Daily Archives: January 2, 2014

Being a Good Athlete Doesn’t Automatically Make You a Good Person

I imagine I’m going to get a lot of “well, duh” comments for what I am about to say, but it’s something that has been brought to the attention of the bjj/grappling/MMA community lately. It’s something we all know, but would rather not talk about about: becoming better at the sport, martial art, discipline, whatever, an improvement in physical ability does not guarantee an improvement in character.

The opportunity is there, to be sure. And score upon scores of people can attest to this improvement: your years of training your body to withstand (mostly) self-imposed physical rigors also present chances, time and time again to withstand (again, mostly self-imposed) psychological stress and rigors- patience, generosity, fortitude- your training experience for the most part can, or should be rife with experiences that can make you a better human being overall. But some people don’t take these lessons to heart, or they appear to understand these lessons that have been taught, but something just doesn’t seem to stick, or they don’t feel these lessons apply to them. Or maybe that’s just not what they are into jiu jitsu, or whatever respective discipline for: I’m not going to give examples because I’m sure you already have one or two names that have come to mind, and frankly I feel it’s a bit gauche on my part.

Saulo has mentioned all of this before in talking about how there is a difference between a winner and a champion. A winner is someone who possesses a sole, all consuming goal in mind: to win a tournament or competition at any cost. A champion however is someone who possesses grace and sportsmanlike conduct, and does his best on and off the mat, and tying in with the whole Ribeiro Association, works to either appreciate or embody the qualities on each blade of the Ribeiro logo: loyalty, honor, respect, family, discipline and attitude (which I usually take to mean a willingness to assume leadership role, but really that’s sort of a mouthful). I don’t really know how other associations operate, but I really like the fact that there is an emphasis not only to be the best you can in jiu jitsu,  but to also apply those lessons to every aspect of your life-and really make yourself a better human being. Maybe other associations also focus on this: I’m not sure, again, I’m only speaking from personal experience.

Anyway, the good news is in my mind at least, those who don’t pick up on these lessons are a minority: I think a lot of people do take these lessons offered and really become better people because of it. But again, this transformation, improvement in character is not guaranteed; this transformation doesn’t really happen through osmosis. Granted sometimes these lessons sneak up from behind and blindside you; but while this improvement in character is available to all students, the jiu jitsuka/grappler/person also has to be willing to accept these lessons and put in the work to see that personal growth.



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