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The Role of Ego in Martial Arts


Most people who have been training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and submission grappling for any length of time have probably heard the phrase, “Leave your ego at the door.” It is usually associated with the Gracie family, who are credited with bringing BJJ to popular awareness through the Ultimate Fighting Championship. 

“Leave your ego at the door” is a typical admonishment for newcomers to the sport; as you cross the threshold into the grappling academy, tap into your humility really fast. Understand you know even less than you think you do about how this sport works, and if you think you know a lot because you have been inventing your own moves in your friend’s matted garage or strengthening your neck muscles to become impervious to chokes, that means you know less than anybody. 

The phrase encompasses the idea that you cannot get better at BJJ unless you are first willing to be terrible at it - and then to work your keister off. It also speaks to the fact our teachers appear in unlikely forms: your best instructor might be someone who weighs half what you do, is much younger or much older than you, or otherwise does not fit your preconceived notion of “teacher.” You can learn a vital home truth about BJJ from a rank beginner as well as from the most seasoned expert - if you are willing to do so. People you don’t think should be able to “school” you will “school” you on a regular basis. Thus, the phrase also reminds us that we have autonomy; more of what happens to us on the mat is within our control than we may realize or want to take responsibility for. 

As I have persisted in the sport, my orientation to this phrase has changed somewhat. I’m still quick to shout from the mountaintops that I know very little about BJJ and will never learn in the rest of my life even a fraction of what there is to know. That being said, however, I do believe at this stage of my development, I must be willing to accurately assess my strengths and weaknesses. This means I must be able to identify what I’m good at as well as what I need to work on. Thus, I still leave my ego at the door, but I make sure it is watching and taking notes. 

As with most things related to BJJ, I see many parallels between what I need to do on the mat and what I need to do in life. So it turns out I leave my ego at most doors, regardless of whether they lead into my grappling academy, into an interaction with a friend or family member, or into a work situation. At least, I try to do this. 

Greenway Student Highlight— Savannah Ewing

What is your name and age?

My name is Savannah Ewing, and I am 22 years old. 

When did you join Elite MMA?

I joined late September or early October of last year. 

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

I have always been interested in self-defense and martial arts, so when I got the chance in college, I took a judo class and a couple of self-defense classes.  About a year after I moved to Houston, I became bored with my exercise routine and decided I wanted to get back into martial arts. 

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

It’s usually a time thing.  Throughout high school, college, and now med school, I’ve played multiple sports at a time on top of school and work, and unfortunately, I’m not very good at narrowing my interests down.  This school year, however, I forced myself to stick to just MMA, crossfit, and school rather than trying to do everything.

Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

This isn’t my first time taking martial arts, but it is my first time actually being a member.  I have gone to karate, jiu jitsu, and self defense classes with friends before, but usually only once every year or so.  As I mentioned, in college, I took a couple of semesters of self-defense and a semester of judo.


If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

My only concern about joining Elite was trying to balance with med school.  My first year of med school I had class all day and the only way to keep up with the material is to go straight home and study.  With working out in the morning and studying before school, my schedule was basically 3 or 4 am to 10 pm every day.  Thankfully that only lasted one semester!  This year, our school schedule is much more forgiving, which is why I decided to go ahead and join after the first couple months of my second year.

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

Training at Elite has been a wonderful experience and I am proud of what I have learned here!  When I first started, rolling was always scary to me.  I would pick up the techniques pretty quickly in class, but as soon as I tried to put it into practice, I would panic and have no idea what to do.  It teaches you to think quickly under pressure and to deal with frustration.  I learned early on that getting frustrated and angry only makes it easier for your opponent to trap you; I’m still working on that one.  I suppose it’s not so much an accomplishment as a work in progress, but jiu jitsu has trained me to deal with frustration and stress much differently.  When that doesn’t work, kicking and punching things in kickboxing always does the trick!  

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

I have absolutely loved the time I get to spend training at Elite!  The coaching staff is incredible and there are always training partners who want to help you and make you better.  My advice would be, “Don’t wait to start!”  Now that I have been training for a while, I wish I had started as soon as I moved to Houston! 



Westheimer Instructor Highlight: David Campbell


What is your martial arts teaching history and where do you currently teach?

For the past 2-3 years I have been helping teach the Fight Fit classes. Starting in August of 2015 I started teaching the Friday lunch BJJ classes. My mom was a bilingual kindergarten teacher, so I have always had a passion to coach and teach.    

What is your current rank in martial arts?

I am brown belt with 1 stripe in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 

What caused you to start practicing martial arts?

I did Vietnamese Martial Arts (Vo Vi Nam) when I was a sophomore in high school. I started training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in June of 2008. I just started working at Elite MMA in May and Hai Nguyen suggested I started training BJJ. I was extremely hesitant and scared during my first few months. 

But as I started to attend classes on a regular basis, it became a big part of my life.

In the past year I have started taking boxing classes. As someone who focused on just Jiu Jitsu for the first 7 years I see the importance of being well rounded in martial arts. 


Do you have a competitive history in martial arts?

I have done 2 BJJ tournaments. What I have enjoyed about competing is a chance to get myself out of my comfort zone and compete with other students I train with. 

What do you see is the main benefit the average individual can receive from martial arts?

I believe martial art teaches you confidence while being pushed physically and mentally. I also believe it’s one of the most fun ways to get yourself in shape and teach you how to really defend yourself in a friendly environment, while making friends.  

Where do you hope martial arts will take you later in your life?

My goal is to achieve my black belt in the next 2-3 years and continue practicing for as long as my body holds up. 


How Does Stress Affect Your Training?


The adrenal glands are situated on each of the kidneys and serve as the master glands for the endocrine (hormone) system. The major function of the adrenal glands is to govern how we react to stress. The adrenal glands produce a number of hormones, particularly cortisol and neurotransmitters like adrenaline. The production of these hormones provides us the means to escape imminent danger. This “fight or flight” response is a protective mechanism which provides humans with the energy and resources to either defend ourselves or flee from danger. 


In the book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, author Robert Sopolsky explains that all creatures, including humans, are exposed to periodic stress, and have an inherent need to escape that stress. Although we generally no longer have to flee from the same imminent stresses and dangers as our ancestors, our bodies do not differentiate between the stress of driving in rush hour traffic or fleeing from a saber-toothed tiger. Every stress exposure creates the same reaction in us. This constant barrage of stress created by living in the modern world can exhaust our adrenals, a situation known as hypoadrenalism or more commonly referred to as “adrenal fatigue.”


Studies indicate that 75-90 percent of patient visits to primary care physicians are due to the adverse effects of stress on our health. Some of the common symptoms seen in adrenal stress are fatigue, non-refreshing sleep, lack of energy, sugar and salt cravings, mild depression, frequent infections, inability to get out of bed in the morning, panic attacks, PMS symptoms, allergies, low libido, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, joint pain and reduced memory.


The longer the stress continues, the more exhausted our adrenals become. When that occurs, our adrenals cannot provide adequate amounts of hormones and neurotransmitters. We no longer overproduce these hormones, but rather under-produce them. This accounts for the major symptom of adrenal exhaustion, overwhelming fatigue. When our adrenals are not functioning properly, there is a cascade of negative effects that affect our thyroid and sex hormone balance as well.


Naturally, the simplest way to address adrenal exhaustion caused by stress is to remove the stressors. However, few of us can easily change our jobs or the situations and relationships that are creating our stress. Instead, we can address stress management and adrenal support by improving our diet, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep, and other lifestyle modifications. If you want support in mangaging your stress or adrenal fatigue give Zoetic Compounding Pharmacy a call 832-487-9287.


Ashley Nguyen, PharmD 


Zoetic Compounding Pharmacy




Ashley has been a student at Elite MMA since 2005.  She is currently a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  She founded Girls in Gi’s in 2009, which was a project she took on to empower and enroll women mentally and physically and by using BJJ as the platform for that. She is also a wife, mother, and a pharmacist that loves helping people to feel better, perform better, or just feel as normal as possible.




Baytown Student Highlight— Mondana Talabi 

What is your name and age?

Mondana Talabi and I am 18 years old. 

When did you join Elite MMA?

I joined Elite MMA in November 2015 

Why did you decide to start taking martial arts?

I really wanted to start working on my weight and build muscle and self defense as well. 

In the past what had caused you not to take martial arts?

I am very busy with school full-time and working part time at a Pediatric Clinic, but I finally made the time.


Is this your first time taking martial arts and what classes do you take?

Yes, and I am currently enrolled in the adult Kickboxing classes in the afternoon. 

If you had any concerns about joining Elite MMA, what helped you with your decision?

My decision was based on finally deciding to do something that I wanted to do and also what helped my decision was being welcomed into Elite MMA so kindly as I was. Usually, I am very shy, but Robert and Julian welcomed me like everyone else and I felt at home. 

Since you have been part of Elite, please share what you have been able to accomplish?

I have been able to lose around 10 lbs and gain muscle which I am very happy about. 

Anything else you want to share with someone who is looking to get involved with martial arts or looking to change their current lifestyle?

START NOW. Don't wait until next year or postpone to the next month because I did that for about 6 months and all it did was set me back. This is an amazing gym and the instructors are pretty great! So try the first class and become a part of the Elite MMA family! 

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