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Jiu Jitsu Imposter Syndrome

I’m heading into a school to do a talk today about my “Path through education”, which to me is a new one. I’ve done ones on self defence, fitness, youth development, but never my own education. I am bricking it to be honest but I’ll let you know how it went next week.

My nerves are unusual if you think about it, after all, I know everything about this topic- me- whereas speaking on anything else as an expert requires study, experience, and research. But I know what it is.

I hadn’t heard the term Imposter Syndrome until someone said it to me when I got my Jiu Jitsu black belt (9 years ago now). Immediately it made sense. In fact, it had made sense every time I got a new belt in Jiu Jitsu. It’s like expecting some guy with a clipboard to walk in at any stage and say “Oh, Oglesby. Yes there’s been a mistake. You shouldn’t be here.”

Imagine that, after 20 years of coaching and 25 of martial arts. But that’s the way some of us are built. I like to think it’s what moves us to improve. Lets put it in Jiu Jitsu belt terms.

When I give a new belt, the person is sometimes a shoe-in. everyone knows they’re good enough. It’s obvious. But I often give someone a new belt, say the blue belt, when they’re right on the cusp of it. It’s not so obvious to those who train with them, and it’s definitely not obvious to the person themselves.

What I’ve discovered is that the person grows into it. The act of promotion gives them the impetus to improve. They get better and meet the standard after the fact.

I don’t do it all the time. After all someone who is just being lazy isn’t going to magically improve once I give them a belt. But for others, it’s a confidence boost, and a little pressure to push on and make themselves worth it. Imposter syndrome as a motivator perhaps?

And I suppose you can do that in my game, but not so much in education. “Well you haven’t passed your anatomy exam, but we’re going to let you be a doctor anyway as we think you’ll grow into it.” You should never have imposter syndrome as a doctor or a pilot! But maybe it's not so bad in other ways.

Anyway, wish me luck. I’m planking it.

See you on the mat,


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