No one likes losing. We don’t train and prepare to compete so that we can lose. We want to get our hand raised at the end of a match.
So when is it okay to lose?
Some might say “never” but that is unrealistic for most jiu-jitsu practitioners and frankly, for most of the world in general. No one gets through life without a few losses.
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s often difficult to handle those losses when they come. When we train to win, we focus all of our energy and thinking on those wins we want. Thoughts of losing are often pushed to the back of our minds as negative thinking.
So how do we beat them?
The answer came to me last week when I competed at Team USA’s Grappling team trials. I wanted a spot on Team USA to compete at the world tournament for “Olympic” Jiu-Jitsu.
I worked with the crew at Performex Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on my strength and conditioning and my grappling skills. They got me into better shape than I have ever been in my adult life (shout-out to those guys; they also do distance learning if you need exercise programming). I became stronger, my cardio was through the roof, and my technique was the best it had ever been.
During grappling sessions, I found that I could move more easily than ever before; I could escape bad situations, achieve dominate positions, and hit submissions effortlessly. I knew I was ready for a spot on Team USA.
Then I showed up to the event. My division had BJJ black belts, a National Greco-Roman champion, pro MMA fighters, an NFL strength and conditioning coach, and UFC legend Josh Barnett.
Here I was, a blue belt, about to face down these monsters.
And I did. I stepped onto the mats and fought with everything I had. I achieved underhooks, grabbed at legs, and pressed forward as hard as I possibly could, surprising myself at how similar my strength and conditioning levels were to theirs. I even managed to hit a pretty sweet uchi-mata that I still feel proud of.
But I lost. I lost every single match that day.
I made mistakes I could probably get away with at the blue belt level that left me wide open against my higher-level opponents. When I didn’t make mistakes, I was still outclassed at every turn by the far superior grapplers in front of me.
So is my losing okay because they were light-years ahead of me?
My losses aren’t okay just because they were better. Someone being better than you isn’t what makes it okay to lose a match.
What made it okay was how hard I fought. I gave everything I had.
Had I given up before I stepped onto the mats, my losing would not be okay. It would be horrible and it would haunt me.
Instead, I stepped onto the mats with the intent to win every single match. I didn’t care who was in front of me; I was there to claim my spot on the team.
I fought as though I was going to have my hand raised at the end of each bout. Every person I grappled was just another opponent to me; another obstacle to overcome.
Losing is not okay if you lost because you gave up. Losing is only okay if you fight to win; if you leave it all on the mats and never quit because you’re scared or tired.
Losing is fine when you lose with the effort of a champion.
Rich Franklin, former UFC middleweight champion, gave a Ted talk about this very subject which I recommend viewing when you have time.