At the Pan Kids Championship this weekend, I was moved by the amount of emotion I witnessed. These kids brought every bit as much passion to those mats as I have seen at an adult world championship. They fought their little hearts out. There were many tears at the end of matches, both happy and sad. I often heard the phrase “you win, or you learn” thrown around. I’ve always had a hard time with this phrase, mainly because I believe that losing is important. Losing is a normal, integral part of both life and Jiu-Jitsu, and I believe it should be acknowledged. However, I understand the sentiment behind this famous phrase. If we look at it with the right perspective, losing can be a springboard from which we spur enormous growth.
After any competition, we have an opportunity. An opportunity for growth. A chance to become better. Win or lose, we have certainly made mistakes, and have areas in which we can grow. I learn so much every time I compete. Losses in particular spotlight our weaknesses.
Losses are super important to growth in Jiu-Jitsu. While we can still learn from our wins, our losses can motivate us in ways a victory never could. No-one likes to lose, but it’s going to happen. We can’t always control the outcome of a match. What we can do is control how we respond to a loss. We can choose to feel sad and defeated, or we can take the experience and learn from it. We can decide to become stronger.
Regardless of the outcome, make the most out of your tournament experience. Once your adrenaline has calmed down, take time to think through your matches. If you have video footage, go back and watch your matches with a critical eye. Pinpoint what you did well, and be honest with yourself about what you can improve. Don’t just find ways to improve, but sit down and write out a plan for how you will improve. Talk to your professor. Talk to your teammates. Ask for advice on what you can specifically do to take your game to the next level. Also, think about the things your opponent did that gave you trouble. Specifically, target these problems in future training. Try to put yourself in those sticky situations so that you can figure out ways to solve them. Taking a proactive approach to your losses will not only help you get better quickly, but it will also take a potentially crushing experience and create a positive mindset in which you feel encouraged and motivated to move forward.
There is a lot that goes into a competition in the weeks and months leading up to it. Reflect on your preparation. Did you do everything possible to succeed? Were you careful with your diet? Did you get enough sleep? Were you mentally focused? Were you consistent in your training? Did you push yourself to do your best every training? Did you avoid tough rounds, or did you try to spar with the training partners who would push you the most? If you can be honest with yourself and think critically about your preparation, you can start to make changes. You can learn and you can do better in the future.
At the end of the day, maybe you did everything right and still lost. It happens. Maybe your ref made a mistake. Maybe your opponent was super tough. Maybe it just wasn’t your day. That’s OK. It’s OK to lose. We can still grow from the experience. We can become mentally tougher. We can go back and train to be so tough that nothing can stand in our way next time.
Champions are not those who never lose. They are those who take their losses and come back harder every time.
As Rocky famously said,
“It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”
Keep going. Keep learning. Never, ever give up.