How Jiu Jitsu can tame the ego when people test your anger
Location: South, FL
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Photo by: Alex Sheldon
Have you ever been driving, say 33 in a 35 mph zone, minding your own business, windows down on an evening with a nice breeze, when suddenly some punk races by you out of nowhere? He beeps the horn as he cuts you off while giving YOU the bird! The bird… that middle finger of a hand that some extend singularly as, let’s say, a gesture lacking in kindness… and others who have the knuckle dexterity might flip you half a bird, which I must say I always marveled at. If that half-bird could speak, it would say, “You’re such a piece of garbage that I can’t even muster the energy to properly and fully tell you to go F yourself.” This is such aggressive, yet almost joyful behavior on their part, as if this maneuver is guaranteed to come with no consequences.
If you, dear reader, have not had this experience, I would be surprised. I sure have. And what a different momentary experience in brain chemistry you are both having. At the very least, he feels differently than anyone who is coasting responsibly, driving below the speed limit. And while we know that in this moment, his ego is taking him on an adrenaline ride, we wonder… Is he angry? Is he sad? He can’t be happy, even if he does seem to get a sadistic thrill out of cutting people off. Speeding can be a thrill… but why the insult?
How quickly the innocent in this situation can be drawn into something so unpleasant, where they feel like yelling, “Watch it! Whatchu doing man? You didn’t see me back there!?” Normally, this reaction does not happen and, thankfully, people just mostly do not have the desire to give chase. Typically, you are just startled; you were surprised and insulted all in 3 seconds, and by the time you process it, it’s over. Still, some do-follow, actually giving chase… and that never ends well.
Now, consider what would happen if you bumped shoulders with this same individual on the street. There would be an exchange of “Oh, I’m sorry their bud,” or something like that. Light skin-to-skin interactions very rarely come with such aggression, and the reason is obvious… fear and respect coupled with the lack of adrenaline.
When someone trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, they grow accustomed to adrenaline. This is good behind the wheel of a car. While everyone has a set point to where one might lose one’s temper, by training Jiu-Jitsu regularly, you will have a longer threshold of patience… even longer if you are on your way home from training Jiu-Jitsu. If this is the case, you’ve already had your adrenaline dump; it was left on the mat, where it should be! You would look at this person as a silly danger; and feel thankful that he passed by. This is the power of Jiu-Jitsu.
I personally have driven a lot in my life, and on the regular, I have yelled back. Although I was never the initiator, I have yelled back in what I incorrectly labeled as righteousness to myself, only to realize shortly thereafter, my own fault; knowing I could have done better.
There are situations where you might reencounter this person, and here is what to do, if you can. If that person goes straight, you slow down, take the next turn if you can, whether or not you are headed that way. Keep in mind that a quick u-turn puts you right back on course, with the aggressive driver out of sight. This is a choice you must train your ego to make. It’s not easy, particularly when you know for sure that the other driver is in the wrong. If you train Jiu-Jitsu, trust me, you will feel less compelled to respond. I’m not telling you that BJJ is an anti-road-rage pill but, it will put you in the most practical mindset for this type of situation. And hopefully, you will do the most appropriate thing, which is NOTHING.
Growing up in the Bronx, I experienced no shortage of aggression. When I was a bouncer, there was an abundance of aggression. And I can tell you first hand, often the best response to a verbal assault is nothing. And while doing nothing is hard to do, you have still made a choice. Rarely have I seen violence take place, and someone say, “Well, I’m sure glad that turned violent.” Are there jerks and aggressors in the street who train Jiu-Jitsu? Yes, there are more today than ever, but not that many aggressors. Jiu-Jitsu clamps down a lot on the ego, and the more you train, the more you will lose the desire to respond to aggressive behavior from others. You will also develop a longer interval of time for your anger mechanism to kick in, due to your regular doses of mat adrenaline. You might even see aggressive actions coming before one makes a move, just like on the mat.
When I was in the early stages of my Jiu-Jitsu training, I had the benefit of being one of the few Americans on a mat with the first wave of Carlson Gracie students to come to the United States. These were rough guys; very passionate and aggressive, but they had a calmness to them. They would train life or death on the mat, but then I would see them in social settings, always behaving like cool and calm gentlemen. Jiu-Jitsu created that.
When you know your capability, most often, there is a lack of a desire to use it. You generally know the outcome in situations of conflict, and this puts your ego in check. The other person often does not have this benefit, and he is most likely misjudging his abilities. Most importantly, he almost certainly does not have Jiu-Jitsu training. We train for self-defense, among other reasons. In the street, aggression is an offensive move, and you rarely see Jiu-Jitsu used offensively for no gain. Call it the gentle art if you want, but it can rip your arm off and put you to sleep… it’s not gentle. Jiu-Jitsu is attitude first. It is the first thing we control. And your attitude is linked with your ego. Roughly speaking, the higher you go in Jiu-Jitsu, the more appropriate your ego generally is. So, when the next fool cuts you off and flips you the bird, just try your best to use your emotional Jiu-Jitsu and make that quick right or left turn and let ’em by.