Lv 6
ISDS asked in SportsMartial Arts · 10 years ago

What does "don't let your ego get in the way of your progress" mean in the Martial Arts?

I've seen and heard the above quote, or some variation of it, many times. It makes perfect sense to those who have trained to advanced levels and also to the teachers, but I don't often hear an actual explanation of what that statement means when some one says it. They just say it and expect the novice to understand the statement. Is that fair?

What does "don't let your ego get in the way of your progress" mean to you?

P.S. I was inactive for quite a while because of a medical issue. I have fluid around my heart and apparently it happened for no reason since all the diagnostic tests say there's no reason for it to have happened. But, I've been getting better and the fluid has been shrinking. It's a medical mystery to the western doctors. I haven't asked any of my eastern medicine friends about possible causes yet.


I decided to do a definition tree of the word "ego" as it's used in this context...

Ego - noun

3) egotism; conceit; self-importance: Her ego becomes more unbearable each day.

Egotism - –noun

1. excessive and objectionable reference to oneself in conversation or writing; conceit; boastfulness.

2. selfishness; self-centeredness; egoism.

Conceit - –noun

1. an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability, importance, wit, etc.

Egoism -


1. the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one's personal interest; selfishness ( opposed to altruism).

Selfish(ness) -


1. devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.

2. characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives.

21 Answers

  • 10 years ago
    Favourite answer

    Ego is a difficult thing to understand for many. A person must have a sound and healthy ego to feel they are worthy of life and the benefits of living.

    On the other hand Ego can get in the way of learning and or placing yourself in the role of student or servant so that you can gain knowledge and experience to help you reap the rewards of living well.

    Perhaps another word that goes along with Ego in that regard is Pride.

    Healthy pride is when you are proud of an achievement that was earned. Unhealthy Pride can be when you feel inferior and do not want to admit you need help or do not know a certain thing. Finding balance in these feelings about your self can be difficult for some. As a person matures and allows himself to learn they can gain wisdom to discern good Ego from Bad Ego or the feelings of real Pride verses false Pride.

    I tel my students to please leave their cup half full when the enter the school. Be proud of the fact that they have chosen to place some of their ego aside so as to learn and help their fellow students to learn with them.


    About your heart. I recommend when you feel up to it to start Chi Gung for the benefit of Internal massage. The reason for this could be in Eastern Medicine Chi blockage. Translated into Western medicine it could be from inflammation of pericardium sack surrounding the heart. This can sometimes be caused by a viral infection lingering from the flu and sometimes ????who knows. Chi Gung movements are ment to bring circulation to the internal organs.

    Source(s): life
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  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    This is a great question. I've actually been thinking about this recently. I have been studying and training in Taekwondo for the past 4 years. I recently received my black belt. For most of my training, I saw Taekwondo as nothing more than a sport and physical defense system. Until about a year before I got my black belt, I did not implement a lifestyle change. My black belt test was very difficult. I failed part of the test the first time. It's almost as if failing it has taught me something. That without the "art" in martial arts, all that is left is fighting. And my Master was not going to promote me to black belt if I only believed in fighting. I got my act together, and finally passed the test once I retook it later. Martial arts is my life now. I work at my Dojang and wish I could live there too. I am in charge of supervising the young children and white belts, and cleaning the Dojang. Everything I do is under the supervision of my Master and instructors. I believe that many martial arts have moved away from the "art". Many styles now have replaced meditation and studying with backflips and cartwheels. When people find out I am a black belt, they ask me if I can beat people up and if I have ever been in a fight. That's not what black belt is about. Black belt means you have overcome the MENTAL obstacles in addition to the physical ones. I do not think it is fair to say that certain styles as a whole have diverted away from the art side of martial arts. I think that it is up to the instructor in each school. Lousy instructor, lousy students. I hope I helped. Good luck.

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  • Rynok
    Lv 7
    10 years ago

    If you have an ego, it means you think you're already pretty great at whatever issue is being discussed (or taught, in this particular context). As one of the definitions you've provided says, you're holding an excessively favorable opinion of one's own ability, importance, wit, etc., and when you're like that, you're not really open to someone else coming along and telling you that there's still room for improvement (especially when it's tacked onto a declaration that whatever specific thing you just did wasn't all that great to begin with when you felt you did pretty good).

    So not letting your ego get in the way of your progress (in martial arts or anything else in life) means that you should acknowledge that you don't know everything, and be open to being taught by people who want to help you learn new things and improve what you already know, without taking offense in the process (or at least in those situations where the person doing the teaching really does know more than you do about the subject at hand).

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  • Ymir
    Lv 6
    10 years ago

    Human beings have separate layers of existence and self identity. We have the sense of identity as owning our own body, the first thing we ever truly owned. We have the sense of identity of being called our names, our personality, who or what we are. And we have the sense of of being alive.

    A conflict happens if a situation calls for a person to recognize and adapt to self-preservation scenarios, but the ego refuses to do so because it would mean damaging or annihilating the ego's concept of the self. But the self is not the body and there are other parts of the mind, such as the lizard hindbrain part, that really don't care what your status is, what your feelings are, or what you think you want to do about being angry.

    In a training situation, the lizard does not take over, because it is not a life or death situation. Your body is not in danger. Thus only your ego commands primary dominance. But if you are training for a real situation, then the ego is not the best fit for making judgments. Because it makes judgments based upon emotion and perception of your social status, it doesn't care about your actual performance in reality. Just as the lizard brain doesn't care about how you will feel afterwards or what happened in the past or will happen in the future.

    Often wise to improve in reality, you have to shatter your illusions and personal conceits manufactured from erroneous experience and beliefs. The ego doesn't like that. It makes you feel like you are dying in front of all the important people in your life or something. But you're not dying.

    Glad to hear you're still up and training.

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  • 10 years ago

    All martial arts is a philosophy in themselves.

    They teach you a major principle in life that being the path or road.

    Everybody no matter at what level they are are going that path and all went through the same stages.

    So as a beginner you will get defeated a lot and that is just fine. Everybody has been defeated countless times.

    When your ego gets in the way, you will try to win no matter what. Even it is risking your or your opponent health and safety. Plus your ego might hinder your technical learning.

    I think Dean Lister said it once the more you tap the more you learn!

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  • 10 years ago

    I'm glad you are back and that you are doing better. I pray and hope that you continue to heal and get better.

    I'm not going to give the answer. Some are on the right track.

    As an instructor it is fair in my opinion to ask such a question. In asking a question like this you expect it to cause your students to think, ponder. ect. Some may understand right away. Others will catch it later. Hopefully they will seek for the answer and come back and give the meaning. As you well know martial arts is not just about fighting or learning to fight. Anyone can learn to fight without learning martial arts. It is a way of life.


    Pugspaw that happened to me at around orange belt. I told you about it before. I was in Colorado training at the Olympic Training Dojo. We were doing randori. I happened to be going against O'Sensei Phil Porter. That was a spanking that I have never forgotten. I learned so much in losing to him. I had to drop my ego.

    Source(s): Martial Arts since 1982 Black Belt in Shorin Ryu Black Belt in Jujitsu Brown Belt in Judo
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  • Jay
    Lv 7
    10 years ago

    One of the biggest issues never addressed by most is what they're weakest at. If you're a good puncher, you need to kick more. If you're a good kicker, you need to punch more. There shouldn't be one single thing left unchecked and not taken care of. For instance in Hojo Undo, specifically with the makiwara, it's strongly suggested to begin with your inferior hand. If you're right handed you start with the left. You continue practicing with the left hand until it's as comfortable as your right.

    It's hard working on something you're not very good at. Call it a guy thing, I don't know, but it comes from not wanting to admit your weakness. Everyone (every guy?) wants to envision themselves mentally as being like superman and just already good at everything. You really have to swallow your pride and just suck it up in order to work on it. As a martial artist, this is what I've always associated with "not letting your ego get in the way".

    Sometimes people get a little bit too ambitious. This can easily lead to injury. Martial arts is like musical skill, it's impossible for it to all come at once. From poking chopsticks or twinkle twinkle little star on a keyboard all the way to playing Anton Rubinstein's piano sonatas or Franz Liszt's transcendental etudes. You have to take tiny little steps. Their so tiny you don't even perceive your moving until you look back and can see how much you've learned. It's also very important not to jump in advancements and stay firm in where you belong in your practicing. That's what I mean by too ambitious.

    Anyway, that's what it means to me and what I have to say about it.

    (Some of which I learned from a wise friend, Petr.)

    Source(s): 15+ years Goju Ryu, Taekwondo, Hapkido, Tai Chi, and Hung Gar practitioner
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  • Anonymous
    10 years ago

    Well, to me while the definition of ego follows the example definitions you have laid out for us, I find that the ego in martial arts may have a slight variance, though holding on to the underlying principle.

    "Don't let your ego get in the way of your progress." Is in my opinion much of what Shienaran wrote, as well as when demonstrating a technique, the student continues to try and 'win', countering every move their partner is attempting just to be seen as the best. This is what I have come across the most in my career, and has been the result of many injuries.

    I don't think that ego in the martial arts plays so much as a self-centered nature as it portrays more of an insecure one. Most people aren't trying to be the best or not look bad for their own glory, as they are trying to impress the populace. People want to be included in special groups because they want to 'feel' important. People want to 'have' a black belt because they want to 'feel' feared and or respected.

    This is a self-preservation more than it is a boasting nature. This is what I find to be the most prevalent aspect of the term 'EGO' in the martial arts.

    Now, that being said, there are those that boast for the sake of boasting, because they truly believe they are the best. But that concept of ego leads more to laziness than it does anything else. "I'm the greatest, I don't have to work out or respect the other guy." I think this also leads to the boasting of this style is better than that style, 'mine vs yours' blah blah.


    Welcome, back. I'm glad to hear you're doing better.

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  • 10 years ago

    I've always taken it to mean to train in humility, keep your pride in check and just concentrate on training properly. Sometimes, people get swell headed because of their rank and consider it beneath them to train with beginners, but you can learn a lot from the mistakes most beginners make. Ego also tends to make you not take constructive criticisms easily These are examples of ego getting in the way of your training. Another example is caring more about winning than learning something new. You avoid sparring with people you think are better than you because you are afraid you might look stupid if they beat you or you cherry pick your opponent because you only want to fight opponents you are sure you can beat. So you end up fighting mediocre opponents and your skills remain mediocre at best because you never push the envelope for fear of bruising your ego. Most of the watered down McDojos are around because of this way of thinking, they capitalize on a student's misguided ego. You care more about the trophies and medals you win in point fighting and looking cool. So you make it the goal of your training to concentrate on the flashy techniques that are cool and scores high points in competition but practically useless for self defense and on achieving high rank as fast as you can to claim bragging rights even though you have not truly earned the rank.

    P.S. Am glad your health is better. Was wondering why you dropped out of sight for a while.

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  • 10 years ago

    It can definitely relate to injuries.

    If you let your ego take control, you will want to come back too early from an injury. This could cause more injury and hinder the healing process, and "get in the way of your progress".

    Also, humility allows you to accept and learn from defeat, as previously stated. Ego can make you think you know everything and you will no longer learn - and will have no progress.

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