I started competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu very late in my journey. In fact, I waited until deep in to brown belt to begin testing my BJJ pedigree against others. I wasn’t confident in my abilities for the longest time, and where I began my training there just wasn’t much support for anyone that was interested in pursuing competition. Despite my huge interest in competing, this atmosphere unfortunately kept me off the competition mat for many years.
Being a brown belt, and having never competed is BJJ is quite the mental hurdle. But after meeting who would become my new Professor and gaining some confidence, I eventually registered for my first competition. It was an ADCC Nationals event. The name itself intimidated me. I second guessed myself from the moment I clicked “register’. I felt that I was out of my league and that I had picked the wrong event. Why didn’t I just choose something local to get my feet wet?
I trained hard, I stayed focused, and as the weeks went by, I grew more and more confident. But that confidence was interrupted by frequent moments of anxiety, worry, and loads of self-doubt. I would get through them and keep pushing forward, but they never went away. It wasn’t debilitating, but I had to learn to manage all of these feelings (this management later became one of my favorite things about committing to a competition) so that I could focus on the task at hand. The day came, I made the trip with my team, and I tried to prepare myself mentally during the hours leading up to the competition.
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After a long wait, and the agony of anticipation, I had my first match. I won by points and was treated to the unforgettable experience of having my hand raised. An amazing feeling for sure. The group was small, so the win actually put me in to a finals match, where I lost by heel hook. It was a fairly easy win for the other guy. I was not well versed in leg locks at this point, and quite honestly wasn’t sure what to do about it. That was it. The competition was over. I felt a deep sense of pride for stepping out there and the experience made me incredibly hungry to try again. So, I walked away with second place and when I got back home, I immediately started looking for my next competition endeavor. Since then, I have always welcomed a challenge.
I have lost more than I’ve won. And that is the focus of this story. Losses. I am no storied competitor. Throwing my hat into the competition ring almost 9 years in to my BJJ journey has left me far behind other black belts that have been competing since the commencement of their training. Still, this does not keep me from stepping in to the arena. I can also say with some confidence that my losses have sparked more growth than any of my wins.
We all love to win, it feels good, but every loss has subsequently been followed by vast improvements and jumps in my BJJ level. There’s something incredibly motivating about a loss that drives me to try harder, focus, and seek higher ground.
What I’m trying to say is that losing is incredibly important. Many of us are taught all throughout our lives that losing is failure, and we develop certain feelings toward it. We resist it, we fear it, and sometimes it can even cause some of us to give up. But losing isn’t the worst thing that can happen. Stopping is the worst thing that can happen. Staying stagnant is the worst thing that can happen. Learning nothing is the worst thing that can happen.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing your hard wok pay off in the form of a win, is a very satisfying feeling. Those that pay the price, sacrifice, and come out on top deserve their moment. Winning lets you know were doing something right, and that’s always a good affirmation. Top tier competitors sacrifice more than some of us could ever imagine to claim their places among the elite athletes of our sport. This is more than commendable and these titans of our craft deserve to be praised for their achievements.
Don’t treat your losses like the plague. No one is counting them, no one is keeping track. It’s ok to be disappointed, but don’t run from your losses, don’t allow them to undermine your drive and work ethic. Learn from them. Give yourself a day to shake it off, assess your performance, focus on what went wrong and get to work with a renewed sense of purpose.
There are highs and there are lows, I’ve received fight of the night honors, and I’ve been choked unconscious in front of 1000 people. I treat both as equally important experiences.
I cherish my losses. They are responsible for my greatest jumps in progress, and they’ve lit some of the biggest fires of my entire short career as a competitor. I truly believe that without them, my level would be much lower than it is.
Though it came late, I’m glad that I started competing. Regardless of the outcome, every match I’ve taken part in has been like taking the equivalent 100 BJJ classes. I always come back refreshed and ready to hit the mat with a new sense of purpose and motivation.
Learn to love your losses. They are your allies not your enemies. There’s something to be gained from each of them. Each loss is unique in why it came to be, and we can analyze these moments to help gain understanding of what happened and why. Treat each loss as a chance to reach a new level in your training. Treat each one as a chance to begin shedding your old skin and morphing into the next best version of yourself.
Always keep moving forward.
If ANYONE knows about moving forward it’s Tom DeBlass. DeBlass has influenced LEGIONS of people across the globe with his MINDSET. The Road To Black Belt And Beyond By Tom DeBlass uncovers what it takes to not only be a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu, But a Black Belt in LIFE!