I recently saw a post by a former-opponent-turned-friend expressing frustration with failures at the gym. This is a common sentiment held by people of just about every experience and belt level — people view taps in the gym as failures or achievements, and this mentality is detrimental to development.
Stop viewing outcomes of rolls in the gym as failures or successes. The only failure is not showing up, and the only success is being on the mat. The quality of that success depends on the quality of your training session, but even a training session where you tap 1,000 times and enjoy zero “success” is still a success.
Very often I see people with unhealthy mentalities try so hard to “win” in the gym that they miss opportunities to develop. For example, I know one practitioner who only rolls with those physically weaker than him and generally avoids anyone with enough technique to submit him. He’ll proudly parade around after a training session, not realizing that while he may have enjoyed “success” in his rolls that day, he developed nothing, exposed no weaknesses, and ultimately will return the next day at the same level as he was the previous day.
On the other hand, I have training partners who explore. They play in the worst positions against the best guys at the gym trying to figure out how to stop bad things from happening to them. These people will enjoy exponential growth.
Neither of these examples are failures though — both narratives involve people showing up and training, which is success.
The less you let your ego drive how you roll at the gym, the less important these moments will be and the better you’ll be able to draw data from your rolls at the gym. I’d argue that the only time one should consider anything jiu-jitsu related to be successes or failures are times when tangible prizes are involved: competition. Otherwise, you’re just doing it for fun, so why not enjoy yourself and treat the entire experience as a success?
If you can deal with difficult training moments healthily, these are the moments that will shape you as a grappler and make you tougher, and there’s really no greater success to enjoy on the mat. Frustration about moments in training can be motivating, but they often cloud our judgment and make learning from those moments much harder. Recognize that this is a long, difficult journey, and enjoy that journey!