“Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.” – Vince Lombardi
There are many benefits to competition. We create new friends, learn new techniques and put our skills to the test. But with any competition there is a risk of losing. For this reason, many students avoid competition. A good instructor will encourage students to compete and explain why they shouldn’t be afraid to lose. In fact, there can be more benefits to losing than winning.
1. Facing Fear
The noise in the gymnasium is unbearable. All eyes are on you. Unfamiliar black belts are ordering you around while your opponent stares you down. Your heart is about to burst and you want to vomit. As quickly as the match starts, it ends. You lose. Congratulations! You’ve just won a major victory by stepping onto the mat only to accomplish something amazing that most people are too terrified to attempt. Rejoice because you have accumulated valuable experience points needed to achieve success in life.
I’ve seen sparring gear thrown, chairs kicked, name calling and even a brawl. You’d think that this behaviour would come from novice coloured belts, but surprisingly this disgusting behaviour comes from instructors, coaches, black belts and even parents. I teach my student’s that if you lost, it’s because your opponent was better than you today. Sore losers blame others for their loss, become bully’s and substitute intimidation for talent. Own your loss, learn from it, train harder and come back stronger. If you blame everyone else for your loss, you’re no better than the brawler or angry parent.
3. Try, Don't Compete
If you remove the pressures of competition, all that remains is perseverance. In other words, don’t fight for a medal, your coach or even a parent. Fight for you. Exhaling the pressure to impress tightens your ability to focus on your fight. Some of my best fights have been for 3rd place. The pressure of gold was off my shoulders and all that remained was the desire to fight my fight. To try hard because I had trained hard. To give the hits and take them. Win or lose, all that mattered was knowing that I had fought my best.
4. Losing to Learn
Losing opens the door to learning but only if you take responsibility for your loss. Review the footage of your match, pinpoint your faults, re-evaluate your strategies and devise a plan of action. A good instructor will empathize, help focus the emotional loss into a new training strategy and continue to push you with hard training. Losing exposes your weaknesses. Accepting them helps you understand them. When you understand them, they can be dissected and ultimately improved.
5. Lose your Ego
Unless you’re getting paid millions of dollars for a pay-per-view fight where it’s all part of the show, taunting and intimidation has no place in a Taekwon-do ring. Beating your chest, laughing at your opponent, sticking your chin out and taunting are all signs of insecurity. You are obviously so scared of losing that you resort to intimidation tactics. This is not only disgusting behaviour that is being imitated by impressionable coloured belts, but it’s a blatant disrespect to your opponent, the sport and your instructor. If this is you, it’s not entertaining, it’s embarrassing, so stop! The only thing good to come out of this sort of behaviour is watching you lose. Losing tames your ego, keeps you humble, promotes hard work and keeps you evolving.
Think about it. Besides the deflating feeling defeat, there is nothing wrong with losing. Accept defeat graciously, be accountable, analyze your shortcomings, seek help, train hard and make improvements. Maintain a good attitude, be humble, hold hands with fear and separate the pressures of competition from personal growth. Remember, like winning, losing is a habit that has many hidden rewards.