Why Comparing Yourself to Your Teammates is Bad for Your Jiu Jitsu

It’s natural to want to compare yourself to your teammates in jiu jitsu.  I find myself doing it even though I know it doesn’t make me feel good.  While it can seem harmless its a pretty self-destructive habit that can contribute to people leaving jiu jitsu for good.

You Always Lose

So there are two possible outcomes to this comparison: you are better than your teammate or you aren’t.

  • If you aren’t better than someone then you feel bad about yourself and/or your jiu jitsu game.  So you lose.
  • If you’re better than someone – what have you really won?  You didn’t win a competition.  You don’t get a belt for it.  And people’s jiu jitsu game is constantly changing, that person may tap you next week.  There is always someone else who is better than you.  We need people who are better than us in order for our own game to improve.

It Never Ends

You don’t suddenly become a jiu jitsu god once you reach black belt.  At black belt comparing yourself to others is even worse because everyone is the same rank.  The people who continue competing at that level and the people who focus more on teaching are all still black belts.

Its Meaningless

“Winning” a roll on any given day doesn’t mean anything.  There are so many factors that go into rolling.  Your partner may be getting over an illness or injury.  Bad days at work or being stressed out about family can cause someone to not focus on the roll and make mistakes.  Also, some people care less about being tapped than others.  I have had upper level belts let me tap them repeatedly because they were working on defending a specific attack.  I am under no illusion that my attack is stronger than their defense, I’m just flattered that they trusted me to repeatedly throw a submission safely and that they allowed me to work on improving that attack.  A lot of upper belts realize their game gets better when they put themselves in dangerous positions and people who are a lot better than you can put themselves in dangerous positions without you even noticing.

You Wish Ill on your Teammates

If I’m more concerned about being better than you than being better than I was yesterday then I’m almost wishing for you to fail.  In competitions and in real fights its ok to want to beat the other guy.  At our own schools we should be wishing the best for our training partners.  Without them we can’t play this game.

Its Counterproductive

Having teammates who learn at the same rate as you (or faster) forces you to improve your game.  Evan and I learn the same techniques, show each other every new move, and train with each other constantly.  He’ll learn a new technique, then I’ll get caught by it a couple of times, then I’ll come up with a counter, his new technique won’t work on me anymore so he tweaks it, and so on.  Usually what this means is when he uses the technique on other people, they can’t prevent it because he already knows the counter and how to prevent it.  This method of improvement wouldn’t work if we were just trying to be better than each other and didn’t share our new techniques.

So stop comparing yourself to your teammates.  Its bad for your jiu jitsu, it can be discouraging, and it makes you look like a jerk.  Just train, be a good partner, and wish the best for your teammates.

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