The Ego Circle

Wing Chun And Rings 'Built from the ground up'

You can take all the eye gauges, sharp elbows, knee smashing and shin splintering techniques of many a martial art style, wrap them up in a box and dash them in the cupboard under the stairs. Why?

Because nothing is more dangerous to a practitioner than a ‘misplaced’ or ‘over-inflated ego’.

Warning ‘Ego’ ahead

They arrive in keen, excited groups and sadly, usually end up alone.

Psychologists talk about ‘ego’ and the ‘sense of self’ all the time and many martial arts experts have dissected the various stages a student goes through on a learning journey. The vast majority talk about something that resembles the following steps:

Ego stages

  • Knowing nothing
  • Knowing a little – Confidence grows (Feeding that ego)
  • The Grind of ‘True Training’ hits and the ego is suddenly deflated as plateaus hit.
  • Training progress resumes and gradually the ego becomes less and less present or important.
  • The student is ‘totally‘ open and receptive – nothing to prove to themselves or others.

Sense of self not ‘Ego’

The ramble here is not to define these steps any further or get into the psychology behind it all. I can comfortably leave that to far brighter and schooled minds than mine to explore, but for now I’ll liken it to streetwear fashion. My guy starts with no style at all, then steps it up a bit, looking like most others, then looking a bit sharper, then pushes it further and turns out uber dapper, but take it that one step too far and he’s ended up looking like a proper numpty and back to zero style points.

Importantly ‘sense of self’ and confidence is necessary, especially in close quarter fighting styles, such as Wing Chun, being comfortable where others aren’t is 100% crucial in fact. This can be developed in training, but you need to take the leap of faith and get in there to begin with, it’s not a usual human behaviour to ‘go on the offence’ straight away. My key point is simply how hugely destructive an ‘unchecked ego’can be in a collaborative training environment.

“It can literally make someone else leave an art they love”

It can literally make someone else leave an art they love, never to return. So, here’s the thing that you firstly need to face ‘you’re going to get hit’, it’s a stark reality in martial arts. The body won’t like it for sure, but we are pretty resilient as a species and can evolve and adapt. The mind won’t like it, but that can be trained too, reactions can be developed, and muscle memory takes shape from consistency and repetition. But I can’t stress enough, whatever happens ‘you have to be comfortable getting hit’. And this is usually where it all goes belly up, things get twisted, the ‘Big E’ breaks out of the cage and it all goes Pete Tong.

Training together not fighting (Ego Free)

Working together (not against)

When you train with a partner it’s vital to communicate in that initial moment, just to establish the parameters of what you are doing (I don’t mean chat away about last night btw – ‘time stealers are the worst)!

It’s no use just hacking into it and knocking seven bells out of each other – frankly neither of you will learn anything. Also, anyone else who is gently working on improving their confidence to ‘touch hands’ will instantly not want to go near either of you. Or worse still, they think that is the ‘accepted norm’ and go and smash up someone else! It breeds a total lose/lose scenario. Right then, we are getting down to the brass tacks of it all.

  • You’ve agreed what you’re training and who you’re doing it with.
  • You’re confident enough to ‘touch hands’ with a degree of contact.

Something Clicks

Here is the light bulb moment and sadly one that so many people just can’t seem to get their head around.

‘You have got to let your partner land the strike’ – it’s as simple as that. 

If they make the trap on your arms, let them have it. If they get through with a clean punch, let them have it. 

An ‘ego driven’ response would be to counter punch, chop or whatever – even after your partners move is completed. It’s just plain disrespectful and also ‘you’ have learned absolutely nothing as a consequence. Instead of playing it back and working out; how did they get that trap so easily? Why was my torso so exposed for the punch to land that cleanly? Instead “I’m not having that” pops in your mind and it’s all pistols at dawn.

Let’s face it though in a ‘real life’ scenario, your opposition won’t be throttling back on that punch. If it does get through cleanly it will be a very different story for your sternum, solar plexus or the snap – crackle and pop of exposed ribs! Your partner is therefore a gift to help you avoid that searing pain in confrontation.

Leave that ‘inflated ego’ at the door when you train, put it in your shoes, stuff it in your bag, flush it down the toilet if you need to, but ditch it. Doesn’t matter what your skill level is if nobody wants to train with you!

For more on the behavioural traits faced in a social environment be sure to check out

By Bennett Martin

Check out bennett martin on instagram @Bennent_bm



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