruelling, bone-shaking sessions, I still love to spar and will do so until I check out! However, my sparring now is in balance with my age and capabilities. I want to grapple with people of all ages, shapes and sizes and be the very best I can be. Whether that is at 50 years of age or 100 years of age. I am in competition with no one. I am honoured to be in a privileged position to facilitate others to face their fears and increase their self-esteem. Accessing the fears through the physical and giving them the tools to acknowledge the ego.

Don’t be tapped out by your ego!