Losing is My Favorite Sport
Everyone at some point is a “competitive” person. Who thoroughly enjoys not connecting successes and highlighting repeated failures?
The stages of grief (and loss) are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What in the world does that have to do with Jiu Jitsu?!
The stages of loss are applied often in difficult sports. Oddly enough, you see practitioners, from beginners all the way through to experienced, upper belt competitors cycle through the stages throughout their martial arts journey. The stages (of loss) surface and become quite hard to hide. So what can we do?
It’s always interesting to see how coaching plays into the Jiu Jitsu artist’s psyche. Some coaches will just butter the artist up, time and time again. Some practitioners feel the need to be buttered up, and will gravitate immensely towards positive words not entirely aware of what stage of loss they are stuck in, or not entirely aware that constant praise is harmful and builds complacency. Other coaches can creatively have the student work towards targeted praise that is more coded and nuanced. Nowadays lots of practitioners whether they want to accept it or not, cycle through a variety of coaches and often end of landing in a phase of a “most opportunistic fit” as opposed to practicality and longevity. The less your coach knows truly about you, the less they’ll be able to help you. Often, the more focused the coach is on themselves, the less they’ll be able to help you. Usually speaking, the more a coach is focused on themselves, the more you’ll focus in on their style and well, styles are nice and all but factor in ability, age and body type while factoring in the practicality of said style. This is why the whole “the best competitors don’t always make good teachers” motto actually has some merit. A great way of indicating a good fit for you is identifying your goals and seeing if they align with your coaches daily practices…For example: your goal may be to become more disciplined. Is your coach a bjj robot with little discipline anywhere else in the world? Another example: your goal may be to be a well-rounded purple belt one day…… Is your coach well rounded? Can they only do stand up? Can they only pull guard? Are their credentials diverse? Coaches have an obligation to provide a diverse resume of the art, not just hone in on what they like or feel is the coolest trick of the year.
One of my goals during the earlier part of my jiu jitsu journey was to control my anger. I knew quickly that a hot headed coach was a terrible fit for me, and although I didn’t have the chance to know the coach on a deeply personal level, their internet presence gave me more than enough information that I needed to know on why that goal and that person couldn’t work together. (Food for thought….Have I accomplished this goal or is it still a work in progress?)
Your job as a student is to be a trial and error warrior. To show little emotion and control pride as often as possible when facing adversity (when winning, obviously, but, when losing, to be specific). To act as if you have a perfect handle on your psychology is even more prideful than to act as if you are unaffected by winning and losing, so it’s perfectly alright to lose sight every now and again. At the top of martial arts principles is self-improvement. (New students…If you prioritize self-improvement you can surpass many practitioners who don’t). If you aren’t improving yourself you could be focused too heavily on the abstract. Jiu Jitsu should be more than “something to do”. It could be more than something you currently enjoy. It should definitely give you confidence to not have to fight if a situation arises and there is a choice in the matter. It could help you transcend your younger, immature self. A lot of this ability on transcending your younger self will be based on who you associate with. Group dynamics are one of the most influential pieces of the puzzle. You can learn a lot by where you’re going by what you’re surrounded by (people wise). Are they normalizing unacceptable behavior? Are you beginning to normalize unacceptable behaviors? Are you becoming you? Are you becoming them? Where do you want to go and what do you want to do with this journey when it’s all said and done? Has the thought crossed your mind before? Are you rushing this decision? Is this decision yours and yours alone? Are you just, “waiting your turn”? Be aware that even people you usually disagree with can somehow influence you if you are watching them ever closely (social media).
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but plenty of higher belts in jiu jitsu have not appropriately addressed the “self” component well enough to have them be appropriate role models, especially for anything outside of “the mats”.
For coaches and students…..Handle adversity. Don’t shy away from a good challenge. Don’t diminish the ability of others. Your weaknesses are always ever present. It’s your job to conquer them, not the teams job to rise to your ever changing expectations.