View Full Version : Humility and surfing

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6/19/2007 6:03pm,
Just a rambling collection of thoughts I came up with recently. Not sure where else to put them.

"After BJJ class recently, I was talking with some beginners I hadn’t yet met, going through introductions and the like. One of them mentioned they’d heard someone else talking about me (dunno who) saying I was pretty good, asking how long I’d been training and stuff like that. I pretty much immediately launched into a self-depreciating speech, emphasising that I barely considered myself an intermediate and pointing out all of the other people and how much better they were. I almost felt a little flush of pride, not at the compliment itself but rather at how “humbly” I had responded to it.

I’m going to go off on a brief tangent here and talk about surfing. Surfing is a weird sport. It has all sorts of unwritten rules that have nothing to do with actual surfing performance and everything to do with image. Admittedly, this is true of most sports but surfing seems to take it to some transcendent level. One of the seemingly most pointless of these rules is the method of measuring waves. To put it simply, it’s considered not just cool but necessary to drastically underestimate the size of any wave you’ve just surfed or are about to surf. What any regular person might estimate as six foot, a dedicated surfer would barely call a three (maybe even a two). The nominal reason for this is that surfers claim to measure the waves from the back rather than the front. The actual reason is that it makes you look nonchalant and cool. You don’t look like a try-hard. You don’t look like you’re trying to make yourself seem better than you actually are.

This got me thinking about BJJ and my response to questions or statements about my relative skills. Was I actually being humble or was I just underestimating the wave? Perhaps I was doing myself a disservice in an attempt to appear humble despite the fact that humility wasn’t something I was actually feeling. That’s not to say I consider myself to be the pre-emptive reincarnation of Helio but I do genuinely feel some pride in my modest grappling abilities. Surely it would be far more honest of me simply to admit it, whilst also admitting my limitations?

My basic point is that the apparent humility of the “I suck” brigade is just that, apparent. Maybe they do suck, maybe they don’t, but the reason they’re telling you they do is that they take a certain pride in supposedly being humble. They’re just underestimating the wave. Does true humility have more to do with an honest assessment of your abilities? If you are genuinely good, is it arrogant to say so?"

A fascinating insight into the human condition? The bleeding obvious? Or am I just talking out of my arse? You be the judge!

6/19/2007 6:08pm,
Humility > arrogance. Also being humble means its more impressive when you kick ass.

Nice story BTW.

6/19/2007 6:13pm,
Yeah I'm the same way, except for the fact that I really do suck. I get comments like "You're really improving, you're going to be good, etc" while someone is choking me the **** out.

6/19/2007 6:22pm,
Depends on the situation,sometimes its more profitable to portray yourself as a beginner/unexperienced,sometimes its better to bluff a bit.
That goes for life in general.
Also Liffguard,did you check out that certain school already?

6/19/2007 6:29pm,
Also Liffguard,did you check out that certain school already?

I'm in a different part of the country at the moment. I won't get a chance to review it properly until September.

6/19/2007 8:00pm,
I bow before your superior humility. I will redouble my efforts,

Also, where do you surf? I try to get to the east coast of Florida around Jax when it's good enough.

6/19/2007 8:17pm,
But seriously, I think humility comes with experience if not sooner. In sports at least, even when you win you know that it is often by the slimmist of margins and that it could have gone the other way.

6/19/2007 10:11pm,
Good post.

Humility is an interesting thing. One the one hand people can be deprecating for "show" meanwhile thinking that they are great at any given endeavor (MA, Origami, whatever), and some people bluster, and try to say they are better than they actually are.

Like Socrates said "the only thing I know is that I know nothing". I don't go around saying that I am T3H D3ADlY. If someone asks me how good I am, I try to be as honest as I can.

So how do you all perceive Humility - is it about being dishonest, and saying that you aren't as good as you actually think you are? Or is it simply not overestimating yourself?

Humility is definitely a desirable trait, but what is it that makes it so worthy an attribute?

Confidence is closely related to humility in my opinion. Overconfidence is possibly the best indicator that someone lacks humility, but lack of confidence is not humility. Confidence without arrogance is what I think of when I hear about humility. That, and knowing that if you excel in one particular area, it doesn't put you above the rest of the world in other respects. I hate it when some of the competitive fighters I've come across treat people like crap and don't care, because they know they could kick their asses.

I admire anyone who has the perception and integrity to be completely honest with themselves, and from what I've seen, those people tend to make the most consistent progress. Arrogance seems to come later.

Scott Larson
6/19/2007 10:30pm,
Fake humility is just another form of arrogance.

Great Socrates quote. There is another quote from a muay chiaya master where he says he has been practicing for 50 years and he still has a lot to learn. I'll try to find the exact quote and post it.

6/20/2007 12:04am,
Cheers for the input guys.

Wldunk, I'm a windsurfer, not a surfer. I know that that's a little like admitting to an Israeli that you're a Palestinian militant but what the hell. There's room on the water for all (and when there isn't, my sail makes me go faster ;-)

6/20/2007 12:23am,
i've actually heard alot about the ties between surfer culture and bjj player culture, especially coming out of brazil. anyone have any comments about this?

6/20/2007 1:22am,
Um, the same uniform?

6/20/2007 4:47am,
While it is possible for people to sound more arrogant when they are being obviously falsely humble, I think that in most cases, humility wins.

Most truly humble people don't say "I suck" if they don't. They're more likely to say "Yeah, I'm ok but there are loads of people better than me".

People like me who openly admit they suck at Judo/BJJ/Whatever are often just giving an honest appraisal of their abilities. I think that MA is possibly the worst thing you can be arrogant about due to the fact that there's always someone happy to kick 7 shades of **** out of you.

6/20/2007 7:08am,
Happy to see a another windsurfer round here. What set up you use? Where you surf?

On the subject when asked on my skills in areas where Im good I normally respond with "I'm alright". This seems to portray both humility but also confidence.

El Neko
6/20/2007 8:28am,
as a grappler and a surfer, this gave me something to think about.... good because I'm at work, and don't really feel like actually working

6/20/2007 8:34am,
Yeah I tell people I suck but there's no "false" in that modesty.