What Does “Leave Your Ego at the Door” Mean?

“Leave your ego at the door” is a common phrase you will see written on the walls of martial arts gyms everywhere. But it has always amused me because it would be almost impossible to do unless everyone had an existential crisis as they walked through the door. But more than merely being helpful, considerate and courteous to people, I think it might be useful to interpret it as not being fearful of receiving feedback or experiencing failure in the learning process.


To simplify the process, we can experience failure and either laugh or cry about it. You probably have to do both at some points, and only ever having one reaction would possibly lead to negative consequences. Maybe accepting it as just the way things are and an unremarkable, expected, and natural part of the process seems to be the healthiest attitude. You might feel awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassed, but no need to make it worse by thinking that those feelings would be rare.

Of course, you will find these new movements and skills difficult at first. Unless you started training as a child, we all come to martial arts at a stage of life when we are probably skilled in different areas, at the very least whatever you do for a profession would give you skills in one area that most people in the same room do not possess. Everyone would likely struggle if they stepped into your day to day activities and had to learn on the job. It’s the expected outcome, predictable and we shouldn’t let it surprise us, throw us off or discourage us from persisting.

Understanding that process could then lead to the more common interpretation of the saying of basically not being arrogant or a jerk. Then maybe becoming less arrogant and more understanding of other peoples struggles and your own could then, in turn, make you a more peaceful person?
If you want to try that out, then martial arts might be an excellent vehicle to do so. Possibly because on some level, fighting or physical struggle has a deeper meaning with a long history in humans nature than other modern skills you could learn. Im not doubting that you could get the same lessons through other professions, but martial arts does seem to have some exceptional qualities to it if that might be what you are looking to achieve.


Or maybe im overthinking it (more than likely) and simply put, just don’t be a goose and injure anyone in the mat by going too hard.

Peace, Love & Raging Waters,
Sonny Brown