Losing Like A Champion: The Art of Turning Defeat Into Victory

Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend five weeks living, training, and competing in California.

The heartache of loss in a BJJ Competition

During those weeks I learned about success and failure. I went from wining a World Championship without having a single point scored against me to losing my first fight in the next competition. A competition I should have won.

What happened? That’s an excellent question and something I’ve asked myself a lot since returning to the UK.

But that’s not the point of this article, although I will be writing about it soon.

This article is about how I learned to lose like a champion and went from consistently losing major competitions to becoming a two-time world champion. I have learned far more about about myself and my skills from losing than I ever have from wining.

Don’t get me wrong– winning is great. I love having my hand raised at the end of a match and the feeling of standing in the middle on the podium. My victories in competition are some of my proudest achievements. But in terms of development, winning doesn’t teach the same lessons as losing. Winning simply means I did everything right; losing means something different.

Of course, if I made mistakes along the way to victory I learn from them, but I find losing a much more educational experience.

The heartache of loss in a BJJ Competition

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

Many people view losing as failure. And I can see why, of course. It’s hard not to view losing and the associated feelings as failing. I choose to take Thomas Edison’s view on failure. Each and every failure simply gets me one step closer to your goal. Edison famously took over 10’000 attempts before he succeed in creating the light bulb. Imagine how different the world would be if he’d stopped at 9’999.

So how do you lose like a champion and achieve outstanding results through failure?

I’m sure there are a number of ways to reach your goal and overcome failures. Personally, I follow a four rules that have allowed me to come back stronger after every loss; they have always helped me to move one step closer to my goals after suffering the disappointment of defeat. Here they are.

Rule #1: Be Gracious In Defeat.

“Strive to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat.” – Boots Williams

Losing is a unfortunate reality of competition and life. We would all like to go through our entire competition career undefeated. However, very few competitors ever achieve this.

So when the unfortunate day arrives and you lose your first competition, you are faced with two options.

One is to shout, scream, curse the referee, and throw a fit. All of these things will only make you look foolish and damage your reputation.

Instead, choose to be gracious in defeat.

Congratulate your opponent, and walk out with your head held high. Simply by stepping in to the arena of combat, you have achieved something most people will never even dream of accomplishing.

Of course it’s emotionally hard, but that is a good thing. It means you care about your performance and the outcome of all your hard work.

Rule #2: Analyze Your Performance

“My past has not defined me, destroyed me, deterred me, or defeated me; it has only strengthened me.” – Steve Maraboli

Defeat can happen for any number of different reasons and most of them had little to do with my technical performance. I have lost competitions because I over-trained, under-trained, ate poorly, didn’t rest properly, lost my focus, and for many other reasons.

It’s important to analyze your whole competition process not just your matches. The problem could be in your training, your lifestyle, your diet, or a host of other areas. By reviewing your competition preparation as a whole, it will allow you to learn from your mistakes and avoid them in the future.

Knockout victory | Kickboxing Plymouth

Rule #3: Get Back On The Horse

“Defeat doesn’t finish a man, quit does. A man is not finished when he’s defeated. He’s finished when he quits”. – Richard Nixon

The only time you are truly defeated is when you quit.

Use a competition loss to motivate you to improve your performance. Providing you are fit and healthy, try to get back in to competition as fast as possible.

The longer you take off between competitions, the more you will begin to question your abilities. This can be devastating for a competitor’s mental attitude.

Rule #4: Take Action

“When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.” – Napoleon Hill

It is all well and good accepting a competition loss, analyzing your performance, and setting new goals, but if you don’t make changes then the result will be the same.

Take action and implement any necessary changes to your training or life. Evaluate your performance, set new goals, make a plan, and take action.

“No man is really defeated unless he is discouraged.” – Bruce Lee

In my experience, competition loss can be devastating. Without each and every loss I would not be where I am today.

Next time you suffer a loss, don’t let that loss discourage you. Instead, embrace it, learn from it and make the necessary adjustments that will lead you to your goal. Understanding the reasons why you lost and the ways to mitigate those issues in the future is part of the learning process.

And remember the path to achieving success never easy, but don’t failures discourage you. They are simply learning experiences.

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