I’ve written at length about the benefits of competition and the stress inoculation that it provides us. There is no question that putting it on the line at competition will make you a mentally stronger person and that there are countless. One of my non-jiu jitsu friends asked me a great question today: what are the benefits of losing? I think this is a great question both for jiu jitsu and for life.
For starters, I’ve heard said on many occasions “In Jiu Jitsu, you either win or you learn…”
I read an anecdote at BJJheroes.com about Royler Gracie “It was with his father and brother that Royler started taking competition seriously, Helio Gracie would encourage him to compete by saying “If you win, I will give you 5 dollars. If you lose, I will give you 10 dollars”. At first Royler did not understand his father’s intentions, but later he comprehended that this was his way of taking the pressure off his back.” (Royler Gracie Jiu Jitsu)
On a basic level, losing means that we have selected an appropriate level of competition. If I were to enter a kids’ tournament my chances of winning would go up because of my physical size and strength, but that wouldn’t be a gleaming symbol of my success but rather and indictment of my choice of competition. Losing means that you’ve picked worthy opponents.
Losing provides us with much needed feedback as to what we can be doing better. From every loss, one can derive data. That data can be as simple as “Work on your half guard” or can be more complex, along the lines of “learn to relax when competing.” A loss can be caused by many factors, and the reality is that determining what those factors are and addressing them is the best way to prevent that loss from recurring.
I’ve learned that when I compete, if I assume that victory is a foregone conclusion I very often lose, whereas if I go into the match with the mindset that I’m going to lose, and accepting that I’m going to lose, I tend to win or at least do far better than I expected. It’s not that I don’t want to win or don’t believe that I can win, but like Royler in the anecdote with Helio, the fact that I don’t put myself under any pressure at all actually gives me a substantial advantage. This mindset doesn’t work for everyone, but just once try going into a rolling session or a match with the mentality of “I’m rolling against a superior grappler, I cannot win this” but try to win anyways… You may surprise yourself.
Losing makes us humble, it makes us appreciate what it means to win, and it gives us empathy for others when they lose. Kids who never lose don’t really value victory, and turn into un-ambitious, weak and annoying adults. Losing is an integral part of jiu jitsu, and I’ve heard said many times that you learn more from a loss than from a win. When you win, you went out there and did what you know how to do and it worked, when you lose, you went out there and experienced something for which you weren’t ready. That experience can translate to new goals as long as you are able to look past your own feelings.
Even a loss in which your opponent cheated is a learning opportunity, you need to learn to recognize when someone’s cheating and how to counteract that specific method of cheating. Every single loss is a learning opportunity.
I could write for a long time on the benefits of losing, and I’m sure I’d still miss a lot of details. It’s such a complex concept in the Gentle Art that we all struggle to wrap our heads around on a daily basis.