Friday, September 13, 2013

Winning is the Solution to Losing

Maybe it's a matter of semantics. I've always felt uncomfortable with the "you either win or you learn" maxim of the "jiu-jitsu for everyone" school of thinking (a school to which I am 100% devoted, by the way).

After all, you can never step into the same river twice, as my favorite philosopher put it. So assuming we're paying at least some attention, every experience is by definition a learning experience. The problem with this maxim is that it doesn't recognize how you can - or maybe even how important it is - to win "within" losing.

One of my three greatest competitive jiu-jitsu matches is a match I lost: my first match as a brown belt. I'd end up losing three out of three matches that day (think about that the next time you have a hard time on the mat), but my first match is one I'll always remember because it was, for a moment, the most winning moment I ever had in competition.

By the time I became a brown belt, I'd long prided myself on my takedowns. "Pride" is a good word for it because while I was probably better at taking the match to the mat than the average guy, that didn't necessarily apply to the average competitive guy. And that's a difference that defines.

So by the time I got to brown belt, having gone a little better than 50/50 on the 2-0 strategy of Takedown Uber Alles that had won me many of the matches I did win, I was open to alternatives.

Professor Rodrigo had been teaching something crazy all week in the evening advanced classes. Deep half guard. And not just deep half guard, but pulling deep half guard from standing. This was a few years back, before deep half had truly eclipsed the regular "Gordo" half guard that many of us had focused on,

At this point, remembering bitterly a pair of takedowns in two competitions at purple belt that I failed to earn points for , I was more than ready for a new way to get that critical 2-0 lead. And given my love for the half guard, the idea of this new kind of takedown-to-half guard, looked and felt unbeatable

I drilled that Tuesday and Thursday evening. Pull deep half and right into the sweep. Easy as a waltz - at least a hundred-odd reps later.

The morning of the Revolution (accept no substitutes), I have my game set. I don't realize that there is a chasm of darkness beyond my plan to pull deep half and get the sweep that I have carved into my consciousness. But I'm so geeked up on my move I can't see anything beyond it.

And we square off. Me and the guy who goes on to win first or second or something impressive and podium-worthy. But I'll never forget, shaking hands, getting my grips, and pulling that deep half guard and getting that first two points. I'll never forget literally (and, yes, I mean "literally" as in "a real thing that happened") hearing a gasp from someone or ones standing or sitting around watching when I pulled deep half and got that sweep because, apparently, my opponent who went on to win our match on points despite him being robbed of mount position by a bad out of bounds reset by the ref, is the kind of guy who was expected to win first or second or something impressive and podium-worthy and I, relatively speaking, am not.

And right there, for a moment ...

That's the solution to losing.