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Of Alpha and Beta Traits

February 22, 2010

Are you an alpha lion or a beta mouse? Why not both?

I am, by default, a beta male.

I care, I nurture. My tendencies are non-agressive. I’m non-confrontational. I go out of my way to make others feel better. I’m social, I’m friendly, and I “get along well with others”. I write a blog on jiu-jitsu sharing my experiences in the hopes that someone somewhere will find my words useful and adjust their game for the better.

In other words, I am a nice guy. 🙂

Alpha male traits are easy to define. Big, strong, aggressive, fearless, bold. Very clear cut in sports as most alpha qualities are physical. The larger, faster, stronger, better athlete always wins.

Then jiu-jitsu came around and changed everything. One of the main reasons I joined jiu-jitsu was because it appealed to those of a smaller size. I didn’t need to be “big” or “strong” to excel at jiu-jitsu because there was Royce taking names and kicking ass as my proof positive evidence. I didn’t have to be an alpha male to choke out an alpha male.

Of course my approach to training also helped enforce this notion for me. Training was serious, but at most times it was fun and relaxed. More of a social gathering. Outside of class, during open mat, I worked on my own jiu-jitsu at leisure and opted to help others work on theirs.

Both traits – alpha and beta – have good and bad qualities. I believe both the positive alpha and beta charactistics are necessary in order to achieve one’s potential in jiu-jitsu.

Alpha traits in jiu-jitsu show up as hardcore competitors, top position players, and highly aggressive games. An alpha type practitioner will advance very quickly in the art. This is a very cutthroat manner of training. The alpha mindset is strong and self-assured. A purely alpha practitioner is someone who is bad for the growth of jiu-jitsu outside of the realm of high powered athleticism. Being 100% alpha is elite and very exclusive. Sure they’re badass, but no one enjoys their company or rolling with them. Even with someone of similar skill will not like sparring with them. They aren’t generally well respected. They aren’t very sociable. They are the douchebags of the jiu-jitsu world.

Beta traits in jiu-jitsu are non-competition practitioners, bottom position players and passive low-intensity games. A beta player will advance slowly but surely, and often be more grounded in the art – think beta testers for video games. Always working, always trying to figure things out. They are problem solvers. They’ll be more than willing to help others out with the holes in their respective games.

A purely beta practitioner is someone who will not get very far in the art. Being 100% beta is being dangerously close to McDojo skill level. They usually have low opinions of themselves and their game – confidence is an alpha trait – which is why they are quick to point out the mistakes of others hopefully to improve their own personal value in the school, thereby improving the school itself, but never their own skills. They are lazy. They are the wall flowers, the people that occupy the sidelines who are not tired looking, sweaty or nursing an injury. Nothing stops them from participating in extra rounds of sparring yet they do not. They are content to remain at their skill level and not challenge themselves.

I am not suggesting that one aspect is better than the other. I am saying the great ones in jiu-jitsu will most definitely have both aspects. You can’t be a multiple world champion and be a dick at the same time. Or you can – those with the same mentality as you will flock to you, you will be somewhat successful – but eventually you will alienate yourself from those casually interested, not looking to be champions, thinking of a new hobby. By the same token, you can’t expect to be great if you constantly help others, lack a competitive edge or the desire to put in the effort, or always play the “I don’t need insert physical aspect here” card.

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