By Paul Winter

If you’ve been training Jiu Jitsu for a while, the thought may have occurred to you to take your skills and see what they can do in a competition setting.

Some may be encouraging you in this, while others might tell you to give it some more time.

Still others will give you that age old Jiu Jitsu adage seen on countless Instagram posts following someone getting dog-stomped at a comp:

“Hey, you either win or you learn.”

On the surface, there’s no issue with this statement. It’s true that each time you step out on the mats to put your pride and limbs on the line, you’re going to assemble some data about your game.

It’s also true that there is a graceful way to lose and a “loser” way to lose: taking things in stride and dealing with it, versus moping around, making excuses, or letting it ruin your day/week/month/you’re a blue belt and you just quit Jiu Jitsu.


However, I always bring to mind before a competition the famous quote of the famous-er…er? football coach Vince Lombardi, who took the Green Bay Packers to 5 NFL championships in just 7 years.

“Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

His point was, no one should just “take the L.”

Being competitive is about not wanting to lose, hating to lose, and looking for the victory always, being willing to sacrifice for it.

I’m guessing ol’ Vince knew that not a lot of “fourth quarter hail mary to the endzone after battling through hordes of opponents” are likely to happen when all your players just shrug as they play the Superbowl and say, “hey, man, it’s like…you either win or you learn, right?”

Eddie Bravo once said: “Jiu Jitsu is a game of death.”

The entire point of the fighting arts, especially one like Jiu Jitsu that involves strangles, and was designed as a battlefield art, is that losing essentially means, “you’re dead. I could’ve killed you just then.”

In these kind of scenarios, you don’t win or learn. You win or you die.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you need to bring that approach to the table at every local tournament or what have you, but when you get out there, it’s worth remembering:

You’re not just representing yourself.

You’re representing your school, the coach who invested all that time in you, and you’re representing how you want the story to be told – “easy come, easy go,” or “I went for victory at any cost.”

It’s good to learn, and it’s good to have an approach that there will be a benefit to your matches win or lose, but it isn’t good to give yourself an “out” already before the match has even started.

This is what Vince L meant when he talked about the idea of a good loser being a loser.

If you’re comfortable enough with losing, you’ll lose every time.

So get out there, and learn. But try your best to learn…and win.