Ego Negates Self-Defense

February 11, 2023, Salem, New Hampshire, USA

Ego; We all know that this is a huge problem in the martial arts, no pun intended. Sadly, many instructors and many styles tend to encourage this ugly side effect of their training. Just watch any MMA fight, look at the nastiness, the arrogance, the lack of mutual respect. Look at the victor prancing around like a gorilla (no offense intended towards those wonderful creatures) waving his arms in the air and shouting that he is number 1.

This same brave fighter might catch a cold tomorrow, or the flu, or Covid, and be crying in his bed like a baby, but the arrogance, the ego remains. Any true individual knows that in this world, in this life there is no place for ego. We are all weak, we are all vulnerable, and nearly all of us will crack under pressure, at some point. There are a few notable exceptions, truly brave souls who have died for a cause, but you will never see them display any ego. The truly great are also truly humble. 

Sadly, many martial arts instructors fall victim to the huge ego syndrome; you earn a high rank, some organization decides to honor you with some title, and this goes to your head. Now you feel invincible, now you feel superior to your students, or to others in general. This attitude shows in your class. 

But, you might argue, this arrogant bad ass teacher is in fact, a great teacher. He must be arrogant, he may have an ego, but he is in fact the best teacher around. So, let's put up with his ugly side because we want the best training. Who cares that he has an attitude and an out of control ego.. 

But, I argue, his ego, his arrogance, is his downfall, he is in fact not a good instructor. His ego will preclude the possibility of him being a good instructor. 

Why is this so? What does an ego prevent one from being a good self-defense instructor?

I am glad you asked.

When the ego takes control over the instructor, his judgement becomes clouded. His vision becomes clouded, his sense of purpose and direction become blurred. He is no longer free. He is a slave to his ego.

As Bruce Lee wrote, "Freedom discovers the man the moment he is no longer concerned over what impression he is making or about to make." (Tao of Jeet Kune Do). 

When an instructor is controlled by his ego his concern becomes maintaining his image, his power, his position. He can no longer admit to being wrong, he can no longer admit to needing to learn more, to improve. His goal is not the survival of his students, the development of better self-defense techniques, but the image he possesses. He is no longer pure in his pursuit of the best self-defense techniques but of promoting his image as a tough guy. His vision is clouded even though he does not understand this. 

He is not "lengthening his line" but seeking to "cut down the line" of others. He is no longer an instructor. 

An instructor must remain humble, by definition he must put the well-being of others before his own, that is what it means to be a teacher. An ego prevents his from happening. 

May we remain pure in our pursuit of safety.

Stay Safe. 


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

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