Handling Defeat: Why Your Loss is NEVER Your Opponent’s Fault

A few years ago I competed in a submission only, no points, no time-limit tournament. It was the end of the day and I was tired, but I had one more match for 3rd place in the open weight division. My opponent? A massive, 400lb man; and he was doing the splits as a warm-up. Our match began and ended quickly. He threw me, pounced into side-control, and finished me. When I left the mat, a teammate of mine said, “No worries, man. He was huge.”


My teammate was wrong. Yes, he was big, but he was wrong in his attempt to shift the blame off of me. The blame for my loss, in reality, rested with me. I hadn’t taken training for this competition seriously at all. I was showing up to class twice a week, barely drilling, and taking it super easy during open mats. I didn’t lose because that guy was big or strong. I lost because I hadn’t prepared.ROBERTO_CYBORG_ABREU_2009_BJJ_Championships

Excuses seem to be the rule rather than the exception when we lose. I get it. Taking blame sucks. We don’t like losing and we like being wrong even less. So we talk about how the other guy was bigger than we were, or we talk about how his teammate said something rude to us before the match. Hell, we’ll even talk about those damn, slippery mats before we talk about how we just weren’t ready like we should have been.


Back in the day when I did traditional martial arts, I had an instructor who shared a lesson that has stuck with me ever since. He drew a line on a sheet of paper and held it up in front of the class. “How can we make this line small?” he asked. We all shouted out answers, “Erase part of it,” “Rip the paper in half,” “Fold it over”. He paused, shook his head at us, and drew another, much larger line on the paper. “How does that first line look now?” he asked us. He then went on to explain that we never make an opponent small by breaking them down. We make them small simply by being bigger.

We should never belittle someone’s victory over us with excuses. Don’t break their line. Instead, we should just realize that we need to improve; to make our lines bigger, so to speak. Don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate excuses. Sometimes we get sick or injured and can’t compete to the best of our abilities, or even at all if that’s the case. That’s ok. The idea though, is to not get stuck in a cycle where we always have an excuse ready for our short-comings. A loss can be a great teacher if we allow it to be.

From now on, if you lose, it isn’t your opponent’s fault. It’s yours. You own it. Realize you failed somewhere and that you need to improve. Then go and improve. When you start making excuses, you’re giving your power away. You stop improving. If you stop improving in Jiu-Jitsu, then why would you even bother doing it?


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