GB Student Question : “I lost in my first tournament and feel devastated!”

A Jiu-Jitsu student messaged me fresh after their first tournament experience.
The white belt student had trained hard and had high expectations and really wanted to win in front of the friends and team mates. However, the opponent in the open division was a higher belt level with a lot more competition experience. After getting their guard passed, they gave up their back and we’re forced to tap to a rear collar choke and lost the match.
The student was feeling really disappointed after the loss and thoughts were swirling around in their head.
“I feel like I let my coach down. He did all he could to teach me.”
Hold on a moment. Let’s not get too down on ourselves for a single match in your first tournament experience.

Competition is a high stress experience for most Jiu-Jitsu students. The nervous anticipation of waiting for their name to be called. Fighting in an unfamiliar environment against a stranger. The adrenaline dump, the tunnel vision when the match starts. It can be a very intense experience for most!
Of course everyone wants to win all of their matches. But the reality is that only 1 competitor is going undefeated that day and everyone else is going home reflecting on a loss. Losing a tournament match may not feel great, but everyone who competes will have to deal with losses. It’s just part of competing.
It helps to understand that sometimes the other competitor had more skill and more experience and was just better on that day. Oftentimes it wasn’t so much the losers mistake as the opponent just fought well that day and got the win.
There are a couple of important questions that I asked the dejected student.
“Did you enjoy the experience of competing? Is it something you feel that you want to try again after more preparation?”
Some people LOVE to compete. While others love to train Jiu-Jitsu but didn’t like dealing with the nerves that come with competition. And that’s perfectly ok.
Most importantly “What did you learn from competing?”
This is THE most imporatnt lesson to take from the competition experience. What did you learn that you can correct and improve your jiu-jitsu going forward?
The student felt that they had made a mistake in going for an armlock from the guard, which led to the opponent passing their guard and the beginning of the end. That lesson won’t soon be forgotten!
I’ve heard coaches say that 1 competition taught students as much as 4 months of training in the GB school. Those lessons learned in competition matches are much more deeply imprinted in our minds. Competing can really help improve your Jiu-Jitsu fast.
The student needed to be reminded of these ideas and put their disappointment behind them.
After talking about it awhile they said “I need to regroup and get back into class next week and start training to fix those mistakes!”
Now that’s the spirit!
What did YOU learn from your first competition experience?
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia