For me, there is no such thing as losing. I made that decision ten years ago. After some tournaments it might look and even feel like a loss as my hand isn’t raised, but after further analyses the evidence begs to differ. My evidence anyways.
It is not just the tournament that is so important. It is the journey to get ready for it and then what happens after. Did I do everything I knew how to the best of my ability?
The truth is in the key words ‘everything I knew how’. Sometimes I don’t have all the pieces that I need to win the match before me but this is the nature of the beast. The untrained eye may not recognize the millions of pieces that need to be balanced before a competitor has a success. Training hard without overtraining (training smart), cross training to strengthen weak links, yoga or stretching to balance out the yin and yang of the martial art, and then the mental preparation that I could talk about for years.
When I win matches I used the pieces in balance but when I don’t win, it means I have been given now nuggets of wisdom. Maybe something was off in my training, maybe I learned more about my competitors, or maybe I even learnt something about myself.
Does this mean I am not a competitive athlete? Absolutely not! I am one of the most competitive athletes you will ever meet …have you seen all my medals. I hate losing so much I analyzed what losing looks like because I couldn’t deal with the thought of letting myself down.
My observations came down to three things.
The first is recognizing that if an athlete is competing as often as I do, there will wins and losses and that is okay. I feel disappointed enough for losing that beating myself up more will be counterproductive. This is the reality of the situation. However, luck is built when preparation meets opportunity, which leads me to my next point.
The second is preparing for each tournament the best way I know how. This includes balancing the physical (through training smart, cross training, and proper rest) the mental (knowing the game, the opponent and even myself), the emotional (having my emotions in check and recognizing the risks and rewards).
This balance looks very different for each person. I know myself best and it is part of my journey to figure out my balance, and it will be part of your journey to figure out yours.
The third is choosing to define the loss, not being defined by it. Find out exactly what went wrong and why and then take my nuggets of wisdom and come back a better version of myself. Being relentless in this aspect. It is okay to define loss, it is not okay to accept loss.
I have witnessed how losses define people through their heartbreak, destroying their martial art careers and their warrior spirit. And they just accept it, and settle. I have also seen people come back from defeat with incredible power and determination. It takes a tremendous amount of self-awareness, discovery, perseverance and sometimes even healing to do this.
But I will tell you one thing, I would hate to compete against someone who knows the pain of losing and had to build back from it then someone who has never lost. The champions who choose to define their losses have a power that can only be learned and earned. I have chosen to put myself into that category. I want to meet a version of myself in the future that I never know could have excited. What about you?
Written by Sarah Draht
Edited by Elaine Renou