Monday, May 7, 2012

Apparently, it doesn't bother you to lose

About a year after I won the world championships, I was out drinking margaritas with Bruce Toups, who, at the time, was the Director of Development for judo in the U.S. If you have never met Bruce, you've missed out on one of the more brilliant analytical minds when it comes to dissecting what it takes to win a judo match. 

He said,

I've watched a lot of judo players over the years, a lot of people I thought had talent. I was trying to figure out why you were the one that won the gold medal. So, I watched every one of your matches that I could find on tape. Here is what I noticed. I saw matches where you lost - I didn't see very many of them - but YOU NEVER LOST THE SAME WAY TWICE.

I remember this (although being nearly 30 years ago, I cannot swear this was verbatim what he said) because it struck me at the time such an odd thing to consider worthy of comment. Of course I never lost the same way twice! I HATE LOSING !!!  Any time I would lose, I'd go back to the dojo and work and work and work on whatever it was so that never happened to me again.

If someone choked me, I would find whoever in the area did that same choke and work out with that person every single round that I could until I could stop it 100% of the time. I'd teach that choke to everyone in my club so that they could try it on me. If I was working with someone who was less experienced or smaller, I'd let him get me in that choke, so I could fight my way out of it. 

At the time, I had just finished competing and had not yet started coaching, so I still had that tunnel vision where I assumed everyone was just like me.

Over the years, I have found that no, not everyone hates losing so much that it eats at them. No, not everyone goes back and works on whatever they lost by. In fact, lots of people go home, say they were unlucky, the referee made a mistake, the other guy got to train in Europe and they didn't or whatever the reason - and then they lose the exact same way next year.

I was working on our book, Winning on the Ground, and Jim had included a move I have seen his son do 100 times, Ronda do 100 times, Aaron Kunihiro do 100 times and so on. My initial reaction was, "Oh God, do we really want to include that? I have seen it SO many times!" But I thought about it for a second and realized that yes, we really do want to include it, for two reasons. First, it is a signature Pedro move and as my friend, Steve Scott says, if he picks up a book by someone famous for a certain thing - whether it is a golf swing in a golf book or an arm bar in a matwork book - he expects to see that thing in there. It's one of the reasons he buys their book. The second reason, though, is that after all of those hundreds of people who have lost to this arm bar, it still works. In part that is because there are always new people coming up. It may be an old move but it's new and amazing to them. 

The other part, though, is that lots and lots of people lose the same way twice. I guess it just doesn't bother them that much. 

This still puzzles me. 


Jorge Almeida said...

It should not puzzle you that for lots of people, winning is not everything. Everyone should thrive to be better and improve their judo (or life) and that is why people should focus on how not to loose twice in the same way as you explained. However, some people think that the energy that they would spend learning how not to loose is not worth it because they have other interests in judo/life. That is also why not everyone goes to the Olympic games and wins international championships. They do not WANT it as much as their competition.
The question that follows is: If people keep loosing and are not that good, should they stop doing judo and going to competitions even if they are not the very best? Is it ok to loose and still have fun practicing and competing in judo? This is because there is only one winner per competition and a bucket of losers. People should be better and not accomodate with failure but the number of losers will always be much higher than the one gold medalist.
For all of this. Win if you are able, but if you loose it is not the end of the world and there are other things in life.
This said, I agree 90% with you that people should "want more" to do things and get them through to the end without making excuses for their failures. However, I think that people also need a good dose of perspective and loosing one medal in a judo competition is not the end of the world. It just means that there is space for improvement, and that cannot be that bad. Life would be pretty borring if we would only do what we are good at. Challenges are what keeps us going, and when you are learning, you loose a lot of times. If you hate yourself every time that you "loose", then it is a life full of hating moments. People may prefer something different.

Anonymous said...

Your reply lacks the gravitas it deserves as you keep saying 'loose' (slack).