On Saturday I competed at a tournament, and I entered a few brackets. In one of my brackets there were only two other competitors, both of whom I had matches with, and both of whom managed to submit me. Because it was only a three-man bracket, I received a bronze medal by default. Anyone who has read my thoughts on default medals knows that I think they are essentially participation trophies for adults. They are not a product of achievement, but rather a product of showing up, and showing up in and of itself does not denote skill or achievement.
However, I stepped onto the podium, and accepted the medal, even though that medal is, in my mind, trash.
The reason I step onto the podium even when I have not earned my place there is not to aggrandize myself, but rather to humble myself, and give my opponents the opportunity to assume their rightfully earned position above me on the podium. They did the work, they beat me, and part of their prize for doing the work is the bragging rights of having beaten me.
I hate losing. But the one thing I hate more than losing are losers who doesn’t accept that they lost, and part of accepting that you lost is giving your opponents the credit they’re due. If you don’t want to be below someone on the podium, don’t lose.
The reality is that I did not earn my default bronze medal, but the reality is that my opponent earned the right to stand above me on that podium. If I deprive him of that, I am effectively depriving him of part of the reward he earned by winning.
If you go around pretending that default medals are legit, that you accomplished something by “showing up when others didn’t,” you’re a poser. Period. If the tournament that you entered and lost is one that anyone could enter, then while you may have shown up, and while showing up may be an accomplishment, that medal you got for showing up is meaningless.
However, if you show up, compete in a two or three-man bracket, and then lose, you should stick around and stand on the podium with the person that beat you. It’s gonna suck. It’s gonna mess you up emotionally. But it’s the right thing to do. And if you beat that person one day in the future in a two-man bracket, the right thing for him to do is to reciprocate.
Competition jiu-jitsu is as much about learning about oneself and one’s jiu-jitsu as it is about stroking one’s own ego. The podium is a part of that. And that’s okay! Just recognize that the next time you want to leave before medals are handed out. Your opponent earned that ego boost. He earned the privilege of standing above you, and it’s gonna suck for you, and that’s okay. You lost. Take it back to the gym with you and win the next one.