Monday, November 21, 2016

How to be a Better Loser

Image result for loser

No one likes to lose. And if you train jiu jitsu, you’re probably pretty competitive and like losing about as much as you like finding your face buried in your training partner’s sweaty armpit. But if you are a true competitor, losing is par for the course. In my opinion, unless you are of Rodger Gracie caliber, never losing means either a) you don’t compete enough or b) you don’t compete at a high enough level.

My instructor has a saying: "Winning is affirmation and losing is information." If you win, that's awesome. But when you lose, that's when you most have the opportunity to learn and get better. If we are so paralyzed by the fear of losing that we are afraid to take a match, we are stunting our own growth. And that can hurt us, because short grapplers don’t land as many triangles.

So what to do when the inevitable happens? I’m not trying to brag here, but I’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice my losing skills, so I’ve given the issue a good deal of thought. Here is my guide for losing as graciously and productively as possible:

Give credit where credit is due
First and foremost, congratulate your opponent and give her props for her victory. Thank your coaches and training partners for helping you get ready for the match as well.

No podium stink face
This is my competition pet peeve. No fleeing the mat before your opponent gets his hand raised, no storming off the mat period, and no stink face on the podium. If you do any of these things, you will look like a giant baby. You are also robbing your opponent of his time to enjoy the moment.  It’s ok to get emotional – I sometimes do - but try to do so in a private place. 

Assess your preparation

Once you've survived the photos and awards, it's time to learn from your mistakes. Examine your mental state and nutrition leading up to the match. What worked and what didn't? What about your training? Were you as prepared as you should have been? What would you do differently next time?

Take video of your match and review it later with your coach
This is your chance to really learn from your match. You can see exactly where things went wrong and you can rewind and re-watch as often as necessary. Ask yourself: What did you do well? What mistakes did you make? How could you achieve a better outcome next time?

Make “I” statements
Whether in training or in competition, you can make a million excuses for why someone got the better of you. I'll admit, I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I hear excuses creep into my self-talk all the time and it takes mental work to turn these statements around. It's not that these excuses are wrong - they may be perfectly legitimate. Within a skill level, physical attributes play a huge role in determining rolling outcomes. Yet, I think it's unproductive to cite these attributes as reasons for losing. When I take responsibility for my own rolls I feel less discouraged, because instead of blaming a loss on external factors, it gives me the power to change my jiu jitsu. Here’s what I mean:

Instead of saying:
He beat me because he is so strong
My jiu jitsu was not good enough to overcome his strength advantage
Her guard was just too flexible to pass
My pressure passing was not tight enough to pin her flexible hips
He was just too explosive to hold down
 I wasn’t able to stabilize my top positions
She only submitted me because she knew a fancy, new move that I had never seen
My fundamentals weren’t strong enough to shut down her unpredictable move

Get back to the gym
It’s easy to feel discouraged after a loss. You might even be tempted to lay off the mats for a bit. But instead, why not use the sting of defeat to fire up your training? Get mad! Now’s the time to train more and train harder. Take what you learned from watching your match and work on your mistakes. No one likes to lose, but, when it happens, defeat can be one of the best things to push your jiu jitsu to a new level. You just have to keep training.